We were recently able to catch up with Byulbram, creator of Her Knights for GP32, for an interview. Read on as Brandon uncovers insights on working with the GP32 and what's coming in the developer's future.
ic: First of all thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. How many people do you have on your development team?
Byulbram: For now, two guys including me. I (byulbram) took up everything except actual programming, and Mr.Uhm (Rupaus) takes programming. Basically, I am one man developer (include programming). My role is different for case by case. In some case, I develop games by myself alone... if it'll be sufficient. But in this game, Mr.Uhm took programming part, and it shortened developing time. My team is not fixed... if it needs, the team can be expanded... and if it'll be OK, I'll develop by myself sometimes.
ic: What was it like programming for the GP32? Did you have any particular hassles about the system? Did you use the Game Park official SDK?
Byulbram: It was similiar to developing game in DOS environment in PC. Maybe we could feel at home ;)
Graphic engine of All for Princess(A4P) was our own original engine. The official SDK uses non-compressing bitmap and it's slow and spent too much memory. So... we made our own lossless-compressing engine.
A file compression engine was made too. We had some problems with packaging data on a 16M SMC. Even character graphic-data size using our lossless-compression exceeded 20M. So we felt need to make compression packaging engine. We studied and tested some compression methods like LZ or Huffmann code, but it was so slow for intermission loading. At last, had to cut off some graphic data and musics and compress files in run length compression. (We spent few weeks trying to make LZ and LZW and LZB and Huffmann compression work, but finally didn't use it. If not for that, the game would have been on sale few weeks earlier.)
The sound engine, we used the official SDK. But... sound library in SDK was really bullsh*t. No pan, no volume control, no pause, and some crashes. Next time, we'll make it by ourselves too...
ic: A lot of developers, even companies like Sonnori, have had trouble with the GP32's audio. Music is often very compressed souding, with lots of noise and pops. You seem to have avoided this for the most part, but audio is still a bit noisy. How did you deal with the problem? What do you think other developers are doing wrong?
Byulbram: The Sound SDK has some problems with overlayed sound mixing. We tested mixture of each sound, and found that certain kinds of sounds make trouble. Deleting that file or modification of file can avoid a crash...
And the mixing routine of the SDK is wrong too. One day I felt like the mixing rate of each file was somewhat wrong, and asked Gamepark SDK development team about it. The mixing of files was not 100% + 100%... the SDK mixed them in 50% + 50% and I thought, what the hell...? It was, because, if the sound envelope exceeds some limit, sound would
We asked them to enable to mix 100% + 100% or 75% + 75% and for that limit of crashing sound, we quieted down each sound's volume. (If each sound's volume is sufficiently low, the sum of them can't get over that limit.)
As for the Music... it's compressed in ADPCM and mono low quality for file size. There's no MIDI engine on SDK so we had no other choice, and sound quality was sacrificed. In fact, I composed even more music for this game, but we had to leave it out to stay within size.
ic: Her Knights has an intricate combo system, something a bit unusual for a beat-em-up game. What was the inspiration for this title?
Byulbram: I don't regard common or typical style as important. Basically I like martial arts and fighting games too, and I love hardcore and hardboiled style.
First, I decided to develop a side scrolling fighting action game, but I didn't want to fight with just a few fixed attacks. I want hardcore action for players as well as enemies.
So, I changed the basic concept a little with moves from versus-fighting games and enemies without mercy.
In control and combination of fighting skills, I built it to my taste. Maybe it's a bit like the Tekken series... (I like Tekken series very much. It could be..)
ic: Are you pleased with the user response to and sales of
Her Knights? Any further titles planned for the GP32?
Byulbram: I'm very pleased with user response, really! And, sales of this work is very good given the GP32 market in Korea... but it's minor platform in Korea too. ;)
A4P (Her Knights) will be converted to an Arcade machine, (Upgrading conversion is now in progression by one korean arcade company) but no PC version. The Arcade company is WECOM, a new company in Korea. I don't know if they have any specific plans yet about publishing it in America.. but I'd hope so. They are trying for it, and it might be possible.
We are now developing and planning few more titles for GP32. Next title is...
'Blood Cross - Rage of Tiger' (click for concept art)
It's a versus style fighting game with a realistic look and a totally new concept of versus game. RF-module compatible and Network ranking system will be available. I started my career of game development with a fighting game in 1991, and now I am returning to that. This title 'Rage of Tiger' is my first game of release... from my medical college days, and memories of users response to that changed my life.
It's in development progress and will be completed in 2002 fall-winter. (We want to complete it before october, but it might be extended to winter.)
ic: Can you tell us more about the Her Knights level editor? What kinds of things can you do with it (make your own characters)? When will the english version be released?
Byulbram: Ah!! I forgot it!! In fact... the editor application file is converted to english already. But, I didn't translate the user's guide yet... -_-; I'll release it just after I translate it.
You can select background and locate enemies and give them
Using user's own background graphic is possible, but it's blocked right now. (It can make some trouble, and we blocked it for safety) Original characters made by the user are of course not possible. ;) (If we made it possible, it wouldn't be a game... maybe some kind of developing tool or toy.. haha)
You can locate characters and direct event scenes. All stages in the original game were made with this level editor. You can do anything except use user's original graphic or music data. (But there's other way to treat it. If I feel it's the time and situation, I'll tell it.)
ic: Anything else you would like to tell us about any new titles you have in development?
Byulbram: Her knights for Arcade (2002. 3/4 quarter) : Arcade
This is A4P for Arcade. 2 player play will be enabled, and it will be vibration joystick compatible. I think, there will be a New story and new levels.
Blood Cross - Rage of Tiger (2002. second half) : GP32, Arcade
As I wrote above. my real taste.
All for Princess - Deadline 2 (2003. first half) : GP32 (and Arcade?)
compatilble with RF-module.
co-play and versus-play is all enable for 4 players.
Team vs Team (with A.I. characters) battle.
and new characters will be added.
Children of beast (2003. second half) : GP32(?) or can be in other platform.
hybrid of strategy and RPG game. (multi scenario and multi ending)
kind of military mech battle in era of near future.
heavy story with political and religious messages.
And in planning...
Her Knights - et in terra pax hominibus bonne voluntatis : just in remake plan.
Remake of Original Her knights. (published in 2000. Animedia. korean)
200,000 lines of conversation texts.(in original game)
Hybrid of various style based on RPG but no one way story.
Theme in persuit of religious and political truth.
- Not decided for platforms and schedule - still in planning phase
Dynamo Beast2 (??) : PC or other.
Mechanic on-line game
design and tuning player's own Battle machine in 3D-battle field.
All buildings and environments can be destroyed or melt down.
ic: Can you give us some info on Dynamo Beast? Would you ever consider porting it to GP32?? And who is the excellent character designer? (editor's note, if you want to download it, go here)
Byulbram: Ah, you found it. :) It's the game I made for my joy.. in my holidays after announcing original 'Her Knights'. It (Her Knights) was too heavy and philosophical, developed over 3 years ago, by myself, and I was so tired from creating. I needed some refreshment, and made Dynamo Beast for fun. (All by byulbram. one man game)
After I launched a beta version, I returned to work, and worked for
A4P. So, the game's just for my own enjoyment and service is free, in underground. ;) It's Users are really few in number, and you may find there's no one online, (because I didn't advertised about it. so.. it's not so known). If you want play it, come with a friend.
Conversion to GP32... could be possible, but it's changed to a larger project. It's 'Children of Beast' which I mentioned above! RF version of this game will be inserted in C.O.B for a important part. ('Children of Beast' is based on 'Dynamo beast')
Character Design...is...the original sketch is drawn by me, but I asked my friend 'Sky Dragon', an illustrator in other company, to help. He painted it on his own style and completed more work for the art. (It was a secret to his company. ha..ha..ha..)
ic: Anything else you'd like our readers to know about?
Byulbram: Hm... I'll tell some backstory... about her knights.
1. All for princess...? or Her knights...?
'Her knights' is RPG game I made in 1997-2000 (published in 2000) In fact, I didn't name it 'Her Knights' in English. (It was only in Korean) 'Kuneou Gisadan' is similar to original name. This game is in originally 'Kuneou Gisadan - Kanghang dolpah'.
One day, I found that the game is written in English as 'Her knights'. Its meaning is the same... but, I felt it didn't sound right when saying it. So, I told Gampark to rename it to 'All for Princess'... but... it was be too late.. -_-; Almost all foreign people call it 'Her Knights' not 'All for Princess'. Now, I'm confused.. does 'Her knights' sound good? Then... Should I use name 'Her knights - Break through' or 'Her knights - All for princess'? Somebody please tell me.. before I draw the English version title logo... before it's too late..
(editor's note: please check out our poll at the top of the page and help Byulbram out by voting for the English title!)
2. then, what's the meaning of 'Byulbram'? Is it my real name?
...Of course not. It's my name as a creator. My real name is...hm... secret. ;) and... "Byulbram" is not the right spelling of this name either. Properly pronounced, it's "Beolbahram" but for 8 characters (8 byte) I spelled it this way. It means "Star and Wind" taken from famous korean poem. So... just Byulbram. 8byte.
3. Why A4P's story line is so bizzare? Alien? Why?
Just for fun, that's all. The original game was not like this.. just in reason.. but.. it's an action game. Just for fun and for a party! So... It was... done... like that. Why alien? So what?
4.About partner Mr.Uhm(Rupaus)
Member of our underground game society of korea... (called gogma) This is his first game in public. (He is a young man with potential) He is good player of games too, and I get advice from him often. For now, I'll work with him for a while...
ic: Final words?
Byulbram: Be ready for the next one, comrades!! ...and prepare to be shocked!!
A big thinks to Byulbram for allowing us the time to conduct this interview with him, and the best of luck on his current and future projects!