Benjamin Ficus Interview

Benjamin Ficus

The original ‘Doom and Destiny’ was an entry into the rare satirical branch of RPGs. An indie game aimed squarely at the seasoned gamer who could sink their teeth into a parody of the genre they loved whilst experiencing a game made by gamers for gamers. Benjamin Ficus and Heart Bit Interactive have clubbed together since the launch of the original to produce ‘Doom and Destiny Advanced’ which doesn’t so much revisit the original as torch it with a flamethrower, swallow the ashes and proceed to outdo it in every way imaginable. A member of the Benjamin Ficus team sits down with My Boxed Universe to answer a few questions the week of the games iOS launch.

MBU
Obviously big thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us here today. For those unaware of your work could you tell us a little about yourself and the Benjamin Ficus project please?

BENJAMIN FICUS
Hi MBU and thanks for this interview. Benjamin Ficus is my nick name, I’m Francesco and I’m the co-founder and game designer of Heartbit Interactive, a small and independent Italian studio. We make video games for a living 😀

MBU
Doom and Destiny manages to parody both video game conventions and pen and paper games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Can you tell us a little of your experience with the RPG genre?

BENJAMIN FICUS
Since I was a kid, I always loved RPGs, even if I couldn’t understand what was going on since I didn’t speak English when I was young. But I loved the idea of adventuring in an uncharted world, meeting characters and living out amazing stories! In high school I meet a few friends who invited me to try Dungeons and Dragons and I fell in love with it. After a small campaign in which I played as a Fighter, I become a Dungeon Master for the next 10 years straight.

MBU
How closely does Benjamin Ficus collaborate with Heart Bit Interactive?

BENJAMIN FICUS
I’m co-founder and game designer. “Benjamin Ficus” was/is my nick name before I met Matteo, my former colleague and co-founder of Heartbit Interactive.

MBU
Can you summarise Doom and Destiny Advanced? It claims to be a prelude, sequel and reimagining all at once, which is a pretty tall order.

BENJAMIN FICUS
We took inspiration from the Zelda series and the Evil Dead 2, which is kind of a sequel but it’s also also a reboot. We wanted to tell a brand new story that was like a sequel, but set in a different time line and even dimension. The heroes are the same four nerds for Do&De1, but they didn’t live the adventure of Do&De1 and neither will they. The story is set in the same world of Do&De1 but before the events of that game. Any player can jump in and enjoy the adventure but those who played the first one will find familiar faces and enjoy the game even more!

MBU
Are the four main characters based on real people are perceived arch-types of gamers in general?

BENJAMIN FICUS
The four main characters are four friends of mine, the same four friends with whom I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. The first prototype of Do&De was based on the idea of an offensive parody gone wrong. Since they liked the game and pushed me to finish it 😀

MBU
Did the original Doom and Destiny perform as well as expected in sales and review?

BENJAMIN FICUS
Yes, but it took a lot of time. Do&De was our first commercially released game. The game managed to grant us a decent income only after we published on mobile and Steam. It took a while, but the results are making us very happy.

MBU
How long has the sequel been in production?

BENJAMIN FICUS
It was for almost 2 years. The first 6 months was the concept stage. We took a few months off to do other stuff, but it took a lot of time to make it. And it’s not finished yet, as we plan to constantly update it after its release.

MBU
Advanced has a much less ‘RPG Maker’ inspired vibe to the graphics this time around. A factor that played into the genre parody extremely well. Was there a deliberate decision to move away from this style?

BENJAMIN FICUS
Do&De was made by two people. Neither of us was capable of doing graphics or music. So we bought the ones licensed by RPG Maker. Now the team is bigger and we wanted to do something that was 100% ours. Everything you see in the game is made by us (the Heartbit Interactive studio) and we are super proud of it!

MBU
The systems used in Advanced are both extremely streamlined and incredibly deep, offering a whole range of strategy and advanced options. Were you proudest of any one factor in the game?

BENJAMIN FICUS
Last night I was having dinner with the real Francis and Mike and they were arguing which class was the best: the cook or the cleric. That made me realized that the game has enough customization options that every class has its own strength. Maybe it’s not perfect yet, but I’m very proud to see the gameplay change depending on which team you build.

MBU
Did anything have to be cut that was initially planned?

BENJAMIN FICUS
The first story idea was completely changed after 3 months of work because we realized it wasn’t that great. We plan to tell those changes in an upcoming update where you’ll have the chance to meet the developer inside the game and read a “dev commentary”

MBU
The game uses a meta-centric plot element allowing for multiple realities in a DC ‘Multiverse’ style pile-up of worlds and scenarios. What inspired such an interesting concept?

BENJAMIN FICUS
I think it was Do&De1 😀 The idea of having a different dimension was already used in the first episode. In the sequel, we needed an excuse to use the same protagonist but not to make a game that was the direct sequel/prequel for Do&De1 and we decided to use this “multiverse” theory.

MBU
Do you personally have a favourite class or costume?

BENJAMIN FICUS
I’m a huge Dark Soul nerd and I love the knights’ costumes. Since I made all the classes, I’m in love with each one of them 😉

MBU
Can we expect to see future updates that continue to evolve the experience?

BENJAMIN FICUS
Of course! We are working hard to right now to fix all the bugs, but we are expanding the story, adding new classes and powers and improve the online arena with new cool game mechanics.

MBU
The game is available on multiple platforms; I myself have played more than a few hours into it already on the iPhone. Do you feel any particular medium is best to experience the game through?

BENJAMIN FICUS
I’m not a “phone guy” and I enjoy my games on pc, but I admit I love to play the game in the morning while I’m on the toilet 😉

MBU
Do you think we’ll see a Doom and Destiny 3?

BENJAMIN FICUS
Probably, but first we want to finish Do&De Advanced 😉

MBU
Do you have any words for aspiring game designers?

BENJAMIN FICUS
You should start right now creating something. You need to make as many games as you can. Get dirty 😉 Don’t expect your first work to be perfect, keep trying and results will come.

MBU
Did you take on-board much feedback from players of the original title?

BENJAMIN FICUS
Yes, we always try to listen and respond to all the fans. It might take time, but we love them very much!

MBU
In your mind what is the ‘best’ RPG that all gamers should play, old or new.

BENJAMIN FICUS
Wow, I have many 😀 I don’t have a “you must play this” but I can tell you which are my favorite. Secret of Evermore from SNES, Breath of Fire from PS1 and Dark Souls 😀

MBU
Thanks again for your time here today. For those who want to experience the game for themselves Advanced can be found on Steam HERE, as well as on the app store HERE. The original Doom and Destiny is also well worth your time to explore and can be found HERE.

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