Yesterday we reported on the Bad Dudes 2 Kickstarter project. Since no one ever produced a true Bad Dudes sequel, a small group of fans at Pipeline Games have taken it onto themselves to make it happen. Gamers who missed the 1988 arcade game or its home port might wonder why we need another Bad Dudes, while fans will want to know what’s in store if the Kickstarter meets its goal. We’ve got your covered! Read on for Co-Optimus's interview with Joe Modzeleski of Pinstripe Games.
CO: Hi Joe. Who else works with you at Pinstripe Games?
As of right now we have three full on employees: the two founders, my friend Adam Kragt and I, as well as our newest employee, artist Nicholas Lee (AKA KeungLee).
We also have a very talented programmer, with 8 years of experience in numerous programming languages, years of experience in Unity (our engine of choice for development), and an interest in games like Bad Dudes. He has worked with us in the past as a contractor, and is excited about coming back on once we have the funds.
CO: Speaking of Bad Dudes, you own an original arcade cabinet. What makes the game so special to you?
I played it a lot in a local arcade with my brother when I was a kid, and it was the first beat-em-up game we ever owned at home. I still have the NES version from my childhood, which I used to play the crap out of. As I got older, I started to notice just how ridiculous it was. I’ve loved Bad Dudes even more after that since it just took itself so seriously, in turn making it quite funny!
From a design perspective, the game has some solid elements. The weapon drops are really cool. The variety of enemy types and level terrain lead to some unique scenarios. Each enemy had a different way of attacking as well.
CO: Which of the home versions of Bad Dudes do you feel is best?
In addition to the arcade cabinet, I have three home versions of Bad Dudes in my game collection: NES, Commodore 64, and Apple II.
I like the NES version the best, not only because I have owned and played it the longest, but I generally think it's better than the rest. The movement is just faster and a little more precise than in the arcade version. Even though the game can be really cheap, it’s still a bit more fair than the arcade version (since it's not trying to eat your quarters). It has very good remixes of the arcade music too. The only issue I have with the NES version is no co-op. 2-player alternating play sucks.
CO: What did you think of Bad Dudes’ spiritual successor, Two Crude Dudes?
I really wasn't a big fan. It was nothing like the original Bad Dudes. I mean, it was still a beat-em-up sure, but it played so differently. I found the sounds annoying too; an enemy screams practically every three seconds. That put me off from the start.
CO: Now then, you’re trying to get a true Bad Dudes 2 off the ground. How did you end up with the license for the game?
Adam and I always wondered when Bad Dudes would come back. One day we just kind of joked about what we would like to see in a sequel, and before we knew it, we were writing up a design document and seeking out the license holders.
CO: Have there been any challenges working with G-Mode, the Japanese rights-holder who acquired Bad Dudes when Data East went out of business?
The biggest challenge was tracking down the appropriate person to contact - they do not have an English website. I emailed probably a dozen people before getting a response that got me in the right direction.
Since then, G-Mode has been phenomenal. When we couldn't afford the quite hefty licensing fees, they were completely supportive of the idea of us obtaining the rights for cheap, and then paying a full licensing fee later. We secured the rights so that we could legally and officially host a Kickstarter campaign. We figured that the $30,000 we need for the full license is considered development costs, so it made sense to try to get it with the rest of our required budget via Kickstarter.
CO: Given the age of Bad Dudes and its scarcity of sequels, wouldn’t it be a good idea to digitally rerelease the original game for modern platforms in order to drum up funds and increase recognition among younger players?
It would be... But we weren't able to get those rights. Even if we had, our contract terms state that the current holders will not supply us with any resources. So we would have to make the original game over again from scratch, and at that point we'd rather just make the sequel. We did attempt it, but we figured a quick Google search can [fill in new players well enough]. The original hasn't exactly aged well anyway. *laughs*
CO: Your Bad Dudes 2 Kickstarter got off to a rocky start due to the negative reaction to the artwork Pinstripe had prepared for the game. Who drew the original art, and was that style actually intended to appear in the final product?
Actually, this is funny. I personally responded to all the comments about the original art, which I actually drew. It wasn't necessarily intended to be in the final product. It was more [that we wanted to establish] a different visual direction.
We originally considered doing a retro pixel art style, but dismissed it out of fear that it would be considered too cliché. We've seen lots of retro pixel art games released in the last few years, starting with Mega Man 9. Big mistake on my part! It turns out that’s what the fans wanted. So we quickly [changed course] to show we were listening and that feedback is very important to us.
CO: Once the feedback started rolling in, you switched to a more realistic visual style. Can you tell us about bringing Nicholas Lee onboard?
Nick is an experienced artist who does a lot of old fighting game-inspired art. When he shared his DeviantArt portfolio, we really dug his take on Capcom's Street Fighter characters. He has also done some excellent pixel art with a very nineties arcade vibe to it.
Soon he sent us a piece of concept art for his vision of the art style for Bad Dudes 2, followed by some in-game sprites. The look he's crafted will make our game feel like the 16-bit sequel Bad Dudes always deserved.
CO: The Bad Dudes in your game will be middle-aged and out of shape. Why not keep them closer to their original appearance?
These guys have been gone for 23 years, both in the story and in real life, making this a comeback story. It’s like they've been in retirement. We really liked the idea of everyone telling them, “You’re too old and washed up. You’re a piece of history.” The players would then help them prove themselves, coming back, and swing with the best of the modern boys.
The only big change we made was making Striker gain a little weight. When you look at the original characters, they look identical except for pants color. From a design perspective, with numerous enemies on screen at once, as well as two player characters, we thought that it would just be easier if the two characters had very unique silhouettes. We don't want players to lose track of who is who during the heat of battle. That sort of formed into the story idea that Striker had put on a few pound over the years. Besides, he still kicks as high as ever!
All that said, we will include legacy skins of the characters that unlock when you finish the campaign. You’ll be able to play as classic Blade and Striker in arcade mode and the new wave defense modes!
CO: How closely will Bad Dudes 2 play to the original?
Bad Dudes 2 will draw from and incorporate everything Bad Dudes had. We will add to it, but the original stuff will all be there. You will have levels with two, and now sometimes three different planes of platforming.
We will also bring back the fan-favorite traveling stages. We like to call those ‘speeding something’ levels. The players fight on top of a speeding train, truck, airplane, whatever! There are six of those in the new game, and we plan for them to be the most over-the-top, testosterone fueled, exciting and hilarious parts of the game.
We will be using a new combo system that allows you to link together ninjas in a combo, and we will be bringing back the charge up flaming punch attack. Grapples will be there for sure, but it's still something we will be doing trial and error with for the blocking/dodging and co-op attacks. We are pretty firm on no more than four inputs.
CO: You’ve mentioned the new game will feature a humorous tone. Can you give us an example or two of its less serious aspects?
The humor will mostly come from the manly, over-the-top action scenarios that the Dudes find themselves in. For example, our plot only starts with the president getting kidnapped by ninjas. What follows is a story riddled with government cover-ups, secret assassination plots, and a global conspiracy that hearkens all the way back to the Dudes’ original adventures. It's a ridiculous action ride, and yet every character in game takes it very seriously.
CO: Bad Dudes 2 will feature co-op multiplayer like the original. Do you have plans for any co-op specific mechanics à la the high-five moves and player-reviving in Double Dragon: Neon?
We do have plans for co-op-oriented attacks. We have this idea for grapple moves where two players can gang up on one enemy to gain extra points and power, and then use that power for a devastating fist-bump attack. It's all going to be something we fine tune through playtesting. Being able to grapple an enemy and then throw him to your buddy who can perform an extra juggle attack on him, stuff like that.
CO: Finally, the Kickstarter campaign’s got about three weeks left to go. What are your plans to draw in pledges during that time?
First off, we're trying to make up for our lack of assets at the launch of our Kickstarter. We're going to be showing off new art, assets, and gameplay by the end of the week. We're hoping that we will be able to convince some of those on the fence that we are taking this very seriously. We have the talent and hardware to make this game the sequel that Bad Dudes deserves.
We're also going to do more live Q and A sessions - we want to talk with you guys! We're appearing on the Mind of the Geek podcast this week. You can also get in touch with us via email, Facebook, and Twitter.