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Interview with The Behemoth

The CMP Game Group (producer of Game Developer magazine, Gamasutra.com, and the Game Developers Conference) established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers. They saw how the Sundance Film Festival benefited the independent film community, and wanted to create a similar event for independent game developers as well as the student population of game developers.

I talked to the guys from The Behemoth back in 2005 about their finalist Alien Hominid. Now, two years later they're back once again with Castle Crashers, nominated this year for Excellence in Visual Art.

Who are you and how were you involved in Castle Crashers?

DP: I am Dan Paladin and I did all of the art in Castle Crashers.
JB: I'm John Baez, and I am the producer on CC.

Congrats on your return to the IGF. What thoughts do you have on the IGF now as it enters its 9th year?

DP: I continue to view the IGF as the biggest place for indie game developers to get recognition.

JB: The IGF has become an amazing venue for game makers. Year after the year the competition gets better and so do the games entered.

Where did the inspiration for Castle Crashers come from?

DP: Castle Crashers kind of spawned off of our flash game Dad 'n Me, which was inspired by River City Ransom (from my end of the perspective, anyway). I suppose Castle Crashers also kind of follows in the vein of any of your old standup arcade RPG beat em ups, like Golden Axe or King of Dragons. We thought it would be fun to expound on the genre and give the characters a lot more to do and see.

Seeing screenshots of the game immediately brought back memories of Gauntlet and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - to name a few. What did you guys use in terms of design and gameplay to spice up the side-scroller team-mate action adventure?

DP: The first things that come to mind would be that we are able to have more enemies on the screen at once, as well as increase the amount of attacks a player normally expects they can do. When holding down the right trigger all 4 of the buttons on top become spells that are intuitive to the player (for instance, press jump without right trigger and you jump normally. Press jump with the right trigger held down and you do a magic boosted jump). You can unlock a lot of characters to play as - as well as weapons, pets, and items! Every character has their own magic abilities which affect the enemies in different ways.

How did you guys go about designing the visual style of the game?

DP: I wanted this game to be a little darker than something like Alien Hominid was so I leaned the palette of the world more towards grey. I knew it probably wouldn't get too spooky of a mood because the character designs are light-hearted as well as brightly colored. As time went on I ended up redesigning the characters to allow more space on the screen by crushing them into about half of their original height. After the colors and character designs were in place the rest of the world just came together naturally as I progressed.

Did the console development constrict the game in any way that you were unhappy with?

DP: I can't say that it did. Perhaps the opposite! The power of the 360 allowed us to place as many characters on-screen as sanely possible with no sign of slowdown.

JB: I'd have to agree with Dan - developing for the consoles makes some things easier because certain chunks of the technology are set in stone, so you don't have to worry about them

Did anything happen during development that you would like to reveal to other developers as a caution?

DP: Mixing RPG elements with adventure games and beat em ups is probably one of the most complex combinations you can have, as it forces a larger scope than you may have meant originally, as well as a balancing act between the rules for each. Don't know if that's really a caution - but it's something to keep in mind!

JB: Not yet, but check back with us after release....

What were some of the things you learned from Alien Hominid regarding developing across multiple platforms (GBA, XBox, PS2, GameCube)?

DP: The Gamecube really handled texture memory amazingly well. Instead of using powers of two for pixel sizes (IE. 64, 128, 256, 512) the Gamecube was able to do multiples of two (IE. 64, 66, 68, 70, 72, 74, 76). This meant that it could crop the images a lot tighter and keep filesizes down across the board. I was really impressed with that. Since our game is 2D we are essentially nothing but texture memory. The PS2 was the most difficult to accommodate for due to the texture issues, and the original XBox handled them in the same fashion but could load more into memory - so it was never a large problem. For the GBA conversion Tuna Technologies did an absolutely amazing job staying true to the console levels and their art.

JB: Now that we are working on the 360, we have a lot more horsepower to unleash, so the game doesn't chug. Each of the consoles handles things differently and this generation is proving to be even more challenging with different online multiplayer standards and controllers.

Is there anything new in terms of development that you are doing with Castle Crashers that has you excited?

DP: The amount of controls that we have in the game while being able to keep them intuitive to players is very exciting to me. It won't scare off players, and it gives them a lot of variety in their approach. The guys at the office all have their own signature style to kicking butt. I like to hammer them on the ground and then toss them into the air with magic while Tom likes to juggle them around up in the air initially and then finish the job. Some of the other guys like to hang back and fire arrows or fireballs.

JB: For me it is the shear volume of graphics. The game seems much more dense and filled out than AH did, probably because in AH the player just moves from left to right as quickly as possible. In CC, the players have a chance to walk around and look at things a bit more.

What was used to make the game, and what tools aided in development?

DP: I use Macromedia Flash to create and export my graphics, as well as a 6x8 intuos3 Wacom tablet to draw directly into the program.

JB: Throughout the studio we use a ton of stuff- from Photoshop and Illustrator to Sourcesafe and Microsoft's tool suite. Probably the most important tool for us though, was Mexican Fiesta, the restaurant across the street.

Is there anything else about Castle Crashers you would like to reveal to other developers?

JB: Don't try this at home : )

What's next for The Behemoth?

DP: We have something very awesome and exciting planned but I am going to reserve the news until we have started so nobody can beat us to the punch :)

JB: Next is to enjoy the launch of Alien Hominid HD on XBLA and to wrap up Castle Crashers

Best of luck to the Castle Crashers team at GDC!

Interview conducted by Drew Sikora

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