Goon Studios is an independent game studio you will want to remember. They have high ideals and talent that runs deep. I don’t remember exactly how I came across Goon Studios website last year, but I came away impressed. Maybe it was the artwork shown in the screenshots of the game Keipr that they are working on. It could also have been that when I went to the about us section, that I thought it was pretty intriguing that the images of the Goons weren’t just regular old photographs.
I thought, this seems to be a pretty talented and interesting group. After playing the games that they have created for Android/iOS thus far, Boogey Boy and Monster vs Sheep, I wanted to learn more. I was fortunate enough to be able to establish a conversation with Adi Ekowibowo, who is a Project Manager for Goon Studios. He was kind enough to get some questions answered for us by Chase Osborne, who is the Creative Director for Goon Studios. Even better, they were kind enough to send artwork and a conceptual video of Monster vs Sheep, which was released this week for Android/iOS.
After having the opportunity to find out a little bit more about them through this interview, I can say, Goon Studios is comprised of a group of pretty uncommon individuals, with a common goal… providing games that are enjoyable and with a unique art style. So without further ado, here is the interview with Chase Osborne, Creative Director of Goon Studios.
Jaymes Carter: Goon Studios is based in Pasadena, California. How did Goon Studios come to be? How did it all get started?
Goon Studios: Goon Studios used to be HourBlast Games. HourBlast Games was started by Larry Li, Janry Burns and Dax Jin. Larry and Janry worked with Chase at Papaya Games Studios in Irvine CA. As Hour Blast Games they created Dueling Blades, a super cool turn based Street Fighter inspired fighter game for facebook and mobile devices. They spent about a year developing Dueling Blades before Chase joined the team. We agreed to a pretty bad deal with a publisher and basically lost all rights to Dueling Blades. After the loss of Dueling Blades we started on Mech Conquest, our goal was to learn from Dueling Blades and make another free to play game and self publish. Toward the end of development the core members and the founders decided to go separate ways, people had different ideas about the direction of the company. Prior to the release of Mech Conquest we changed our name to Goon Studios, this was to reflect that we had changed literally as all of the founding members left and changed in spirit because the kind of games that we wanted to make had changed. With that change we knew that we didn’t want to make free to play games anymore.
JC: I think that is very interesting, especially considering that the game industry is flooded with free to play games. We always here about how that structure affects gamers, but rarely do we here about the downsides from the developers stand point. Now I see why on your website you say that “… We formed the company to create games without any in-app purchases.” You even make a joke about it in the listing of in-app purchases in the Google Play Store for Monsters vs. Sheep. It is good to hear thoughts on both sides of the story as it relates to free-to-play games.
JC: What are the qualities and traits of a Goon? The team is eight strong, including Render, the guard dog, which is awesome name by the way. Is this an optimum size for making quality games? Do you feel like you could use more people?
GS: GOON noun: 1) a hired hoodlum or thug. 2) a stupid, foolish or awkward person. Eight is good for what we are creating right now. However, Games we want to make in the future may require a team size of around thirteen.
JC: How does the team come to a consensus on things during the game development process? As an example, your first successful game was Boogey Boy, which was a side-scrolling runner/platforming game. Your current game is Monster vs Sheep. How do you decide on what to create? There has to be numerous decisions to be made prior to bringing the game to market.
GS: Deciding what to create is always a gamble, most projects will start with a pitch meeting. Boogey Boy started with everyone on the team going off by themselves or as small teams or both and coming up with game ideas. We come together later in a meeting and pitch them to each other. Deciding on what project to do after this meeting can be difficult, Boogey Boy was chosen because it had a wider appeal, with Mech and Dueling Blades we basically made games for teen boys. Boogey was also one of the simpler ideas all around, we felt that for mobile simple is better. Monster vs Sheep started as a design challenge in a way. Our Animator, Ivy, answered the challenge. “I just want to flick sheep – a whole bunch of them – into a monster’s mouth,” and we went from there.
JC: As part of your goals in creating great games, you mention creating games that are enjoyable and engaging with a unique art style. Boogey Boy had a very unique and colorful style. The style was loose but with nuanced detail in different areas. How did the team go about creating that, and was it difficult to stray away from too much detail in the art?
GS: For some of the Goons its hard not to go into a ton of detail, Leo and Troy love the details. That’s the poetry in simplified art, when everything is turned down the pop is even louder. How we go about creating it is probably in the subconscious of the team, everyone’s personality shows through in the work they make and fortunately it works together.
JC: I admire the fact that Goon Studios is a group of gamers first. I also applaud you for forming the company to create games without any in app purchases. What would you say are the pros and cons of the free to play model? Why do you believe it is important to not include any in-app purchases?
GS: When we were designing free to play games we spent as much time designing how to make the player pay as we did designing what the player gets to play. We decided to spend all of our time designing gameplay, story, music and visuals for the player to experience a better game. Free to play games are disposable, something you pay for is not.
JC: As game designers/developers, how do you manage levels of difficulty in game play? If you make a game to easy, people don’t play it much. If you make it too hard, people complain about the difficulty. How do you reach that perfect place where a game is just hard enough and fun enough to keep playing, but doesn’t have people chucking there devices across the room? Games like Super Hexagon and WaveWave immediately come to mind.
GS: We have a pretty diverse gamer pool to pull from within family and friends that give us feedback on difficulty. We addressed this well with Boogey Boy because any average player can see 80% of the game and beat it and that’s enough for them. The other 20% is hard, but has meaningful payoff for the people who care.
JC: It looks like you have been developing an online game for PC for a while called Keipr. It looks intriguing. What is it about? Do you plan to continue to develop games for PC and mobile platforms? Do you prefer one over the other, and if so, why?
GS: Keipr has been on our minds for a while, its a Sci Fi frontier saga that would follow a group of stranded humanoids as they start a civilization from scratch on a new planet that has magical properties. We are actually developing the prologue to Keipr at this moment. Monster vs Sheep will be our last title developed specifically for mobile, in the future we will be developing for PlayStation 4 and porting to PC and mobile after. PS4 just seems like the best market for us at this time, the games we have lined up for the next few years will benefit from the system power and the controller.
JC: I have to sigh on the answer to that question. Primarily because I don’t own a PS4, I am XBox man. What could prove to be more challenging for mobile games is waiting for a port, which could take a while. That sounds like a big decision, but the images I have seen of Keipr, and hearing a little bit more about the story line is exciting. Guess we will have to wait and see until that comes out. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.
JC: What is it like optimizing games for Android devices? How many do you keep in your library, and if you have a preferred tablet, what would it be? Same question for a phone?
GS: Using Unity3D, we were able to optimize for Android and iOS using a unified set of specifications with only certain build options varying between platforms. We do not have any preference of tablet or phone.
JC: As gamers, do you primarily play PC games or console games? If you do play console games? Is there a preference for XBox One or PS4… or Nintendo Wii?
GS: We play all platforms except the Xbox One. Some of us are PC gamers, some console gamers, some spent time on a dedicated handheld, and we also have a few mobile gamers.
JC: What game designers/developers do you most admire and why? They can be mobile or console game designers.
GS: Shigeru Miyamoto, he made em all. Dan Houser, Red Dead Redemption is a masterpiece.
JC: To put a name to a game for some of our readers that may not know, Mr. Miyamoto created the hugely popular games Donkey Kong, Mario, Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, Pimkin, F-Zero and many more. Yes, I enjoyed Red Dead Redemption too, great game.
JC: Can you tell me a about your CEO, Ching Cheng? What makes her a great leader of the Goons?
GS: Ching is married to Chase and stays home with baby Wyatt, as CEO Ching finds money to pay all the Goon bills. She also makes amazing sculptures from old books and huge watercolor paintings. Ching procured funding for the day to day operations of Goon Studios for the past three years. She allows us the freedom to create what we want.
JC: What can we expect from Goon Studios in the future of mobile entertainment?
GS: Our hopes for all our games is that they become a permanent part of your game library.
JC: What do you think of the rise and development of VR games, current gimmick or great long-term possibilities?
GS: Until The danger room from X-men comes online VR is Whack.
JC: Ah, the Danger Room. That would be quite enjoyable. I was thinking more along the lines of the holodeck on the Starship Enterprise. Though now that you mention it, I think I would prefer the action of the Danger Room, as long as I could have the skills of Wolverine.
JC: If the Goons were stranded on island together for two weeks, with just enough food and water to survive, and had the choice of playing only three games for two weeks, what would the games be?
GS: There are a lot of games out there that we want to bring but everyone has their preference, the only game we can all agree on is Pokemon.
JC: Wow… Pokemon. Interesting choice. What is more amazing than the game that you chose, is that you came to a consensus on one game. That shows how well you work together.
We want to thank Adi Ekowibowo and Chase Osborne for talking with Droid Gamers, and sending the conceptual artwork and video. As we can see from the sketches and the video, game development is definitely a process that takes hard work and commitment. It is always interesting to go behind the scenes to find out more about the creators behind the games that we play. We look forward to the games that Goon Studios will create, and wish them much success as they continue to develop games that are enjoyable and have a unique art style.
Check out the conceptual video that Goon Studios was kind enough to send along with the artwork. Let us know what you think about the interview. What surprised you the most? If you haven’t had the opportunity to play Boogey Boy or Monster vs Sheep, we have included the links below. If you enjoy platformers/side-scrolling runners, then check out Boogey Boy. If you enjoy projectile/physics-based games, then Monster vs Sheep may be just what you are looking for in those brief moments of gaming when available. If you want to see some images of Keipr, then we have included the link to Goon Studios website for your perusal. More interviews are on the way with good game developers that have a passion for creating enjoyable games.
Developer Website: Goon Studios