After a successful Steam Greenlight campaign, Dynasty Feud, a hectic brawler developed by Bilbao-based Kaia Studios, went live on Valve’s worldwide PC gaming platform yesterday. Though this is the studio’s first commercial offering, it’s not the first time the developers have worked together on a game—Kaia was founded in 2015 by students from DigiPen Institute of Technology Europe-Bilbao, and five of its six employees are graduates of the college’s degree programs.
“We met for the first time at DigiPen,” says Eneko Egiluz, one of the studio’s co-founders, adding that the crew knew they wanted to go into business together by their third year together. “We decided to do a [senior] project together to test how we would work together, but we had the idea already in our minds!”
After graduation, they worked on a different game for six months before having to abandon it when they realized its scope was way beyond the resources they had available to them. At that point, Eneko says, they came up with the concept for Dynasty Feud.
“We decided to make a smaller game and a tighter game,” he says. “We avoided complicated storylines and characters and decided to make it pure action.”
Indeed, Dynasty Feud is all action, with eight factions facing off against each other in classic 2D stages. In quick tag-team style, players can swap out the various members of their faction, each of which has its own special abilities. Eneko describes it as “Smash Bros. meets TowerFall Ascension,” but adds that it’s very much its own game.
“It’s a brawler game, but mechanically it’s totally different,” he says. “You have five members of a dynasty that you play with, and you have a one-hit kill mechanic. That’s the stuff that makes our game what it is.”
Clearly, that mechanic is intriguing to players, as the game was popular enough to pass Steam Greenlight in only 11 days. That was a major confidence boost, Eneko adds.
“It was really fast!” he says. “It was our first good news.”
However, as heartening as that was, they still had a game to finish, and that’s never easy. Eneko says that after they received the approval, they ran an open beta for the month of March, and found themselves hard at work incorporating player feedback.
Responding to interview questions just prior to the game’s release, he said, “We’ve had emails every day with more problems we need to figure out. Lots of suggestions. I know that before the game is released, we will have to change a lot of things. When people start playing a game, they discover things you’ve never seen. It’s really hard!”
Fortunately, the encouragement of their fan base has sustained them through those challenges. Despite being in Spain, he says, there was even a playtester from Oregon who would hop on their Discord channel and discuss the game with them, despite the nine-hour time difference! Those interactions are welcome, he says, and as a way to show their appreciation for the outstanding community feedback they’ve received, the team plans to include its most active playtesters in the game credits.
“We have a few tools to thank people, and we’re using all of them to take care of our community,” he says.
Their other big challenge, besides incorporating feedback and polishing the game, is getting media attention. The indie game scene in Spain is still developing, he says, and oftentimes publications are more interested in talking about what it’s like to work in indie games rather than the games themselves.
“They are not really interested in the product or helping us to sell it,” he says. “It’s more curiosity about people making small companies, and that’s a problem, I think. At the end of the day we’re making a product and we want our games to be played!”
That said, the indie game development scene is growing, thanks in part to DigiPen Bilbao, he says.
“Each year we have more students here,” he notes. “We are still a very young university, but year by year the amount of people interested in a degree is really growing.”
And the degree, he says, is crucial for producing more European graduates with the tools needed to go out and make games professionally. Speaking from personal experience, Eneko says he never made games seriously before attending DigiPen and had only worked on a few small experiments.
“I learned almost everything I know from DigiPen,” he says. “I think it’s the best choice in Europe if you want to make games, so I’m really happy with the decision I made seven years ago!”
He’s also really happy with the game he made, noting that it’s exactly the type of playing experience he loved growing up.
“I was born in 1982, so I love couch gaming — when you go to a friend’s home, you order pizza, and you play on the same screen,” he says. “It’s good to see your friends laughing and shouting at each other with your game, and I think that that classic spirit is there with Dynasty Feud.”
Despite all their hard work on the game, he adds, the team still does plenty of its own laughing and shouting.
“We play every day,” he says. “It’s really competitive!”
He credits the studio founders’ time together at DigiPen as helping to foster that enjoyable workplace camaraderie.
“The most important thing is how [you] handle the teamwork,” he says about the education at DigiPen. “From the very first day, you are sent to work with your partners on the same project.”
That collaborative experience, he says, is vital in preparing students for the unique challenges of a professional creative environment, in which having the technical knowledge is only one part of what you need to succeed.
“We are working with other humans and knowing how to handle it, how to act, and how to work with them as a team is really important,” he says.