Blockpocalypse is a party game in the same way that Mario Party is a party game: It gathers four players together under the false pretense of “fun” before turning them against one another. That isn’t to say that the game isn’t fun at all, quite the opposite, just that whoever has the most fun will also have the least amount of shame, and none of you will be friends by the end. Indeed, it was one of my favorite parts of the entire convention and not the least bit due to my unsubtle betrayal of Nick. After demonstrating once again that I can never be trusted in video games, I spoke with developer Nail Bruce about why he decided to bring out the worst in humanity.
Can you tell us a bit about the game?
Blockpocalypse is a four player party apocalypse where the main mechanic is picking up and throwing blocks. We’ve got a few modes in there, the first one being survival, so all four survivors are trying to build blocks and build towers to outrun the rising lava. So you can work as a team, or not work as a team and just sneakily throw people in lava – which you kind of learned before when you were just trying to, like, kill everyone else on the team.
I.. I don’t know what you’re talking about man. So, uh, how did you get the inspiration for the game?
It actually happened at global game jam earlier this year; the theme was “what do we do now?” And we were like, “Well, the apocalypse is sort of where you’d ask ‘What do we do now?'” and then we’re just sitting at the bar, and one of us was like “What if you just had to build stuff to escape lava?” We got most of the game in there in that 48 hours. Since then we worked on it a little bit, but in the past two months in the lead up to PAX we just jumped straight in and added more modes, rounding out the party play style.
Was being able to kill your teammates an important part of that?
That was sort of there from the start – initially the blocks could collide with you, which meant you could actually throw a block and hit someone to stop them from getting up to a platform. It was pretty fun, but then players would get stuck under piles of rubble. So we made it so you could jump through the blocks and then when we started adding the versus modes, we needed a way to re-add that being a bit of a troll and that’s why we added picking up another player. You can use it selflessly, like as a sacrificial move just pickup someone and be like “Oh no, the lava is rising too quickly, I’ll throw you to the next platform, and you should go on without me.” Or yeah, you can just throw them in the lava.
We wanted to have it in there that anyone who’s a troll can have a bit of fun, but it doesn’t necessarily benefit them either. It’s just there for shits and giggles. It works really well in the Basketball mode, being able to throw your opponents in the lava.
So is the game available right now?
No, we’re on Steam Greenlight at the moment – we’re about 80% right now, and we’re looking to release Early Access start of next year, once we get online play in. Also adding in stuff like character creation and so on first, making sure it’s really rounded out for the basic modes in Early Access. Then we can add content and adjust that content for what our player base likes.
So you’ll be able to mix and match the characters to create your own crazy whatever?
Yeah, that’s what we’re thinking – you’ll have the base character and then things like sunglasses, so you can play Left Shark with dark shades. Things like hot-key taunts, which in online play would be great because you can bind things like saying “Up” to the D-Pad, so like you’re saying “Build Up,” or just like a big middle finger or something. There’s a bunch of stuff we want to add, especially unlockable content. So, in the survival mode, you might see a sign like “This section takes three people to complete,” and if you go up that way you can get a new character, or a new modem, stuff like that. So we really just want to add a heap of content, a heap of unlockable stuff, we want to add new apocalypses like a Kaiju invasion where you’re trying to escape the monsters that are destroying the landscape around you–
Like that thing in the background, but with alien horns, a Japanese name, and chasing you.
Absolutely that one, yes.
(laughing) Also a zombie apocalypse where you’re building walls to stop the zombies – yeah, a whole bunch of stuff.
What’s your experience been like with Greenlight?
Well, this will be our first Greenlight, and hopefully soon Early Access game. Before this, we were making mobile games but so far it’s been really good, we started on Greenlight on Tuesday I think it was, and now we’re 80% of the way. We got like 50% in the first day, which felt really good but now we’re at the end of the natural exposure you get from Greenlight. So, that’s why we’re here to really push the game out, talking to people and hoping we can get across that line.
What’s the experience been like at PAX so far?
Yeah, it’s been great, people are loving the game, it’s so nice to see four strangers sit down to play a game and then start shouting at each other while working together. We want to be the loudest booth here, and I think we’re doing pretty well so far at that… Yeah. (laughing.)
Have you got any advice for any indie developers that are trying to make a game?
For me it’s always been about rapid prototyping, I mean this came from Global Game Jam which is, essentially, a 48-hour prototype. One of the things I like doing is on the weekend, if I’ve got a game idea, I’ll sit down in front of the TV, chuck on House of Cards or something, and just bang out a prototype or two. It’s the best way to do it because you can get feedback straight away on the game idea, see if it’s got any legs. You know, if it doesn’t work? Save it for later, maybe try it again at another point, but being able to rapidly prototype is essential.