Redgrim (Dragon Pussy, MRS. DAD) and Knapnok (B.U.T.T.O.N.) are working together and marketing Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party, a party game coming this summer to the Wii U console that never uses the TV.
Here, the two discuss working remotely, creating trailers for games not played on a screen, the characters' "phallic-in-nature" design, and other challenges that come with marketing a "spin the bottle" game.
What brought your teams together?
Lau Korsgaard: Simon and I worked together on a silly card game I have designed called Who Took The Apple. It was one of these free time experimental projects where I just asked out on Facebook if anybody wanted to make illustrations for my game, and Simon jumped in. In the end the cards turned amazingly awesome, the mechanics of the game are still totally broken though.
When we started to brainstorm on a party game for Wii U, I knew we wanted Simon Gustafsson's style. He has the ability to strike this balance between childish and grotesque.
How did you come up with these colorful, silly characters?
Simon Gustafsson: Well. I had a short deadline to come up with a concept for these. So I was like: Damnit. If I'm going to "extend myself" I might as well try to come up with something weird. I imagined I could keep them simple, suggestive, and still hold their own personality wise by giving them unique features with animations and key objects. The main inspiration was phallic in nature. I tried to get some butt in there as well for good measure. As Lau said, it's a balance between what actually is seen and what I'd like people to read into it.
So how does something phallic in nature get such family-friendly ESRB and PEGI ratings?
Lau: I asked for something cute but suggestive and what I got back from Simon was these hillarious... sausages. The rating boards have some very specific things they are looking for, like human nudity. If you make something weird enough, it slips through.
Simon: Well, you asked for "characters" to be honest. You got dicks. For me it was the obvious choice.
Interesting. It sounds like you guys work together well! How does working together remotely happen on a daily basis?
Lau: We have had pretty defined areas of responsibility. KnapNok Games has been doing game design, core programming and instructions illustrations; Redgrim has been doing art, graphics implementation and audio. This means that processes involving a lot of back and forth communication took place in the same office. When Simon were making animations, he could talk directly with Olle Lundahl who were implementing these animation in our engine and likewise, a process like drawing the instructions for all the minigames, were something that had to happen close to the game designer because there were so many iterations and tweaks.
Simon: Yeah, it's been a unique experience that took some time to get used to. But I was glad that I could do basically anything I thought was needed to be done to get the feeling for it that I thought would be required to make it stand out. This is probably a bit due to the fact that we didn't have all the time in the world discussing everything remotely. So yeah, we just had to trust each other. It also gives a personal twist to all the assets that went into the game, from sounds, music to graphics.
In Redgrim, we're pretty used to the model of So, I made this art/sound, if you use your strong suits, what would YOU do to make this feel interesting if you could do whatever you want/know?. So, it surely was a risk setting the project up like this. We were just lucky that the chemistry worked that way. It's both something that I would recommend for other projects and something for some people to avoid entirely. I think that the entire team has a mature sense of "design" in general and what would work and not from the standpoint of what we we're trying to achieve, that was an important factor.
What tools helped streamlined remote working?
Simon: We had to use an online task list, with a producer giving us tasks to do. For me, that took a while to get used to as I often have more control over that, also this is the by far, time wise, the longest game project I've been working on. The ups and downs in creativity become much more apparent when you need to work on something for a long time and can't let that stuff stop you... too much.
How did you go about marketing to console video game fans about a game they don't play on their TV at all? How do you show off the game via trailers?
Lau: Early on we knew that we wanted to produce a high quality trailer showing real people playing the game, but such things are complicated to make and the final list of minigames wasn't even approved before well into 2013. So we had to make teasers selling the characters, universe and style of the game. Basically we gave up on explaining the game through our teasers and just went for maximum emotional impact.
I remember we sketched out the first teaser on a face to face meeting and I felt pretty confident we got a good, silly and mildly suggestive teaser. Next day on Facebook we are chatting about Simon's progress and suddenly out of the blue he writes "Okay. Can I crazify this?", I tell him please do so, and the next thing I get is this disturbing weird thing which showed minigames that weren't planned and seemed pretty dangerous and it was over the top weirdly and badly edited. I am also pretty curios about what went through Simon's head at that point, but it somehow ended up being our teaser more or less unchanged.
Simon: I wondered what on earth I could tease with here that would make ME feel interested in this, if I, as a user, knew nothing about it at all. I just knew, just knew, that if I tried to make something that would blend with... the "proper" way of approaching a teaser for this game. There would be ZERO IMPACT. There was to little to be said. And it could not be "bland" at all. So, why not just... "let go". Everything in those teasers is things I was intentionally planting there, the weird cuts, shit that didn't make any sense, and mini games that would be impossible to perform. The results we got matched my expectations pretty well. I mean... like, why tease with something that people won't react to? Weird and unexpected has been my approach to most of my contributions to this project, lacking personality would be fatal to a project like this.
Lau: I think our teasers worked really well, and we have gotten a certain number of followers who enjoy the weirdness of them. This has made it even harder to produce our "real" trailer, with "real" people. Actually that process has been extremely hard: We didn't wanted to let the fans of our first teasers down, but we also wanted to reach out to a broader more mainstream segment. Remember, our core demographics are not NeoGAF users but tweens doing pajamas parties. I wanted something that would appeal to them which in my book were real earnest feelings of embarrassment and laughter and I felt putting too much weirdness up would create an ironic distance to the game.
So tweens are your core demographic?
Lau: Earnestly, we don't know how broad we will be reaching out. Our goal has been to make a game which was fun to play by everything from families to drunken college kids. We do know that there will probably be some parents, especially in US, who are put off by the suggestive visuals and the name in general, but we are cool with that. In reality the game isn't that naughty; it is only a question of frame of mind. I certainly imagine 10-12 years old play the game, for gods sake, they are playing the real spin the bottle at that age, and that game involves forced kissing!
By the way, why did you extend the game's title?
Lau: By calling the game Spin the Bottle we imagined the name it self could create a lot of images and ideas in the potential buyers head, which we thought were really good. What we lost, on the other hand, was a strong brand. What would we call a port of the game to smart phones? - there are already 5 spin the bottle games on phones and tablets. What if we wanted to do a sequel which ditched the bottle?
On top of that we had legal concerns. I'm pretty sure you can't claim "Spin the Bottle" as a trademark, at least you shouldn't be able to do so, but it is not a thing I want to defend in court. There were already three trademarks filed alone in the states in overlapping fields of ours, a slot machine, a board game and an arcade game, everyone we talked to kept saying rename it, rename it, rename it.
What we have done now, which I'm really happy about, is that we have put a bit more attention to our "brand" while still keeping the name recognition of our original name. Bumpie is our poster character for the game, the big yellow creature with a huge bumpy butt. This gives us much more flexibility to extend this universe later, however that is gonna happen.