Time to jam: Beavl, the Argentine makers of uniquely beautiful games, tell us about Faif

By Owen Faraday 04 Feb 2014 0
This is a gif -- click it to see Faif in action. No whammies.

Faif is poker crossed with Russian roulette.

It's a game that looks like a puzzle from one angle, an RPG from another -- but it's its own creature. You take turns highlighting tiles on a board with an AI opponent. Tiles might contain swords that damage your foe, hearts that replenish your health, gems with which to buy upgrades -- or skulls that hurt you. Each turn you have to highlight five consecutive tiles, but the game will randomly choose one of them to activate. For every skull that you're brazen enough to include in your selection, you'll get a bonus to damaging your opponent if you land a sword.

But not only is it diabolical -- it's beautiful. I had to know more about the duo making it: a pair of Argentines named Nico Saraintaris and Damian Troncoso, working collectively as Beavl.

Saraintaris and Troncoso do a lot of game jams. After meeting in a small Argentine studio in 2011, the two struck out on their own in 2013 after making a game called Junction Action Arcade for a Blackberry Game Jam. They've made and released almost a half-dozen other games in the year since, usually starting with core gameplay that they've arrived at during a weekend game jam. Their significant others must hate this.

Faif was born (surprise) at another game jam: Ludum Dare 28 this past December.

"Last Ludum Dare was kind of weird for us," Saraintaris says. "We’d decided to skip it. It was a busy weekend and one of us turning 30. But on Monday (the last day for jamming) we had an early meeting, talked a little about how awesome the theme was and took the day off to make a game!"

Ludum Dare jams have a theme which the participating devs must incorporate into a scratch-made game created over the 48 hours of the weekend. LD 28's theme was "You only get one".

"The core idea of the game is making a selection of five adjacent tiles in a grid and after doing it so, the game would randomly choose one," Saraintaris told me. "If it weren’t for the theme, we would never come up with an idea like this. Ever. We love game jams!" You don't say.

Faif in its Ludum Dare incarnation and the more visually polished near-finished product. Faif in its Ludum Dare incarnation and the more visually polished near-finished product.

"So we had the core idea, now we needed to work on the gameplay itself. We decided that the player should battle against AI in a turn-based game scheme and we chose iconic RPG elements to make different types of tiles: a sword would attack your enemy, a heart would give you a life and a skull would take out one.

"When we had a playable concept, we noticed something we’ve suspected. As the game progresses, the grid was full with skulls! Not the dumb AI nor the player would select them. So we decided that the attack (sword) would have no base attack and for every skull in the selection it would get +1."

The game's beautiful flat, almost Bauhaus style is inspired by the artist J. P. King. "We felt madly in love with [his] Risograph Calendars. We used his palette and add some movement to those geometric shapes and worked all the UI and general design from there."

Faif is already out on Android and it's playable for free on the web -- the iOS version is in approvals and should be out soon, but the duo plans more updates and features for game. Beavl have got other projects on the go like the gorgeous puzzle racer Kapsula (tagline: "We don’t know why —but we are all gonna die in the Kapsula"). It's also a pretty safe bet that they'll have more to show from the next game jam. I'll be keeping an eye on these guys. You can too on Twitter and Facebook.
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