Quirky side-scrolling action game Alien Hominid was something of an unlikely success -- one of the first indie games to become a console property, before the days of online download services -- though it also later came to Xbox Live Arcade as Alien Hominid HD.
This year, The Behemoth, the development team behind that game, released its first original Xbox Live Arcade game: Castle Crashers, a classic side-scrolling beat 'em up that is one of the successes of this year on the service -- some stats have it selling over 350,000 units.
How do they manage it? Gamasutra's Brandon Sheffield and Chris Remo met up with two of the company's co-founders, Tom Fulp and Dan Paladin, who handle programming and art, respectively.
The duo talked to them about the creative process, how genre classics inform the development of features, and how working cross-country (with Fulp outside Philadelphia, and Paladin in San Diego) affects the process.
Here, in a spirited and casual conversation, the developers reveal why they'd never want their team to get much bigger than it is today, how breaking out of the signature style they've adopted could become a challenge, and how working with their own technology is both a limitation and an advantage.
Brandon Sheffield: Castle Crashers is doing super well.
Dan Paladin: It's doing really, really well. I think it set some records. Judging by the leaderboards, it seems to be that way.
BS: Now that the castle is crashed, what are you going to be doing?
DP: We tossed around new ideas, and we started on one that we kinda want to run with. I was working on it on the last few months of Castle, on the weekends. Seems to be pretty fun, and I think we know what we want do, but we're not going to announce what it is just yet.
BS: Of course. Are you sticking in the downloadable space?
DP: I'd love to, 'cause retail is just not made for us. Too small.
BS: Tom, obviously you're all about PC portal-style stuff. What do you think about that?
Tom Fulp: PC games? There's always potential. There is something romantic about consoles, though. People think it's so amazing when your game is on consoles. So, I'll probably keep getting sucked up in that. But it's also plenty of PC potential there.
BS: It seems like in terms of money potential there's a lot on the PC that could be tapped. Casual stuff. Dan, your art style lends itself really well, potentially, to the casual type of game, if you want it. And Flash-oriented stuff also. It seems like you could be making --
TF: We're working on Dan Paladin's Solitaire and Dan Paladin's Jewels right now. (laughter)
BS: Dan Paladin's Jewels, man, that's a risqué title.
DP: (laughter) I just won't go into that. Yeah, we tossed around all kinds of ideas. (laughter)
The Behemoth's Castle Crashers
BS: I know you've been asked this question before, but I've never asked you this question before: How is splitting your time with [Flash portal] Newgrounds and The Behemoth actually working?
TF: It can be tough at times. It's a big juggling act. It all, in the end, used to work itself out. I want to get out some Flash games, now that I've got some breathing room. So, I'm excited about that.
BS: Newgrounds is still doing well for you, right?
DP: Yeah, it's still the most vibrant community of Flash artists and programmers. We've got a lot of stuff going on.
Chris Remo: Is there an actual, official or legal connection between Behemoth and Newgrounds?
TF: No, they're two completely independent companies. I'm the owner of Newgrounds and the co-owner of The Behemoth.
BS: The team has grown, right? How many people total do you have working?
DP: Right, about nine right now?
TF: Something like that.
BS: You're much more centrally located in San Diego now, right?
DP: I think we're split down the middle. We got like four guys in San Diego. And three or four [on the East coast].
DP: We borrowed the place from Newgrounds.
TF: For example, Mike [Welsh] is officially Newgrounds, but he did a lot of Castle Crashers programming work. And then we just borrow people for little things, like Stamper produced the music and sound effects. He did a lot of sound effects. Jeff [Bandelin] did the player portraits. And the rest of the art's all Dan.
BS: If the companies are completely separate, how do you do that? Do you have to sign them on as contractors?
TF: I guess we just kind of keep tabs of it, and then basically they'll all be billed for some time. We're pretty lenient about all that -- how stuff gets used. It's all exciting for everyone in the end. As long as it all works out, you know, we're having lots of success so far, so as long as it just keeps working out, it's like one big, happy production of energy.