Some of you may have noticed that our gaming reviews have been a bit more scarce as of late, but that doesn’t mean that my love for video games here at the clubhouse as diminished. In fact, I’ve been doing a bit of guest contributing over at a sister site called Startfrag while I work on recruiting someone to fill our gaming column here fulltime.
In the meantime, though, I felt like it was time to bring a bit of gaming love back to the clubhouse and I can’t think of a better group of guests to feature than the crazy crew over at Juicy Beast Studios. Specifically, I am joined today by Yowan Langlais — original co-founder, “psychopath UI designer” and artistic director of the Juicy Beast tribe. He was cool enough to not only answer some questions, but also revealed a bit of the game development process and even dropped a cryptic clue for their upcoming Burrito Bison Revenge game! Also, don’t forget to check out their latest game, Bloom Defender.
So Yowan, what led you (personally) to pursue a career in video games?
I’ve always been attracted to art in general and more precisely to digital art. Ever since I discovered Photoshop in highscool, I just went nuts about computer creation. That led me to studying Multimedia Integration in college, in which I’ve learned pretty much every aspect of multimedia stuff like web development, coding, graphic design, sound design, video editing, game programming, etc.
Back then, I was more into graphic design, so I was planning to start my own company and work in the music industry, just like Invisible Creature (previously known as Asterik Studio), who are basically my idols in the graphic design scene.
Around the end of the multimedia program I was into, we started focusing a bit more on game creation, and I realized that it was much more rich in terms of different media you can play with, compared to graphic design alone. This is where I realized I wanted to make games for a living, even if I still love graphic design as an art.
Do you have a preferred style of gaming (MMO, FPS, Platformer, etc)? If so, what are a few of your favorite games?
That’s a tough one. Personally, I really enjoy simple games like platformers, action games where you can kick some asses and blow stuff up, metroidvanias, beat them ups, etc. If you can combine all of that into one game, it’s pretty much an instabuy for me. On a different note, I really enjoy tactics games and RGPs if they don’t involve too much micromanagement. I like simple stuff, that’s probably why we only make casual games at JB.
My favourite game of all time is without any doubt Castlevania: Symphony Of the Night. I don’t know how much times I’ve beaten this game. In the past few months, the games I’ve been enjoying the most are Scott Pilgrim VS The World: The Game, Jeanne d’Arc on PSP, Castle Crashers, the first Deathspank, pretty much all God of War games, The Binding of Isaac… just to name a few.
So how did the team come together and where did the name Juicy Beast originate?
In school, there was a project where we needed to create a fictional company and write a “real” business plan for it. Long story short, I decided to create the company for real with a good friend of mine (Dom, the other co-founder), who I’ve been studying with.
To be honest, we came up with the name Juicy Beast in like a single day. We were first supposed to name ourselves Gaman Studio (a Japanese word with a cool meaning, which I can’t even remember), but the incorporation was rejected since the name was too similar to another company’s name in a similar field of activity. That gave us little to no time to come up with a different name, that’s how we create Juicy Beast. In less than a day, I had the name and the logo approved by Dom and sent for incorporation.
Juicy Beast also means something though. “Juicy” is for our potential, our ideas, all the things we want to accomplish, etc. and “Beast” is how we want to apply it, our strong will to succeed, our determination, etc. It was also a small reference to Invisible Creature, who’s name also has something special that makes you feel like they’re unique and mysterious.
Once all of the legal aspect was done, we hired an artist (J-P) and a programmer (Alex) who was also studying with us back then, and got ourselves an little office in a basement. We’re been creating games under the name of Juicy Beast since then and we love it.
Juicy Beast certainly has a distinctive style both in terms of art direction and gameplay mechanics. What tends to inspire the team?
As you probably have noticed by now, we love casual games. They’re often lighthearted, easy to get into and a great way to pass the time and have a little fun with no major time investment. We pretty much always start from a genre we personally like, and build upon it. Our twisted minds then make our games look how they look without any real effort from us. It’s pretty much all natural. One of us has a funny idea, the other one adds something funnier to it, the other one twists the whole thing in a new, awkward direction and the loop starts back again.
We obviously all have our own inspirations that affect our game ideas, and we really believe that our games would change if we would change a member of the team. The final results really are the product of our four minds put together and we don’t need to “push” to obtain that specific style we have.
I first encountered your games on Adult Swim thanks to Burrito Bison. What were some goals you had to make that game stand out from other launching-style games?
At first, the game was nothing close to a launching game (you can listen to the Burrito Bison
post-mortem we did in Seattle last summer). But once we noticed that our prototype was becoming one, we knew we wanted to “fix” some issues we think most launching games have.
For instance, we wanted to give players something to do and not just watch their character bounce forever or even leave the room as the game plays itself. That’s why we implemented the mini-games and all these interactive power-ups.
We also wanted to give players some milestones they can reach to get a sense of progression sooner in the game. Most of these types of games only rewards you for your progress after an hour (or more) of playtime. We decided to implement the giant doors to give you short term goals instead of giving a “reach the end” kind of goal.
You recently announced that Burrito Bison Revenge would be the next game slated for release. Why did you decide to return to Candy Land versus any other game?
Burrito Bison was really appreciated from the community of players and we received a lot of requests for a sequel. We simply evaluated what could be possible to add/adjust/upgrade/make better for the sake of it, and we realized there was still a good potential in the title. Since our creation process usually takes us a lot of prototyping time, we knew that building upon an already successful title would make things easier/faster on that side.
Can you reveal any details about the game – levels, characters or power-ups?
We could say that there are 2 special characters in the game coming from elsewhere on the interweb.
That’s enough to get me excited! Is there any release date set or is it still in development?
The game is done and we are currently looking for sponsorship. Since we never know how much time it will take to get a deal with a sponsor, we can’t announce any release date until an agreement is signed. That’s pretty much why we never give any release date until a couple days before the release date.
You’re releasing it for free online, but obviously you guys need to get paid. How does the sponsorship process typically work?
This can get pretty complex, but to make it simple let’s just say that Flash game portals give us money based on how much traffic they think the game is going to generate. Since there are ads all over their sites, they make money with that traffic. That’s pretty much how it goes. Now there’s a ton of different kinds of deals we can make with sponsors, that could be based on the game’s performance (number of visits), on the distribution details, etc.
In terms of scope, what has been the largest game you have worked on so far?
Without any doubt, Dale & Peakot: The Full Version. At first, we were planning to use that game in a special project we kind of abandoned a long time ago, that’s why the game was supposed to be pretty big. Unfortunately, we changed our mind about that project (for the better) while we were still working on DnP, so we decided to make it a little bit smaller and sell it to a sponsor.
The game took us around 7 months to complete. We lost a lot of money with it, but we learned a LOT. We’re still happy that we made it, it was a great personal experience.
Adobe recently announced that it would no longer be developing it Flash Player for mobile devices. How do you see this affecting mobile gaming and will it effect you at all?
We’re still not that present on the mobile market (yet) but still, we were not really aiming at Flash mobile market. Adobe will be focusing on App development instead, which we think is a good thing. Our games tend to be “heavy” so we prefer to develop for the platform it’s supposed to be on and package the whole thing as an app, instead of making our games playable from a mobile browser, for instance.
So now that you have a few games under your belt, what sort of advice would you give an aspiring game developer?
Don’t be afraid to be poor and eat rāmen, love what you’re doing because it will show if you don’t, take risks, don’t make your first game a 1 year + development project, start small and learn every time. Be yourself!
Well said! Before we let you leave, what’s the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?
Watching Tim Burton’s movies. All the pictures on this page bring back that strange feeling I had as a kid watching his movies. I really do feel strange just by showing you these haha. I mean, just look at that face (see below)! Geez!