Getting into the games industry is hard - programmers are expected to have what feels like decades of experience with programming languages created months ago, working conditions are infamously terrible, and the sheer market saturation means that you can go years without a hit.
Not so for Madelyn Obritsch, head of indie studio Causal Bit Games. With little prior programming experience and no portfolio, she’s the co-creator of retro Ghouls ‘n Ghosts-esque sidescroller brawler Battle Princess Madelyn. She’s even led the company through a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $212,655 CAD.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention she’s seven?
Battle Princess Madelyn, similar to comic sensation Axe Cop, is a game with creative direction spearheaded by two generations of Obritsch: Maddelyn and her father Christopher.
Madelyn acts as concept designer, the game includes her own ideas for enemy archetypes and stage theming, while ex-graphic designer Christopher produces, animates and refines them into polished, Castlevania-esque detailed sprite graphics.
She’s even led the company through a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $212,655 CAD
Working with the rest of Causal Bit Games - which includes programmer Daven Bigelow and accountant Angelina Obritsch - Battle Princess Madelyn has now almost reached completion. PC Gamer reports that Christopher Osbritch says prospective players should expect a hard release date to be announced “VERY shortly”.
The game owes its existence to an obsession, shared between the father and daughter duo, with hack and slash arcade games. Madelyn gave Christopher the idea to create the game – and to have her feature as the eponymous Battle Princess – while watching him play through an early level of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, telling him that she wanted to fight the first stage boss in place of Sir Alfred. Christopher’s history with arcade games and arcade programming, however, is extensive and fundamental to his design ethos.
Causal Bit Games’ previous title, Insanity’s Blade: The Chronicles of Thurstan, was a sidescrolling beat ‘em up reminiscent of Castlevania and Altered Beast with a few tweaks, chiefly Contra-like speed. In this upcoming game Madelyn’s influence is evident with dynamic projectile weapons, bulky suits of armour, and a skeleton-filled aesthetic created brought to gorgeous life by Christopher’s art and sound direction.
Madelyn acts as concept designer, the game includes her own ideas for enemy archetypes and stage theming
At her young age Madelyn hasn’t been inundated with many of the tropes and conventions that define a lot of modern game design, her ideas are refreshingly new and unfiltered, allowing Causal Bit to draw on an untapped well of childish imagination to inform creative decisions.
Sometimes this works - a level taking place entirely on a descending slide has made its way into the final game - and sometimes it doesn’t - her idea for ‘Level Cat’, simply a corridor filled with cats, was killed at concept. One way or another, Battle Princess Madelyn represents a much-needed fresh pair of eyes on a gaming industry that enjoys its safe moneymakers, full of clichéd characters and predictable plotlines.