Indie Interviews: Foregone (Gamescom)

Big Blue Bubble’s upcoming 2D action-platformer Foregone was featured at Gamescom this past week as part of the Indie Arena Booth. Reminding us a bit of Castlevania and Dead Cells, we were eager to hear from the developers about what inspired them and how the game is progressing. After an earlier release on the Epic Games store in early access, it’s scheduled for a console launch next month.

How did Foregone come about?

At Big Blue Bubble, we have an open-door policy when it comes to game pitches. Anyone from a designer to the administrative assistant can submit an idea for a new game. Foregone’s initial concept came through one such internal game pitch called Rowan, submitted by two employees. After the concept was approved, a small team was brought on to further flesh out the idea, and what was initially called Rowan eventually became Foregone.

Foregone, like many games, was inspired by a wide variety of games that came before it. At the heart of the game, we wanted to create a retro platformer similar to those that many had grown up playing. Think Prince of Persia, Metroid and Castlevania, but what we wanted to do was take gameplay mechanics from games like Diablo and Bloodborne and put them in a 2D platformer. We were also inspired by the fluid movement mechanics that Dead Cells perfected and felt as though they had set a new standard in terms of how good an action-platformer could play and so we really wanted to try and capture that same sense of fluidity and control. No one game set us down this path, but fast forward a few months, and now all that inspiration has come together to create Foregone.

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What sets the game apart from similar games in the genre?

When people first see Foregone, they often assume that it’s a Metroidvania or Rogue-lite. Although both of those genres influenced the game, I wouldn’t categorize it has either. There are elements here and there, but Foregone is much more of an action-platformer meets a looter. Foregone is broken into individual hand-crafted levels, which are primarily experienced linearly. From checkpoints within the world, you can return to a central hub location where you can upgrade your weapons at the Forge or upgrade your skill tree at the Oratory. From this centralized location, you can then teleport to previously explored areas with new abilities to discover secrets with valuable loot. And yes, unlike games in the genre, there is loot to uncover and lots of it. Additionally, there is no permadeath, so the equipment you find is not lost due to a mistimed slide. Instead, the currency which you use to upgrade it is lost. Of course, this currency can be recovered by returning to the location where you met your unfortunate end.

Has the visual style changed during the course of development?

We knew we were looking to create a game with a retro pixel aesthetic from the outset of the project. Throughout development, the art style has remained relatively consistent from initial concepts. The most significant developments visually over time came from the amount of detail that the team was able to put into the world and the backgrounds. They were minor changes that seemed to make a day / night-like difference in fully realizing the world of Calagan.

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Who has been working on the game?

Foregone is an entirely in-house production for Big Blue Bubble. The studio, which has been around for over 15 years, is made up of just over 60 people. The Foregone team started with about eight and staffed up during production to a size of about 16 now. Having a larger team on the project has allowed many people to bring their own inspirations and ideas to the project, which has helped it become what it is today.

Any big challenges in tweaking the gameplay experience?

Not necessarily a challenge, but one of the areas that probably went through the most iterations was the combat itself and what a player had at their disposal. Early versions of the game playable at PAX West had four abilities available at the player’s disposal and regenerating ammo over time. From watching players at events, we noticed that having so many skills at one’s disposal either tended to be too overwhelming or too powerful, depending on a player’s skill level. This caused us to reduce the number of active skills to 2 in the final version. As for the regenerative ammo, this resulted in players being much more passive in their approach to combat. To encourage more aggressive playstyles, we adjusted ammo to replenish every time the player hit an enemy.

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2020 has been a bit of an unusual year – did this affect the development of the game and how far into development are you?

It has been quite a year. We released the game in early access on the Epic Games Store on February 27, 2020, to coincide with the first day of PAX East, the convention that will now forever be known as the last gaming convention pre-pandemic. This ended up being a bit of a lucky break for us as our initial launch was relatively unaffected. In terms of development throughout the pandemic, we were fortunate to remain relatively unaffected as we were able to shift to working from home with very few hitches. The development has been a bit slower than it would’ve been under traditional conditions, but the team has risen to the occasion and done a great job staying on track and hitting our deadlines.

When the game releases, what do you hope people will take away from the experience?

I hope people have fun! For me, games are supposed to be an escape and an outlet for people to have a good time. I’ve played the game for 100+ hours, and I still have a blast, so hopefully, people will too!

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