At this year's Rezzed Expo in Birmingham, a huge crowd clustered around a single television screen in a far corner of the expo floor. Together they cheered and whooped and laughed as four players at a time took their turns playing Gang Beasts, a multiplayer fighting game that uses physics in the same way Louis CK uses anecdotes about his children. We spoke to James Brown, one of the four-man development team Boneloaf, to see what all the fuss is about, and where they plan to take Gang Beasts on the long development road ahead.
-- How did the idea for Gang Beasts come about?
James: Well it actually came out of a couple of other games that we were prototyping. The way we figured out how we might make games is by doing game jams basically. That's the thing that got us all in the same room together, and we found we were much more productive during those periods. We've done any game jam we can for the last couple of years, and during that we've evolved this physics system. It's probably too bold to call it a system. It's just something we made. But we were making a high fantasy with tentacle creatures, and giant turtles and things that light, that you could fight on the back of, and the way we did the magic system and swordplay and all these other systems.
We had a space opera and that had low gravity physics and this thing we call SpaceBeef; these gelatinous, undulating forms. So we kinda thought "well actually as a new company, let's do something simpler", and we thought, if we could get a satisfying punch mechanic, we could build a game around it. We're from the arcades, we grew up on the North East coast. The three of us that are brothers. Jason obviously didn't. But we loved those old games, where there was a very simple premise, like, somebody's wronged you and you're out for revenge. So you just have that protagonist and antagonist, and then some kind of beef, feud, and you just beat people up to resolve it.
And we thought we could build that. And we just started building a few things single player. Didn't have an AI at that time, so we just went local multiplayer. We are now looking at trying to support online multiplayer as well. The ultimate ambition for this game would be to customise your gang and go up against somebody else's gang. But at the moment we're just prototyping a whole bunch of different hazardous environments, that can facilitate your victory.
What development state are you in?
James: It's actually still in pre-alpha.
So quite early on.
James: We've been developing it since mid-November, but only part time. So we've just gone full time. We took an office space two days ago. We haven't actually done any work in there yet because we came straight here. So we'll be going back on the train tonight, setting up in the office tomorrow and picking up work again then. It's all happened quite quickly for us. But the response has been pretty phenomenal. We didn't expect anything like this.
So now we're just trying to set ourselves up and concentrate on making the game full time. But we're hoping to put out an early access in the next couple of months. We are speaking to publishers at the moment, so the only thing that might change that is if they give us advice contrary to doing that. I don't think that will be the case. We want to put it on Early Access.
We want to put it out on Early Access, just so basically the people who played the Alpha can get a discount. Because it's normally the other way around where people get the discount on the sales. We want to give a discount to people who have played the game already, the people who have been behind us. That's as much of a plan as we have at the moment.
With the game in such an early state, what features are you planning to add next?
James: There will be kicking and ducking coming. Ducking will facilitate uppercuts, but also avoiding blows, so we're quite exciting about adding that. There's also a climbing mechanic coming, which should allow you to recover from somebody trying to kill you. Because a big part of the fun is coming back after your opponent thinks he's been victorious, which is why we've put a taunt mechanic in. And we'll be doing more with that.
But we're also trying to put some fun, nice, playful things in, like a hug mechanic, and hand-holding mechanic because there are times when people play this game in a non-violent way. And we want to support that so it's not just button spamming.