Double Fine, the developer behind such titles as Brutal Legend and Iron Brigade, recently made headlines for teaming up with the guys at Humble Bundle, to offer gamers a peak into its Amnesia Fortnight process. This two week, annual game concept building period saw several titles up for vote and as a reward, Double Fine prototypes were dished out. One of the most promising of these was BRAZEN.
This Monster Hunter like brawler saw gamers slip into the shoes of adventurers from a Ray Harryhausen production and take on the Gorgoth, a giant two headed snapping turtle with a mean tail swipe. Being fans of the Monster Hunter series and endlessly saddened that compared to our Eastern cousins, we get neglected as far as non-mobile console and PC releases go, this game got us pretty excited.
With that in mind, we got in touch with Double Fine and had a chat with Brad Muir, the man behind the Brazen concept – and Iron Brigade – and asked what the plans for the title were and what exactly we could do to get it made into a fully fledged game.
KG: So, Mr Muir… Seeing as BRAZEN was a prototype based on last year’s Amnesia Fortnight, is it currently competing with any other pitches from 2011 as well?
BM: I wouldn’t use the word “competing.” We have a lot of projects going all the time and there are tons of factors that determine which ones we’re going to work on full time. Funding is usually the biggest factor – if we’ve pitched a game and a publisher is willing to sign a check and fund the development then we’re most likely going to be working on that project!
KG: BRAZEN has three character classes at the moment: the Stalwart, Waracle and Beerzerker. Since there’s four player COOP built into the game, will we be seeing at least one more class at some point? If so, any hints?
BM: We have a suite of 5 classes planned for the full game. They all started as more generic archetypes before we dug into them. For example, the Beerzerker started out as a Berserker – a pretty standard dual wielding, offensively-focused melee class. When we decided to polish up the demo we altered the character to have more personality and originality – just making sure that it was Double Fine enough!
The other two are still in that generic place right now so I’m not going to share them with you… yet! Stay tuned!
KG: Will characters be locked to a class once they’ve been created?
BM: Ah I know exactly where this question is aimed! Monster Hunter is all about switching up your gear in-between missions in order to match the situation. They essentially have a classless system where your gear determines your class. We made the conscious choice to not do that with BRAZEN. I like the diversity of picking an archetype up front and playing a character that has strengths and weaknesses. It’s also a great place for personality – both conceptually and visually. We can have a hulking Stalwart character and then a lithe Waracle and it’s really easy to tell the difference between them quickly. That’s awesome and that’s something that MH’s system lacks.
But! That’s not to say that each class will be locked into one weapon set or one play style. We’re looking at a lot of different systems to make sure that each class can support several different play styles and weapon sets and customization options. It’s very important that they feel malleable and tweakable.
The final bonus of going with classes is that players can create alts. This is a very core concept in MMO’s and I think it fits right in here. Having a stable of different characters to choose from is a lot of fun for some players and I like having that option available.
KG: I’ve seen on the BRAZEN forums that there are intentions for RPG elements. Will these be more gear focused, of will there be a levelling mechanic?
BM: I love the Monster Hunter system but it’s very opaque for new players. Plus I think they’re really missing out on not having a simple xp curve. We’re definitely going to have traditional leveling up, but any stat increases will be very minor when compared to the impact that gear has on your performance. I’m mainly interested in class-specific talent-tree style bonuses that unlock as you level your character up. These systems are incredible because they minimize complexity for new players while also providing tons of depth for hardcore players.
KG: On the hard difficulty, fights with the Gorgoth in the prototype last around ten minutes. How long will the average battle be in the final version of BRAZEN?
BM: I think that’s short for the final game, but we cut it down because we’re missing so many features that would make the fights more dynamic. Larger islands, a more diverse ability suite for both the players and the Creature, randomized events that trigger off of Creature state or damage, robust player-to-Creature interactions and Creature-to-player interactions, customizable gear that affects performance, etc. There are just so many things that will make the fights more interesting, allowing us to increase the hp of the Creature and extend the time that it takes to bring them down.
KG: You’ve discussed elsewhere about the heavy influence of Ray Harryhausen’s “dynamation” techniques (used in movies like the original Clash of the Titans) for BRAZEN. You can see the beginnings of this in the way the Gorgoth moves in the prototype. Will this be something we see in all of the game’s monsters and is it a style thing, or will there be an in-game reason we’re fighting stop motion monsters?
BM: I definitely want the animation style to pervade all of the Creatures in the game. This is also a very rough draft of what this effect should look like in the final game – I know that we can improve this a lot with some R&D time! I’m interested in developing a fictionalized reason for why the Creatures look and move so differently than the humans of the world, but yeah… it’s mostly to capture the style.
I also think that we’ve really lost some of the suspension of disbelief that occurs when viewing modern films and games. I think this is an important imaginative skill that’s becoming more of a lost art! When you see a Harryhausen film you can sit there and say “look at how fake that Kraken looks… that thing is actually 3 feets tall… lame!” or you can suspend your disbelief and buy into the fantasy and say “holy s*%t that Kraken is f*%cking huge!” I hope that a lot of people will appreciate the fact that the Creatures look and act so janky, allowing them to flex their imaginative muscles.
KG: You’ve mentioned larger islands. Will there be exploration in the full version of BRAZEN, or will it be more a large scale arena fighter?
BM: The island in the prototype is way too small! The islands will be a lot larger, at least as big as MH levels, if not larger. We also have true open world technology from Brütal Legend, so you’ll be able to explore these islands without any loading. This is a very critical piece that we can improve on a Monster Hunter type experience!
Mostly though I want the game to be about battling these Creatures, and the exploration of the islands will be secondary to tracking the Creatures around and battling them.
KG: Crafting. It’s been mentioned as having a big part in the game. Can you flesh out how players will make use of these skills and what sort of material will be involved?
BM: Crafting is the best! I think this is one of the premier systems in Monster Hunter. I love the contextualization of carving out parts of the Creatures and then using them to create new and powerful gear to enhance your performance. It’s fantastic and it will be a core component of BRAZEN!
I also love their mix-n-match armor set stuff, but I feel like this is another system that is completely crushing and daunting to a new player. I have +9 Attack Up (S), so that means I get an +9 attack or something, right? Nope! You get nothing! Not until you hit +10? What? That’s super hard to understand for new players! We’ll definitely have a different, more accessible system in place of this, but we also want to make sure that it’s equally deep – especially at high levels of play.
We’ve talked a lot about the material gathering aspect and how boring it is. We have some solutions that I’m super interested in, but I want to make sure they work out in the game before we talk about them!
KG: I must admit, I have a personal plea as well. I wrote a piece a while ago about how much I hated health bars and I’d like to see them removed from a lot of games as I think they act as a crutch for gamers to see how their doing, when it’s far more exciting to see the monster or enemy react more realistically. The BRAZEN prototype had a health bar for the Gorgoth. What’s the chances of having that removed for the final game?
BM: I’ve been pretty shocked to hear this from Monster Hunter fans! I feel like most hardcore players of any game are thirsting for more information – more numbers, more bars, more everything. Have you ever looked at a raid healer’s customized ui in an MMO? It’s crazy!
But we’re definitely listening to feedback like this! I want the game to appeal to hardcore Monster Hunter fans, but I also don’t want to exclude new players by sticking to that formula too closely. We’re making our own game that is decidedly not Monster Hunter and we’re going to change things as we move forward. I think that not knowing how much damage you’re doing and not knowing if you’re making any progress at all versus a Creature that has a TON of hit points is very frustrating for new players.
I’m very interested in solutions that will allow us to make the game more accessible without destroying what people love about the main inspiration for the game. Geoff Soulis, an artist at Double Fine who worked a lot on the prototype, just suggested a “trainer” armor or socketed gem that allows players to see the health bars. That way we can get newer players into the game and allow them to visualize their progress while allowing experience players to just rip it out or bypass it altogether. That’s a fresh idea that could potentially make everyone happy.
KG: After all that information, I find it hard to stomach the fact that as it stands, BRAZEN isn’t in full development. Why not? And what can fans do to help it become a fully fledged title?
BM: It’s going to be a pretty expensive game in order to do the concept justice. Funding is the main hurdle and we’re actively trying to secure money for the project. I definitely don’t want to lower the budget and cut the scope of the project down… I just don’t think we’d be happy with the result.
Creating chatter on the internet about BRAZEN is definitely the best way fans can support the game. People with money are definitely paying attention to what people like online!
KG: Thanks for your time Brad, we really appreciate it.
BM: Thanks for the opportunity! I hope that we get to create the fully realized version of BRAZEN that’s in my head. It’s pretty awesome in there.
KitGuru Says: So there you go guys. If you like the sound of BRAZEN as a full game, you know what to do. Are you as excited by the sound of this as we are?
If you haven’t yet played BRAZEN but you like the sound of it, check out the devlog style video below for a little more info.