Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Gordon Luk of Goodhustle Studios knocks out some details about Beast Boxing Turbo, a collaboration with Hawken's Khang Le, for PC and Mac.
You play as a lowly human who has to fight wearing a monster costume, as humans aren't allowed in the Beast Boxing leagues. You find a pig coach who is willing to help, and you set off on a quest for strength, fame and glory.
Aside from the monster-punching action, Beast Boxing Turbo features frenetic, challenging gameplay, a story with four leagues to beat, skills that can be leveled way up, and 35+ unique pieces of boxing gear to mix and match. The whole game is rendered in a beautiful, hand-painted style, with detailed, imaginative monsters and environments.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
Beast Boxing has been more about quality of gameplay than breaking new ground, so it doesn't have the typical "indie" vibe, even though it's self-published. In indie games, people are a part of the products, and I'm more of a behind-the-scenes kind of person. Khang is too, but has been showing up a lot more lately because of Hawken. However, we're both passionate about our work, so maybe it's just about getting enough titles under our belt that people will know what to expect from one of our games.
Explain Turbo's relationship to Beast Boxing 3D, and how you approached porting the game from iPhone to desktop.
Turbo is based on an earlier game for iPhone called Beast Boxing 3D, but it isn't a port – it's a complete redesign of that earlier game, hence the name change. There are stronger RPG elements with more skills and gear you can equip, NewGame Plus where enemies get stronger and faster for new playthroughs, and loads of new content, artwork, mechanics, story and enemy AI. Also, the game starts in the iPhone equivalent of Hardcore mode, making this a much more challenging (and fun) game to play. The nice thing about doing a slow remake is that I could use two years of player feedback to eliminate things that weren't fun and replace them with improved game design and feel.
Have you noticed any strange reactions to a female protagonist in a boxing game?
In the original iPhone version, Char (the protagonist) wears a mask the whole time, and you only see her face at the end (a la Metroid). I've heard funny stories from a few parents whose little boys get to the end and exclaim, "What!? I'm not a girl!"
For Beast Boxing Turbo, I found that it made the story better, and it was easier to identify with the protagonist if the audience was in on her secret from the beginning. Unfortunately, I do get occasional complaints, but I think there are already enough male protagonists in games. In fact, her gender never comes up in the dialogue – most of the beast world is prejudiced against humans regardless of sex.
What inspired you to make the Beast Boxing games? Was 3D paying homage to Punch-Out, or was it an entirely new game?
Our main inspirations were Punch-Out (of course), Fight Night, Zeno Clash, and the manga and anime series Hajime No Ippo (known here as Fighting Spirit). Ippo was particularly helpful on the late nights in crunch time – I've never known a better show to watch to get inspired to work harder!
It's definitely its own game. Punch-Out is an obvious source of inspiration, but instead of competing with them on the art side, I thought it would be smarter to come out with faster, more involved gameplay and light RPG elements. I remember needing to have Nintendo Power by my side to play Punch-Out as a kid, and as an adult I'd prefer to have more speed and action instead of puzzle mechanics, so that's what I've been aiming for in terms of gameplay.
What's the coolest aspect of Beast Boxing Turbo?
I love the rush of barely winning a close match. However,the ability to upgrade your stats and customize your boxing gear is the coolest, most unique aspect of our game. How many boxing games let you bring armor and reinforced gloves into the ring?
How do you design the new beasts? What makes a good monster?
First we use the handy monster generator in Khang's brain. Then, I designed attack patterns, dialogue and feel to match the designs for each monster. The tree man became the ancient lumbering Treimann, who does a lot of damage with slow hooks, whereas the skeleton-with-a-headband reminded me of Tobias from Arrested Development, so I made him into Steve the Skeleton, a silly early-game boss with fast jabs, annoying cues, and a special trick up his sleeve.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
It's like power-leveling your skills and career. Releasing a game is a herculean feat, and doing it independently really forces you to rise to a higher standard.
Do you keep up with Khang? Is there a reason you didn't get involved in Adhesive Games with him?
Yep, we still keep in touch. I think it would have been fun to work on Hawken, but we never really talked about it, and he had a solid team in place already with lots of game industry experience. Those guys don't really need much help. It would have been a tough choice though; those guys are awesome.
Sell Beast Boxing Turbo in one sentence:
Buy our artfully designed first-person boxing game where you punch a turkey in the face.
I'd love to immediately start work on more high-concept or multiplayer games, but promotion and support come first. Also, I would love to get Turbo on Steam, so please help out by voting for us on Greenlight.
If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.