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Gang Beasts: “If Street Fighter went drinking…” – interview

Friday, 11th April 2014 08:33 GMT By Dave Cook

Gang Beasts developer Boneloaf is working on a game that is currently bringing anarchy and chaos to fighting game tournaments, expos and living rooms all over the world. Who knew being punched square in the gob could be so much fun? Dave Cook speaks with the team to see where all this carnage is heading.

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”I join the crowd to see two of these strange creatures going hell for leather, punching each other in the face with reckless abandon, while the other two are locked in what can only be described as a bear-hug comprised of equal parts hatred and ultimate respect.”

Picture this:

I’m sitting playing some Ultra Street Fighter 4 at the third annual Hypespotting fight tournament in Glasgow, Scotland watching my Elena get utterly wrecked by a seasoned Rolento player. Suddenly, just as I drop another round, an almighty roar erupts from over my left shoulder. I turn, half in annoyance at being panelled yet again, and half in curiosity to see a big crowd of fighting game fans swarming around a nearby table.

The group is roaring and jostling each other like they’re at the front of a Converge gig, laughing intermittently to the chagrin of a few pro players who are here to focus and win the main tournaments. I walk over to the throng of upstarts and peer over some of the smaller lads to see a quartet of squishy plasticine men hobbling around a texture-less wrestling ring like they’re in desperate need of a shit.

Oh, it’s Gang Beasts. I should have known.

I join the crowd to see two of these strange creatures going hell for leather, punching each other in the face with reckless abandon, while the other two are locked in what can only be described as a bear-hug comprised of equal parts hatred and ultimate respect. One competitor pushes while the other pulls, each hoping gravity will favour them as they dangle precariously on the edge of the ring ropes. A moment’s silence is met by a thunderous orgy of whooping and jeers as one blobby man knocks the other out of the ring.

Gang Beasts is the brainchild of Boneloaf, a three-man team made up of the Brown brothers James, Michael and Jonathan, as well as a soon-to-be-added fourth member. It’s gaining mass notoriety online and aross the fighting game circuit here in Scotland. It’s also appeared at a local fight event in my home town and recently enjoyed a prolific stint at Gamer Network’s PC and indie show Rezzed. You can download the prototype builds here.

Here’s a video of our very own Sam Clay throwing down in a four-way punch orgy last week:

”Gang Beasts already has a strong following on YouTube and other channels, thanks in part to the game’s physic engine, which can see simple brawls turn into death-defying wars of wits and perseverance at the drop of a hat.”

So what the hell is Gang Beasts, exactly? On the surface it’s a physics-based brawler that sees four players trying to ring-out each other across a range of hazardous stages, each designed to give rise to insane scenarios that you can’t help but shout about. The combat system puts you in control each of your putty-man’s arms with punches executed by button taps, while holding a command makes them grab on to enemies or the environment. It’s highly unorthodox, but it works.

You can knock your mate out then toss their limp, rag-doll body off the side of a skyscraper, or latch onto each other and grapple on the edge of a ferocious saw-blade pit, before either player’s focus breaks and they tumble to their death. It’s hilarious stuff that never fails to draw a crowd of bewildered, but engrossed onlookers. It speaks to those who remember four-player matches of Power Stone, or retro classics like Streets of Rage, but ask anyone who plays it and they’ll like take away their own personal links back to other games.

Boneloaf isn’t exactly sure what Gang Beasts is at the moment, as it’s only been in development for a few months. It started life as a fantasy brawler called Grim Beasts, but as soon as the team coded in a satisfying punch mechanic, the teams’ love of ’90s scrolling beat-em-ups took hold, and the urban beat-down simulator we see today was born. It’s early days yet, but a quick chat with the guys unearthed a smashed phone box-worth of secrets, as well as a steaming hot chicken that I ate for extra health. It was terrible.

“We felt we could build a company off the back of this game,” James explains. “People have been offering to support us through donations or offering to buy it. We’ve had a few comments from people saying, ‘take my money’ [laughs]. We’ve had close to 150,000 downloads of the game, obviously it’s free at the moment and there’s a number of people who have downloaded all three builds, because there’s been variations of the content in them. So only a small percentage of that might be people willing to pay for the game, but that might be enough to fund the rest of development.”

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James adds that Boneloaf’s plan is to get Gang Beasts on Steam Early Access then sell it for a discounted price during its first week, as a way of funding the rest of development. If that doesn’t work, the team will speak with publishers about bringing the fighter to market, which is something it’s already doing. Over on the Gang Beasts IndieDB page, the trio has made clear it would like to see the game release across PC, Mac, Linux, Android, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U one day. It’s currently on Steam Greenlight now.

Fortunately, Gang Beasts already has a strong following on YouTube and other channels, thanks in part to the game’s physic engine, which can see simple brawls turn into death-defying wars of wits and perseverance at the drop of a hat. Take the highway stage for example, which sees all four combatants battling on the roof of two precarious, speeding trucks. Straight up punching is fun, but the hilarity truly kicks off once fighters start trying to push each other onto the asphalt, forcing them to cling on to the vehicle for dear life. It looks as bonkers as it is to play.

While the prototype is insanely good fun on its own there’s plenty of work to be done, and a lot of content left to be added before Gang Beasts can launch in full. The team was more than happy to share its plans with me.

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