Playable at last year’s PAX was a game called Pandamonium. It’s premise was simple:
1. You are an armadillo.
2. There is a bloodthirsty panda bear chasing you.
3. Don’t get caught.
To better understand what the game was all about, here’s a Let’s Play from a few intrepid German fellows:
The game was a hit, and the developers (an indie studio by the name of Wildgrass Games) decided that pandas alone could not truly terrify a wider audience of players. And so they set about creating a bigger version of Pandamonium, now called Bearzerkers (because if you can get away with one ridiculous bear pun, you might as well keep going). Bearzerkers has more bears, more tiny animals to be eaten by bears, and also a whole mess of other new features because this is a much larger game.
In speaking with Tom Spratt, a designer, technical artist, animator and producer of Bearzerkers, I was able to find out just how much has been added since the game’s humble beginnings. And also why, on the game’s Kickstarter page, the $100,000 stretch goal just says, “We’ll put ducks in it.”
1. What would you say is the biggest change the game has gone through from Pandamonium to Bearzerkers?
The biggest single change until now to the mechanics of the game from Pandamonium would be the implementation of powerups. This really changes up every scenario and match from the original game’s core digging stuff. Beyond that though, everything is new really or has had massive levels of polish and feedback gone into it that make all aspects of the game look, feel and play a lot better than Pandamonium. A month or so ago we had to pitch BEARZERKERS to try and secure some additional funding, and we played the Pandamonium demo live to showcase the progress we’d made. We hadn’t played it ourselves in quite a while and the difference was startling, the old game just felt so sluggish in comparison.
2. The game is set for local multiplayer, but did you ever consider online Bearzerkers?
Of course, some of our very first tests were with a networked version of the game as it was one of the most requested features for the full game. There are a number of reasons why we’ve decided to go local only for the base game.
First of all, we’ve found that with a single programer and limited networking experience, we really just need to focus on the core game itself and make that as fun and polished as possible. If Alex is working on netcode, he’s not working on the game. We’ve taken a look at other similar games out there and those that do support online multiplayer, tend to have a rather shoddy implementation at best. We didn’t want to do a half baked job and just list it as a feature despite the game potentially not working well through that option.
3. How exactly does the cooperative play work in Spiral Mode?
In Spiral each of the players will have unique abilities that compliment each other and can be used to help both yourself and fellow players through the maze. For example an AOE ability which slows down all enemies caught in the radius, making it easier for each of the players to dodge through them. Also if a player is hit by an enemy in this mode, they go down and can only be brought back into play by another player running over and helping them back into action.
This mode will be available in the beta and we hope to get some video of it in play much sooner than that.
4. The game’s art style is a little cute, but then a little terrifying. It’s also pretty bloody. Is there a particular audience (or age range, or both) you’re trying to court with Bearzerkers?
We intentionally aimed for the juxtaposition between a cute and cuddly exterior and bloody violent insides(literally). The violence is still pretty cartoony though, so we haven’t seen a problem with young kids playing the game. In terms of our target audience, we don’t really have one beyond ‘people who like it’. We’ve actually seen an incredible mix of young, old, men/women loving their time with the game and honestly that’s what makes us the most happy. It wouldn’t feel right if we were intentionally or even subconsciously locking people out from the experience.
5. And on that note, how exactly do you make a panda bear scary?
Pandas are always terrifying. We’re really struggling to get the Grolar bear to be intimidating in the slightest though.
In all seriousness, much of the answer simply lies in the gameplay itself. Having this thing that is coming for you to tear you to pieces, no matter what that thing is, is the first piece of the puzzle. We also made sure with the new panda model to emphasise it’s unstoppable strength with exaggerated bulk and wild nature through its matted hair. Just wait until we get its frothing mouth particles in play!
Then there’s our Kickstarter. We do have Online Multiplayer as a stretch goal on there, and much like the rest of our stretch goals we’ve put it where it is to represent a certain level of interest in people who will buy our game before we go and invest months of our lives and our savings into particular features. Our base Kickstarter goal of $8,000 is not going to any of the core developers but to help us out with additional art and music we wouldn’t be able to get into the game otherwise, to deliver the best game possible at that level of funding. The $35,000 Online goal represents the cost it would take us to either bring a dedicated network programer on, or more likely, the extra time for us to create the infrastructure within our core team and the delay in release it would cause. It doesn’t look likely at all that we’re going to reach that goal, we would love to have supported online but unfortunately right now we simply cannot afford it.
6. So… What’s up with the ducks?
Basically we’ve always expected to just scrape past our base goal, so it seemed appropriate to make the $100,000 Stretch Goal as ridiculous as the prospect of actually hitting it. It made us giggle in the late nights leading up to the Kickstarter release as a placeholder, so we decided to leave it in.
Besides, everybody loves ducks, man.
If you’re interested in learning more about Bearzerkers (releasing for PC, Mac and Linux), want to take the demo for a spin, or are a millionaire heiress with a fondness for digital ducks, check out the game’s official Kickstarter page or look it up at Wildgrass Games’ official site.