DudeBro II | Developer Interview

Games today are more defined by their genres than they were in the past.  At times we’ve seen genres meld together to create hybrid experiences that are unforgettable but these days it’s very clear in some respects what a game will be even if we get a minor piece of concept art or the always appreciated pre-rendered teaser announcement.  The popular trends and genres in the video game industry have always shifted each generation but the one that has in a way unofficially become the de facto choice for many developers is the dudebro action genre.

Now if you peruse your local GameStop or do a quick search online for the dudebro genre you won’t yield any results as the origins of dudebro gaming originated in the growing popularity of 3rd or 1st person action games.  Titles released in the last four years such as the Modern Warfare series have in a way made popular what core gamers like to call dudebro gaming. Exactly what makes up a dudebro game is very simple as it needs to have big action, dumb plots and characters that at times are even sillier than those that appeared in classic 1980s action romps such as “Commando.”

We’ve seen elements of the dudebro archetype spread to other games this generation, whether it’s in obvious ways through character design or merely making a game overly accessible to an audience that simply likes to blow stuff up. Personally I’m getting a bit tired of seeing the action genre become degraded in such a way but one terrific thing that did come out of this sudden trend in gaming is the indie game Dudebro II.  Created by a  group of gamers from the NeoGAF forum, Dudebro II is an over-the-top action game that provides some old-school shooting filled with enough inside jokes and references to please gamers who like to have a bit of fun.

I was lucky enough to chat with several members from Dudebro II developer Grimoire Assembly Forge including Creative Director Andrea Nicolo, Producer Sil Demmer, Design/VA Lead Robert de Doelder and Dialogue/Website Writing Lead Dave Kreinberg.  The gang from Grimoire Assembly Forge shed a ton of light as to the origins of Dudebro II and what gamers can expect from the game.

 

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Ian Fisher: The origins of the Dudebro project are a bit unorthodox, especially for an indie game. So for the people who don’t religiously follow NeoGAF as much as I do, can you tell us how the amazing project that is Dudebro II came to be?

Sil: Back in December 7, 2009 an interesting thread popped up on NeoGAF. For those of you unfamiliar with NeoGAF, it’s one of the biggest forums on the Internet for video game discussions. The thread’s topic was about a new Ubisoft game called “Imagine: Babyz Fashion”.

The original poster, Cuyahoga, was quickly mocked for playing such a game, and one poster, Arpharmd B, even accused him of being a pedophile. To this, Cuyahoga responded: “So, I’m a pedophile because I don’t want to play Dudebro, My Shit is Fucked Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It’s Straight-Up Dawg Time?”.

Andrea: The title Cuyahoga made up on the spot led everyone to wonder how such a game would be like, so some of us started to Photoshop pictures, sketch down concept art, or write parts of the dialogue. It was like a snowball turning quickly into an avalanche; in a brief time it was unstoppable and we ended up deciding to turn Dudebro II into a real game. We kept the title unchanged, including the II, because starting out with a sequel seemed only fair for a game meant to parody the industry, and we quickly set up a hierarchy with the most important contributors in leading roles so we could stay organized from the very beginning.

Dave: A good majority of GAF wasn’t even aware of the insanity taking place in the Imagine: Babyz thread until another poster, thetrin, made an official thread. I’ll admit to being part of the ignorant masses at that point. Many current key contributors were in the same boat and the official thread really opened the floodgates to all sorts of posters looking to help.

 

 

Ian: One of the key reasons that Dudebro II has managed to gain a following is because the game is shaping up to be a terrific riff on the overly macho games we see released today while paying homage to the old action movies and games from back in the day.  So what exactly is the plot of Dudebro II and would you liken the direction you’ve taken with the game to be similar with what Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg did with films such as “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” with how it’s a subtle parody/homage or is it zanier than that?

Andrea: Being a big fan of Wright and Pegg’s work myself, please let me say that such a comparison makes me extremely happy. Even though it wasn’t really intentional, I’d say one thing Dudebro II shares with their movies is the fundamental approach to parody: instead of just showing caricatures of existing characters, or re-enacting scenes from other movies or games, we tried to deconstruct the staples of the action genre itself, to craft an original story that is consistent and “believable” internally, at least most of the time, but it’s obviously not supposed to be taken seriously by the player externally. It’s a subtler approach at its core, and it allows us to do something more than just a collection of jokes and memes like one would expect from a game mostly developed by members of a gaming forum.
Differently from those movies, though, the characters in Dudebro II are more comic book-ish and less grounded in reality: they live in a world where bros are the ones fighting wars and where the most important value is Brodiocity, the capability of forming an empathic bond with your brothers in arms… and to have immature fun with them no matter what. Individuals with high levels of Brodiocity are supposed to be extremely charismatic in such a scenario, which explains why the main characters, being all good fits for this description, are generally quite over the top.

Rob: I’d rather not give too much away, but you won’t believe the curve balls this story will throw at you; even I don’t know every detail. Why ruin the surprise… right? And as Andrea said, the intent is clearly to deliver an experience where the current videogame tropes/staples are being presented in a fairly over-the-top manner, yet stay perfectly fitting within the world of Dudebro.

 

 

Ian: What has it been like trying to make a game when all the people pitching in with the project are located in different time zones or even different parts of the world? Obviously in some respects it may be simple since you can always fire off an email, but has the volunteer based nature of developing Dudebro II been a bit of a struggle at times?

Andrea: Especially for the leads, working with a team distributed all over the planet means not getting nearly enough hours of sleep! We learned to hate time zones with a passion, but thankfully forums and chats have been extremely helpful to keep the communications going and stay organized. The volunteer-based nature of our project, anyway, is a double-edged sword. On one side it allowed us to get several really talented contributors, but on the other side being all unpaid volunteers means that personal life is always a priority, so we also had several dropouts and role turnovers over time.

It’s one of the reasons why we’re always hiring: anyone willing to contribute to Dudebro II and looking to expand their resume or portfolio can apply through the game’s official website.

Dave: It definitely helps that we have a few insomniacs on the team.

Rob: Not me… I need my beauty sleep. Between time zones, work and my family (3 kids), study etc. it can be a bit hectic sometimes. Andrea has been working real hard on keeping us focused, and making sure the assignments are always clear and easily accessible.

Sil: There’s something special about having a volunteer-based team, but it’s a tough hurdle that we all have to deal with. When members already have such busy lives, finding time for Dudebro can be quite difficult. However, everyone on the team is here because they want to be. This means that all of our work is created with care and passion, something that I believe really shows in our overall product.
However, having a team spread all over the world can definitely be a pain. You can pretty much forget about calling team-wide meetings because some folks will be sleeping while others are wide awake. Still, it’s always fun to engage in conversations about all the different places we live in, and as a bonus, it will help with our ultimate goal of taking over the world…

Andrea: We’re not supposed to talk about that, yet!

 

An in-game screenshot of Dudebro II.

 

Ian: From what I’ve seen of Dudebro II the game seems to be completely over-the-top in just about every way and that’s something I really dig about the project. But in general, what has been the main doctrine or goal when it comes to designing the world of Dudebro II? Sure, having a polar bear wearing a baseball hat is funny and is something I dig, but has there been any worry about pushing things too far or is Dudebro II all about pushing the envelope to the max?

Andrea: Pushing the envelope to the max and throwing all sorts of crazy stuff at the player has one big downside: after a while, they will unavoidably lose their frame of reference for normality, and will stop noticing it. To avoid this, and to keep surprising the player, we have been focusing the whole time on building a strong contrast between a somewhat “realistic” world and more over-the-top characters and weapons. And this concept actually permeates Dudebro on every level. One example would probably be the choice of using the names of real locations: it’s commonly done in fiction to establish an explicit connection with the real world and in our case it’s meant to make every over-the-top element appear more striking compared to a purely imaginary setting.

Dave: For the characters at least, over the top one-liners have played a big part in shaping their personalities. While on the surface they are intentional caricatures of what you would expect from action movies and games, there is actually a great deal of hidden depth in not only them, but the world itself.

Rob: Dave is right, the lore and thought behind these characters are pretty substantial. Even though some of it might be only hinted at, rather than stated explicitly, it will surely shine through that there is more to them than meets the eye. Also, the constant updates of the website, tweets, Facebook, etc. all help building the lore in a more meta and subconscious way as well.

 

 

Ian: Obviously the people who know about Dudebro II from seeing the idea germinate and grow on NeoGAF will appreciate the game since they get all the references and inside jokes that are being made. But with that being said do you think Dudebro II may be too inside for the general gaming community?

Andrea: Luckily, we kept this in mind from the beginning. Inside jokes can be neat for NeoGAF users, but would fall flat on everyone else. So, even though a few already made their way in, we focused instead on jokes everyone could understand and appreciate.

Dave: There are much more jokes about gaming and the industry in general than anything originating from NeoGAF.

Rob: If you are a gamer in the slightest you will “get” it. If you are not so much of a gamer, then you will still find enough enjoyment from it. If you have no clue what is going on in the gaming world and think it is pretty much the devil’s spawn, then you could possibly be slightly offended… maybe.

 

 

Ian: In an interesting decision Dudebro II is a top-down shooter, much like many other games we’ve seen over the years. Now did Dudebro II always start out as a top-down shooter or did the team play around with some other ideas? And is the top-down nature of the game supposed to be another riff on some of the core topics made in Dudebro II considering that the genre has been a bit played out lately?

Andrea: Back when we started, there weren’t nearly as many! More seriously, even though I immediately imagined Dudebro II as a top-down shooter, it wasn’t always supposed to be one. In the beginning, in fact, we also considered using a 2D sidescrolling engine made by the NeoGAF user Ultim8p00. We ended up choosing Unity3D and going for a 3D top-down approach once Will Goldstone, who wrote a book on Unity, approached us and came up with a playable prototype in just a few days. We had several 3D artists who volunteered, so we chose the route that seemed to fit better our pool of talent.

Rob: Dudebro II clearly set the tone for the rebirth of top-down shooters, as well as bearded characters. Just because other developers beat us to the punch, does not change a thing.

The top-down approach actually presents more of a challenge in the way this has been designed. It was tempting to make a simple Flash game and be done with it. But it’s much more satisfying to deliver a full experience and make something that feels true and real in the end. Even if it takes longer and is a bigger challenge. We try to be ambitious with the variety we deliver in our game.

 

 

Ian: Like most classic action games or movies, Dudebro II includes some attractive ladies who can aid John Dudebro in his journey to vanquish evil.  Can you talk a bit how the Chicks mechanic and how it has evolved over time?  Has there been any worry about the Chick mechanic perhaps being too much for some or at least misconstrued for being overly misogynistic since some people these days can’t get a joke?

Andrea: The Chicks mechanic is actually somewhat unchanged from how it was conceived initially! In some missions, Dudebro will be able to rescue some ladies and either keep them around to shield himself from enemy bullets, or get them somewhere private so they can pay him back by, er… boosting his Brodiocity Meter, which is fundamentally similar to a health bar, except it will also go up by acting like a bro (killing enemies, drinking beer and, as I just said, scoring chicks).

We’re aware this sort of joke can be misinterpreted and considered offensive, but we’re confident it won’t. It’s not meant to demean real women in the slightest, but to mock the underlying chauvinism of action games that depict them as sexual objects only existing to show their (virtual) skin to appease prevalently male demographics. With Dudebro himself being basically a projection of the player in an action game male power fantasy, or “the dude every bro wants to be” as I usually describe him, we simply could not pass over the possibility of having him interact with the ladies, and it’s not a coincidence if it’s one of the first mechanics we thought of.

Dave: We are confident the player will realize its satire. Can’t drive that point in much further than it already is. Offending people definitely is not our mission.

Rob: Behind every Bro is a good Chick.

Andrea: One would say behind every good Chick is Dudebro.

Sil: We’re sure that the people who play Dudebro II will understand that it’s satire. If we do start to get some heat for it, we can just pretend that it allows us explore deeper themes, like how far you’d go to protect the one you love. Besides, it’s not like we are including an ability to slap chicks during a multiplayer mode, now THAT would be offensive!

 

 

Ian: Most shooting games are a bit cut and dry when it comes to boss battles since all you do is shoot the enemy until they go boom.  Can you talk a bit about the system or concept Grimoire Assembly Forge has planned?  What I’ve heard about the boss system sounds interesting and I think it may be worthy of an Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers gif due to how potentially awesome it may be.

Andrea: The idea for our boss battles is to offer some variation by requiring the player to find the boss’s weak point before shooting/slicing the hell out of it. A bit like in Zelda games, except just using a specific weapon won’t be enough most of the time. What’s peculiar about these fights, though, is that most bosses will also have a Brodiocity Meter like Dudebro, meaning their health can also go up instead of just down.

So, we imagined these fights as a sort of tug o’ war: you’ll see a bar with two bumping fists in the middle, showing the current balance in the battle. The player’s goal will be to push those fists all the way towards the boss’s end of the meter to be able to deal a finishing blow, and literally fist bump his opponent to heaven by mashing the space bar while large sprites of the two opponents are shown struggling in a massive bro fist.

We came up with this idea for the boss battles thinking of action movies, where you often see the main character and his opponent alternating in a position of advantage throughout the fight. Of course, making sure the player doesn’t end up in an infinite loop of advantage/disadvantage during a boss fight requires a tight work of balancing and a fair share of adjustments, but we believe this approach has quite a bit of potential.

A mock-up for one of the boss encounters in Dudebro II.

Sil: Personally one of my biggest pet-peeves with games is when you fight a “boss” and all turns out to be is a bigger/harder bad guy. Those fights are never satisfying, and always leave a bad taste in my mouth.

With Dudebro II we really want each boss fight to feel unique and rewarding both in gameplay and story. As you get invested in the Dudebro story, I’m confident that you’ll find “fist bumping” our bosses into the heavens one of the most rewarding parts of the game!

 

 

Ian: In the end what sort of game will Dudebro II be in terms of how approachable it is?  Are you making a game that’s catered directly to the core audience which will subsequently have some tough sections requiring good skills on the part of the player, or will Dudebro II be more approachable by a wide audience?

Andrea: Even though Dudebro II is mostly targeting a core audience in themes, we tried to keep it as approachable as possible. Every level is filled with missions of varying difficulty: some of them can be completed rather quickly, others will last longer or require a lot more skill. Completing each mission will reward the player with a medal, and gathering enough will allow him to unlock the boss fight and progress through the game. The player will not be required to complete every single mission in a level, though. This is intentional, to leave the core game approachable and allow a larger audience to progress through the story without getting stuck while, at the same time, guaranteeing a fair challenge to the players looking for some more difficulty and willing to spend some more time to complete every mission.

Dave: We would like for this to appeal to as many gamers as possible (over the recommended age of course). It should be quite accessible and cover multiple demographics.

Rob: I believe in make it easy to pick up and intuitive to control. Yet present fun challenges into the mix as well.

Sil: It’s somewhere in between Eve Online and Farmville. I’d say it leans a bit more towards Farmville…

Actually, we debated changing the game’s name to DudebroVille, but Zynga would probably threaten us with a lawsuit.

 

Ian: You were lucky enough to acquire the vocal talent of macho man to the max John St. John, who most gamers out there should recognize as the man behind the voice of Duke Nukem.  In Dudebro II John St. John voices the heroic John Dudebro, which is simply an awesome accomplishment and another reason I’m looking forward to the game.  So far there haven’t been any talent announcements besides John St. John, but if you were able to acquire the talent of another established video game actor to join Dudebro II who would you choose?  Maybe go for the everyday dudebro type with a Nolan North appearance or would you want to keep things more old-school?

Andrea: We were really lucky to get Jon St. John on board, I can’t imagine a more suitable voice for Dudebro. We later found some very talented voice actors for the other characters, but if we were able to acquire another big name, I’d have no doubts about Nolan North. He often gets a lot of flak from the gaming community for being in a large number of titles, which by the way would make him even more perfect for our parody intents, but he is extremely talented. And, as proven by games such as Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time or Portal 2, his vocal range is nothing short of amazing.

Rob: I’d love to have Jeremy Irons or John Malkovich. And of course Nathan Fillion as a common enemy Easter egg voice (was I not supposed to give that away yet?? Don’t tell Andrea)

Dave: I’d pick David Hayter. The guy would be perfect for a few characters. Maybe getJohnny Yong Bosch as well.

Sil: Having Jon on board is pretty mind blowing at times. Especially now that Duke Nukem Forever is on brink of coming out (I can’t believe it), hearing his voice as Duke and then realizing he’s voicing Dudebro as well is phenomenal. To top it off, Jon is extremely friendly and into the Dudebro character.

If we were able to get another AAA voice actor for Dudebro however, I’d have to agree with Andrea. I have a slight bro-crush on Nolan North, so without a doubt I’d love to hear him voice one of our characters.

 

 

Ian: One reason I’m really transfixed about Dudebro II is because the team at Grimoire Assembly Forge have crafted a game that is seemingly over-the-top in a lot of ways along with having some really well thought out mythology concerning the characters and over-arching plot.  Out of the many characters, weapons and settings in Dudebro II which one is your personal favorite due to how brotacular it is?

Andrea: We gave quite a bit of importance to the mythology specifically because, in a parody game, it’s easy to dismiss the characters as one-dimensional caricatures and forget them quickly. So, besides using in-game dialogue to better communicate their personality, we made sure to give them all a backstory, and Dudebro II being a sequel to a non-existing game was a good excuse to come up with an entire timeline of prequels and flesh them out. Should I choose a favorite character, I’d probably go with General Lee. He’s supposed to be your guide through the game, but after many years in the service he doesn’t really seem to care about yet another mission, and would rather lie on a beach sipping cocktails instead. As far as weapons go, probably the BHCL. It’s a portable LHC powered by a hamster wheel, what’s not to like about it? And about the setting, it’s a quite peculiar one, so I’m not going to spoil it, but after playing the game you’ll probably know which one I meant.

Rob: I would have to agree with Gen Lee. First of he sings the Hula.. secondly his attitude is hilarious. Of course for reasons that shall remain undisclosed, I am also partial towards Billy Brob Butterbean.

Dave: My favorite character actually has not been introduced; on the site or otherwise. I guess I’ll default to my second favorite; Reverend Brahnson. Writing the lines for him was a blast and I absolutely love the creepy necromancer types.

Sil: From what has been revealed so far, the Brain Seeker is by far my favorite weapon. I love the weapon’s design and description because the way it meshes jokes about the games industry and actual functionality is very representative of what we’re trying to do throughout the entire game.

Ian: Dudebro II sprang forth from the sudden shift video games took to be overly action packed which led to some either appearing a bit absurd (Medal of Honor) or coming across as a silly Michael Bay clone like the Modern Warfare series has become.  In general what are your thoughts on the sudden rise of games with an apparent dudebro attitude like Gears of War or even Modern Warfare? In some cases it can work well like the tongue-in-cheek nature that Bulletstorm took with things, but at times it almost seems to be a trend that is widely being copied by other developers/publishers since it’s the “assured” way to sell some units.  So do you think the dudebro era will come and pass much like other trends in gaming have (the extreme sports boom of the early 2000s for example) or will it be here to stay until we see a Modern Warfare game bomb at retail?

Andrea: Shooting and blowing up stuff is part of the gamers’ DNA. Trends come and go all the time, so genres and single franchises rarely stay extremely successful over a long enough period, especially if they don’t seem to evolve enough between each iteration, but the staples they’re built on are universal and will most likely stay relevant.

Right now the market features a large mainstream audience interested in these types of games, the so-called “dudebro audience”, and it’s very unlikely it will just disappear overnight. Maybe they will get bored of military shooters over time, especially if the market keeps getting saturated by clones, but something else appealing to them will certainly show up and fill the void.

I sure hope we’ll see more games like Bulletstorm that don’t take themselves too seriously, though. Most dudebro shooters go for a way too serious epic blockbuster-style approach because it’s guaranteed to appeal to a larger audience and more likely to translate into better sales, but Bulletstorm proves it’s not an absolute requirement to be successful.

Rob: I for one look forward to the day we finish “Dudebro X3, Revisited Part 14 of the Rebooted series in 4D” in 20 years. Currently we just want to make good on a promise and deliver a solid experience to the loyal followers out there, the NeoGAF community, who after all were the inspiration behind this project, and towards ourselves. From there we will see what happens, even at this stage I for one have learned already so much about game development and its challenges that I have a different view towards game delays, games that come out that are rough around the edges etc… It has really changed my view and appreciation of my favorite hobby.

Dave: Trends in gaming are weird. I would like to say they’re cyclical, but really, it’s impossible to predict where the genre will be 20, 10, or even 5 years from now. I personally believe it won’t go anywhere, but the boom will end eventually and things should stabilize. One thing’s for sure; the longer it stays in the spotlight, the easier it will be to parody.

 

Ian: So far you haven’t fully announced your plans to release Dudebro II aside from that a PC release is guaranteed.  But if things on Dudebro II continue to improve, is there any chance that we can see the game released for iOS platforms or possibly released under the XBLA Indie banner?

Andrea: Right now we need to focus on finishing the game, and making it good. After it’s done we’ll evaluate our possibilities in terms of ports, but we need to make sure it’s received well first.

Sil: We’d love to bring Dudebro II to as many people as possible but, being an indie developer, we need to focus on our current goals before we start thinking too far ahead.

The gameplay would however transfer over to some of today’s most popular platforms quite easily.

 

Ian: Right now the dev team is still toiling away hard on making Dudebro II but when can we expect the game to finally be bestowed upon us? And once Dudebro II is finally released, what’s next for Grimoire Assembly Forge?  Would you want the team to move forward with the Dudebro franchise in a way or perhaps branch out to new genres and IPS?

Rob: When it’s finished! But don’t worry, we shall tease you plenty along the way. With footage/artwork etc…

Dave: We have discussed plans after Dudebro II’s completion, but nothing is concrete and we’re putting it in the back of our minds until we get this out the door.

Sil: If great companies like Blizzard or Valve have taught us anything, it’s that great games are finished when they are actually finished.

If these companies have also taught us another thing, it’s that there’s a fuck ton of money to be made with multiplayer games! So, for our next project a Social Dudebro MMORTSFPSRPG game doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

Andrea: As the others already said, we’d rather not announce a set release window for now. Due to the volunteer-based nature of this project and the fact we depend on each member’s availability, the time needed to hit each milestone can vary quite significantly. So, until we’re closer to completion and a rough release window can be predicted more accurately, we’ll stand by the good old “when it’s done”.

As for our next projects, it will depend on how Dudebro II is received by the gaming community. We may port it to other platforms, or put the Dudebro timeline to use and get to work on another installment if there’s enough demand, or even work on something completely different.

It’s too early to say, but I’m personally looking forward to the moment of this decision.

 

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We see a lot of indie games pop up with each tackling a different genre and play style, but I really think Dudebro II could become a standout hit when it’s finally released.  These days we hardly see any sort of games come out with a heavy comedic tone and the parody nature of Dudebro II should be able to hit a chord not only amongst gamers but those who are children of the 1980s and loved the bygone era of Schwarzenegger and Stallone action movies.

Being a small community driven indie project I think the vision and overall scope that Grimoire Assembly Forge is trying to achieve with Dudebro II is nothing short of amazing and I really think they have a winner on their hands.  The dudebro genre in video games may be something that will stay for a few more years but at least we can have a little bit of fun with Dudebro II and revel in its fully over-the-top and fun glory.

To stay updated on the latest news concerning Dudebro II be sure to check out theofficial site for the game.

 

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Article originally posted on July 6, 2011.

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