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Powerpuff Girls license an unexpected undertaking for Radiangames Exclusive

March 7, 2014 | By Mike Rose

For anyone who follows Luke Schneider of Radiangames, his latest announcement will come as quite the surprise. For his next trick, Schneider has swapped his neon-filled blast-em-up style for... a Powerpuff Girls game?

Yes indeed, The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville is coming to Steam in a couple of weeks, and is really rather different to anything that Schneider has done before it.

Clearly I had to find out how the heck this outlandish partnership with Cartoon Network came about, and Schneider was happy to provide details. It all begins with a massive failure, and a potential drop out of the video game industry.

Schneider released his last game Bombcats for mobile last May -- a free-to-play physics-driven puzzler -- and while it received vast numbers of downloads, reaching into the hundreds of thousands, the game made very little money. We're talking hundreds of dollars, which wasn't even enough to recoup Schneider's original investment in the game, let alone make a profit.

"Basically I'd worked 11 months on a game and it made no profit, so I had used up a lot of my family's savings (you know, to live)," he tells me. "I'm still not sure if I've paid for the costs associated with the game (I used contractors for art and music on Bombcats)."

He adds, "Even if it hadn't been free-to-play, I don't think the game would have been particularly successful because people were already burnt out on physics puzzle games."

ppg.jpgAt this point, Schneider had two options -- either go part-time indie developer and get another job, or drop making video games altogether. Fortunately, after the developer talked publicly about his predicament, a third option revealed itself.

"Ryan Harwell from Cartoon Network emailed me shortly after my 'oh my god Bombcats is a massive failure' blog post," Schneider says. "He said he liked Bombcats and that some of the people at CN were fans of my games (especially Inferno). He wondered if we could chat about maybe making a game together."

Now, it's worth noting that Cartoon Network wasn't the only studio who got in touch with Schneider at this point. A handful of other publishers were also interested in seeing what Schneider had to offer, including Ubisoft.

However, it was Cartoon Network who seemed the most interested in what Radiangames could do. Schneider sent three different game pitches to CN -- a roguelike twin-stick shooter, an abstract tower defense game, and a Metroidvania-shooter -- and it was the third concept that really caught their attention.

"I had mentioned that I thought the third concept would work well with Powerpuff Girls, and that's what Ryan eventually got approved. I wrote up a longer four-page design document called Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville. It had something very similar to the final plot and most of the major game details written down. It's actually pretty unusual how similar the final game is to the original proposal."

So that's what Defenders of Townsville is -- a Metroidvania-style exploration game, with the characters of Powerpuff Girls, and Schneider's own visual and gameplay spins.

"Who doesn't love a good Metroidvania?" he says. "I think it just meshed really well with the license, and it wasn't too divergent from what I'd done before (particularly Inferno, though it shares more code with Bombcats due to physics)."

Luckily, around the time that he began work on the Powerpuff Girls game, Google decided to feature four of his Xbox Live Indie Game Android ports over the summer. Coupled with the Cartoon Network deal, Schneider had suddenly gone from staring into the precipice, to comfortably working as a full-time indie again.

"Cartoon Network is awesome because they knew what I wanted to do with the game, and just let me go to town," the dev notes. "There were some minor adjustments I had to make to fit the game to the license, but they have been great to work with."

"I also enjoy working with a pre-existing universe more than creating one, because it lets me focus on the other aspects of game creation," he adds. "Plus, Cartoon Network has people who actually write for a living, so that really helped with the story (the pre-final-boss cutscene dialog is one of my all-time-favorite PPG exchanges). The Powerpuff Girls are also kind of custom-made to fit in an action-heavy video game, so that helped smooth the process."

Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville will launch on Steam on March 14.

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