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Interview: Black Hive Media Talks Upcoming Sci-fi Action RPG Side-scroller ‘Kova’

Up-close talk with the developers about the story behind their latest game.

Texas-based game development company Black Hive Media recently launched their Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming sci-fi metroidvania-style action RPG side-scroller, Kova. Black Hive Media has previously developed mobile games and this is their first PC game. Joining us today is are the founders of Black Hive Media, Blake and Mandy Lowry.

How did Black Hive Media come about?

Mandy: Blake’s been working in the game industry since college, and aside from his first game that landed him a job in the industry, he’s always worked for larger companies. In bigger studios, you have less pull about what goes on and he had some great ideas for some great games…so one day we decided why not make them ourselves? So we formed the company!

What made you want to step into the gaming industry?

Blake: Growing up, I had an older brother that was really into video games- he and his friend were always bringing home games. I was still pretty little, so seeing and playing all those games had a big impact on me. My parents were also both professional artists and it’s something that I was heavily involved in (and out) of school. I drew all the time, especially in math class! Looking back, it was a pretty obvious path that I’d end up taking to become a game artist!

Kova, 2017 © Black Hive Media

Mandy: For me, it was my love of games and my inspiration from Blake. I loved playing NES, Genesis, and Playstation growing up, and then that only carried into my adulthood. In our first apartment, Blake and I even had a KI2 cabinet that we competed on. When Blake started making games, it was so cool seeing his creations and being able to play them. When he brought up the idea that I could learn to program to build some small iOS games, I jumped right on it and bought a Mac. Any excuse for us to work together and get some new tech in the house was awesome in my book!

Your upcoming project, Kova is the first PC release. What made you want to switch from the mobile platform to PC?

Mandy: We saw mobile as a gateway at first, but then it became lucrative so we stuck with it for a while. Now we are finally pursuing what we sought out to do in the first place. It took us a while to get back to this, but we feel like it will be worth it to everyone involved.

What inspired the making of Kova?

Blake: Really, we just wanted to create something with our skill-set that appealed to us. We are big fans of sci-fi and shooters and RPGs, even retro games; this kind of brings a large array of interests into one creation.

How many people are behind the making of Kova?

Mandy: Blake and I came up with the original concept, worked on multiple prototypes over the past year, then when we finally nailed the concept we brought on 2 more team members to help with the workload. So now there are four of us doing development as the core team. We do have a few external contributors and we are working with a composer for the original soundtrack.

Could you share with us what is the story?

Mandy: Kova is a story about a mercenary who lives day to day in a competitive galaxy and finds herself crash landing on an uninhabited planet, with conditions too harsh to be colonized. As she pieces her ship back together, she finds a beacon that holds an ancient message. As you find out more about the message, you realize that other beacons activated and that you aren’t the only one hunting them down. The beacon message has an extremely odd language that isn’t familiar, so it must be translated. After translating it, you start finding hints that maybe humans aren’t alone in the universe.

What are some of the features and objectives of the game?

Mandy: Kova has been built off all the features we love across so many genres of games. You’ll have areas to explore and add items to your ship’s log. There will be different types of enemies to defeat, each with their own skill level and AI. Different planets will have various resources to mine, that can later be used for crafting ammo, health, ship fuel, among other items. You’ll also come in contact with an array of characters that will offer you missions in return for upgraded parts and Galactic Credits. The credits will allow you to purchase new suit chips which can then be used to unlock new skills in the upgrade tree. As you complete missions, you’ll earn various keys that will gain you access to new areas of the planets.

Kova, 2017 © Black Hive Media

The primary objective of the game is to find all the beacons and collect each chip hidden within them. The chips hold fragments of a map that will lead you on a new adventure. However, in order to keep flying you’ll also need to take on missions from colonist to earn Galactic Credits to upgrade your abilities and weapons. There are many ways to achieve this and various play styles depending on which missions you choose to do and which factions you team up with.

The art and mood from the screenshots with seen work very well with the sci-fi story you are trying to tell. Why did you choose this style?

Blake: Kova pulls inspiration from a lot of existing material. The art style utilizes a palette that portrays these familiar themes, but is accented with effects and imagery to make sure we’re bringing something new and refreshing to the table.

How far along in development are you right now?

Mandy: Currently, nearing the end of March, we are at pre-Alpha stage for the first few levels, and we were able to accomplish this in just a few months. We move fast in our development and plan on having the Beta available in the fall, with a first release on PC/Mac/Linux shortly after that (by the end of the year).

What was the vision of Kova when you started creating this game? Has it changed in any way?

Blake: The original concept evolved from an older lighthearted mobile game we made. When we went independent we started developing prototypes for a console game, and eventually the concept began to take shape. Some time after that, we matured the idea and tone, thus Kova was born.

Kova, 2017 © Black Hive Media

Are you targeting any specific audience in particular?

Mandy: We are targeting gamers that are looking for something fresh … something that transcends genres. We aren’t making a clone of a successful game, nor are we making a just another 2d side-scroller. We are bringing new elements to the classic and hoping to target old school gamers, hard core gamers and casual gamers alike.

Finally, for a more general question: Do you feel there is a larger audience for indie games than there has been previously?

Blake: Definitely. Indie games give us back the days of going into a store and taking a chance on a unique game that just looks cool. Everyone has heard of CoD and Halo, but finding something that really appeals to you is likely in the indie scene.

Thanks so much for doing this interview with us, Blake and Mandy! We wish you the best of luck on the Kickstarter campaign and the development of Kova.

Kova was recently greenlit by Steam community. To learn more about Kova, we urge you to head over to their Kickstarter campaign HERE. The Kickstarter runs till April 27th, 2017 and backers will gain access to their playable demo.