This interview has been edited for format and clarity.
PR: When did you first begin using digital art/rendering software, and what attracted you to the medium?
CF: I always had a great passion for painting and drawing. However, the first time I approached a computer graphics program, it was thanks to Dungeons and Dragons. I have always been an RPG player, and I have almost always played as a Dungeon Master. Back then, it was the distant 90s, I needed to create some maps (dungeons) to play with miniatures with my players, and I decided to use a graphics program.
PR: What software did you use to build the characters and assets for Age of Barbarian?
CF: 3ds Max, Poser (enhanced with some python script), but not only. For the renders, we use different programs, it depends on the effect we want to achieve. The renders are sometimes retouched with photo editing programs.
PR: Some of your games use hand-drawn sprites, like Armageddon and Karate Master, while others use digital assets, like Age of Barbarian and Metal Fury. How do you decide which medium to use when starting a game, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each?
CF: Yes, the graphic aspect is decided based on the game we want to realize; the setting, and the temper we want to score. Making sprites by hand is longer than rendering, but the quality of the animation is easy to manage when an image is drawn, as in sprites. With renders, you have to be careful about the quality of the animation. Otherwise, it can be clumsy or jerky.
PR: Games like Killer Instinct, Donkey Kong Country, and Vectorman breathed new life into aging hardware with their pre-rendered graphics.What do you think the appeal of pre-rendered graphics are in an era where such hardware constraints no longer exist?
CF: You know, rendered graphics, like drawing or 3D graphics, is a style. It allows us, with relatively few resources, to develop pleasant graphics and, at the same time, to recall a retro style.
PR: The Steam releases of the Age of Barbarian games, Extended Cut and Arena: An Age of Barbarians Story, contain numerous graphical enhancements, like advanced lighting and reflections. How did you go about making these upgrades, and were there any challenges associated with making those new details work with pre-rendered graphics?
CF: As already mentioned, we use a melting pot of different techniques to achieve these results. One of the difficulties undoubtedly lies in ensuring that all components, sprites, backgrounds, particle effects, etc., result when mounted on the game, and are homogeneous with each other.
PR: I’ve heard you cite B-movie fantasy fare as your main inspiration for Age of Barbarian. Obviously, Conan The Barbarian (1982) established a strong base for 80s fantasy cinema, though I see elements of Italian sword & sorcery epics, like Conquest, a bit more prominently in your work. Are there any specific movies or media that served as the main inspiration for Age of Barbarian?
CF: No, I would say that Age of Barbarian is a melting pot of all that imagery that starts from sword and sandals films up to the latest sword and sorcery films of the 90s. However, on a personal level, one of my favorite movies is Beastmaster (1982).
PR: What core elements do you feel embody the barbarian/low fantasy genre?
CF: The heroism of the protagonists, who are “noble” barbarians. Often alone against overwhelming enemies. The clash between civilization and barbarism, where the civilian is often the villain. The right amount of magic that doesn’t have to go too far not to become a high fantasy—the representation of the bodies, often naked and similar in appearance to ancient heroes’ statues. The brutality of events, Age of Barbarians 2 in particular, will deal with many controversial topics.
PR: Arena: An Age of Barbarian Story almost feels like an interactive screenplay as much as it does a fighting game. The narrative plays a prominent role, and uncovering new areas of the arena gives a real sense of immersion. You let your humor bleed through too, which really adds to the game’s charm. I know you’ve mentioned there are multiple Age of Barbarian projects on the go. I’m curious, could one of those projects be a movie? What other mediums would like to explore with the series(comic book, etc.)?
CF: Even if we would like it, a movie is improbable. We are working on a tabletop RPG called Age of Barbarians RPG; we’ll make it available to our Patrons as soon as possible. Age of Barbarians RPG is part of the OSR current (Old School Renaissance), but it will stand out for the setting, on which we are working very much, and for more sophisticated and brutal fighting rules. Age of Barbarians 2 will include some of the mechanics based on the board game.
PR: On that note, can you reminisce about the elusive and highly sought-after Age of Barbarian Collector’s Edition? Would you ever consider taking on a project like that again?
CF: We actually thought about making a collector’s edition for Age of Barbarians 2. But this will take a long time and depend on how much support we’ll get from the Patreon we’re doing.
PR: Do you have any future game plans you would want to share?
CF: In addition to the Patreon page we have already mentioned, we are working on three new projects: Revenge of the Barbarians, a DLC that will be available for ARENA: an Age of Barbarians Story. Age of Barbarians RPG, which is the Age of Barbarians board game, and the most important of all, Age of Barbarians 2, which is a rather ambitious, open-world action game with many RPG elements. It is not only the most complex game we’ve ever worked on but will also use a completely different graphics system than we’ve never done before.
PR: Can you provide an update on Metal Fury? I read in your Steam post that you had run into some trouble with Heavy Metal Magazine. Will the game have to undergo any design changes?
CF: We do not know this yet, also because we are very busy with all our other projects. We can say that we were working on an agreement with Heavy Metal to make a game based on an official license, but the agreement has failed for the moment. For the future… we’ll see.
…rendered graphics, like drawing or 3d graphics, is a style. It allows us, with relatively few resources, to develop pleasant graphics and, at the same time, to recall a retro style…