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Puzzles, action, and food fights with indie game Organic Panic
The light-hearted concept managed to bring these somewhat creatively disparate brothers together to create a game about blowing up, freezing over, igniting, or shooting holes in your most favorite, and hated, food stuffs. At the conclusion of a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, Damon and Anatole proceeded with the production of Organic Panic which is now available on Steam Early Access.
Both brothers try to stay well connected to their community and have made involving their fans part of the game experience. With a built in map editor, the Branch’s hope players leave their own mark on a game that was conceived by them over 15 years ago.
Anatole made himself available to talk a bit about the origin story of Organic Panic, what it has been like working with his brother, and some of the innovative design characteristics of the game.
Jesse Tannous: You and your brother have been actively working on this game for 5 years now, how did this idea start and how dramatically has it changed throughout those years?
Anatole Branch: The idea started from a game concept we had about 15 years ago, called Veggie Olympics. But we’ve switched gears to developing a groundbreaking (pun-intended), and powerful liquid simulation 2d technology engine, that we could use for a variety of platform/shooter type games. We worked on the narrative of Fruit 'n Veggies versus Meat’n Cheese as a development of the original Veggie Olympics game. It was just a light-hearted way to create fun characters and context for the story. It has an eco angle, but we're not trying to push some agenda. This is the first game we're using this technology, and it naturally developed from wanting to do a fun action puzzler with those original characters.
JT: Why fruit and veggies versus meat and cheese over any other character designs you could have selected?
AB: It started from wanting to develop the characters from the Veggie Olympics games design we already had in our pocket. The Meat’n Cheese just seemed like a natural antagonist to these characters. It was never meant to be a strong political statement, although now we can see how it could polarize players. It was always meant to be light-hearted, and fun.
JT: What has the reaction been to the game so far by play testers?
AB: Reaction to the game has been amazing. Of course, we’ve had our friends play the game but we were also able to bring the game to PAX East this year. Our booth was jam-packed every day and we even had lines going out to the main walkway. It was more than we could hope for. Since then, we’ve gotten the game out into Steam Early Access and the Steam community has been great with providing us with feedback. Even more recently, we attended NYC Game Forum’s Playtest Night and were able to have players test out the latest build, which included multiplayer versus mode. It’s been a bit of a humbling experience.
JT: How has development progressed since the successful Kickstarter?
AB: Development from Kickstarter was longer than anticipated, but much more has been achieved. We’ve fully ported to Open GL, which is the base of many other platforms including Mac/Linux and most consoles. We're very proud of having reached our beta release in a timely matter and have already fixed a huge amount of bugs and development towards release is going strong. We’re currently working on a large milestone release, which will include new worlds, and up to four-player multiplayer versus mode.
JT: Brothers are generally known for their competitiveness between each other, how has this, for better or worse, affected your game development?
AB: As brothers, we've definitely had our ups and downs. We had worked together at a company in the UK called Pukka Games, which ended in part because of our differences. But we've both matured a lot since then, and can generally get along with the day-to day-logistics. As the programming wiz, Damon handles all of the technical and programming aspect of the game, while I function as the Art Director. We can still get heated, especially when there is a lot going on and big decisions are happening, but generally we're more united in how we approach things.
JT: For the non-technical what exactly is it that is so innovative about your game and map editor?
AB: The physics engine gives players breakable terrain, fluid liquids and a sense of inertia. Players can get creative as to how they beat the level by directly manipulating the ground plan. It’s always cool to see players go through a level in a way we never thought of. We made a simple map editor to allow players to be able to create levels of their own and share them with the community. We use the same editor to create our levels, so we’re really interested to see what the players conjure up.
JT: What efforts are you taking to build a strong community interested in custom map design? Have you already had some interesting maps created by fans?
AB: We’re refining the editing tools for the players to be able to create levels as crazy as they would like it to be. We also post a new level design-in-the-making with the initial concept sketch and we encourage feedback from the community and invite them to create their own. From the feedback, we tweak the level before finalizing it for the game. We’re still in the early stages of development but we think this will give huge longevity to gameplay.
Organic Panic seems well on its way to becoming a fully published title that could potentially end up on many different markets despite dietary preferences.
Jesse is a journalist first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.