This year’s PAX Prime was full of games and surprises. I have come to expect nothing but the best, especially from a few very specific developers. One of those developers is the fine people at The Behemoth. I had a chance to talk to Ian Moreno and get not only information about upcoming games and Battleblock Theater, but also an insight into the company itself.
Xalaga - In a world where indie titles get more attention than some AAA games, how have you managed to keep Castle Crashers floating at the top of the indie pile for so long?
Ian Moreno - Yeah, it has had kind of a long life span. I think aside from being a fun game and entertaining game, well, we learned a lot from Alien Hominid which was one of our first games, but also extremely difficult. We learned a lot from that, learning how to tune the game right, making it more accessible. So with Castle Crashers we wanted to make it more accessible for everybody. I think that is one of its greatest attributes. It’s one of the easiest games to pick up; you don’t even know what any of the controls do, and you can progress and keep going. So it was very important that we made it more accessible than Alien Hominid. It [Castle Crashers] was designed in such a way that if you were not good at the game, the more you play it, you’ll level up and become more powerful and then eventually you get past whatever is in your way. So we think it’s attributed to the accessibility and of course the art of Dan Paladin, which is the whole visual aesthetic that is a lot of fun to look at and play.
Xalaga - What took so long to get Castle Crashers on Steam?!
Ian Moreno - We are a really small company. We are a little bit bigger since we have had some new hires, but we really only have the resources to work on one game at the time. So after we finished the PSN version, we were working on some other stuff on the side, for later on for iOS. The main focus right now is for Battleblock Theater, but during the time and after it went XBLA and then PSN, we finally had time to make it for Steam. So it’s really about the resources since we are not a large company that can work on different things at the same time. Someday!
Xalaga - As iOS has become a hotbed of activity for gaming, will we see more titles from you on Apple devices?
Ian Moreno - There is nothing planned. We did do two mini games from Alien Hominid. So that was our first, kind of, experimenting with iOS. We did Super Soviet Missile Master which is free. We just gave it away. Then we did PDA Games. We want to do more, like I said, that was us experimenting, seeing what we can do. Nothing is planned and the main focus is Battleblock Theater, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something in the near future. Nothing to hint or announce just yet. Sorry!
Xalaga - Will we ever see Castle Crashers on iOS? What hurdles might you run into trying to do so?
Ian Moreno - For being a 2-D game, it all comes down to memory. It is how do you deal with amending the game to be bring it to iOS. Again, there are no plans for it at this time, we just released the PC version. Nothing right now, but you may never know what the future holds. That would be really cool and what we are showing right now on the floor is running on a Samsung Windows 7 tablet. It’s kind of in tablet form, but it doesn’t have like the controls. It’s all USB controllers, but I mean you kind of get a test of what it looks like and what it feels like on a tablet. But again, nothing has been planned as of yet.
Xalaga - With Gamepads for tablets that are now commercially available do you think that this will speed up the process to bring it to a tablet?
Ian Moreno - It is possible, but especially with that game, it’s something that we would have to look at due to the limitation of the hardware.
Xalaga - Behemoth has one of the more discernible artistic styles for games on the market. What sort of process does the team go through when creating the worlds and characters that keep players in the worlds that your company is known for?
Ian Moreno - A lot of that is thanks to Dan Paladin who is the lead artist and animator. The look and the characters come from, well, his brain and I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to speak for his brain and what he comes up with, but some of the concepts also came from Tom Fulp, if you watch some of the videos we have up on YouTube, you’ll see the original Tom concept for the Painter boss and then you see Dan taking that and then evolving it into the character that finally made it into the game. So there is collaboration and he likes to also pull everyone in the office and see what they think, but the final aesthetic comes for the imagination of Mr. Paladin.
Xalaga - After the multiplayer mayhem of Castle Crashers, what was the decision behind making Battleblock Theater more of platformer? Will we see some of the same excitement in multiplayer modes for BBT?
Ian Moreno - I guess the inspiration for Battleblock Theater came from a mini game that was in Alien Hominid called PDA Games, which was a platformer, like a mini platformer. It was a hand drawn stick character that doing very single board platforming. If you look at that and put two and two together you can really see the inspiration. That is where it came from and it was taking that idea and evolving it into a bigger and better game. As for multiplayer, story mode will only have two player co-op and single player, but there are arena modes which will support up to four players. You can do two on two and two against the AI. We’ll have a grand total of eight arena modes on top of the story mode.
Xalaga - Since the game will released with a level creator, will the levels created by the user be available to share and play with friends?
Ian Moreno - Absolutely! You can create levels where you can go from point A to point B type of mode, as well as create arena modes. In the level lobby you can create a play list of levels, and upload that playlist. Not only your friends, but everybody will be able to access what has been uploaded and can download it. Anyone in the world will be able to do that.
Xalaga - How much fun does the team really have writing all of these stories? For instance, the prisoner information on the BBT website.
Ian Moreno - [laughs] That’s everybody. Like myself, Dan, another of the project managers, another level designer, everybody has a ton of fun with it. We don’t have a head writer, or anything like that. We do all our stories ourselves, we collaborate on the actual minutia on the back story of the characters. We have hundreds of prisoners, so it kind of allows ourselves to let our imaginations run wild creating these back stories. You just kind of have fun with it. We are doing those prisoner videos, where we feature one or two prisoners and you just want to breathe a little of a back story. It’s not just Top Hat guy, he has a back story and a history of mischief or whatever. Gosh! I can’t even think any of those occupations anymore! But yeah, it’s just really having fun with it and being as absurd as possible and if anything it’s just not taking ourselves too seriously, which I think shows on all the games.
Xalaga - Just how deep will the story go for BBT? With the videos of how the theater has gone from pristine to dilapidated, can we assume that it is going to get darker before the hero sees the light?
Ian Moreno - I say so. When you first crash, you are taken as a prisoner, then forced into deadly places, that kind of generates money, and that gets really dark and then happy but then this whole time your best friend is now your enemy. So if you where to chart the story it would be something like this:
Xalaga - If you had one sentence to convince people to play BBT upon release, what would you say?
Ian Moreno - Co-optional game play with highly technological kitty captors!
Xalaga - What else can we look forward to in the future from The Behemoth? After BBT, is there something else in the works?
Ian Moreno - No game as of yet; no announcements towards a game. This is the game there for us and our main focus is to get Battleblock Theater out the door.
Ian Moreno and I played Battleblock Theater on an arcade machine they had rigged to play the game. After some instructions on how game play, we ended up working well together and laughing at some of my mistakes as I made my way though the levels and puzzles.
There is no release date for Battleblock Theater as of yet, since The Behemoth is a small company dedicated to only releasing the best game possible, they want to make sure that everything is as perfect as they can make it before unleashing the game to the masses.
I want to thank Ian Moreno and The Behemoth for a wonderful time and for taking time from their busy schedule to speak with us. We’ll be covering Battleblock Theater once the game is released, so make sure to visit back for our review of the game!