Fans of Kongregate may recognize developer Juicy Beast, the studio behind such titles as Burrito Bison and Feed the King. The four-man studio has put together a large number of games since their initial appearance on the browser gaming scene in 2009. Steam users however got their first taste of Juicy Beast’s own brand of crazy with the Steam release of Knightmare Tower. I got a chance to sit down with the developers and talk about what inspired the rocket-riding antics and the shift in venue from browser gaming to a dedicated service like Steam.
What inspired Knightmare Tower? Was there a specific idea in mind or did it evolve over time?
Dominique Lemire-Nault [DLN]: We always wanted to do a classic medieval themed game in our own way, but it all started with a pitch we did to some big client who wanted a game from us (something we rarely do as we pretty much always work on our own IP). It needed to be a simple game so we had a simple idea: A character bouncing on enemies to go higher and higher, performing combos and stunts while ascending. To make the story short, it got rejected as it was not “viral” enough for them. But since we kind of liked the prototype we made, we decided to take it further and make a full game out of it, adding rockets, lava, locked princesses that need to be rescued, a big bad boss and more!
You previously released the game on Kongregate, as you have done for several other titles in the past. Did releasing an earlier version to the public help improve the game in any way?
[DLN]: It is indeed very useful to hear what people think about the game. By reading the comments, it gives us a pretty good idea of what needs to be fixed if we want to do a sequel or release a better version of the game somewhere else. We didn’t have much negative comments on Knightmare Tower, but decided to change many small things that didn’t feel right (at least to us) for the mobile and PC version. As we like to say, the Flash version of Knightmare Tower feels like if the game was in beta compared to the Steam version!
As a studio who has normally built games played on websites, how does it feel to have a commercial product on Steam?
[DLN]: It always feels great to reach new communities, especially when it’s one as big as Steam! It makes our work feel more valuable.
What’s it like working as a member of a four-man indie team?
[DLN]: Trust yourself and most importantly, trust your co-workers because everybody is going to do a lot of work and a lot of different things. Basically, you feel like you can do anything and what’s great about that is you can actually do anything… Well, pretty much anything!
One of your characters from another game, Burrito Bison, makes a notable cameo in the game. Is there any possibility we’ll see his candy-smashing antics and luchadore moves making an appearance on Steam as well?
[DLN]: That would really be amazing! We’ll see what we can do about it.
The levels in a number of your games are incredibly fluid and can blur together in an instant, yet you still keep it flowing. As the official level designer and balance master of Juicy Beast, how do you approach games like Knightmare Tower?
[DLN]: Haha, thanks a lot for for the compliment. Knightmare Tower is a fast-paced game in which you will fail at some point, thanks to the inexplicable rising lava or the overwhelming monsters that keep coming at you. The good thing is each time you launch the knight, you will make money and with money, you can purchase upgrades to help you reach further into the Tower.
What we aimed for was short gameplay sessions, about a minute per launch, and this is why there is lava in the game. It prevents a launch from lasting for too long, even if you’re the greatest player in the world. Basically, if you’re too good at the game and monsters can’t get the best of you, sooner or later, the lava will.
With that system in place, we just need to see how much money we make per average launch then we can determine the prices in the shop. We like games where you feel you are progressing and improving, so we aimed at buying one upgrade per two launches, at least, for the beginning of the game. The hardest part is to set the price just right so skilled players don’t complete the game too fast and less skilled players don’t feel like they are never going to be able to purchase that next upgrade.
But in the end, it’s all about trial and error and playing the game way too much, and writing some random numbers in a spreadsheet!
What is your favorite part of Knightmare Tower?
[DLN]: Probably when the lava is getting very close and you think you’re a goner, then you finally get that speed boost to outpace it. Or even more when you’re about to get swallowed by the lava and get an invincibility potion just before. You then fight blindly while submerged and if you defeat enough monsters to outpace the lava, you feel like you cheated death!
You have a new game coming up on the Ouya exclusively called Toto Temple Deluxe. This is your second time with local multiplayer after your Indie Speed Run game, Gentlemen Dispute. What should fans of your games expect, and is there any chance it will have online play as well?
[DLN]: When you’ll get the hang of playing Toto Temple Deluxe, matches will be so frantic. Especially when playing with four people! The game may seem simple at first, but there is much more depth to the way you can play. The difference between a new player and a player who has mastered all the concepts is tremendous. There’s a lot of room for improvement. There is always a bit of luck involved, but skills are much more decisive!
Unfortunately, doing online play so it feels right is very hard for many reasons. It would require a lot of work, efforts and resources and even then, I don’t think it would still feel good (see Nidhogg for example). So, instead of spending our precious time on a feature that will probably be a letdown in the end, we’ll focus on what we do best and try to make a great local multiplayer party game!
But don’t worry if you are alone, the game will feature a single player mode to train yourself for the real battles to come.
Also, traditionally at the end of my interviews, I like to let my interviewee ask one question to me or my audience. If you prefer you can opt out, but you can ask whatever you like.
[DLN]: When was the first time you heard of us?