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PAX 2008: The Behemoth talks Castle Crashers pricing, patches and performance

Dustin Burg

Today while wandering the busy PAX show floor, we came across The Behemoth's Art Director Dan Paladin and Lead Programmer Tom Fulp, pulling them from their PAX duties (selling goodies and talking with fans) for a quick chat about Castle Crashers. We learned the truth behind the Castle Crashers size limit / delay controversy, a bit about their DLC plans, their feelings about the community's enthusiasm and even the secret to unlocking a few new game characters. We also ask about the game's Xbox Live issues and learn that their team is diligently working on a patch for release as soon as humanly possible. Full interview after the break.

What's the community's overall response to Castle Crasher since its release?

Dan Paladin: Overwhelmingly positive. It has been better than anything we expected. We had a good reception with Alien Hominid and this has been exponentially larger and cooler as everyone has been really nice with us.

You mentioned Alien Hominid, what were the differences between working on it and working on a game like Castle Crashers?

Dan: It was much bigger, Alien Hominid was 15 months of work whereas Castle Crashers took us 3 years and it's bigger on every level. The amount of art assets necessary, the depth of the game and gameplay as well as the entire role playing aspect with four player game versus a two player game.

Tom Fulp: Even just being a multiplayer game all of a sudden it's a ten times bigger game than anything we've done in terms of effects and the amount of coding.

You say Castle Crashers took you about three years to create, why did the development process take so long?

Dan: That's the average timespan it takes to develop any game, but the reason seemed so long with us because we told people about as soon as we started. When we announced the game it was about two or three months into development and people were under the impression that we were already done. We guess others tell you about their games when it's about to come out, but we just showed what we had and I guess we weren't clear enough and now we know better.

Over a year ago, when Microsoft announced the Xbox Live Arcade size limit increase to 150MB, you guys came out and said that Castle Crashers would be delayed into 2008 citing the size limit increase was part of the reason. You later retracted that statement and confirmed that Castle Crashers would release under 50MB. Now, with its release, we find that the game is a hefty 140MBs. In all honesty, was the size limit increase the cause of Castle Crashers' delay?

Dan: Well no, that was misquoted because I was asked directly if we are taking longer to develop because of the limit change and I said no. My answer was N. O. and the next thing I saw was an article saying otherwise and we didn't understand why that was printed.

Tom: We don't know if it was their agenda or the reporter's scoop or what.

Dan: At that time, we gave that reporter a half hour interview and told them things about Castle Crashers that we hadn't told anyone else at the time and the only article that came out of it was the size limit increase delaying Castle Crashers' release. So yeah, it was a disappointment and we cleared it up at the time and everyone ended up on good terms.

But the game did balloon into 140MBs after you said the game would clock in under 50MBs.

Dan: You know, we could crunch the code as small as we need but we didn't and the size limit had nothing to do with the game's release.

Are you working on any Castle Crashers downloadable content or do you have any plans to release some in the future?

Tom: Well, there's plans but we have nothing to announce right now.

How about secrets, can you tell us about any hidden Castle Crashers secrets that haven't been found yet?

Dan: Well, we don't know if we want to spoil a secret seeing that the game just came out.

Tom: They're there, just keep your eyes peeled for them.

How about telling us a little something, any tidbit of hidden Castle Crashers secret info.

Dan: Well, let me tell you one thing. A lot of people are surprised by the arena and if you play it alone you'll battle a bunch of enemies. Once you defeat the wave of enemies, you'll then unlock that enemy type as a playable character. Some people think the waves of enemies are endless, but it isn't. A lot of people play through the arena in multiplayer alone and battle each other, but fighting alone you get waves of enemies. By doing this, you can unlock four or five characters.

Tom: Also, if you're trying to unlock the Thieves, try not to let them get on both sides of your player and just do jumping combos going back and forth. Don't let the Thieves flank you either.

Dan: Yeah, jumping helps because, when you're in the air, the arrows don't hit you

Over the past few years and leading up through launch, Castle Crashers almost generated a cult-like following among Xbox Live Arcade fans. Knowing this, did your development plans change or did you feel any added pressure to fulfill your fans' expectations?

Dan: No, we didn't feel any pressure, it was more exciting. I don't think anyone was feeling pressured by the excitement, though I was nervous sometimes because some people were already calling Castle Crashers the best game they'd ever play for the rest of their lives. It's one thing to promise that, but we just tried to make the best game we could. And I was just nervous that some people would be so excited that we could never create a game that could live up to their expectations, but overall I was excited.

Now that Castle Crashers has been out for a few days now, have you heard about the game's sales?

Tom: We don't have official numbers, hopefully we'll be getting them soon. As far as we know we're record breaking, because we aren't sure of anyone else selling as many copies. But we have to wait for official confirmation from Microsoft.

Dan: Though, we do have leaderboard totals to go off of and the last time we check, it was at about 103,000 players.

In regards to pricing, we initially heard a rumor about Castle Crashers being priced at 1800 Microsoft points, but ultimately you settled on 1200 points. How much of a say does Microsoft have in the pricing of games or is it all you, the developer's decision?

Dan: Microsoft determines the price of all the content and we confer with them regarding pricing, but they have the final say. We negotiate and talk, but at the end of the day the price is set by Microsoft which isn't something everyone really knows. Most think that developers set the price, but that isn't the case.

Tom: Sometimes though, you can meet in the middle.

Dan: Yeah, and some developers say they set their price but at the end of the day, it's more of that's the price they requested and Microsoft agreed. So yeah, Microsoft sets the price of all Arcade content no matter how much mis-communication there is about that.

Okay, so let's say Microsoft wasn't in the picture. What price would you set Castle Crashers at?

Dan: Personally, I'm very happy with the price. Now that it's out, we're happy with it.

Tom: Yeah, it's worth the 1200 points.

Dan: If you think about it, Alien Hominid was a retail title and this game is bigger than that. So, to pay fifteen dollars for a game that is bigger than our retail title is pretty good.

It doesn't sound like the community is really up in arms about the games pricing.

Dan: Everyone seemed really nice about it.

Tom: We actually benefited from that whole 1800 Microsoft point rumor that came out of Japan.

Dan: That was a curious thing, because we weren't even deciding the price at that time.

We've been hearing about some Castle Crashers problems where people can't connect to their friends over Xbox Live to play co-op. True, the problem could have been blown out of proportion, but there are legitimate cases of connection problems nonetheless. What are you doing to fix this?

Tom: This was something that never came up in testing and now that there are problems with the Live release we're looking into it. We had six hour play sessions and nothing ever came up.

Dan: When we went through testing, Microsoft approved all our network code and we had no problems at all. There are those things in real world scenarios that we couldn't account for. Just look at Call of Duty 4 when it came out, you couldn't play for a week straight and now it's fine.

So, you acknowledge that there are bugs that need fixing?

Tom: We have some bugs that have been fixed.

Dan: Yeah, there are certain network settings where, if you're in a very specific network environment, it won't work with another person's connection and that's what's happening. But that's something we're already addressing by working with Microsoft to get a patch out as fast as possible.

Will the patch release in a few days, a few weeks or a couple months?

Tom: We're hoping soon, as soon as possible. Though, there isn't any official time frame yet.

Dan: We're trying to get it out as soon as possible, because we know it's important to people. I've played through half the game with a friend online and it runs fine. And when it works, it runs like it's local. But there's those certain people whose connections we have problems with and that's exactly the problem we're onto. It's that certain connection where two people just don't work, but we're on it. The good news is that it'll work ... at least half the time.

Finally, we have to ask, what's next for The Behemoth and when will we hear about it?

Tom: Yeah, we're a bit gun shy because we don't want to torture people with the long release wait. We aren't saying anything now, but know something is definitely in the works.

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