You’re never to old to indulge in some retro gaming action, and even though your Famicom may not work no matter how hard you blow it, at least there studios out there working on games inspired by the greats of yesteryear. I caught up with Evan Greenwood of Free Lives to talk about the upcoming BROFORCE, an old-school run ‘n gun game that mixes in some environmental destruction and enough action movie references to qualify itself as a Third Expendables film.
Okay, first question,let’s give the audience some info on who you are, and what you’re up to currently!
I’m the owner of Free Lives. I suppose I lead the design of our games and try manage the company. We’re four guys who love making games (kind of obsessively).
Free Lives hasn’t been around long. We’ve tried to make a couple things, usually violent weird and sometimes fun things. The idea we’ve hit on with BROFORCE seems to be going excellently… So for the next while we’re the guys making BROFORCE (once again, kind of obsessively).
BROFORCE has quite a few nods towards the action movies of yesteryear, as well as a few games from that timeline, doesn’t it?
Oh absolutely! The current demo is what we hope will be the fun core of the game. It’s pretty light on content. But as we go forward we’re hoping to bring in more and more references and tributes to specific fight scenes and one-liners from 80s and 90s movies.
Of course we intend to give it our own flavour, but the conceit of the game is that you ARE 80s and 90s action heroes in a world where they have to fight to survive (and also because they aren’t good at anything else). That isn’t conveyed in the demo. It’s something we plan on fleshing out.
There will probably be some game references as well. We’re at the stage where anything goes and what sticks is what works (and I guess the fact that it is in a 80s and 90s style of game already references that era).
But it does have a combination feel of Contra and Metal Slug in there, right?
Yes! Both those games in their own ways also referenced action hero movies. The Contra cover actually has slightly adjusted versions of Rambo and Arnold from Predator on it (if I’m not mistaken).
So it’s all meta, in it’s own way then?
You could say that. We’re making a tribute to games that were based on 80s and 90s action movies and including characters from 80s and 90s action movies in it, and kind of smashing it all together because its all such awesome material.
One other thing that the game has going for it, is that the environments are pretty much destructible. Does that give BROFORCE a tactical edge, instead of just vanilla run ‘n gun action?
Although destructible terrain is nothing new, current hardware allows us to do things with it that were impossible for Contra and Metal Slug. I’d have to cite Spelunky as being BROFORCE’s greatest tactical influence. Most of the mechanics in BROFORCE are present there but we’re greatly exaggerating certain aspects (like the destructible terrain).
The other mechanics that perhaps BROFORCE feel strategically interesting are things like the wall climbing. We keep trying to make the bros more mobile so that they can utilize the terrain’s destructibility.
And the fact that there are stealth elements (like enemies not being able to see through walls). It’s a lot like movies where the logic is that the hero keeps on doing things right almost like they had clairvoyance, which is a lot like being able to see enemies in BROFORCE who cannot see you.
So tell us, why Bros? What made this such an intriguing factor to link the game and all its heroes?
It’s become a bit less clear to me as we’ve progressed. It started off as making previous joke games about bros causing random ridiculous violence and high-fiving and partying. It just seemed to work. It set a tone where the players could get behind being absurdly destructive and bloodthirsty and laugh at themselves all the while.
And then we realised that “Rambro” was such a bro. So we decided to make a game called “Rambros”. And everything kind of flowed from there. The reason why we’re calling it “BROFORCE” now is because someone else started a “Rambros” project with almost the exact same concept a couple months before us.
Obviously not all great 80s and 90s action heroes were men. Ripley outclassed every man in every movie she was in. We’re going to try figure out a way to tastefully include some of the great female action heroes as well. But there was this thing in the 80s and 90s where being HUGE and manly was super cool. It’s still super cool, especially in the context of how manly and huge and badass they were. So we’re giving it that context.
I mean, have you seen Terry Crews playing the drums with his muscles! What a bro!
Right now, you guys are using the Steam Greenlight initiative to promote the game. Why that model, instead of crowd-sourcing through something like Kickstarter? Does Greenlight provide a better avenue for the game?
From the position we are in right now I’m still not too sure what the all the differences are. It seems like the attention we’ve gotten is quite similar to what might have happened if we had Kickstarted it (not having ever Kickstartered a project it is hard to tell).
I think the thing for us is we are going to make the game in any case. This isn’t an idea for a game, it’s a game we’re definitely making, so the thinking was that putting it up on Greenlight early will allow us to get good feedback about what sort of game this is and what we should do with it.
Greenlight feels like a really good place to do that. At the moment we don’t want to be beholden to people that have given us money and then find out later we can’t achieve what we promised. Being forced to do something because we promised it could really hurt development. It might even be terrible ideas that we’re promising.
If we do need crowd funding later (because maybe we’ve decided to make the game so ambitious that there is no other way) then we might do something like Kickstarter. But I’d want to be sure that we can deliver, and should deliver, our promises when/if we do that.
I think we’re using Greenlight in a way that’s going to benefit both ourselves and the people who want to play this game. Or at least we’re trying to.
Ok, we’ve got the heroes/bros, but will we have a chance to see some iconic villains as well, such as a Hans GruBro?
I hope so! We were chatting just a bit about Anton Chibroh (Javier Bardiem in No Country For Old Men) and how terrifying and awesome he was.
We’ve had a lot of debate about which bros we should use. Do we use ones from the 2000s. What about super heroes. And villains like you suggest.
I think our plan moving forward is to get the most important ones in, and then build around that. Villains will require a bit more story, which is great, because they all come with such rich histories and awesome appeal.
And we want lots of secrets and bros unlocked as rewards for doing awesome/ridiculous things. A bit like the way some of the most challenging levels in Super Meat Boy were the warp zones where you played with a totally different set of rules.
I suspect the players will never get to play as the villains. This is a game about the virtuousness of being awesome (with perhaps a slight satirical edge). And being totally righteous with glistening muscles reflecting sweet explosions is the experience we want to conjure.
Want to support the guys behind Free Lives and see BROFORCE completed? Then head on over to their Steam Greenlight page and give the lads the thumbs up that they deserve. If you’re still not convinced, then download an early build of the game for yourself, and have a blast with the bros.
Last Updated: September 13, 2012