An Interview With Lazy Brain Games’ John Bell Part 2
Yesterday we discussed the retirement of Lazy Brain Games‘ John Bell from game development. Today we take a look at the games he’s made and what projects still rest in the back of his mind as a developer.
After playing each of these games I honestly have to ask, did you ever think about mobile ports? Game Maker has iOS and Droid (which also brings in Ouya) development and I have to say that quite a few of these games have control schemes that would work as fun little games on the go.
Bug Hunt was re-branded as “Froad” and YoYo Games published it on mobile, which actually did make money. If you look at the 2 games though, you’ll see how very different they are. What works with a mouse might not work on a touch-screen. The amount of research and adapting that needs to be done sort of outweighs whatever benefits there might be.
If anything I’d just make totally original games for mobile, but then I’d have to buy all those damn phones for testing.
Now you said yesterday that you had only recently began to love the NES art style. With plenty of games in this pixel style, I have to ask what exactly it was that finally converted you?
Selectra was the first game where I totally opened the NES palette, and I was able to really appreciate having more colors. Some of the pixel art in Philly Under Fire was really fun to do too. Before that I only cared about art in its capacity to deliver gameplay. I’m definitely one of those “graphics don’t make a better game” kinda guys.
There really wasn’t ever a single focus you stuck with in these games. While there are plenty of shooters, your approach was always from a different angle with each game. What was your design philosophy going into these games and what have you learned in playing with these different options?
A lot of the philosophy came from trying to hook the payer in early, but with the gameplay instead of style. Necro Gaia sets a cool mood but it doesn’t impress with anything fancy, the mechanic of a planetary shadow and dragging planets around is what’s interesting. Way too many games try to package ho-hum gameplay in a slick package because the developers are artists first and designers second. I like to think that Lazy Brain was the other way around.
The two games that really feel like they were taking a different approach are Bug Hunt and Time Squid. They are also both the 2nd to last games in each season. What was it that made you change things up with these two games?
Bug Hunt was actually the first game I ever did, back when I was “Sprite Soft”. It was made because of a thing called GlovePie which lets you hook up a Wii remote to your PC. I was able to use the wii remote as the mouse, and made Bug Hunt to test it. Later on I figured out that just using the mouse way better, but GlovePie was responsible for its conception.
Time Squid started as a thing where you could manipulate the amount of time you had to complete each level with the mouse. I kinda just kept leaving the time at the same spot, and adjusting the time wasn’t really fun so it was removed. So I guess both Time Squid and Bug Hunt share the distinction of being more accidental than deliberate.
You have hinted before that you wanted to try expanding out Factorium if you did go back and do so. What would you change about the game and why did you focus on Infernal Edge 2 for the Kickstarter when you did first decide to do a sequel?
Factorium has a ton of possibilities, but it was sort of too complicated to work on for a first sequel. It ended up being valuable from a research standpoint though. Infernal Edge 2 seemed like it would be a stronger first outing and I had a lot of cool ideas for it as well. Climbing on things is always awesome.
Continue? Philly Under Fire finishes your second season and is a really solid game to walk out on. Why did you decide to dedicate it to the Continue? crew?
I was just a fan of the show, and hit them up to see if they wanted a little “one week” game. They said they would play on the show, so I thought to myself “Holy shit! It better be good if it’s going on the show!” During the production of Philly Under Fire is when everything started going to hell in a hand basket for me personally, so that’s why so much was cut. Having to cut all of that was insane, but so was my circumstance.
I was watching your Lost Levels playthrough of Philly Under Fire and I have to ask, how much actual content did you actually cut from the game?
What was in that video was most of it, although there was plans for a fight at the Rocky statue if you played as Dom (who was also cut). Philly Under Fire was the biggest game I did, and it showed me that operating with no budget is kind of irresponsible. If you don’t have any financial insulation, the slightest problem halts production.
That’s why I know Gondo Blaze isn’t possible without some kind of money to tide me over until I can get to the Kickstarter. The lack of money is just this all-consuming thing that there’s no way around really.
Will we ever get a chance to play the Lost Levels?
There’s a thread of TIGsource that has a build with that stuff in there, but its still buggy and not that fun. I would have liked to have cannibalized some of the ideas for Gondo Blaze, but c’est la vie.
You have given a subtle hint at what Gondo Blaze is on Twitter, but with this hiatus, I have to ask: what would Gondo Blaze be if you had that chance to develop it?
I could fill a book about Gondo Blaze (as a matter of fact I was!) but the simple description would be “Parodious meets Eraserhead“. Imagine a shooter where all the art and gameplay is abstracted to the point where the designer has a free hand to throw anything at the player without worrying about cohesion. There was going to be a lot of violence and nudity and general insanity. A really big game too; with big ass bosses and elaborately choreographed fight sequences. The gameplay would be sorta similar to Omnicron (an earlier game I did).
It would of been some crazy shit to play, of that much I’m sure.
It would have blown all of my previous games out of the water.
Good luck with the future and I really am hoping we’ll see you back on the scene soon.