We could say that this Q&A is in celebration of this week's massive 2.00 game update, but really, who needs a special reason to talk about the awesomeness of Burrito Bison_?_
Q. What pushed you to become indie developers and how did you all meet and form the core team at Juicy Beast?
A. It all started back in school, circa 2009, where we had to create a valid business plan for a fictional company. We even had to find a real office that was available for rent. My business plan got the teacher’s attention and I received a lot of comments telling me that I should give it a try for real.
So I contacted my good friend Dom, who had been working at Gameloft for a year since he finished school before I did, and asked him if he wanted to quit his job to start an indie studio based on my ridiculous business plan. He said “Yeah, sure.”
We then worked for months on nights and weekends on that over-ambitious business plan, found some funding with the help of family and friends, and hired two really talented guys to help us out. One of them was our programmer Alex, a friend who studied Multimedia Integration with Dom and I, and the other one was JP, who just graduated from traditional animation in Montreal. Actually, we all just graduated from school, and only Dom had 1 year of work experience.
We legally created the company, rented that same office we spotted during school and started working on our very own game, Gobtron, on June 1st 2009. We never worked together before that, except for Dom and I. The chemistry among ourselves turned out to be amazing and pretty much all of our games managed to get featured on front pages at the time. At least we had that working for us, since we didn’t really knew how to make money. It took us a year or two to really understand the Flash market and start making decent money to survive on our own.
7 years later, we’re still the same 4 friends and we’ve released more than 15 games over a large variety of platforms, ranging from mobile to consoles!
Q. You have a very small team at Juicy Beast even though you’ve been developing for quite awhile. Is there a reason you keep your team so light? Have you found advantages and/or disadvantages to your team size and dynamic?
A. I think the first reason is because we work well with each other, and we managed to strike a perfect balance of responsibilities between the 4 of us. It also makes things a lot easier to manage, as projects tend to be smaller. It’s easier and faster to make changes and adapt to whatever a game grows to be.
A disadvantage would be that we’re limited in terms of scope. We can’t make huge games without taking years to finish them. We really enjoy creating fresh new things, so working for more than a year or two on the same project takes a toll on our creative inner child.
Q. What game has been your favorite to work on and why?
A. I think we were fortunate enough to only work on games we enjoy working on. They all started from an idea that we were really into in the first place, so working on our games always felt fun and natural. Some of them offered more challenges than others, either technically or emotionally, but we’ve never started a project without wanting to do so.
To answer the question more directly, I’d say the whole Burrito Bison series because it’s so weird that it’s easy for us to add pretty much anything we want. We don’t really care if it makes sense or not. If it’s fun and related to candies/gummies/Mexican culture, then it’s good to go!
Q. Who originally came up with the concept for Burrito Bison and the gummies?
A. Burrito Bison started out as a runner, and not a launcher. It was also supposed to be heavy metal related (took inspiration from Brutal Legend at the time), and it was about a metalhead trying to get his stolen tickets from a sold-out metal show in hell. You were supposed to run in the crowd and body-surf your way through certain parts, etc. You can see that the base mechanic was partially there already.
After months of prototyping and iterations, we couldn’t get the gameplay right. It just wasn’t fun. Then we faced an ultimatum; we had to either kill the project or turn it into a known genre to avoid losing all the money we had invested up to that point. We were trying to make something new and original, so making a launching game felt like a failure at first.
So after hours of debate, we opted for the launching game. Strangely enough, everything started to feel right as a launching game. The core mechanic started to be fun again, and new ideas were pouring out. We literally saved the game at that point.
The luchador / candies theme then came from a particular sketch JP made for the metalhead guy. We were trying to figure out the stance he’d make while jumping in the crowd, and JP drew him as a luchador just for fun in a small corner of the page. We laughed so hard that we decided to throw all that “seriousness” out the window and go with the luchador instead.
We also wanted to have gore elements, enemies exploding with guts and everything, but we wanted to avoid blood. That’s where the gummy bears came in. We could make them explode, rip apart, etc., and it would stay enjoyable for all ages. The Mexican / candy mash-up didn’t really make any sense, but we didn’t care anymore. It was funny and we had to push that game ASAP!
Q. Was Bison’s personality inspired by someone specifically?
A. We knew we wanted gummy bears to explode. Once we gave Burrito a reason (get his stolen wallet back) to hate the gummies, it just felt natural to make him angry and really motivated to smash as many of his enemies as possible. So he’s not based on anyone in particular; he’s just shaped by his motives.
Q. Who is your favorite luchador or professional wrestler?
A. Ironically, we’re not big wrestling connoisseurs. We don’t know that many luchadores, apart from Rey Mysterio, Blue Demon and Santo. I personally really like Shinsuke Nakamura for his style and eccentric personality! Oh, and for his theme song.
Q. You’re well known for being an indie developer, so why did you decide to work with us on Burrito Bison: Launcha Libre? Was the development process or experience different working with a publisher?
A. Publishers in general tend to have a bad rep among indie devs for various reasons, like loss of control over your creative vision, etc. We’ve never really dealt with a publisher before, but knowing Kongregate since our early Flash days, we knew we liked working with you guys. On top of that, BB:LL was our very first, true free-to-play title and it was obvious we’d benefit a lot from Kong’s expertise on the matter.
We’d totally recommend partnering up with Kong to other indie devs, as the whole process has been super smooth for us. Not once did Kong interfere with what we wanted to do, but only advised and suggested things at most. So technically, working with a publisher for BB:LL didn’t change much compared to our usual methods. At best, it’s been more structured and easier, not having to take care of all the publishing aspects for once!
Q. A new update just launched today; could you tell us about any cool new features and maybe give us some hints about what might be added in the future?
A. We added a lot of stuff to this one! The main feature is probably the ability to Time Travel, which consists of starting over the game while keeping some of our new upgrades intact. This means that you’ll be able to reach further faster every time you time travel. Let’s see how far you can get now!
We also made it possible to upgrade all your launchadore upgrades passed their limit, infinitely. That’s right, infinitely. Just imagine how buffed you can be!
The update also introduces a brand new mission system! Completing missions will award you with very important rewards, while making you feel productive.
We also added new delicious recipes for your to unlock (and cook), as well as a brand new launchadore! Only the best cooks will be able to find it, though.
Finally, we’re introducing the mysterious “???? Shop”! A new place for you to spend any extra recipe pieces you might have lying around in your pockets. You’ll be able to unlock crazy new stuff, like new special gummy bears, or even game modifiers, like manual launchador selection, reverse gameplay (right to left) and a zoomed-out camera!
Oh, almost forgot, we added cloud saving too, so you can start a game on one device and continue on another. :) As far as hints for new content, we’ll have to wait and see what players are requesting first.