Kickin’ it with Graphite Lab – Hive Jump

by Antonio Garcia

Today I’m bringing you the latest on a game described as “one part Spelunky, one part XCOM, and all parts alien ass-kicking.” Enjoy!

4cr: Hi! Time for introductions. What can you tell us about yourself and about Graphite Lab?

Hello! I’m Matt Donatelli, game designer at Graphite Lab, and lead designer on Hive Jump. We’re a studio that has been in business since 2009. Our team is comprised of games industry veterans and new-comers alike. As a team we have over 25 years of combined experience with credits in over 60 shipped titles. We’ve largely been doing work-for-hire game development, but now we’re looking to launch our own original game property: Hive Jump.

4cr: This is the second time you’ve taken to Kickstarter to fund Hive Jump. Other than the lower goal and including Wii U along with the main goal since Day 1, what other changes have you made after what you learned from the first campaign?

When we first came to Kickstarter, we hadn’t done a lot to build an audience for the game yet. We had a prototype that we had demoed at local St. Louis venues, but we didn’t have a strong online and social media presence. That hampered our first Kickstarter attempt, but we didn’t let that discourage us. In fact, getting Greenlight on Steam did a lot to encourage us to reboot the Kickstarter.

We spent the next several months improving our sprite art, implementing a dynamic lighting system, re-factoring a lot of the game systems, and building an audience on Facebook and Twitter. We also crafted a plan for releasing to consoles based on stretch goals, as well as finding a way to include Linux, Wii U, and EFIGS+R localization in our core game goal. Thanks to these efforts, and a lot of support from our 1st time backers, we’ve returned to Kickstarter and had a strong start to the campaign.

Hive Jump GIF - 1

4cr: How did you get Big Giant Circles involved with creating the music for the game?

Ever since the inception of Hive Jump, we’ve known that Big Giant Circles would be perfect for the game. He has two masterful albums showcasing his retro chiptune style (Imposter Nostalgia and The Glory Days), not to mention his experience writing Sci-Fi music for the Mass Effect series. We reached out to BGC during our first Kickstarter campaign, and he saw the potential of the project. Fast forward a few months, and we’re back with brand new art and the beginnings of an amazing original soundtrack for Hive Jump. We’re really thrilled to have BGC on-board!

Hive Jump - 1

4cr: With the game coming to Wii U, have you considered the PS4 and XBO as potential stretch goals?

We’d love to bring Hive Jump to the XBO and PS4. They’re currently listed as stretch goals in our Kickstarter at the 175K (XBO) and 235K (PS4) funding levels. It wasn’t an easy decision about which platforms to hit first, but as a small indie studio we decided we had to hit these platforms in order of their accessibility to us.Licensing fees are less costly for the XBOX ONE, and there’s also a shorter development cycle for porting the game over to XBOX ONE. We’d love to bring Hive Jump to both platforms though, and hitting these stretch goals would guarantee it.

4cr:How many people are working on Hive Jump right now? Will the team grow depending on funding?

We have 6 full time developers in-house at Graphite Lab. We also have an extended network of several more developers, artists, and partners like BigGiantCircles and Eric Hibbeler who have worked on the Soundtrack and Game Poster respectively. Our 50K goal on Kickstarter provides for this team to keep working on the game, while hitting our stretch goals would accommodate (and necessitate) adding more members to the team.

Hive Jump - 2

4cr: The $100 reward tier includes a physical game box, a soundtrack CD, a printed manual and a soft cover art book for the game. How did you manage to lower your costs enough to make this possible without losing money?

We’ve worked hard to craft a better Kickstarter campaign, and we revamped our physical rewards to appear at higher donation levels. While the physical rewards do cut into the margin that that we take from Kickstarter and put towards development of the game, we have partnered up with good manufacturers for these physical goods that are cost effective.

4cr: You mention in the campaign video that Sprite Lamp will be used to make the lighting in Hive Jump different from anything in the market. Does that mean that the game will be using a custom version of Sprite Lamp?

This gets a little technical, but yes! Sprite Lamp is a tool that helps artists create normal maps, and other lighting maps, for their sprite art. Implementing Sprite Lamp into a game engine is another story entirely! We’ve been working closely with Sprite Lamp’s creator, Finn Morgan, to get Sprite Lamp running in our game engine using a custom shader. As development continues on Hive Jump, our Sprite Lamp shader and engine implementation will be completely unique and tailored to Hive Jump!

Hive Jump - Sprite Lamp

4cr: And we’re just about out of time. Do you want to add anything else?

We’d like to invite all your readers to Like Hive Jump on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter. During the Kickstarter campaign, following us on social media helps add new relics and weapons to the game, as well as keeping fans up to date with our progress. We’ll also be revealing our (M/W/F) Streaming Schedule via social media this week!

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