Developer Speak: Milkstone Studios

When I turn on my Xbox 360, one of the first things I do (after admiring my avatar and his rugged good looks) is make my way to the independent game section of the Games Marketplace.  When I tell people this, I just get a long, blank stare. Then, almost without fail, they ask “The Arcade Games?”

Since my wife is really good at talking us out of sticky situations, I have no problem slapping the crap out of the offender.

If you don’t know, burried inside Xbox live is a treasure trove of games. Most of them cost a dollar. It’s were I met Twin Blades and Zombie Estate, and recently, Raventhorne.

Raventhorne is a wonderfully gorgeous game. And it doesn’t mess around: if you’re not on your game, you’re dead. For that reason, I had no problem clicking the “confirm purchase” button. I knew I had to talk to the creators, so I emailed them…

DNF: Can you give us a brief history of Milkstone Studios?

Milkstone: We studied computer science and started programming games for our own amusement. Shortly after getting the degree, we had the luck to find work in a 3D software development company (not exactly games though), where we learned a lot.

After some years, we saw an opportunity for developing small games on XBLIG and tried with Little Racers. It was successful enough, so we kept releasing games. After the highly succesful Avatar Ninja!, we decided to switch jobs and dedicate 100% to this. This has been our primary job since January.

DNF: What was the inspiration behind Raventhorne?

Milkstone: Our friend Juan Fernández made the graphics, and we wanted him to be really involved in the project, so he decided the main setting and I wrote a little story around it, taking the standard norse tale and twisting it up a little bit.

DNF: Raventhorne is a beautiful game. How long did it take to develop the game’s style?

Milkstone: Raventhorne is probably the game that has pushed our skills (and our patience) the most. We’re used to develop a game in a month (at most) but we wanted to add as much unique content as we could in this one. We wanted something that looked like a comic book.

Juan did some concept art that was a bit rough at first, but he nailed it on the second iteration. After that, it was a matter of creating and designing the levels and crafting all the animations, though it wasn’t an easy job by any means.

DNF: With multiple battle stances, you give player a choice in how they fight. Do you feel this will make Raventhorne more appealing to more players?

Milkstone: The battle stances were made as a way to change the difficulty inside the game. We didn’t want good players to be bored, so you can decide if you want an easier but less rewarding battles or challenging fights that can end fast if you’re good enough (but it’s easy to get killed too).

One interesting feature is that the game does not limit you by any means: you have all the skills and moves from the start of the game, but they become easier to use the more you play, so the play-style evolves from one set of skills to another throughout the game.

DNF: How has the reception for Raventhorne been so far?

Milkstone: It has received some mixed reviews, because people are really passionate about the game. Everyone praises its visuals and audio, but others feel the game should have been easier and more accessible. We’re adding a difficulty setting to address that in an upcoming patch (along with lots of other improvements based on user feedback) that we’re hoping will make the game better for everyone.

DNF: With the growing quality of Xbox Live independent games do you think Microsoft is doing their part to promote the independent marketplace?

Milkstone: They’re doing an ok job listening at the developers’ issues, but they could be doing more showing the indie marketplace to most of their users. They have really good games on the indie marketplace, but they almost never promote them. They could add them to special promotions like the ‘Deal of the week’. Let’s hope they improve that on the new dashboard update.

DNF: When you’re not making great games, what games are you playing?

Milkstone: We both play multiplayer in Call of Duty:Black Ops almost regularly every night, and then on weekends we spend our time with single player games. We’re currently playing Bulletstorm, Castlevania: Lords of Shadows and Fallout: New Vegas.

DNF:: Any words of wisdom for aspiring game developers?

Milkstone: Keep your ideas small and develop a full game. That is actually the hardest part, being able to focus into the basic gameplay mechanics and make a finished product. Having an idea is usually the easy part, the hard one is make that idea work as a game and polishing it up.

DNF: What will we see in the future from Milkstone Studios?

Milkstone: Right now we making updates for both Raventhorne and Avatar Farm, adding a lot of features from the user input we’ve received. After that we’ll keep developing new games, there are still some genres that we haven’t touched yet. Let’s hope they’ll become successful!

DNF: Thank you for your time.

Milkstone: Thanks to you for your interest in us and our games! :).

I would like to thank the guys of Milkstone Studios again for taking the time to talk with us. Want to stay up-to-date with Milkstone Studios and their projects? Follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook, or visit their YouTube channel!

(Raventhorne was developed by Milkstone Studios  and is available in the Xbox Live Independent Game Market Place- not rated)

About Donald Conrad

Donald Conrad is an avid father and a dedicated gamer -- or maybe that's the other way around. He loves his games, and he loves his family, and he's pretty sure he loves sleep, even if he doesn't remember what it was like. Follow his life confusion on Twitter @ConManEd