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Sloths. Pizza. Chaos.
That, in a nutshell, is the premise for the upcoming local multiplayer game Battlesloths. Up to four players choose a colored sloth and dress it up in one of the hundreds of crazy hats available. Once the sloth is dressed and ready to party, the players go into a fast-paced battle and attempt to collect pizza (points). I know what you’re thinking – sloths in wacky hats zipping around a map on hoverboards while using different weapons to collect pizza sounds too good to be true. Yet, here we are.
I’ve gotten to know the game over the last few months, thanks to some of the crew behind Battlesloths streaming as they create hats on Twitch. Viewers not only watch the creative madness take place every Wednesday night, but can suggest hats – however wacky – that they would like to see in the game. The more I see, the more excited I am for the early 2017 release.
Recently, I met with Phil Johnson, Creative Director of Battlesloths and founder of the game studio Invisible Collective, to learn more about how the game came together. He was joined by the game’s Executive Producer, Randy Greenback, who is also known for his work as Executive Director and Producer on the upcoming Friday the 13th: The Game.
HorrorGeekLife – Thank you both for taking the time to talk about Battlesloths! How did the idea for hat-wearing sloths going into battle come about?
Phil Johnson – Battlesloths came out of a game jam. In this game jam, I brought another idea to the table about a rock and roll musician who traveled to other dimensions to fight aliens. It didn’t go over very well when I pitched it (laughs). The guys at the table with me said I should add sloths and pizza to the game. I tried to bolt it on to my idea, so it became about a rock and roll sloth musician who would fight aliens after concerts and ride a slice of pizza to another dimension. I started reading this document and thought it was complete nonsense, so I tossed it out. I was trying to figure out what to do and I thought I should ditch either the rock and roll guy or the sloths, so I decided to keep the sloths.
I had no game ideas yet, but I was thinking about what would work in the game jam. We talked about doing a party game, but we needed a good hook. Hotline Miami was fresh in my mind. I was playing games like Samurai Gunn at the time and was thinking that there isn’t really a twin-stick action game. The game jam team was Sebastian Lienard, who did pretty much all of the art on it, John Ullrich, who did some programming and Ryan Liebscher, who also did programming and is the genius behind the hoverboard feature. Jacob Huff was also on the team and came up with this really awesome rap theme song for the game, which primed the rap song we ended up doing later on.
At the end of the four-day game jam, we had a game mode and three levels. After that, I tinkered with it at home for a few months. I brought the game to Mighty Rabbit Studios and said I was working on this indie game on the side. I got a few of the Mighty Rabbit guys and Randy into the game room and everyone enjoyed it. Randy pushed me a little bit to make it even better, so at that point I smoothed out the UI and found ways to make it a bit more focused. We had the Humble Bundle deal come up and it was the right place at the right time. We knew we had something good, but it needed a push. After we got the Humble Bundle, it legitimized the project.
I wanted Sebastian back badly, so I was glad that he came back after the game jam. His brother, Adrian Lienard, also joined, along with Chris Cooper from Mighty Rabbit. Chris is probably the most experienced Unity developer on the team. We also have Chris Stoy, who was brought in to do AI exclusively and Porter McComas for sound design. Richard Cook helps a lot with our UI art while Cody Adams works on the tech art and helps us do a lot of things in a smart way. Really cool visual effects are so much easier because he is really technical. And, of course, Randy produces the game, but he also does tons of design stuff, plus business and legal stuff with me. These guys are the real heroes here for tightening up the art and making it a great game.
Thanks to the Humble Bundle, we were able to have Jason Graves do a few tracks for us. Also, Mikal kHill and five of the best nerdcore rappers on the planet to do an awesome track called “Middle Claws Up.” It was just a weird moment of fate and good timing.
The 2017 release of Battlesloths will be a different version than what was released with Humble.
HorrorGeekLife – There’s no doubt that Battlesloths has an amazing team behind it. Can you go more into some of the gameplay and what the different levels are like?
Phil Johnson – So far, the levels we have are Ice, Castle, Cake, Desert, Rad World and Hell. We have two more in the works. Hell is the coolest because it looks completely satanic and even has blood fountains. The game mechanic tracks the sin of sloth murder, so whenever a kill point is tracked, it increases a meter and as the meter fills up, so do the blood fountains. When the fountain is full, it spawns these harpie demons that are on fire and they go seek out the sloths and kill them. We did this because one of the sloth’s only natural enemy is the harpy eagle. They hunt down sloths and it’s pretty gruesome.
How pizzas come into the game is when a sloth dies, they drop pizza, which is dropping a point. You have to grab the point and if someone kills you along the way, you drop all of your points. Basically, like Sonic the Hedgehog, you just drop them all. That’s it – a super simple idea with one-hit kills so we didn’t have to worry about damage models or anything like that. The only thing we had to worry about was whether or not the projectile hit. So, it’s old-school and the pizzas make it more fun.
HorrorGeekLife – I love that you have such a terrifying level in such an adorable game. And “fun” is definitely a word I would use to describe Battlesloths. Of course, another fun element are the hats and letting people suggest new designs. Can you explain more about hats and how you come up with this idea?
Phil Johnson – I loved the characters that Sebastian had made for the game. I thought they were so cute and I wanted to start dressing them up. The morning of one of the game jams, I prototyped a few hats to surprise the artist. Sebastian was excited and went to his desk to put in better assets, replacing mine with better versions. Randy really came up with the idea for the Twitch stream.
Randy Greenback – Adrian and I wanted to make more hats and broadcast it. We wanted to make it more fun and the requesting just started happening. People started suggesting hats and we decided to make it a thing – every week people tune in and suggest the weirdest, wackiest hats possible. We have a lot of fun and hope people continue to join in. If someone isn’t on Twitch and wants to suggest a hat, tweet us at @BATTLESLOTHSWOW with the suggestions and a picture. We’ll add it to the list.
HorrorGeekLife – Over the last few months, I’ve seen some insane hats made – ahem, #TeamToastAssHat – and even had a couple of my own made. What are your favorite hats so far?
Phil Johnson – Mine is the Luckdragon hat. It’s kind of a tribute to my family because we’re all way into The NeverEnding Story.
Randy Greenback – Mine was one of the first animated hats that we did. It’s a living chicken whose ass is stretched over a sloth’s head. It doesn’t like that, so it’s flapping its wings (laughs).
HorrorGeekLife – Ah, yes…poor chicken. Thank you both, again, for chatting about Battlesloths! It’s been great getting to know a bit more behind-the-scenes. HorrorGeekLife will definitely keep readers updated about new developments!