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Exclusive Interview: Bardbarian Illustrator/Animator Mike Gaboury


When you’re a barbarian, all your problems are solved with a sword. But what if you were a barbarian who preferred to solve your problems with a song? Such is the plight of Brad, a barbarian mercenary in the new iOS game Bardbarian, which was made by TreeFortress and published by BulkyPix. But in talking to TreeFortress illustrator and animator Mike Gaboury, their heroes penchant for music over might isn’t the only thing that makes Bardbarian unique.


I always like to start at the beginning: What is Bardbarian, how do you play it?

You play as Brad the barbarian, who is awoken to the sounds of his town under siege. Today is different though; Brad has grown tired of fighting all the time. The usual grind for XP has grown dull, and he has decided to pursue his dreams of making music instead of shedding blood. Fashioning a lute out of an old axe, he steps out to save his town through musical inspiration.

You move around the battlefield and dodge incoming enemy attacks and projectiles. Brad is constantly playing his axe-lute and generating notes, standing still will cause him to “jam” and generate notes even faster. These notes act as your in-game currency; you can spend them to perform solos that summon units to follow and fight for you, as well as solos to boost their performance in battle.

Seems like a pretty unique game. But what other games do you think it’s like, and why?

We were inspired by a great little flash game called Snake Squad back in October of 2012.  Other games that inspired us and helped shape our game would include Kingdom Rush, Shellrazer, Dungeon Defenders, Castle Crashers, and League Of Legends. And endless mode was inspired by plenty of endless runners such as Jetpack Joyride.

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What made you think these seemingly disparate genres could work in a single game?

We never actively set out to create a mishmash of genres. The game actually started off as a simple idea but evolved and changed organically as we worked on it. All game decisions were the result of trying to solve problems and enhance user experience. Essentially, we made a game that we wanted to play, and it just happened to borrow from many other genres. And, to be honest, we weren’t sure if it would work or not. But based on initial reactions, people seem to enjoy it.

Was there ever a version where you mixed in another genre but realized that was just too much?

We’ve definitely struggled with dreaming too big or throwing around ideas that were more work than they were worth. We’ve learned the hard way that game design is more about deciding what to remove than what to add. Keep your ideas simple and iterate.

I’m sure you already have people mistakenly calling the game Barbarian. What is the significance of calling it Bardbarian? Cuz I don’t see much of a Shakespeare influence in the game. And since the hero’s name is Brad, why isn’t the game called Bradbarian? I’m so confused.

Our reference to Brad being a Bard was not a Shakespearean one. In modern RPGs and Dungeons And Dragons, bards are a musically artistic magic class who are able to create spells and effects with their instruments. Calling the game Bardbarian was a play on Brad the barbarian changing his role from barbarian to bard. A hybrid monster of a man with the desire to inspire others with his instruments.

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The game features hand-drawn artwork. Which seems like it would be a lot of work. Why did you decide to do this, and what do you think this brings to the game?

Personally, I take issue with games that have mixed art/design styles. It was my active choosing to ensure that every piece of artwork in the game was hand drawn to ensure it all felt cohesive and that it belonged in the Bardbarian universe. While it definitely added to the amount of time it took to deliver a finished game, I can proudly say that everything in Bardbarian feels like it belongs.

What were the influences on the art style?

Saturday morning cartoons, games we enjoy playing, aesthetics that are easy to produce and animate, Rayman. Brad was also hugely inspired by Link from the Legend Of Zelda.

As you mentioned, Brad is a barbarian. What movies, books, comics, etc., did you look to for reference when it came to how Brad should look, how the world should look, etc.?

I amassed a large collection of images from Google image search for bards and barbarians, combined with a lot of reference and inspiration from Adventure Time as well as the NES/SNES games of my childhood.

Was there anything you intentionally didn’t look at? Like did you decide that you didn’t want him to be at all like Conan?

Not really no, I welcome all comparisons and conclusions, and I welcome inspiration from any sources possible.

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The game is currently available for iOS devices. Is there any differences between the iPhone and iPod Touch editions and the iPad one?

Negative. Other than a much bigger screen and more room to touch, they are all containing the same content.

Are there any plans to bring the game to Android devices?

Definitely. One of the major bonuses of the game being developed in Air/Starling is that it would be easy to put out on multiple devices. Hopefully by early February.

Do you think this game could work on consoles or PCs as well?

We were actually greenlit on Steam so, like it or not, Bardbarian will be coming to PC in the near future. With a PC version of the game comes lots of new UI challenges, controller support, Steamworks integration, etc. So, hopefully, we are able to overcome these obstacles and launch with minimal effort.

I personally believe Bardbarian will potentially be better on PC If a console company wanted Bardbarian in their roster, I would be absolutely overjoyed. Unfortunately, it seems to be a very invite only/elite club when it comes to having your game accepted.

Finally, the music in Bardbarian was done by Maximum Satan. What did they bring to the game that Minimum Satan or Satanically Impaired wouldn’t have?

Minimum Satan and Satanically Impaired are probably busy doing soundtracks to daytime television, only Maximum Satan could bring the energy Bardbarian required.



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