Villordsutch interviews James Brown from Gang Beasts…
Gang Beasts at Play Expo is manned – from what I can see – by two people, James Brown and his father. They are truly an indie game company and they are currently neck deep in people. I can’t recall seeing an indie game stand politely asking people to please move along so that other attendees queueing up behind them can get two minutes of play. Later when it moves to the GamerDisco stage, for a talk about the game, a Tournament starts with members of the public playing against each and this place becomes electric as people start screaming and cheering. Gang Beasts is lightning in a bottle and I’ve seen it before the bottle is corked. I got the chance to speak with James, who is extremely passionate about his families game and he spoke in length about it.
Villordsutch: Where did you get the idea for Gang Beasts from?
James Brown: Well there’s a short version and a long version. Basically we were making a high fantasy game, we didn’t have an animator and we started doing game-jams and looking at the flexibility of doing something with procedurals, so we were looking at this procedural control system because the characters needed to have bladed weapons. We wanted to have per hand control and we’d actually done per hand control for a game-jam game so we had that written, but because we needed precision based magic, ranged magic and some other things etc. we tried to make a space opera variant with the same kind of physics system. This was going to be more complicated, we realised quite quickly so we tried again to simplify it, so we tried to make Double Dragon and this is basically what we’ve been trying to do. Though, because we didn’t have any AI originally that was something we needed to work on a lot, we needed to work out how people were fighting and because the three of us are brothers anyway we just wanted to play our own game, so we added our own added mulit-players pretty early on. To try and get an idea where they might fight we started to place in a bunch of extreme versions of where they could fight within the game.
V: Like the Lift location or the Truck Top fight scene?
JB: Yeah! I mean, the trucks were a very early one and the window cleaning gondolas. We try and look at them, I mean they are all still very early passes and we need to really polish a lot of them. If you look at them and just imagine the geometry, we’re kind of just looking at objects just moving in space, how much space they need to turn around and to be able to kind of fight without killing you immediately; in an early version of the truck level people were dying immediately which kind of suggested we needed climbing mechanic so we added that. Just recently, this week, we’ve added a running mechanic so you can now run and slide on you backside, on you front side and you can do a jumping dropkick also a diving header.
V: So it’s constantly being developed?
JB: Oh yeah, yeah! We’ll keep developing it until we feel we’ve given enough content. We’ve had no other funding other than friends and family, we’re not funded by a publisher although we do have a publisher. We’re self-funded, we had to place it on Early Access to generate the funds to continue making the game as we’re not from the industry, we all had other jobs apart from Michael who was a recent graduate from games development course. So we priced the game for the release price because we wanted to make sure, and we didn’t know how to manage increasing the price over time; we didn’t want to release it really cheap and then not be able to increase the price when it happened. So we want to stay on Early Access until we feel we’ve given people enough content.
V: So when it does get released will you be aiming for any other platform after Steam?
JB: Yes, we’re definitely aiming for PS4 first and we’re still speaking with Microsoft about releasing on their platform. We have spoken to Nintendo, but we don’t have their development kits yet and obviously it’s a lower specification machine so we’re not quite sure, so it makes sense to look at that last. Also I’m unsure if you’ve seen the debug mode?
JB: If you press some of the number keys you can spawn objects on the cursor, you can spawn AI to fight. It’s a way of putting AI into some of the levels were there isn’t AI. As there is only really one prototype stage in the public build currently and we’re still working on the story mode, with the first version of this coming out fairly soon. This should be like a more Double Dragon
V: Double Dragon was amazing!
JB: Double Dragon, Crime Fighters, Streets of Rage all of those kinds of games, we knew the narrative of the game and it was “Gangs fight Gangs” and that’s Double Dragon. The prototype had a previous boss fight in a street zone – in the pre-Alpha – that was like the story-mode, you were like the antagonist and you had gangs fighting you and bosses fighting you. Bosses were slower, but bigger, you had to get inside them to fight them and you had to work together like jackals or hyenas to take them down.
V: So co-op play is a part of the gameplay?
JB: Yeah, honestly the co-op’s more fun I think, we just haven’t shown a lot of it as we’ve been so focused on optimising the characters, because we get a lots of demands everyday online and we couldn’t probably look at that [the co-op] until we’ve got the characters properly optimised. We can’t commit to it until we know it’s a stable platform and it’s definitely going to work, until we know it’s going to give people a similar experience to the local link player; if we can’t do that they we can’t release it.
V: It’s a goal to set isn’t it?
JB: Yeah, yeah. We had initial meetings again to try and ramp up development on that very recently and we’re working with a company called Coatsink as we didn’t have any background, we’re not from the industry, online is a very difficult task to implement and especially with a game that wasn’t designed for that purpose initially. As there should be no animation in our game and it should all be done procedurally there are more things that need to be sync’ed in our game, so we’re optimizing now and reducing the number of components the characters are built for, as they’re all built from ridged bodies.
Thanks to James for giving up his time to speak to Flickering Myth during his hectic day, and also thanks to Michael for arranging this interview.
You can read our full report about PLAY Expo at EventCity, Manchester here.
Villordsutch likes his sci-fi and looks like a tubby Viking according to his children. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.