BattleBlock Theater

Interview: The Behemoth's Dan Paladin

Art director and co-founder of The Behemoth, Dan Paladin, shares his thoughts on BattleBlock Theater and game development.

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One of the most distinguishing features of games from The Behemoth is their visual style. The person chiefly responsible for the design of Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theater is art director Dan Paladin.

Your games just get better and better, from Alien Hominid through Castle Crashers and now BattleBlock Theater. As a developer, does the fame or increasing expectations from fans get to you in any way?

First off, thanks! It can be a little scary trying to prepare something new from scratch that will meet the expectations built from the last title. Aside from our cold feet it's essentially the same once you get into the proper mentality. The cheers get a little louder as well as the jeers - but as long as we focus on what's really going to make the game fun, and the majority of the fans trust us too, we'll be okay. I think it's interesting seeing our learning curve. I cringe a little looking really far back.

Battleblock Theater was recently released and we are already yearning for more. What do we have to look forward to?

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Well, we have a steady stream of content coming in from the Furbottom's Features area in terms of levels and character unlocks - for a very long time!

No DLC for any of our games has been announced. The work that's going into BBT right now is a title update aimed at fixing some of the most experienced bugs or tweaks - like the Jailbreaker Achievement.

BattleBlock Theater (2013):

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Have you begun working on your next project or are you just enjoying reaping the fruits of your hard work right now?

After a good few days of playing BBT and interacting heavily with the players we've begun prototyping what our latest game will be!

The music in BBT is amazing, simple yet complex and frustratingly catchy. How do we get hold of it outside the game?

We're planning on releasing a soundtrack with the proceeds going to the musicians. Please support the artists when this arrives!

Some of these guys are amongst my favorite musicians. I'd always blast Analogik and Patric's music in my Jeep on the freeway, so when I got to hear them make what is now our main menu music, or prevalent level music, it was a really amazing experience for me.

What is most challenging in the process of making a game? What is the most fun?

Getting a game to feel ‘just right' is not an easy task, especially since we're jumping genre to genre - nor is making everything clear to the player with absolutely no explanation. I actually think these things are some of the most fun to do because of their ever-changing challenge. Making games is kind of like problem solving for something completely different every single day. It's really fun to try my best to give an existing genre a fresh new take.

Making cool monsters and explosions is always an enjoyable experience, too, but that's more of an obvious one.

Castle Crashers (2008)

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BBT was in production for quite some time. Do you yourselves get tired of the games before release? How does it feel to let go of your baby - or, ehrm, cat - and finally show it to the world?

I always enjoy playing our games from start to finish to release. I can't really get sick of them if they're ending up how I had hoped. Since BBT has released I've played it almost daily. It's a little sad letting a project go, but that'll always be the case.

The narrator Will Stamper is brilliant. Did he follow a carefully written script in BBT or did he get to improvise from time to time, like with things that wouldn't affect the story?

Will's great at everything he's done for us. All I really need to do is tell him what kind of angle I want or maybe throw out a quick list of bullet points to cover if it's a longer cinematic. From that extremely loose overview he's free to do whatever he wants. He does all of the writing and acting on his own. He breathed so much life into the project I think he really solidified things beyond what we could ever do if we were on our own, and it really should be thought of as his area alone.

Fun fact: Did you know Will Stamper voiced the Ice King and the Industrial Prince from Castle Crashers, as well as the first level's soundtrack and HUD?

What are your personal favorite parts of BBT and Castle Crashers? Which are your favourite beasts?

I don't really have a favourite. I tend to view them as a bunch of ingredients that are much better when put all together than eaten alone.

When making a game, do you ever censor yourselves in any way or do you just go with any funny idea you get, no matter how crazy it might seem?

I don't think we censor ourselves very much. If a joke might not resonate with most players we tend to not go for it, but that doesn't feel like censoring.

Although beautifully alike in artwork and "feeling", Castle Crashers and BBT are quite different from each other in how the levels work. Castle Crashers is more linear, with separate levels to go through. BBT has levels that are more alike but with refreshingly challenging puzzles. Have you developed any preferences on how to design games from now on?

They felt extremely different from the development side as well. BBT being so modular was an interesting sensation. In CC it was far more clear when an area was ‘done' because you went left to right until you killed the boss. In BBT, things could change at any moment with the development of a new block type and the entire progression had to be reconsidered.

In the end, no, I don't think there's a preference. Whatever the genre and design seems to dictate, I'll follow whatever process it takes to make it there!

Alien Hominid (2004)

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[screens from Alien Hominid HD (2007)]

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BattleBlock TheaterScore

BattleBlock Theater

REVIEW. Written by Jon Newcombe

"The story is absolutely barmy. Narrated with goofy enthusiasm and near perfect comic timing, it's a rollercoater of wackiness that's almost impossible not to fall in love with."

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