Men, These Behemoths:
The Secrets of Alien Hominid
an industry dominated by eye-popping graphics and efforts
to either recapture a movie experience or teach you the mean
streets, a little game stood out last year. In the face of
all standards, Alien
Hominid took a step back and got attention for it. Hand-drawn,
in fact almost crudely so, the game even went back to being
hurt you like those other game developers...
what made it work? Maybe it was just that the thing has
personality. Whatever the reason, it's fun. Apparently the
industry agrees, showering the game with awards.
year at Comic-Con, I caught up with one of the personalities
behind the game, John Baez, a co-owner of The Behemoth,
the studio behind Alien Hominid.
Do you qualify as the Behemoth?
I am the Behemoth. Actually, the Behemoth is four guys.
I run the Behemoth company, and there are three other co-owners.
Planet: What inspired you guys to form the Behemoth
in the first place?
The biggest inspiration for us was the ability to look at
what was happening in the game industry and realize that
just licensed products were being made. And a lot of sequels.
Remember, this was a little over two years ago.
Being on the
production side of a videogame company, a number of us decided
that we wanted to form a new kind of company that focused
on developing risky intellectual property that nobody else
was doing. That's kind of what inspired us to do it.
We had the technical
ability to do it. We had the concept. It was already proven
on NewGrounds, so sure, why not?
Planet: Alien Hominid started out as an online game?
consoles and over your shoulder...
It was originally hosted on Newgrounds.com and it immediately
went to being one of the most popular games. It was a very
interactive, very simple 2D side-scroller. Very primitive.
And we looked
at it as a possibility to really do something new in the
console game industry. So we decided to make it into a console
Planet: So let's try to make this make sense. You decided
to do something new by essentially doing something very
old. Doing a side-scrolling game when the rest of the industry
has gone toward 3D.
Well, sure. Working in the industry, building 3D models
all day and doing hyper-realism gets so boring. It was like,
why isn't anybody doing something that's graphically different,
rendered differently, that's still fun to play?
is that. It's all hand-drawn. 95% of it is drawn by one
guy. So you're really back in the old-time of the one inspirational
artistic fountain that creates the look and feel of the
A lot of that
is lost in the game industry today, because you have teams
of a hundred and fifty people working. You have one guy
that all he does is model bricks, and make sure that brick
looks exactly right.
Planet: So it's one man's vision?
Right. That's why we have Dan sign the front of the game
as the featured artist. Dan's also a co-owner.
Planet: And why the hand-drawn? There's got to be an
No, actually. It's kind of like going into an art museum
or gallery. You don't go into an art gallery to buy a perfectly
photographed scene or perfectly photographed person. You
go into an art gallery to buy the interpretation of a scene
or a figure that's done by an artist. It's not photo real.
That's why it
was important for us to get back. How do you do stuff that's
visually engaging to the user? You do that by connecting
them back up with the artist.
Planet: You're really doing it for the art. How rare
is that in the gaming industry?
Pretty rare. Pretty rare. We got quite a bit of kudos for
doing that because we put the risk back into it. Here's
somebody willing to stand up for his art. It was important
that he was willing to do that, not get lost in a crowd.
Not follow the trend of everybody.
We had done
some 3D prototypes. And it was terrible. It looked like
everything else. It's kind of cool at the beginning, but
then all of a sudden it was just like everything else that
was out there - why did we even bother doing this?
Planet: What's been the reaction? I know you've won
many awards, but what about with actual game players?
Baez: Oh, yeah, we've got die-hard fans all over the
world now. We charted on the independent chart in Europe.
Sales have been going so well there. We've won a dozen awards.
We've really been recognized by both the game players and
our peers in the game industry for doing something different.
touch with fans...
Our story is
a little bit different because we self-funded the entire
game. We didn't go to a publisher with a concept and say,
"why don't you give us a whole bunch of money and we'll
make you a great game?" We went with pretty much a complete
game to a bunch of different publishers and got a number
of different offers.
everywhere you could go on the decision tree for development,
we turned it on its head. We've gotten some well-deserved
credit for what we're doing because of that.
Planet: Do you want to continue an Alien Hominid franchise?
You've got the dolls. Where do you want to go with it?
When looking at life after Alien Hominid, it was
important to us that we didn't jump into a sequel right
away. That's what all the other companies do. They want
last year's game wrapped up in a new piece of wrapping paper.
It was such
a tremendous amount of work for such a small team to put
out Alien Hominid that we wanted to be inspired again
by something new.
Planet: And you have a piece of that game here. It's
untitled, and I don't know how much you can talk about it,
but I can at least say it's medieval-themed, right?
No title yet. It's a four-player game. It is a 2D side-scroller,
but whereas in Alien Hominid you were locked into
the 2D, since we have four players you can move forward
and backward. It adds some good energy to the game.
Planet: What titles have you discarded for the game?
(laughs) I can't even tell you. We would get in trouble.
Oh, yeah, we would get in trouble...what it won't be called.
You look at Medieval Times and people can probably guess
where we're going with the title. We want it to be evident.
is just happy to be here...
But since this
is such a sneak preview and not the real big preview launch,
we want to keep it under wraps.
Planet: Is this your first Comic-Con appearance?
No. This is our third year. We started in a small 10 by
10 booth. We thought it was going to be a total waste of
time and money. It was really expensive for us our first
after the first couple of hours in 2003 that Comic-Con is
the place for independent development. Whether you're doing
comic books or videogames that have something to do with
hand animation, because you get right into contact with
the users. You get a lot of them. You get a lot of feedback,
and you get a lot of positive people.
That's why we
come back every year. We're local to San Diego so it's really
easy for us. We throw everything into vans and drive on
down to the Convention Center.
It's just so
great to be in touch with the fans.