This was the very first year for The Behemoth to visit RTX and they were really excited to do so. They brought out 3 custom made arcade machines to show of their recent release of BattleBlock Theater on the Xbox Live Arcade and had a bunch of sweet merchandise to sell (which I took part in buying said merchandise) and talked with the community about their games. All in all, it was a great time for everyone attending RTX. This was also my first time playing BattleBlock Theater due to the lack of Xbox owning, but me and a random person teamed up to beat one of the levels in the game. We helped each other out, accidentally blew each other up, and friendly competed against each other to see who did the best (I definitely won). Throughout out the entire demo I smiled and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I highly recommend you all to check out their game and some of their others like Castle Crashers too. Read on below for an interview with The Behemoth’s Production Coordinator, Ian Moreno.
Me: What brings you to RTX?
Ian: We talked with the guys from RTX multiple times in the past years at PAX and it’s never really worked out timing wise and we’ve always been interested, but it never worked out timing wise because it’s right before Comic-Con which is in a week and a half and we always show at [Comic-Con] and we were like one of the first game developers there and it never really worked out timing wise because we don’t have a dedicated trade show team, it’s all the entire staff. This year we just launched BattleBlock Theater in April and we just had a little extra bandwith to do something else and we wanted to do more shows and I just kinda put it out there and said hey why don’t we do a skeleton team and bring a few things and see what happens and see how it goes so here we are and I’ve always wanted to go to RTX and I think it’s a good match in terms of the humor in games and what [Rooster Teeth] does.
Me: Are you guys based out of Austin? Or where are you guys at?
Ian: San Diego, California.
Me: On your website it says that The Behemoth was founded to bring craftsmanship and originality back to the game industry, do you think you’ve accomplished this?
Ian: I feel like it’s a little pretentious to say like, “Mission Accomplished,” but the landscape is different than it was from say five years ago. I feel more happy that when you look at more developers and more indies and what they’re doing is that the landscape has drastically changed and that whole motto of ours is just now more kind of ubiquitous in the gaming community as a whole. Whether we have accomplished that, I think it’s just more of an ongoing goal of ours in terms of what we do and keep our focus and to stay true as to why we got into this in the first place.
Me: You and the team have done a great job on creating amazing 2D game experiences, do you and the rest of the team enjoy 2D games a lot? What’s your personal favorite 2D side scrolling game?
Ian: I don’t want to replug what we do, but in Newgrounds, which is owned by Tom Fulp who is also a co-owner of The Behemoth, stuff like Dad N’ Me was before I knew Tom and Dan and stuff like that always appealed just in terms of the early co-op mechanics and just a beat ‘em up in general. The humor part is what really draws me in. There’s a Joss Whedon quote years back that you can tell this intimate story, but for Christ’s sake tell a joke at some point. That’s one that always resonated with me, because you can’t take yourself so seriously. I know the question’s about side scrolling, but the stuff the guys’ did before I even got there kind of resonated with me in terms of balancing humor and gaming. And of course games like Mega Man and Mario.
Me: With the rise of Kickstarter and crowdfunding for games, and with The Behemoth’s reputation for self-funding, do you think you’ll turn to that as a source for income in the future?
Ian: Not for me, I think a lot of people have recently done amazing things in terms of getting certain projects funded and it’s awesome and it’s great; obviously Double Fine being the head of that, but we actually used Kickstarter to do our Necromancer project which was a Necromancer figurine which is about [10"]. That was more to gauge how many people would want this before dumping a lot of money into it. As for self-funding, we’ve been very lucky and fortunate. Really after Castle Crashers we’ve been able to continue to self-fund all our projects and continue working at our own pace. You never know, but right now there are no plans whatsoever. Right now we did BattleBlock and it’s all self-funded and self-published and our next project will be the same. Until people like stopping our games then.
Me: How difficult is it to completely fund a game without help from a publisher?
Ian: Extremely difficult, like I said since [Castle Crashers] it’s been a little bit easier. In the beginning, I wasn’t there for this, but the when owners originally started, John Baez, Dan Paladin, and Tom Fulp, it was like taking mortgages out on the house and working for no nothing. So there’s definitely a lot of sacrificing in the beginning that in the end paid off. There was struggle early on and now things are nice.
Me: Will the team ever venture out and conquer another game genre? Cause you guys have gone down the side scrolling beat ‘em up, you guys want to do a 3D game or any other kind of genre?
Ian: I can say that we’ve done a shooter, then a beat ‘em up, and now we’ve done a platformer. So we’re most likely the next thing is going to be something different if you want to analyze the pattern. Right now we’re just prototyping and trying new things.
Me: How large is the team at The Behemoth?
Ian: The company just hit 20, but not all of that is development that’s the thing, we have merch and product stuff now. In terms of people solely dedicated to development, BattleBlock was a very small team it was 1 programmer, 3 level designers, and Dan who was doing top level design and of course all the art and there was another artist who helped him and myself who is a producer and deals with sound and all that. So that was the team size on that project and there are a couple of people who do a lot of production type stuff, but we also have a couple other programmers. So about 9 in terms of development on the games.
Me: Will the team be continuing on with Microsoft Studios and progress to the Xbox One? Or do you think you’ll switch over to Sony or do Steam purely?
Ian: We have nothing to officially announce of what platform of whatever the next game is going to be on so nothing official there. We’ve always gone on record as having a positive relationship with Microsoft so there’s always a strong relationship there. We’ve released on Sony and both next-gens have very interesting things that excite us mainly like the streaming is really cool and how it ties in. We’ve had a lot of really cool Let’s Plays with BattleBlock and so we hope to see more of that and they make us giggle and giddy.
Me: I’m actually really excited about the sharing feature the most of anything and I don’t have a game capture device so it’ll be very good for me with the next-gen systems.
Ian: Yeah with the style of the games we do, the technology is nice it makes things easier. I read some article, there’s another developer who is really great is like, “It doesn’t really change what we do, it just has more gratuitous particle systems.” I was like yes that’s my answer! Nothing official as to what we are doing, but again we are a small team and we don’t ever simultaneously develop so it’ll be on one thing and then another thing and another thing.
Me: It was 5 years before you got BattleBlock Theater out after Castle Crashers, will there be the same wait because I know you’re all working as a small team, do you think you’ll try to hash it out sooner? Or just take your time and do what you can?
Ian: Above all, the game is ready when it’s ready and that’s what we did with BattleBlock so that’s something that we abide by. Do we want the next development cycle to be 5 years? No, I think with the team that we’re building now for our prototyping we have additional programmers so I think we’ll see definitely a shorter development cycle just by getting our foundation ready for whatever this next thing is. One thing about BattleBlock, one thing that we always forget to point out is that there was only one programmer on that project. When you look at the size of that game and the level editor and the [user generated content], I stand back and, his name is Chip, I’m just like, “Well done man, that was impressive. I worked with you for 4 years and I never said it, but that was an impressive amount of work you just did.”
Me: I did a little bit of programming on my own and with the crappy stuff I played around with it was painful and time consuming. I can only imagine just taking on the whole project.
Ian: Yeah and there’s network as well and there’s AI. Each component was written from the ground up.
Me: What has been the most fun part of working on BattleBlock Theater?
Ian: Dan’s amazing and a treat to work with, but I gotta say Will Stamper, who’s our narrator and does all our quips, was one of the most hilarious game related experiences of my life. He would spit this audio drops and I would take it and do some minor editing and sampling and prep it and implement it into the game. So I’ve listened to all the dialogue in the game hundreds of time or thousands of times probably. So we’d get this audio drops and it’d be like Christmas and just hit play and play it out loud and the entire office was cracking up. Hearing him and working with him when he’d come in and fly out and work with us, that was just a hilarious experience translating words like ‘peaslaush’ (I’m not even sure how to spell Ian’s word…) and the onomatopoeia and I did all the subtitling in the game. It was just hilarious, the amount of talent that guy has cause he not only did that he also did about a third of the sound effects in the game. All the dialogue in the game he wrote. All we did was we sat down one day and made an outline of the story. He took the outline and pretty much did all the dialogue was for the most part improvisation and some parts were written like the very specific jokes. It was fun to watch him work and to get audio drops from him.
Me: Anything else you want to add in?
Ian: The ending is worth the playthrough. It’s great cause this is the first show that we’ve been to since the game has released. It’s fun to actually get to talk to people and then those people who beat the game and getting their reaction. The looks on their face and when they try to describe is just priceless and it just makes me happy and can’t wait to get home and tell everybody.