Made In Australia: We Talk Brief Battles With Juicy Cupcake

Last week we kicked off our Made In Australia segment with an article on the backstory of South Australia’s very own Juicy Cupcake. Today, the state’s (perhaps even the nation’s) juiciest developer gives us an insight into their upcoming debut game Brief Battles in our interview with Juicy Cupcake’s founder and Brief Battles’ level designer, artist and composer Andrew Freeth, with input from Juicy’s other member, Brief Battles’ co-founder, coder and artist/animator Tim Tily.

WP: In your own words, describe Brief Battles.

AF: Brief Battles brings butt-em-up action to your couch, in a party game with a cheeky twist! It’s all about the undies.

Start with nothing but your butt and sticky nub-hands to get around. You’ll want to scramble to grab super-powered undies to embrace the power of the butt and gain an underwear-fueled edge over your friends, as you strive to prove who has the mightiest buns. You can play as one of six cute, plump, wobbly characters and grab up to three friends to dominate in classic or ridiculous underpants-themed game modes. If competitive multiplayer isn’t your thing, test out your skills in solo and co-op challenges!

I’m biased, but surely this a must have in any couch gamer’s collection.

WP: How long have you been working on Brief Battles for?

AF: The game has roots in earlier game jam ideas, but since it’s initial conception we’ve been working on Brief Battles for around 2 and a half years part-time.

WP: How did the concept for Brief Battles come about?

AF: The game started out as a 2.5D platformer demo where we’d created the agile sticky wall and roof climbing that’s in Brief Battles today. When we brought the game into an arena setting to start working on Brief Battles, ‘Kevin’ was our only character (Underwearriror) at the time. We had four Kevins all running around the arena in just underpants and a cape, battling by spitting melon pips and collecting various power-ups.

While we worked on a brainstorming a title for the game and discussing what would make it stand out, we gradually embraced the power of the butt and re-scoped the game to be all about the underpants. The name “Brief Battles” was one of my earlier ideas but was quickly dismissed by both of us due to its cheesiness, but I’m glad we stuck with it in the end!

WP: Couch co-op games are mostly nostalgic relics these days. Why did you choose to develop a game of this ilk?

AF: Not going to lie – I had to google ilk just now. Anyway, catching up to play couch games with friends has always been a blast. I think now in my adult years, I appreciate catching up with friends to play couch games more than ever. This sort of game is a great blend of casual and competitive and can be picked up anytime. I find that couch games bring an edge of your seat/laugh out loud experience that you don’t find with other games. Having friends or family by your side is all part of the experience.

You don’t get to play this sort of game with friends all year round, but if the game is good enough it’ll get added to your couch co-op collection and bring laughter to living rooms for years after release.

WP: For additional funding you chose to work with Kickstarter. How has that process been?

AF: Kickstarter was tough but rewarding in more ways than one. We launched our campaign while we were road tripping over to PAX Aus last year. In theory we thought launching at the same time as PAX would have been great, but in the end we didn’t have time to manage the campaign while exhibiting at PAX and attending industry events. This resulted in a very tiring launch week of late nights promoting the Kickstarter from our hotel room, powered by a lot of coffee (Thanks 7-Eleven!). Tim and I started to get on each other’s nerves a little during the Kickstarter – it was a tense situation trying to keep the momentum moving.

We made it over the line in the final hours of the campaign, and it was fantastic. The community we built along the way and the rush of support on social in those final days was a big part of what makes crowdfunding special, on top of the funding factor. If you’re ever thinking of doing crowdfunding, do what everyone says and clear out a month to make it easier on yourself. You’ll also need a week to decompress once it’s all over.

WP: Did you pitch Brief Battles to any publishers before deciding to go down the crowdfunding path?

AF: We were having discussions with publishers who could cover a lot of what we still need to fund (marketing, porting etc.). Considering the game was already so far along during these talks, we weren’t comfortable giving up control and percentage of earnings on what we’ve put the majority of the work into. We decided to do this ourselves to the end and get all the experience we can from this release. Kickstarter seemed like the best option to get us what we needed, though it wasn’t without its risk.

WP: You were recently invited to GDC by Xbox. That must have been a cool experience and a good opportunity to promote your game?

AF: It was fantastic! It was also a pretty great surprise to be selected for the showcase. It’s more of an industry event rather than a consumer one. It was still great to get visibility for the game and meet other developers we admire, plus build relationships in the industry.

WP: We played Brief Battles at PAX 2017 and we had a great time. What has been the public’s reception so far?

AF: Glad you had fun 😀

Public reception has been really positive. It’s amazing to see four strangers of all ages playing our game, having a laugh, and wanting to play some more. Feedback is another great part of every show. Every time we show our game we take in comments and watch how players react to the game and make improvements accordingly. Even seemingly complete content that I was showing off at GDC this year received a bunch of improvements when I returned.

WP: Brief Battles has local co-op but no online co-op, why is this as online co-op seems like a missed opportunity.

AF: Yeah this is something we’ve hotly debated when we started development, right up until our Kickstarter campaign. I’m not sure that we’ll ever add online play though. Adding online features to the game would increase the scope beyond the capacity of our team, and beyond our original vision. We originally set out make a great local couch gaming experience and I think(hope) we’ve done that. There’s quite a bit of solo content in Brief Battles and we’re planning to expand on that after launch.

WP: How much more additional funding do you believe was required to add online co-op systems?

AF: I don’t think I could put a figure on it. Let’s say too much.  

Underpants do not discriminate, Brief Battles is fun for the whole family!

WP: Is there single-player content?

AF: For sure! We have a heap of what we call “Challenges” to complete for achievements and to unlock Underwearrior skins.

Players start out in the basics to learn their way around arenas, then can take on Underpants Collector solo challenges for Movement mastery, Tighty-Whitey Targets challenges for underpants ability training, and the main event – Butt-em-up Battles, which is a 1-2 player mode where you take back the arenas from hordes of creepy-cute creatures. There’s quite a few hours of content there. Underpants Collector and Tighty-Whitey Targets can get really tough towards the end and offer a lot of replayability if you want the best times and achievements. We plan to expand on Butt-em-up Battles with more acts in future updates.

Oh and there’s a pretty tough unannounced mode in there too!

WP: What made you choose to bring Brief Battles to Xbox One over the PS4 considering the latter’s larger install base?

AF: Xbox One has been a great fit from day one. We’re totally keen for PS4 too, as we, of course, want to get Brief Battles to every couch out there. There have been a few additional barriers for the platform though.  

WP: Brief Battles looks like it would be a great game for the Nintendo Switch. Have you considered bringing Brief Battles to the platform in the future?

AF: It’s definitely something we’re thinking about. We’ve found that Brief Battles doesn’t lend itself too well to the portable screen size, but we’ve been talking about alternatives to make it work.

WP: What has been the most enjoyable aspect of Brief Battle’s development?

AF: There’s often some long stretches where Tim’s been working on a set of new features, and I’ve been creating a bunch of new assets. There’s nothing much better than when we finish these and combine them together and get to play the game with this new hard-earned content for the first time.

Warm those icy cheeks with a pair of fire jocks

WP: How many playable characters will there be?

AF: We’ll have six playable characters on release, and plenty of skins to unlock for each. We call them Underwearriors!  We’ve got Sparrow (The Aviator), Professor Tubbins (The Prof.), Violet (The Punk), Kevin (The Hero), Betty (The Buccaneer) and Chad (The Beach Bum).

WP: What sort of customisation will Brief Battles have? Can players edit their characters at all?

AF: We find customisation to be a bit of a drag before starting a quick multiplayer game. To keep the flow into gameplay quick and simple, we’ve kept it out of Brief Battles. We have instead opted to have a roster of six core Underwearriors and various skins for these Underwearriors that you can unlock by playing solo and co-op content. We’ll be expanding on the selection of Underwearriors and skins after launch.

WP: Will different characters have different abilities or skills that can be unlocked?

AF: As a way of keeping things balanced, all characters start out equal with just the ability to pant pound, and all other abilities coming from super-powered undies! This way the game is always changing and balancing out as players can often pick up different underpants during battle, keeping you on your toes. All underpants are available from the get-go in multiplayer, found by random selection from presents in the arena.

WP: Who is your favourite character from Brief Battles?
AF: For me it’s probably Betty. Though being the creator, I love them all. Tim’s fav is Professor Tubbins. He just can’t get past the stache.

Whose buttcheeks will you rely on?

WP: Naturally the biggest concern will be that given there’s no online multiplayer the game’s appeal will be limited.

AF: Yeah it’s always a bit of a tough thing, especially when releasing the game on PC. I think in the end (as mentioned in a previous question), we originally set out make a great local couch gaming experience and I think we’ve done that. This game is a great fit for groups of friends who catch up to play couch games or co-op with a friend! We hope we can get the game out there to all of those gamers so they can discover it.

WP: What sort of content are you hoping to add post-launch?

AF: I can’t say much, but you’ll probably see more Butt-em-up battles acts, more arenas and maybe even new undies.

WP: Speaking of underpants, are you a boxers or briefs kind of guy?

AF: I feel like Bonds calls them trunks. Perhaps boxer-briefs is the term? 

Tim’s into straight-up boxers.

WP: Can we equip our character with a jock strap or mankini?

AF: Thankfully not.

WP: Are there any references to budgie smugglers in Brief Battles?

AF: Haha not at this stage. I’ll add it to the wishlist of update ideas!

WP: Did you know that in the US August 5 is National Underwear Day? This sounds like the perfect release date…

AF: Oh wow – I wasn’t aware of that! You’ve put me to shame. I might need to plan for a Brief Battles gaming session on that day. No promises on the release date though.

WP: For an extra pinch of nostalgia. If you could add any set of characters from one of your favourite childhood cartoons to Brief Battles who would you choose? Personally, I’d love to see the Street Sharks!

AF: Holy crap, Street Sharks would be excellent additions! I think some characters from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters would be a fun fit in the game.

WP: Can you see Brief Battles becoming the next big eSport with Players vying for the Golden Briefs?

AF: That would be amazing! I think the game certainly has eSport potential. We’ll have to wait and see if it takes off!

WP: How did you feel when legendary game designer John Romero tweeted about Brief Battles?

AF: Yeah wow this was crazy cool! Tim was especially chuffed with this.

WP: If you could revive any old IP what would it be?

AF: I’d like to see some more Jazz Jackrabbit. Tim has taken “any” old IP more literally and would like to see an old TV show “Bananaman” come back – maybe as a game!

WP: If you could work on any franchise, what would it be?

AF: I’d like to step in to make sure THQ get onto creating another Red Faction game with the same free-roaming and destruction as in Guerrilla.

TT: It’d be good to be a part of making a decent Star Trek game that lives up to the TV shows.

WP: Lastly, how often do you eat cupcakes in the office?

AF: Not often enough D:

You’ve probably just ignited a lot of unhealthy eating with this question.

Move over Rocket League, you’re looking at the next big eSport

We can’t wait to go buttcheeks-on with Brief Battles later this year. If you want to stay up to date with Brief Battles’ development you can follow the team on Facebook and Twitter, or Brief Battles is something that tickles your…fancy, you can wishlist the game on Steam here.

Zach developed his love for gaming thanks to the Sega Mega Drive and the Capcom games of yore, such as Resident Evil, Onimusha and Dino Crisis. Outside of gaming he is an ardent sports fan that supports the San Jose Sharks, Carlton and Burnley FC. Get around him on Twitter @xackclaret