With dumb jokes and inter-company trolling - Drinkbox is working hard to create a brand new Guacamelee game.
"We’ve never released on four different platforms before, and it might be a terrible idea."
Drinkbox Studios is bringing its signature 2013 co-op platforming brawler Guacamelee! out again in 2014, but this time its title is 400 percent longer.
Dubbed Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, this updated version - with graphical upgrades and new levels including characters and bosses like a three-headed skeleton thing called El Trio - will be heading to PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One this year.
It is not, however, planned for PC, PS3 or PS Vita - the platforms the original version of the game has already been released on. At least not yet, although some of what is making it into this version of the game had previously been cut from original. Designer Chris McQuinn told me at GDC they aren’t ruling out the possibility of releasing this version on the original Guacamelee! platforms, but for now they just can’t deal with that.
“The game is inherently very different,” McQuinn said. “The content we’ve added has been inserted into the main storyline, so it’s not as simple as - it’s a new game, so it’s not as simple as setting an upgrade or patch or DLC, because the changes are so instrumental within the game itself.”
On top of a pair of big new levels and boss battles, Drinkbox is inserting other new stuff (like costumes, mechanics and jokes) throughout the experience that fundamentally change the game’s feel and balance. Dealing with expanding the game’s reach first is just a matter of practicality. Four platforms at once is a lot for a small studio like Drinkbox, but that it’s never made games for Xbox consoles before compounds the issue.
“We don’t have the person power to just do every platform. We just wanted to do platforms where people wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play the game,” McQuinn continued. “We’ve never released on four different platforms before, and it might be a terrible idea.
“The most terrible ideas are sometimes the best.”
But of course the task is about more than just catering to several unique consoles. As McQuinn said, this Super Turbo Championship Edition is pretty much a new game. I played a demo of this beefed up Guacamelee while we talked, and the most fundamental alteration, a new power called INTENSO!, struck me as being inspired.
"We basically try to troll each other while developing the game, and sometimes the troll actions stay within the game."
In the STCE, as you beat down the bad guys you’ll fill up a meter and once capped will allow you to press in the sticks to knock back your enemies and become overpowered for a short period. You’ll become faster in every respect and you’ll hit much harder, and Drinkbox has built in scenarios that are going to be kinda tough to deal with without going INTENSO!.
But this power-up is more than a regular cool mechanic. It serves as a mini-game of sorts that plays out in the game proper. INTENSO! doesn’t have a set time period like you’d expect from a major buff, but instead you can keep it going by racking up large hit combos. Trying to keep it going becomes as much a part of the challenge as just surviving, especially when surviving may end up depending on you keeping it going. Even when that’s not the case, I always felt disappointed when I let my INSTENSO! end. It felt like failure, which is part of the fun.
But maintaining your INTENSO! does not seem like it’s overly difficult in principle - the sorts of situations in which you’ll need INTENSO! the most tend to be those in which there are lots of bros to punch and kick. Consequently those situations allow you to fill up your meter quickly should you not be prepared; you can’t save up more than one of this power-up.
Looking at INTENSO! from a more macro perspective, what it ends up being is another layer of engagement for the player, another hook. More of the changes Drinkbox has made to the experience of playing Guacamelee, though, as less obviously impactful. Being a comedy game at heart, there are plenty of new joke-y things, like how the game’s villain Calaca now has a little version of himself just hanging out. Baby Calaca is exactly the same, visually, as Big Calaca, just tiny, and he doesn’t do anything really.
“At an indie studio what you can afford is shrinking your animations,” McQuinn joked. “[Mini-Calaca] actually started as just a joke, and we decided to keep it. We basically try to troll each other while developing the game, and sometimes the troll actions stay within the game because we find them pretty funny.”
McQuinn later self-deprecatingly remarked that probably no one else is nearly as amused by Guacamelee’s silliness as the Drinkbox folks themselves are.
“Sometimes when I see the dialogue I shake my head. No one else finds this funny but us,” McQuinn quipped as we watched a new cutscene. “It’s so dumb.”