Review Fix Exclusive: Inside ‘Epic Loon’

Review Fix chats with 3DDuo’s “Wax,” who discusses the upcoming party game on the PlayStation 4, Steam and Xbox One. An offbeat tribute to sci-fi classic movies, players lead a group of aliens to take over Joe’s TV after they are rudely awakened from their home, an old-school cleaning VHS-tape.

Review Fix: How was this game born?

Wax: In 2015, after two years of intense development of family-oriented mobile games, we decided to stop creating mainstream stuff and do something with our heart and guts.

We had a lot of beer-fueled brainstorming sessions and plenty of ideas emerging but none of them convinced everybody and I really wanted to have a project which the whole team agreed with.

One day our Lead Game Designer, Kris, proposed a game concept based on local multiplayer, physics, and nonsensical gameplay; everybody loved it.

In any event, we decided to prototype this core gameplay to see if there was something to work with. After throwing some placeholder assets and stuff on a screen and giving them the gameplay mechanics we had dreamed up, we saw that what we were conceptualizing was indeed fun and that we should move forward with building a full game into it.

Then out of basically nowhere, Lelag, our lead developer, proposed a very cool universe based on VHS, aliens, video recordings, and had the whole thing revolve around a neckbeard movie geek named Joe: a weird enough equation sticking perfectly with the gameplay!

At the end of 2015, we were supported by the CNC and Pictanovo, two French organizations funding creative projects. We were then able to develop a better prototype.

We submitted this prototype to a contest called MAGIC IP (organized by Shibuya Productions with a prize of 100K€) where there were 50 challengers, 10 pre-selected games, and then 5 selected games for a presentation to a jury where at the end, one winner was announced- holy crap, Epic Loon won!

At that point we had a good budget permitting us to create something very cool.

Review Fix: What was development like?

Wax: The end is near now, after 2 years, and it was an awesome human adventure with a great team I had the chance to manage and at the end a meeting with the best publisher ever for this game: Ukuza.

There were approximately 10 people working on this game and even though we all already had a lot of professional experience in the realm of gaming, we learned a lot of new things. This is how our methodology eventually played out:

– We utilized our lead developer to create scenery and take on the role of producer.
– We used 2D animations with Spine whereas our lead animation was an expert on 3D softs
– We mixed between 2D and 3D for the environments
– Built out a full menu with video pieces
– Set up a whole process, along with custom tools, to create more than 300 levels with ease

The list is quite long but you can find detailed articles on these cool experiences on our devlog: http://www.epicloon.com/dev-logs

Review Fix: Any fun dev stories?

Wax: Ahah, I remember one of the most stressful times I had during the MAGIC IP contest that we won. The day before, we had finished a very quirky teaser and I thought it could be THE ultimate weapon for the presentation to the jury, and I decided not to bring any prototypes of the game because it was not polished enough for me yet.

After discussing a little bit with the first group at the end of their presentation, they told us that a playable prototype was mandatory… Oh god why ?

Our turn was 1 hour after… the clock was ticking: Saturday morning, in Monaco, 1,191 km far from our office and only a very bad laptop computer in our hands…

I tried to call several people at the studio. No answer.

One hour later, nothing new, we had to go for the presentation and “put our balls on the table.” It went well, the jury laughed a lot with the teaser and at the end, they requested to play the prototype… I explained to them we did not bring it but could find a solution if they gave us some time.

They decided to give us until the end of the last presentation, 2 hours later at 15:30.

Several minutes later, one of the developers phoned us, and we, fortunately, had a build on a temporary server folder at the office. He retrieved it and put it on an FTP.

There were 4 of us, and I asked 2 people on our already small presenting team to find a public Wifi somewhere and download it and at the same time, I went outside the venue with another colleague to find a shop to buy 4 gamepads. It was like a treasure hunt, we stopped people in the street to ask if they knew a shop where we could buy them. But in Monaco, other than luxury cars, and jewelry shops, there weren’t a lot of options. After 30 minutes running everywhere in the city, we found a high tech store and bought these 4 gamepads, we ran back to the contest and the download was nearly finished.

We plugged in the 4 controllers, launched the build, began to play…and against all odds, it totally worked.

It was 15:27, we wiped our sweat from our stress-lined foreheads and went back to the jury room with the prototype. They played it and… they loved it.

A few hours later, the winner was announced, it was us.

Review Fix: What makes this game special?

Wax: In my opinion, it’s not just one thing, it’s an assembly of several things: humor, ’90s spirit, cult movies references, simple but demanding gameplay, art style: and we believe that all these things bring a remarkable experience.

Review Fix: What was it like to work with Pryapisme?

Wax: It was just awesome! These guys are crazy and we loved it. They are full of creativity, they are able to do various styles of music with ease, and thanks to them, the soundtrack is very eclectic: metal, dubstep, reggae, j-pop, movie music, horror music… We knew that they were excellent but honestly, they exceeded our expectations!

Moreover, they’re much more than a simple band who have composed our soundtrack, they are a partner. They were very involved during the development, testing, giving suggestions for improvements, or simple opinions.

Review Fix: Why is couch co-op so important?

Wax: During the past years, the video game has evolved a lot in the multiplayer aspect:

– it began with co-op games up to 2 players – fun rate: 50%
– then arrived the multiplayer up to 4 players thanks to the N64 – fun rate: 100%
– then we had the online games – fun rate: 70%
– and now we have people watching streamers – fun rate: 10%

We believe that couch co-op could bring players back to the N64 feeling they had with friends and which was the funniest experience ever.

But we did not forget solo players and we’ve built a strong story mode in 4 different VHS with real stories, fully dubbed in American and more than 120 levels.

Review Fix: What games influenced this one the most?

Wax: It may seem weird, but our first inspiration was Soccer Physics: so simple but so fun! And this was our main intention: creating simple gameplay, with interesting mechanics, and it had to be hilarious and fun.

Then we had 4 other influences:

– Mario Kart for its awesome battle mode
– Little Big Planet for the physics environments
– Trine and Lost Viking for the co-op platformer aspect

Review Fix: As an indie studio, what do you think you guys do differently than the big studios?

Wax: We create our games with our soul ALL THE TIME, with no focus or dependency on profits.

Every person of the production team put a part of himself in what he created, and that’s how we can, in the end, obtain something special.

We don’t have the pretension to declare that our games are the best, but we hope that they offer another kind of experience.

Moreover, we don’t have the huge decision circuit of some big studios so we can test things quickly, hide bad taste jokes, experience tricky stuff and this can sometimes create good alchemy. You know, turn something bad into something really good.

Review Fix: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?

Wax: Without any hesitation: Day of the Tentacle. Humor, great gameplay mechanics of time travel, good riddles: everything I love.

Review Fix: How does this game disrupt the video game landscape?

Wax: I think that it stylistically flies in the face of convention in a lot of ways: we went with a largely black-and-white color scheme, knowing that we might alienate larger audiences, but it was important to us from the beginning that we were creating the game and utilizing a style WE wanted to create and utilize, rather than pander to the masses, so to speak. Also, where a lot of games of this type like to employ innuendo, we just decided to be downright raunchy and profane. Dirty is fun! There’s no shame in being a gross little maniac from time to time. So I think those are the kinds of things that will set us apart from other titles in similar genres.

Review Fix: Who will enjoy this game the most?

Wax: We’ve built these game on several levels:

– easy to play for casual gamers
– demanding for mid-core gamers
– challenging for hardcore gamers

So everyone can find something interesting inside. But if we had to choose our ideal player, it would be…we’ll call him “Norbert the Nostalgic,” a 30-year-old player who loves games but doesn’t have 8000+ hours to play through a game that uses a map the size of Europe, and who wants to be reminded of times past when he sits on his old ass to play.

Review Fix: How do you want this game to be remembered?

Wax: If one of our players were to describe Epic Loon to other people, we would hope they’d feel compelled to use three words:

– Different
– Nostalgic
– Funny

We also worked really hard in the artistic direction, so if our unique art style pleases the players, it’ll be a cool victory for our lead artist.

And finally, we’ve hidden many references to old movie scenes, characters and quotes so if players can spot them and share them on the internet, that would be awesome.

Review Fix: What are your goals for the game?

Wax: We want Epic Loon to become a must-have for parties with friends.

Review Fix: What’s next?

Wax: Currently we’re working on the porting of the PC version for PS4 and XBOX One, maybe also soon for Nintendo Switch.

We also have many ideas for future updates, new movie parodies. So many to exploit: Ghostbusters, Back to the Future. Also, we have already imagined our next internal production: it’ll be called GLITCH and it will also be a couch co-op game with 4 children having found a strange video game. There will have two core gameplay phases.

– in the video game: a kind of crawler/beat them all in pixel art.

– in the house: a kind of defender, in 3D, against the monsters of the video game having invaded the real world.

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Patrick Hickey Jr.

Editor-in-Chief, Founder at Review Fix
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the upcoming book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.
About Patrick Hickey Jr. 7156 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the upcoming book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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