Ten Questions With… Jonathan Duran (Artix Entertainment)
Thanks to BioBeasts from Artix Entertainment, we got to experience the thrill of rampaging through a laboratory as a powerful mutant beast. While it looks deceptively simple and easy to play, the game does require some skill to succeed, which is what makes it so addictive. We had the opportunity to chat to the talented team behind the game to find out more about some of the challenges they faced, what sets BioBeasts apart from other mobile titles and what we can expect from them next.
Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and your work?
We’re a creative, indie game development team of 4 members (2 programmers / 2 artists) operating out of Lutz Florida. I’m Jonathan Duran, the game director and lead programmer for BioBeasts. Our team works for Artix Entertainment (the creators of hits like AdventureQuest, DragonFable, MechQuest, etc) but we’ve remained relatively independent within the company since that’s how our relationship started. We joined Artix back in 2010 when they acquired our first game EpicDuel, a browser based PvP MMO.
How did the idea for BioBeasts come about?
BioBeasts was largely a product of necessity. Our earlier project EpicDuel was created in Flash. Since Flash continues to lose support among the popular browsers, we knew we needed to pivot. Creating a multiplayer game of EpicDuel’s magnitude could take years, so we brainstormed ideas that could be executed quickly. To reach out to our existing audience, we incorporated recognizable characters from EpicDuel and created the “beasts” of BioBeasts. Originally, we thought of having the player fighting against the beasts, but the theme of mutating and evolving fit so much better so we made the beasts the “good guys.”
What are the games that influenced you and how?
We have a great fondness for the punishing style of games from the NES era, and we like to see indie games bringing that back through roguelikes like Binding of Isaac, Nuclear Throne, and Crimsonland. We wanted to bring that challenge and sense of progression to a mobile platform.
What was the biggest challenge while creating BioBeasts?
BioBeasts was our first Unity project and our first mobile project. Coming from the browser/Flash arena of gaming was tough. This was a greater challenge for the programmers since the artists could still use Flash to create some of the content. There were many false starts and dead ends discovered early on so entire modules had to be thrown out and rebuilt. Unity is so much more powerful and robust than Flash but also many times more intimidating for those same reasons. Another frustration has been dealing with third parties. When working on browser games, we could do just about everything ourselves. With mobile games, you have to deal with Google and Apple. Google has been fine, but Apple can really wreck your plans since they’re so particular and have many quirks to their procedures that only experienced devs would be aware of. Since we try to keep the version synchronized between the platforms, we’ve often been held at the mercy of Apple’s approval process.
What aspect of creating the game was the most fun?
The early experimental phases were probably the most fun — when we got the first playable builds of the game. Everything was so fresh and new. Just adding one new enemy or skill added so much to the game. The experimental feeling fades as development progresses and systems get locked in. I still remember when we were first experimenting with the hurt sound effects for each beast; we found the funniest sound ever for our super cute Baby Yeti beast. He’s totally adorable, but the hurt sound was like the saddest thing you would ever hear. We ended up swapping it out because it was way too annoying to hear repeatedly, but it was freaking hilarious at the time.
What is it that sets BioBeasts apart from other mobile titles?
Most mobile games don’t seem to be organically challenging and frequently lack depth — challenge is often artificially created with pain points designed to generate revenue. BioBeasts was designed to be simple to start, but deep. We created a game in which the primary way you succeed or fail is entirely based on your skill.
If you could pick any beast from movies or books to include in the game which one would it be and why?
Hmmm, I’m going to go with Blanka from Street Fighter on this one. He was mutated in a lab, he’s got electricity, what else do you need? Here’s thoughts from the team:
Bernie – “If any beast could hold its own against an endless onslaught of robots it would be The Predator.”
Cass – “Hands down, Balrog from Lord of the Rings. But because of his size, he would never fit in BioBeasts. Maybe you’d see a hand. More realistically Leatherhead from TMNT.”
Nick – “I’d have to go with Venom from Spiderman. Comic Venom, not weird Topher Grace Venom. Great looking character with lots of fun gameplay options to draw from.”
What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?
How about this player-made beast riding a dolphin that was sent to us by one of our fans?
What are the future plans for BioBeasts/Artix Entertainment?
It’s an exciting time for us and Artix Entertainment. AdventureQuest 3D, a cross-platform MMO just entered Open Beta and it seems to be gaining a lot of momentum. For BioBeasts, we have a winter update in the pipeline that we’re really pumped about, we’ll be announcing details about that soon on our blog at www.BioBeasts.com.
Anything else you would like to add?
Our team is always trying to make the game better so I’d encourage players to try BioBeasts and let us know what they think on Twitter @BioBeasts or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BioBeasts.
A big thanks from our side to Jonathan and the rest of the team for answering our questions. Check out our review for BioBeasts HERE to find out more about what we thought of the game. It is available on both iOS and Android, so don’t hesitate to grab a copy.