Indie developer Kitsune Games is best known for MidBoss, the procedurally generated roguelike that allows players to kill their enemies and posses them, gaining their abilities in the process. Focused on an lowly imp who is fed up of being picked on by fellow foes, MidBoss tasks players with becoming the biggest boss on the scene by kicking the original big boss off of the throne.
Kitsune Games’ other title is Ultra Hat Dimension, set to release on Steam in 2018. That game stars a female protagonist who wears a lot of hats and biffs bad guys in the face.
The developer’s two announced games so far are funny and whimsical almost and based on those descriptions, they aren’t necessarily the first games you’d go to looking for solid representation. But Kitsune Games is built on the principle of making inclusive games, accessible to all players and its mission statement highlights the “responsibility” that game makers have and how the company “strives to do its part by offering quality games representing individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life.
So, ahead of the MidBoss narrative game mode update, I spoke to founder, Emma “Eniko” Maassen on why being inclusive is so important.
Kitsune Games Explains Why Diversity in Games ‘Comes Naturally’
J Station X: The idea of possessing your enemies’ bodies is a pretty clever concept. Are you surprised that no other creators had really thought of making a game like that?
Emma “Eniko” Maassen:
At first I definitely was surprised that this wasn’t more of a ‘thing’ in games, since it’s an interesting premise, I think. Of course, once I actually tried to build a game around it I realized there are a ton of balancing concerns, design concerns, and even GUI concerns in how you communicate all of this to players that really made it very difficult. I think that’s probably why it’s not more of a thing.
I also can’t claim it’s 100% original. Most people make comparisons to Paradroid, a really old game where you take over enemy robots. Ironically, a couple of months after I first created MidBoss, Taylor Vaughan made a 7DRL game called Possession completely independently from what I was doing. Nobody knew about MidBoss back then really, so I’m pretty sure he came up with it by himself. He’s actually working on a sequel called Possession 2 that’ll be coming to Steam.
JSX: Kitsune Games has a vision of making inclusive games – are there are games or developers that do inclusion right that you take inspiration from?
For the most part, making my games diverse comes easily because I’m queer and part of the LGBT community myself. I know how important it’s been for me to see women who love women in games, to see part of myself represented like that, and I know it’s equally important to my LGBT friends from various walks of life. So adding diversity comes naturally.
As for companies, Platinum Games is one, because they do a lot to make their games accessible from a physical standpoint. A lot of indies also make games with diverse casts and I take inspiration from a lot of them and the indie game development community in general.
JSX: What has the response been (from marginalised gamers in particular) been to MidBoss and Kitsune’s inclusive vision?
We’ve had particularly good responses from color-blind gamers. Often they have to make do with filters that just run on the entire screen, compressing all the colors into a color-blind spectrum that’s supposed to be clearer to them as a post-processing pass. They’re not very happy with that, and we’ve heard that they’re really happy we did it “right” in MidBoss.
We’ve also had good feedback from people with things that don’t prevent them from playing it on default settings, but which makes it harder to do for a long play session. In fact a lot of the accessibility options you see in MidBoss came directly from player feedback.
For example, one of my friends has some issues with RSI if she uses the mouse too heavily. She sometimes uses her mouse left-handed to avoid that. So in response to that I added the ability to swap the left and right mouse buttons, and some key bindings to use, equip or drop items without having to click on them.
Since MidBoss and Ultra Hat Dimension are our big two games right now we haven’t had much chance to add a ton of diversity to our characters and plot, although I added it where I could. MidBoss has a pretty thin plot like most roguelikes, and Ultra Hat Dimension only has two characters so issues of sexuality and such don’t come up.
Even so we’ve had people tell us that that they think having this vision is important for diversity and we’re doing important work, and we are going to do more with that in a more story-heavy game in the near future.
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