One of the most pleasant gaming surprises of 2015 was A Crowd of Monsters’ first episode of Blues and Bullets. The Barcelona-based studio put out an impressive first chapter of their noir-themed detective adventure starring Elliot Ness and Al Capone. The game’s mixture of historical figures, and dark story managed to grab players attention and leave them wanting more.
With the second episode of Blues and Bullets approaching in January, we thought it would be a good time to sit down and chat with the team over at A Crowd of Monsters. We spoke to lead artist Dani Candil and lead designer Daniel Castellanos about the game’s gorgeous art style, dark tone and much more.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
We Got This Covered: Blues and Bullets has been a major departure for A Crowd of Monsters – what led to the team going for a much darker game? It’s a huge shift in tone from a lighthearted game like Funk of Titans, and featured one of the goriest scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game.
Daniel Castellanos: Well, we have very clear the aesthetic for this game, but the episodic format came after as the best way to create this journey for the players. I’m a fan of this kind of game, but as a mature player I use to think we need more mature games. Blues and Bullets gave us the opportunity to create a dark, compelling story and immersive atmosphere and we think it totally matches the rest of the game’s features.
We try not to get stuck in a genre or style. Funk of Titans was created as a simple game, funny looking and groovy to play short sessions. With B&B our objective is the opposite, we want you to stay glued to the screen until the end credits pop up.
Dani Candil: As Caste said, we had the aesthetic for Blues and Bullets very very clear from the beginning. Actually, B&B was our personal project since we started A Crowd of Monsters as a company. This game was the ultimate goal and we are in the middle of this travel right now. By the way… the gory part… we thought a lot about this and the sensation the player would feel playing it and after a lot of doubts, we decided to keep this scene in the game.
WGTC: A lot of praise has been showered upon Blues and Bullets for its use of historical characters such as the game’s protagonist Eliot Ness. What made you choose Ness as a hero, as he’s a man whose personal demons are quite well known?
Castellanos: I think this was something we just felt was right. We don’t have a well known IP but we decided to pick a known character and make our main vision of a possible story for him in a different version of the history.
Eliot Ness was (and maybe still is) an icon. But, as every person, he had his trouble and problems. We wanted to make easy for the player to connect with him. Along with the story, you are going to learn some stuff of Eliot’s past that you may not like, and some of those facts are impossible to change. But it will be your choice how Eliot will behave in the current events. I think that with the game world we’ve created it will be very difficult to find a better main character.
Candil: [Back in] 2013 we were talking about gangsters and our main unnamed hero, this kind of old detective cliche we had at the moment. Suddenly, we started talking about how interesting would be if this old unnamed detective had a great enemy, a true mob from his old days of glory, working at his side. You know, two old enemies forced to work together. Kind of a buddy movie, but very dark in tone. What possibilities this could bring to the narrative? The old demons, the feeling of guilt, they trust each other? And suddenly one of us, I don’t remember who dropped the bomb, but we said, “Yeah, can you imagine Eliot Ness and Al Capone working together?” We then looked at each other and the pieces started to fit together.
WGTC: The other main historical figure is Al Capone. In the first episode you ended up humanizing a man who is known as one of the most high-profile mobsters. Was it important to show that the characters in Blues and Bullets have good traits and faults? That nobody is cast into a generic good/evil role?
Castellanos: You are totally right in that guess. We want to exploit this fact: nobody is perfect. And the bad guys, some are that way due to bad choices, circumstances or cruel coincidences. As fans of comic and modern TV shows, most of us like the characters that are easier to believe, the realistic ones, with motivations, fears and ambitions.
Capone was, as you said, a high-profile mobster. In B&B, he was also afraid of being alone. With his criminal career about to end, his granddaughter is everything he has and now he may lose her forever.
Candil: Yeah, that’s right. I personally don’t believe in totally good or evil characters. Every person has grey shades, good moments and bad moments. And even more important: everyone has motivations to do the things they do.
Since the beginning, we loved the character of Al Capone and with the help of our writer, Josue Monchan, we started digging through his history. We found a very complex human being with a kind of a weird or twisted code of honor. He could kill a man, but he also could take care economically of the widow and the sons. So with that in mind, we built a different (but similar) character to be the Al Capone of our Blues and Bullets.
WGTC: A lot of genres were blended in the first episode, spanning from third-person shooters to detective work. Can we expect the same amount of variety in future episodes?
Castellanos: Personally, I think that’s precisely what make us unique considering the rest of episodic games. I really like to consume a well crafted story, but I also miss some variety, some change of pace, a little extra gameplay value.
From the very beginning, we tried to offer different game mechanics as part of the game progression, always connecting them with the plot requirements and trying to keep a cinematographic approach. Answering your questions, I can say that the players now know about the game mechanics of the rest of the season. Episode 1 presented the game mechanics and now we will use them across the different episodes. However, we will try to add some tweaks and extra features to keep the experience fresh, but always loyal to the actual bases.
WGTC: What inspired Blues and Bullets’ graphical style? It seems reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Sin City, and was very well received.
Candil: Well, a lot of things and references we love can be seen in Blues and Bullets. Sin City of course, but I would like to travel back to Fritz Lang and the German expressionist cinema. We have been studying the light and the composition of the scene in the same way they did. Or the way they confronted the human being (always little and harmless) against big scenarios, big human created machines, big and frightening buildings… you can expect this kind of thing in Blues and Bullets.
And of course, typography in the “nightmare” scenes as we call them. Moments when Eliot Ness fights against his own demons, against his actions and we show big red and white characters on screen. This is a reference to Sin City.