Interview with Knightmare Tower Developer Juicy Beast

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An Interview with Juicy Beast

In our interview series it’s a great honor to feature today’s entry: Yowan Langlais Co-Founder of Juicy Beast.

Juicy Beast created one of our favorite games called Knightmare Tower. It’s almost as addictive as crack and that’s why we just HAD TO interview Juicy Beast. We’ll tackle subjects such as what the guys of Juicy Beast did before developing games, if OUYA could sustain a development studio and much much more. Here we go!

Day of the OUYA: Thanks for the interview and congrats on the massive success Knightmare Tower had on the OUYA. Before we get into the game would you give us an introduction of who you are and a little bit about Juicy Beast and what you’ve done before coming to the OUYA.

Yowan: Thanks! My name is Yowan and I’m one of Juicy Beast’s co-founders. The other one is my business partner Dominique. We also have our ninja programmer Alexandre and our charming illustrator JP (Jean-Philippe). Dom usually takes care of the level designing and game balancing (he’s really good at it). I’m usually in charge of everything UI / UX, as well as artistic direction. We split the rest between the two of us (general management, marketing, boring paperwork, etc).

Most of us knew each other from school, and we started Juicy Beast right after graduating. We technically have no work experience at all, except for Dom who worked at Gameloft for a year before we started JB. He’s our veteran!

We’ve been the same small team for 4 years now (June 2013) and we’ve mainly been developing free Flash games before we came to the OUYA. We developed about 10 games (including our biggest hit, Burrito Bison) before bringing Knightmare Tower to OUYA. We also have two games on iOS (Gobtron and Burrito Bison), but they were ported and published by other developers.

Knightmare Tower Teaser

If we could recommend something to other developers, it would be to really make sure the game feels like a console game.

DotO:You’ve developed a bunch of other games before, and Knightmare Tower had been out for Browsers already. What specific challenges did you encounter when you started developing for the OUYA and what can other developers learn from your challenges?

Yowan: For us, the main challenge was to learn a new development software (Unity3D) and to deconstruct / reconstruct the game for mobile performances. The game wasn’t originally planned for mobile, so we had to be a bit more creative than usual on the optimisation side. We can usually get away with a lot of things with Flash!

We also had to make sure the game was playable with a controller, so we redid the whole UI system to fit the new controls. It wasn’t much of a challenge itself, but we thought it was important to make it well so the game really fits the platform.

By the time we were porting KT, the OUYA was (and still is) a very new platform so it’s not 100% perfect. You still need to search the forums and put a little more effort to make things works, but it’s all possible to get your game running on it.

If we could recommend something to other developers, it would be to really make sure the game feels like a console game. Make it feel like it was meant to be played with a controller, and don’t use the touch pad (really, that’s horrible). Make sure your UI is easy to navigate through with a controller as well. A lot of mobile games have been ported to the OUYA (which is normal, since it runs on Android), and we think it’s important that your game feels “at home” when people play it. You obviously don’t want people to feel like it’s a cheap mobile port, it kinda kills the experience!

But just like we usually do, we got really serious about this single version and we spent a lot of time making sure everything was done well for the platform.

DotO: You’ve had great success on the OUYA, especially in fan votes (#2 right now in the OUYA Forum’s fan poll) and the O-Rank. Did you expect that high level of success when you first decided on developing for the OUYA?

Yowan: Not at all! We first had in mind to port the game to iOS, but then the OUYA appeared and we decided to give it a shot. We were already porting the game to mobile with Unity, so it wasn’t much more trouble to test it out.But just like we usually do, we got really serious about this single version and we spent a lot of time making sure everything was done well for the platform. After that we simply thought that if the OUYA explodes at launch, well, good for us if the game is well received! Otherwise it wouldn’t have been much of a waste of time, since we’re almost using the same build for the iOS version (thanks to Unity).Turns out people seem to appreciate the game! We received a lot of good feedback and we’re super pleased with the results :]

Knightmare Tower Gameplay

DotO: All of your games ooze with creativity. What’s first: The idea for the game (mechanics) or the art when you come up with a new game?

Yowan: I’d say we usually start with the gameplay idea (mechanics), but sometimes they come bundled together. It’s also frequent that we’ll change the art or theme based on how the mechanic evolves over time.For instance, Burrito Bison first started out as an endless runner similar to Canabalt, but with a heavy metal theme (similar to Brutal Legend). The gameplay was a bit different than Canabalt’s because you had the possibility to jump on people (obstacles) as you were running (kind of like Mario jumps on turtles).

The gameplay ended up being not that fun, and after 5 months of prototyping, it evolved into what Burrito Bison is now. During that time, JP (our lead illustrator) had fun with the original metalhead character and once drew him as a Mexican wrestler doing wrestling moves. We thought it was super funny, so we decided to switch to that theme instead. The whole candy theme came from the idea of putting gore animations in, but without any blood (gummy bears exploding).

You can definitely make decent revenues if you’re a one or two man team, especially if the general public grows more and more aware of the console’s existence over time.

DotO: Eric from BombSquad told us in his interview that at this stage the financial return on his time has been worth the effort to develop for OUYA. How about you? Could you sustain your studio of 4 just from developing games for OUYA?

Yowan: As of today, the revenues from OUYA alone are far from enough to support our 4 members team, but you have to consider that Knightmare Tower was our very first project using Unity. We had to learn everything from Unity itself to C#, as well as develop our own tools to export animations from Flash (yeah, we’re still using Flash for the art hehe). On top of that, we decided to totally revamp the game and make it better than the previous Flash version.If we can make decent revenues from other platforms like iOS, Android, PC, etc, with the same game, then I think OUYA is definitely a good option and should not be excluded. You can definitely make decent revenues if you’re a one or two man team, especially if the general public grows more and more aware of the console’s existence over time.

For now, we wouldn’t make an exclusive game for OUYA without an exclusivity deal, unless it’s a really small game that took us only a month or so to do. Hopefully, all this will change in the future!

DotO: Last question. What are you planning for the future? Is your new (and amazingly cool) game Toto Temple coming the OUYA?

Yowan: We don’t like to “announce” things like that until we’re 100% sure we can do it, but we are definitely looking into it. We think the game would be a good fit (just like Towerfall is), but we still want to make sure we’re going to do it before spreading the news ;]Until then, you can still download the PC version and play with Xbox controllers for free!

DotO: Thanks for your precious time it’s much appreciated. Don’t stop making games that are the cause of big productivity drops everywhere in the world 😉

Yowan:Thanks a lot! And yeah, who likes to be productive anyway?

Note: If you haven’t played Knightmare Tower yet, go to the OUYA store and do so! Then, immediately buy it and get a hilarious surprise as thank you note from Juicy Beast.

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About Tim von Janssen

Tim has started playing PC Games at the tender age of 8 (ca.1990-1991) on monochrome screens and hasn’t stopped ever since. Due to that love for video games that has developed very early Tim also knows why older games very successful despite mediocre graphics. One simple reason: gameplay. Tim feels that with the development of the OUYA and the stronger focus on indie game studios is the right step towards better gaming experiences that rely more heavily on unique game concepts and better gameplay in general. Tim at Google+

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