Applava are a two person studio, based in Vilnius in Lithuania, founded in 2014. Tomas Putanas is a coder and artist, while Eduardas Klenauskis is a coder who also deals with publishing and marketing. Their game Blazing Beaks was created in GameMaker, launched in 2019 and currently scores 80% on Metacritic.
We chatted with Eduardas and Tomas about publishing indie games, the risks of multiplayer-only and their favourite beaked animals.
What’s the Blazing Beaks elevator pitch?
EK: A colourful world where armed birds blaze their way through piles of mutants, monsters and creepy creatures. It’s a roguelite shooter where too much greediness can be fatal.
Blazing Beaks’ Newt boss
What big decisions did you make about the gameplay?
EK: Fun fact – initially Blazing Beaks only had the tournament mode (couch multiplayer). The game had potential but it was missing something, and we knew that multiplayer only games are difficult to sell.
This forced us to think of new mechanics. We added the story mode, new enemies, outrageous bosses and secret levels. But it was our risk and reward mechanics that lifted the game to a completely new level. Essentially we ask the player to decide how much nerf they’re willing to risk now for a bigger reward in the future.
Now our unique artifacts/items exchange system is what Blazing Beaks is known for!
Why did you pick GameMaker?
TP: I tried several simple game engines, but all of them had limitations. I was looking for an intuitive game engine that would let us begin the development process very quickly, so we could build iteratively from that foundation. GameMaker has everything we were looking for.
What was technically the greatest hurdle to making Blazing Beaks?
TP: The most difficult part was switching from GMS 1.4 to GMS 2. The project was close to Early Access release, so there was a lot of work to do to catch all the small issues that needed attention.
Additionally, porting was a bit more difficult compared to everything else, because every platform has its own nuances. However, once it was sorted the rest became relatively easy.
Nuclear Throne by Vlambeer, made in GameMaker
Was there another GameMaker game which inspired you?
EK: Firstly, Nuclear Throne. It was a big inspiration to see that such a fun game could be made with GameMaker.
TP: Then when we saw that Risk of Rain and Spelunky Classic were also made on the platform, it told us that GameMaker had everything we needed to make our game.
How was the launch and publishing of Blazing Beaks?
EK: In a nutshell, lots of sleepless nights! Blazing Beaks was our first big project and we decided to go the hard way – self publish the title and go through all the process ourselves.
We wanted to learn how things worked, but at the same time it was a big risk after years of game development. At that time, going for Early Access release on Steam for PC was a popular choice among indie developers. So we thought that it would be a good way to find out if the mechanics worked well and get player feedback. The Early Access period let us fix bugs, add new content, make some other changes and most importantly make sure that we were going in the right direction.
When we were exiting Early Access we started thinking about releasing the game on consoles, especially Nintendo Switch. What perfect timing that was! That same week it was announced that GameMaker was now supporting Nintendo Switch, so our dream suddenly didn't seem so distant after all. With help from a publisher we released Blazing Beaks v1.0 on Nintendo Switch simultaneously publishing the game on Steam for PC. Later we released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
“EK: Successfully publishing the game is way harder than making one”
Any lessons you learned from the making and publishing of Blazing Beaks?
TP: On game creation:
Don’t get lost in project scope. There’s always something that you can add to the game, but if you were about to implement every single feature or element that fits to the game well, you would probably end up making the game for the next 10 years.
If you plan to publish the game on consoles check all the requirements in advance. You don’t want to spend time remaking various systems when it’s already done just because you didn’t know the requirements. UI elements, screen resolutions, controls – that’s something you should have in mind.
EK: From the publishing:
Plan the publishing process in advance…way in advance. Three months is a good choice, but if you are planning to release on multiple platforms even more time might be needed, to prepare everything.
Don’t only focus on making a game, but also spend time on marketing. Build your community right after you start developing the game or at least when you already have something to show. Increase your contacts database - look for streamers and YouTubers who would be interested in playing your game.
Why do you make games?
EK: Because we love games. It’s our passion and lifestyle. Making a game is like magic and the game engine is a magic wand. You can do pretty much anything you want and the only limitation is your imagination.
TP: I can’t believe that it was twenty years ago that I played games on the PlayStation 1 and now I am holding my own game in my hands. It’s surreal!
Heroes of Might and Magic III, by 3DO
What's the best game ever made?
EK: Can’t remember the exact game title right now, it’s Blazing something. Beaked animals are the main characters and it’s a roguelite shooter…
Seriously, I feel very nostalgic about Heroes of Might and Magic III. There’s probably no other game I spent as many hours playing.
TP: Oh boy, it‘s hard to choose only one... There are so many awesome games like the Grand Turismo series, FEZ, SteamWorld Dig, Legend of Zelda (all of them) and many more. But if I had to choose only one, I would go for Psychonauts.
What's your favourite beaked animal?
EK and TP at the same time: Platypus!
Finally, where can our readers grab a copy of Blazing Beaks?
Limited edition physical PlayStation 4 version is available in our merch store:
Digital version is available on Steam, Epic Games Store, Humble Store, GOG, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.