November 18, 2022
Games Lift: Team Marty aim outside the box
The heroine may seem young and hot-headed, but there is an experienced team standing behind her: Babsi Bullet is an action-packed puzzle platformer for touchscreens. Team Marty are pouring their hearts into the game – and real craftsmanship.
Christian Plinke immediately connected with André and René: "Their artwork and their game concept were just so sick," he says with a wide grin. The professional musician found his new teammates at Hamburg Indie Treff, a regular meetup for indie devs. At the time, coder André Peschka and art director René Zimmermann were developing a "Fart'n'Run" called "Marty McFart". The new project is less of a knee-slapper – but still funny.
The bullet is you
"Babsi Bullet is a 2D platformer with action puzzle elements," René explains. He is responsible for the game’s look and design. René seems eager to go into his inspirations; he can obsess about the level design of run-and-gun classics from Mega Man to Cuphead. Babsi, the protagonist, may share some DNA, but she is not a shooter – she herself is the bullet. If an opponent on the screen is tapped, she immediately zips there. This is her way of navigating through obstacle-filled levels. Players have to be smart about when and where to shoot.
Babsi Bullet also works well with a mouse, and a controller setup is in the works, but the game is "best on the touch screen," André emphasizes. He is an experienced developer in his own right. "Our skillsets are clearly differentiated," André explains. Everyone is a master of their own area. Roles are clearly defined in the team.
But they share ownership of their project. For Christian, it is special to accompany a game from the beginning. As a musician, he often gets to participate on games that are closer to being done, where he has to work on a deadline and within certain constraints. Here, he can try things out and help set the mood. This also includes sampling – Christian has brought the sounds of a working music box to the project.
"You can tell at every turn that our game is handmade," André says. The three of them show conviction in their work. And René plays a key role. Babsi Bullet’s cartoonish look and level design are his work. The levels give the game its complexity. Moving the character remains simple – tap opponents to take their place.
Working on level design is "cool", but also "a challenge" to René. Initial playtests have led him to completely redesign passages. "A big advantage for us is that we can do elevator playtesting sessions.", he says. Playing the game is faster than explaining it. Because prototypes run on mobile phones, Babsi Bullet is easy to pick up and show around. Team Marty already know from feedback that their game is fun.
Targeting the market
The core gameplay loop works, but that is just the beginning. Team Marty don't want to make an endless free-to-play roguelite. They are looking for an audience with an eye for handmade entertainment, for games with elaborate puzzles, bosses, Metroidvania elements. During the game, Babsi learns to assume different forms, which will open up new areas in old levels.
A main motivation for taking part in the incubator is the worry that a lovingly developed premium mobile game may be overlooked in App Stores. Team Marty are especially thankful for biz dev expert Cassia Curran’s clear-eyed analysis in her Games Lift workshop: Hearing that Babsi Bullet would need a lot of luck to make it in the App Store was "depressing at first," René admits. But the quality of the game is not the problem. Cassia and other experts in Gamecity Hamburg’s network inspired them to rethink their publishing options. Now, Team Marty are targeting subscription and streaming services like Apple Arcade and planning for a PC release, too.
"When the game is really out, Cassia will deserve a lot of credit" André says. Before that can happen, there is work left to do. Next up is the graduation pitch. René hopes to give the audience a first glimpse of one of the game’s bosses. It will take time and creativity to get there. But Team Marty have already shown that they aren’t boxed in that easily.
This article is part of our Games Lift Log series, in which we share peeks behind the scenes of our Games Lift Incubator program and portrait the teams that joined the incubator program this year. Find more articles below the video.