The Average Gamer

FranknJohn’s Ralph Croly: “You Can Switch Out Your Head”

Frank N John - Poster At this year’s Eurogamer Expo I chatted to Ralph Croly, graphics and audio designer at bitSmith Games about their second game called FranknJohn.

What’s FranknJohn about?
Ralph Croly (RC): It’s a twin-stick brawler, kinda of roguelike dungeon-crawler. A small boy, who is actually two small boys, Frank and John who have been cobbled together by this mad scientist who likes cobbling things together.

Which one’s which?
RC: The head is Frank and the body is John, or the other way round. I’m not really sure [laughs].

Do they both have different personalities?
RC: No, they are just kind of this weird Frankenstein monster kid that can shoot his head off and attack people with it. That’s the base mechanic for the game – swing your head at things to attack. You can switch out your head, or skull caps as we call it, and that will give you different abilities. Some are good, some are bad and some are just silly.

What have been your influences for the game?
RC: We like a lot of the roguelike type of games that are coming out now. Stuff like Rogue Legacy, The Binding of Isaac and Spelunky were definitely a massive influence on us.

Is it single player only?
RC: We are hoping to add a co-op element but we are still unsure exactly what that’s going to be. It may be the core game in 2-player or a different kind of game using the same mechanics or maybe both. We are going to see how people react to it.

We are going to be running our crowd funding campaign on Gambitious. It’s a slightly different kind of spin on your usual crowd funding in that it’s revenue share. There’s no t-shirts or stickers or any of that kind of stuff it’s just, ok if this game does well you get some money.

The gameplay includes power-ups and collectibles then?
RC: Yeah, we have a system of what we are calling plasters which give you boosts. They are permanent buffs that will make you jump higher, become tougher or resist fire. At the moment we have about two dozen but in the final game we are hoping to have a lot more.

The same with the skull caps, we have about eight right now but in the final game we are hoping to have well over a hundred different kinds. Some of them [skull caps] will help you and some will hinder you. Then it’s about bragging rights saying that I completed the game wearing this really terribly hindering skull cap.

Is there a mix of action and puzzles in the game too?
RC: Originally we had a puzzle kind of element but it was really working too well. We might revisit that. For now we wanted to get down the core combat mechanics. There probably will be some elements of platforming and it’s a procedurally generated dungeon so every time you play the game it’s slightly different. We are looking to put in some kind of bonus rooms that odd things happen in and things that you might play the game a hundred times and only see once.

Will there be any boss battles?
RC: Yes. One that nearly made it into the build we brought but wasn’t quite ready unfortunately. We are going to have mini bosses that might spawn similar to the other rooms so it might be a mini boss room that spawns. Each section of the game is going to have it’s final boss so you’ll be working up to try and eliminate that area, kill the boss and move on.

What formats are you releasing on?
RC: It will certainly be coming out on PC first and foremost but we are hoping to gt it on as many platforms as possible. We have been talking to PlayStation for the next-generation. Not sure how that’s going yet. Both the new consoles [PS4 and Xbox One] look like they are going to be Indie friendly so we are going to get on those hopefully.

Any idea of a release date?
RC: We are hoping maybe April next year but that’s a provisional date for sure. It’s still pretty early days for us as the game is still in pre-alpha. It’s been great to be able to come here [Eurogamer Expo] and watch people play it and get feedback.

Thanks for your time.