Like most worlds The Behemoth has created, that of Game 4 is a little outrageous and more than a little deranged. If you know anything at all about the studio's fourth game, it's probably that a gargantuan, six-limbed, space-faring bear has slammed into the planet and unleashed all manner of chaos. So comically massive is this Goro-like animal that it's a wonder anything on the hapless planet it strikes survives the impact. But survive some inhabitants do; after all, it would be more than a bit tricky to build a turn-based strategy game without a plethora of units to conscript and command.
Though the early section of Game 4 on display at PAX East is brief, we see or hear about units as varied as humans, trolls, robots and some sort of living cupcake creatures. Yeah, cupcakes. Playes are given control of Horatio, a simple blueberry farmer and father of one. The extravagantly mustachioed Horatio is forced to take up arms when a band of "Child Eaters" threatening to — what else? — eat his child show up alongside an unseen narrator hurling threats at him. Before you know it, green bear blood pours down from the sky and destroys Horatio's house, killing his son in the process. It's as dark as it sounds.
At least, it would be if not for the fact that Game 4 is also utterly goofy. In a repeat performance from his turn in The Behemoth's BattleBlock Theater, narrator Will Stamper uses his absurd, tangent-filled rants to bring the funnies while also making you question whether or not it's appropriate to chuckle after witnessing a child being disintegrated by caustic alien bear blood. Of course, this sort of irreverence is nothing new for The Behemoth. Castle Crashers had poop-propelled deer mounts, a literal catfish that coughed up hairball projectiles and princess make-out sessions. Then there was BattleBlock Theater, for which the setup was a group of anthropomorphic cat overlords forcing shipwrecked sailors to perform in a deadly game show. Game 4 is clearly being made from the same mold.
Dan Paladin has served as the main art director for all of The Behemoth's games, and it shows. But you get the sense that even were Game 4 bereft of Paladin's bright and charming visuals, you'd still pick up on the connection to the studio's other games, despite the fact that they are all set in different genres. Production Coordinator Ian Moreno agrees that The Behemoth's titles all carry a similar tone, but he's not entirely sure how that happens. Or even whether or not it's on purpose.
"It's very much…" he says before pausing a few seconds to search for the answer, "there's an overall feel and vibe. It's not just a platformer or a shooter or a turn-based strategy [game]. There's always more to it, and, yeah, that's a really tough question. I think it's just in our DNA, whether it's the humor and the way we present things, we like to present things very differently.
"When you look at say, how we design our HUD or something, it has to have a little more nuance to it, whether the nuance is just humor or is just offbeat or different."
The Behemoth has been careful to only reveal information about its next game at a slow trickle. The developer elected not to show or tell the press or public …
John Baez doesn't want Asteroid Base's money. It's as if the three men who make up the studio are old friends of Baez's, and on this day they just happen to be patrons of his business. Their money is no good here.
They are not old friends, though. Baez, president and co-founder of indie game studio The Behemoth, only first met the members of Asteroid Base during PAX Prime of 2013. He noticed their still-in-production game Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime had picked up a few awards and had a certain individuality to it. Lovers has a way of causing onlookers to gravitate towards it that's not entirely unlike the way the game's pink Death Star has a penchant for attracting the attention of enemy spaceships.
In the game, a pair of benevolent astronauts pilot a neon spacecraft around the universe, wishing only to survive. But then something catches their eyes, something they can't ignore. A group of evil robots known as "The Haters" have ensnared innocent bunnies and locked them away in jail. The astronauts refuse to stand idly by while innocent creatures suffer, so they show some initiative, scrambling around the bowels of their craft and tinkering away at control stations that unleash firepower of a magnitude that they can only hope The Haters are unable to repel. Despite the protagonists' violent response, Asteroid Base sees the titular lovers as good Samaritans. The pair have somehow survived this long on their own out in the frightening yet awe-inspiring uncertainty that is space, even managing to thrive in it without any support from large, external entities. Now they want to help other space-faring beings like them do the same.
The Behemoth knows the feeling. Founded in 2003, the San Diego studio responsible for such hits as Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers chose to go it alone in another dangerous environment. The developer released its games sans publisher in the competitive console gaming space. The Behemoth found success, but it wasn't easy doing it through self-funding — Baez mortgaged his house, and co-founder Tom Fulp kicked in some of his personal savings to help finance development in the early days. But they did it, and they were successful enough that they're now in a position of strength.
A few years ago, Baez and Company used that strength to quietly start something called The Gold Egg Project. Gold Egg is a funding initiative meant to help other indies bring their games to market, but unlike a traditional publisher, The Behemoth doesn't take any of its beneficiaries' profits — it only wants to help them. Now The Behemoth is helping Asteroid Base, and Baez hopes the studio will one day pass it on.
For almost as long as there has been game design there have been independent game designers. The term "indie," while well-established today, is newer. It means something; it's just that no one seems to be able to agree upon exactly what that something is. So it was for The Behemoth back in 2005 when the tenderfoot studio's Alien Hominid was winning Independent Game Festival Awards for Innovation in Art, Technical Excellence and Audience Choice.
Baez recalls of that time that "there was a lot of controversy [as to] whether we were indie or not, solely because we were on a console. Other developers said, ‘You can’t be indie because you’re on a console.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re indie because we funded it.’ Now that’s our definition of indie."
The Behemoth has revealed the first trailer for their fourth game, temporarily titled Game 4. The studio's previous works inclue Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theater. You can see the trailer for Game 4 embedded below.
The Behemoth's announcing blog post reads: "Shortly before the release of BattleBlock Theater we started working on something new. We schemed up a bunch of concepts and picked our strongest one. From there we fleshed out the lone survivor prototype!!! As it grew stronger and stronger, we polished it, furnished it with delights, and added (gluten free?) sprinkles. Yes, as the chicken dictates, this game is of a genre we haven’t covered before and seek to breathe a new flavor into. Maybe you can find a hint in the video below about which genre it is??"
The Behemoth will be unveiling a life-sized goodie from Game 4 at the Rooster Teeth Expo this year, seen above. The treat looks quite fantastic especially for a life-sized cupcake and …
Happy Wars developer Toylogic Inc. has announced that a Castle Crashers event is happening from now until April 23rd. Simply by playing the Bounty Hunters mode, you'll be able …
The independent developer who brought XBLA gamers BattleBlock Theater, Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers has announced that, in addition to game development, it has two other ways it hopes will result in the best indie games possible making it "from conception to physical reality in the industry." The Behemoth is now providing quality assurance and usability testing and what it describes as "no strings attached" funding for external indie developers.
Its testing lab, which the Sand Diego developer previously talked to XBLA Fans about at PAX East 2013, has been dubbed The Research Centaur and is said to staff testers with an average of six and a half years worth of experience in game testing. When he spoke of the testing center last year, The Behemoth President John Baez told us that it started as a purely internal department. Things went so swimmingly when testing BattleBlock Theater, though, that the developer decided to begin offering its testing services to external indie studios.
"I mean, one of the things we’ve done to kind of contribute to that [indie developer survivability] is we built a usability lab for Battleblock Theater, which has gone really, really well," Baez said last year at PAX East. "It’s about a year old, and it’s only internal, and now we’ve opened it up. Well, there’s that and a QA department — very small, four people — but they’re very, very good at what they do. And now we’re beginning to open that up to other developers. So Bastion for all of iOS, we tested [it] and certified [it] to make sure that [Supergiant's] game was good.
"So we’re opening that up to independent developers as a resource so they don’t have to go — I mean it’s not any cheaper than going to a big, gigantic test firm — but you’ll get the absolute attention to detail."