Onikira: Demon Killer – Interview with Digital Furnace Games

Interview with Andrew from Digital Furnace Games about a 2D action platformer game Onikira: Demon Killer. Game with gorgeous graphics and amazing sound. And here you can explore how was the game created and what was in the background. Can you imagine cycling over 3000 km for developing one game?

Onikira  - the Samurai Fighter

Digital Furnace Games – could you please present your studio? What you do, where are you from, how many talented people do you have in the studio and some interesting stuff around your group?

Digital Furnace are based in Dublin, Ireland. We've been going under the name Digital Furnace for nearly two years now, but have been around for about another year and a half before that. We peaked at 11 people near the end of Onikira, which is probably almost a large team for an indie studio. Hmm, something interesting… We collectively cycled over 3000 kilometers to and from work during the making of Onikira:)

Onikira: Demon Killer. We did a review of this game and want to hear something more from the developers, who gave birth to it. Was it easy? 

Thanks for the review:) The original idea for the game came about maybe four years ago when myself and Dave McCabe, who did some of the narrative design for the story, were throwing around ideas, but at that time it was going to be a casual samurai based constant runner! When we started the studio, we put some work into that but fairly quickly decided that as a group we weren't all that interested in casual games, and so decided to turn it into something a lot more interesting. We wanted to find out what a 2D action platformer with a high level combat system would be like, and that was really the driving premise behind everything we did. When we started, there wasn't really anything like that that you could play, so it was an interesting direction. It was honestly the hardest project I've ever been a part of.

Samurai in the Game

How long time did it take from the first time thinking about Japanese samurai style arcade game?

It took about two and a half years to complete, but that includes one complete artistic change 9 months in, and one engine change. It's hard to say how long it would have taken if we'd done everything right from the start:) 

Does the story take something from the Japanese mythology? 

We played around with lots of different versions of the story, some of which borrowed lots from Japanese history and mythology, and some of which didn't. The final story really doesn't borrow too much, at least not overtly, but we felt a little forced into that direction because there have been so many games that have done Japanese mythology before us. We wanted to try and do something different.

When I first saw this game it reminded me of an old times at Sega gaming machine from 90s when I was a boy. With much better graphics, but the basic idea of the game was the same. Was it a goal or some sort of a side-effect? 🙂

I'm not sure I'd say it was a goal, but I think we're all discreetly influenced by the things we played as younger folk, and I also played a lot of side-scrollers back in the day, so there's lots of bits of those in there. What I think are the more explicit inspirations are all from more modern games, like Shank, and Devil May Cry.

Onikara - let's kill him

Are you glad that you had to change the name? Can shortly describe the issue of the game's name?

I really like the name we ended up with. We went through I think four name changes! It was Jiro initially, just as a work in progress name (the main character's name is Jiro), then it was Honour bound, which people really liked, but some ex-EA folks released a game by that name about a year before we released, so we needed to change it. Then we moved to Dead Slice, which I really liked, but it was suggested that it sounded too much like a zombie based game, and with that market being very saturated, it might be better to change it. I think Onikira has a better sense of mystery about it though, and reminds me of some of games that I really like.

Ireland, Dublin and Japan – why samurais and not something more local to the setting like trolls or Legend of Gelert or Banshee? 

A lot of people ask that, but it really seems like a totally natural direction for me. I think when you're from a place, you associate less with the local mythology. It loses its mystery when you grow up with it. Maybe that's just me! I don't think I can think of a time though when I was more interested in Celtic mythology than I was in Japanese. 

Japanese Forest area

Animations, graphics, effects – perfect job! Well done. As I said, talented people-artists onboard. How many artist did work on Onikira?

Thanks! We did have some wizardly people working on the artwork. Tom Moore did basically every single piece of environment art. For character art, Tom Mathews did a large chunk of the work and basically set the direction for most of the enemy designs, and he was helped by Sara Mena and Simon Streatfield. Sara and Tom worked on the cutscenes and interface designs, and I did a large part of the effects work.

Big samurai Onikira with a katana

Did the music and sounds come directly from your studio or from some external cooperatives?

We worked on the sound effects with a very cool guy called Alistair Lindsay in the early days, and he just did some amazing work that stayed in there all the way through development and set the tone for every other sound. Daniel Aherne and Ronan Doherty did some great work after that. Those guys also did most of the level design! 

There is no save function inside the game, only checkpoints. Is it on purpose?

Very early on I had said that I wanted to make a game that didn't pander. Games are getting just too easy now, and when a game is too easy, you lose all sense of accomplishment when you beat it. Grumble grumble:) So we kept going in that direction and didn't put a mid-level save function in there and then suddenly it turned out that the levels were all actually really long and maybe mid-level saves would have been a good idea. By that time though we would have had to rework a bunch of stuff and we just didn't have the time. The game allows you to continue from the beginning of the most recently unlocked level, but you always need to start from the start of the level. Maybe in a future patch we'll fix that 🙂

Were you surprised of the fan art competition? Maybe if you can describe what it was all about in few words… What was the best piece?

Well we started the fan art competition because some people had sent us some out of the blue, which totally surprised us. It was a really nice feeling, that people were interested enough in something we were doing to spend time making fan art. That's awesome. Unfortunately, we were so busy trying to finish the game that we didn't push the competition enough, and I'm not sure we got a single piece:) Oh well. Must get better at community engagement.

What will be the next game after Onkira? Or do you already have at least an idea what it will be about?

Loads of ideas but I don't really know what's next. We're currently porting Onikira to Android for a Chinese console called Fuze, and after that we'd really like to do a PS4 port and fix some of the bugs in the PC version, so we could be busy with Onikira for quite a while. Personally, I think I'd like to do something smaller. My first sort of major game was P-3 Biotic, which was a little twin stick shooter, and I think I'd like to go back to something like that with all the new things I've learned over the last few years and see what I can do there, but who knows:)

Thank you very much for this interview! And for our readers, check also other interviews and visit our website often to check out new articles.

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