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Interview: We chat with team members behind Dudebro II

With Duke Nukem Forever now finally coming out in early May, the idea of a retro action game with a big man at its center seems to be something that is back in style. In early 2010, before the revival of the game was announced by Gearbox Software, a team that had first found each other in the NeoGAF forums announced plans to release their own "tough guy" action game, except this title will be released for the low, low price of absolutely free. The result was the parody title Dudebro - My Sh** Is F***** Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time (or Dudebro II for short).

Big Download got in touch with the Grimoire Assembly Forge team to find out more about Dudebro II (no, there was no Dudebro I) and got some responses from Andrea "Jocchan" Nicolò (Creative Director), Sil "Twie" Demmer (Producer) and Miguel "Mik2121" Alonso (Art Director).

First the development team first got together via the NeoGAF message boards..how did the idea happen for this group to make a game?

Andrea: It happened in the most unexpected way, in a message board discussion started by one NeoGAF user, Cuyahoga, to detail his impressions of Ubisoft's game Imagine: Babyz Fashion for the Nintendo DS. Not exactly the game you'd associate to a violent shooter. When another user jokingly called him a pedophile, Cuyahoga came up with this line as his defense: "So, I'm a pedophile because I don't want to play Dudebro, My S*** is F***** Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time? To throw around these sort of accusations at someone who seeks to do something different suggests quite the insecurity on your part." This name he made up on the spot encompassed the cliches used and abused by current AAA mainstream shooters (the ones we all play and love) in such a perfect way that Dudebro just had to happen. We were so inspired that some of us started posting concept art and story drafts for a hypothetical game named that way, and everything eventually snowballed into an actual game concept. I'd say it was a combination of chance and the talent of all the people involved, making us realize we had something potentially special in our hands.

How did the team settle on the idea behind Dudebro II?

Andrea: Everything happened very quickly, almost on its own. Right after Cuyahoga's post, another NeoGAF user, [Nintex], posted a photoshop of the boxart for EA's Medal of Honor reboot with the title changed. This prompted me to sketch down a character design for the main character, retaining the concept of a bearded soldier but changing it into a more cliched and testosterone-filled action game protagonist. NeoGAF user thetrin followed up by writing down some dialogue, and less than two hours later we already had the game concept down. Back then it was little more than a joke, the decision of actually going forward with the development only came a few days later and after Mik2121's first 3D model of the main character pushed things even further, but it's funny how so much of the original concept stayed the same after all this time. From Cuyahoga's original title, we even decided to keep the number two: starting out with a sequel seemed just right for a game parodying the games industry as a whole.

Sil: Rather than tell you, I'd like to show you.
It all started late on a cold winter night, Dec 7th:
11:04 pm (GMT+1): [Nintex]'s photoshop appeared http://imgur.com/tL5JV
1:19 am: Jocchan's Dudebro character design http://imgur.com/bgZbD
1:43 am: thetrin writes a dialogue piece http://imgur.com/NOpV0
3:38 am: Concept screen is done http://i46.tinypic.com/xnyt6o.png
-Fin

The game is obviously meant to be funny but how hard is it to make a parody game that's also a good game?

Sil: Extremely difficult. As with most mediums, comedy is very hard to do because it's so subjective. Also, the video game culture we are trying to parody is one that we are part of ourselves, so we always have to look at things from two ways. We need to realize when things are over-the-top in this video game culture that we love so much. While we also have to understand why these things are so over-the-top, so that we can make fun of it.
Because Dudebro II started from a joke and is being developed by non-professionals it's often hard for people to take us and the game seriously. Regardless of other people's perception, we're serious...very serious.

Andrea: I'll agree with the "extremely difficult", and add that it's not just because of our parody intents. It happens in general. Making a good game requires strong dedication for a prolonged period of time, and it's especially hard to achieve with unpaid volunteers. It's not a coincidence if many similar projects fail, so good organization is fundamental to survive. In our case, making Dudebro II a good game was explicitly our goal. Our strength was putting a hierarchy in place from the start and having few people take all the important decisions instead of just randomly accepting ideas from everyone. This helped giving the game a very precise shape, as the focus was on the gameplay the whole time instead of just stacking up jokes or references to Internet memes.

Miguel: Similarly to what Sil and Andrea said, Dudebro II being mainly a parody game means that many don't take it very seriously. This affects our chances of getting new volunteers willing to commit themselves into helping us with the project. But the game is more than just a parody: we have spent quite a bit of time thinking how the gameplay could be fun and engaging, and, underneath the surface, the story is more complex than you would expect!

Many contributors also don't have much experience (if any at all) with game development, so yeah, sometimes it's quite hard to keep everything together, but it's also a great experience for everyone involved.

What kind of a man is Dudebro? Does he have characteristics that might surprise people?

Andrea: Indeed, he does. He's conceived as a badass action game cliché on the outside, but what John Dudebro actually parodies is the player himself. He's "the dude every bro wants to be": strong, witty, surrounded by adoring women, as if he came straight out of a focus test group session gone awry. But his intentional one-dimensionality doesn't make him automatically flat and uninteresting: there's more than meets the eye, and we hope you'll agree after playing the game.

Sil: Also...He can't die!
What sort of gameplay can we expect to see in Dudebro II?

Andrea: Not exactly what you would expect from an indie top-down shooter. Instead of just having the player fight waves of enemies in small arenas, something that is likely to become repetitive after a while, we went for a more open-ended and mission-based style of gameplay. Each chapter consists of a single map populated with missions the player can find and accept by exploring it. I'd say it's a bit of an open world-ish approach at its core, except in obviously much smaller environments. The missions themselves are what give variety to the game by offering different spins to the core gameplay or even changes to the basic level design. Completing missions awards the player with medals used to unlock boss battles and proceed further in the campaign. The game also uses physics, and being able to pick up and throw objects (something both Dudebro and some enemies can do) is core part of the gameplay. I'd say that throwing an explosive barrel towards a large group of enemies and blowing it up with a well-aimed shot can feel quite satisfying.

Sil: We have several unique game mechanics in Dudebro II, two of them being the Brodiocity Meter, and Chicks. The Brodiocity Meter is more than just a health bar: it can, in fact, get refilled by acting like a bro. This includes killing enemies, rescuing chicks and drinking beer. Should it drop to zero, Dudebro won't die. He will get angry at the player and mock him.
Chicks have two functions, both of which could be absolutely integral to survival if the situation calls for it. They are so charmed by Dudebro that they will follow him blindly, even if that means taking a few bullets for him. Their second talent is ... well, let's just say If Dudebro takes a Chick to a private area she will boost his Brodiocity Meter. Features like these don't only make Dudebro II stand out from other top-down shooters, they also allow us to add a constant comical feel to the whole game experience.

What sort of locations and settings will we see in the game?

Andrea: I'm not going to spoil them into detail, but each chapter is set in a completely different location. Dudebro is going to travel a lot during his adventure, so you'll see a variety of settings. The first one, depicted in the first screenshots we released, is Alaska. More specifically, the snowfields surrounding a facility built next to the oil pipeline and taken over by terrorists. But right after such a cold area, what could be better than laying in the sun on a Cuban beach? Using different locations around the world allowed us to build up some pretty nice contrast, making each chapter look more unique.

Sil: I can assure you that if you've always wanted to travel the world, you won't want to miss Dudebro II.

Any chance that the game will have multiplayer modes?

Andrea: It's early to say, but we'd love to add co-op and some competitive multiplayer if our resources allow us to. I believe the gameplay in Dudebro II has good potential for fun deathmatches, but we can't confirm anything yet.

Sil: For us to truly compete with all the other games that are coming out today we need that extra bullet point on the back of our box...errr...I mean multiplayer mode. However, we currently need to focus all of our resources (limited that they are) on making an awesome single player experience. Multiplayer would be cool, but we don't want to make any promises right now

You got Jon St John to do Dudebro's voice. How was he to work with and how is his voice different from his work on Duke Nukem?

Sil: We can't express enough how fortunate we are that Jon St. John was willing to voice and record lines for Dudebro. He has been extremely supportive of Dudebro II and our project at large. Recently, at this year's MagFest, he held a panel during which he let the audience hear some of the lines he recorded for Dudebro. It was great to see that not only the audience, but also Jon St. John himself enjoyed listening to that dialogue.

Overall how has the game's development gone for the team?

Sil: When we first started, we were overwhelmed by support and people asking to join the team. Everything started as a community effort, so as we grew larger so did the game's scope to accommodate all these volunteers. A few months later, though, real life kicked in and several key team members had personal, school, or work issues preventing them from continuing to work on the project. The way our team was organized allowed us to absorb the impact so that the game wasn't critically affected, and we had a chance to rethink the direction we wanted to take with Dudebro II. We decided to go with 2D sprites for the characters instead of the 3D models we had earlier. Not only does this new change better reflects our team's skill-set, but it also gives the game a better and more unique feel than ever before. Now, we are looking to expand the team again. Anyone who's interested in joining us can contact us through our website, http://www.dudebro2.com.

Why is the game going to be free when the team could easily sell the title and make some money back?

Sil: Since everything was public from the start (and everyone was throwing out ideas) if we were to make money, tons of people could knock at our door and demand a share. With several people joining and leaving our dev team over time, it would be nearly impossible to fairly compensate everyone for the way they have contributed to Dudebro II. To avoid this issue altogether, we decided to make Dudebro II free for everyone.

However, as nice as that idea might sound, it does cause us to run into a fair share of issues.
We want to ship a quality game, and doing that without any extra income is quite challenging.

Andrea: When money enters any scenario, everything gets more complicated. The prospect of making money would be a hell of a motivator for many, but with so many people involved we'd hardly please everyone, or even make enough to turn in a decent profit. So we decided to just take money out of the equation entirely, while still trying to make a game as good as one you'd pay for, and we plan to allow everyone who played, and liked, it to donate money to charity instead.

Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Dudebro II?

Andrea: It's better than the first!

Sil: Join us!

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