As someone who really enjoys run and gun shooters (like Contra III on the Super Nintendo), Alien Hominid has always piqued my curiosity. However, I was never able to acquire a boxed copy of Alien Hominid for the original XBox console, and also didn’t play Alien Hominid HD as I didn’t own an XBox 360. However, I’ve just bought the game for my XBox One X as it’s currently on sale for £1.68 via the XBox digital storefront.
Planned for release this year, Alien Hominid Invasion is best described as an “all-new re-imagination” of the original Alien Hominid game that will enable The Behemoth to showcase all of its acquired skills and experience since the original game’s release in 2004. And as part of this, I spoke to Ian Moreno (Producer/Audio) in order to find out a little bit more about the studio’s upcoming project, and also got to ask him about this time at The Behemoth. Enjoy!
The first game came out in 2004. Most franchises don’t stay away for that long, and there’s always something to keep the franchise/IP in the public consciousness. Why has there been a 20-odd year delay, and why has there been such a long gap in-between the two games? And for people that might have forgotten about the first game, or probably have never even heard about the first game in the first place, what are you doing to bring the IP back?
Well, for the first part, we don’t typically even do sequels. We like to jump and play in different genres. So from Alien Hominid to Castle Crashers to BattleBlock Theater, and then to Pit People, it’s been old-school side scroller shooter, to beat ‘em up, then to puzzle platformer, and then a strategy game, a turn-based co-op adventure, I should say. So we always like to play around, and if we were always doing sequels, we wouldn’t have made a lot of those newer IP games. If we were busy making Alien Hominid 2, there’d be no Castle Crashers, and if we were doing Castle Crashers 2, there’d be no BattleBlock Theater. So we generally don’t do sequels, but never say never. That I think would answer why it took so long to come back and revisit the first game.
And the second part of my questions was: what are you doing to revive the IP?
Yeah, so right now we’re here at WASD (a consumer videogame event in London) to showcase Alien Hominid Invasion, which we actually announced back in 2020. What happened was that the original game was disappearing from console. You could only play it on XBox 360, XBLA Back Compatibility, or if you owned the old physical versions – which we’ve met a lot of people who do. We started to look at that, and Dan Paladin who is one of the co-founders and art director, he posed the question: “what if we made the game today, where we made it with all the 20 years of experience that we’ve had in between?” As we started to look at all the different mechanics and features, we started to rethink them from the ground up. And what happened was that a new game was born. It does take place after the original in terms of timeline and story, but we’re hesitant to call it a “sequel”, as it’s something in between a remake or a sequel. As people will find in the cinematics, it references the beginning, the first cinematic in the first game, and how that story all interconnects.
Do you need to play the first game in order to play the second game?
You do not. I think you can… you don’t have to, just because it’s a little difficult to find. But it’s not necessary.
Will there be some sort of a comic book style recap, or anything like that?
Yeah, I think a lot of that happens in that you’ll find references to the original in this one. Like I said, the first one is very telling. It’s almost like a recreation of some of those specific moments and how, and for those who play the original game, they’ll know what happened. Then for those who didn’t play the original, they’ll see what’s been happening elsewhere.
How long have you worked at The Behemoth for now?
I’m going on 13 years.
So, basically forever…
[Laughs] Not forever, but it’s more than the majority of the lifetime of the company. Because the company as a whole has been going on for 20 years, so I’ve passed that halfway point.
You’re the producer of the game. What would you say were the biggest challenges for you in your role as a producer when it came to Alien Hominid Invasion?
What were the biggest challenges… Interesting. I’m not the only one. There’s a couple of us who share these production duties, just so I’m not necessarily taking all the credit [laughs], but thank you. Dan Paladin and Aaron Jungjohann are some of those other creative forces on the project. But some of the challenges… it’s mainly how we got to this new modernized co-op run and gun. Looking at the things, the original game was a one-hit kill, now we have a health bar. The original was an old school arcade style side-scroller, where you would pan left to right, and it was mainly interpreting that with everything we’ve learned, and these new modern gameplay mechanics. So now in the game, it’s more of an open playground. You can go left, you can go right. There’s a lot more verticality, a lot more manoeuvrability, and acrobatics for the alien themselves. It was more about “what is this new version?”. Like I said, when we were rethinking it, these things just came up naturally, but it was still a challenge to make sure that we’re able to retain the spirit of the original game whilst also modernizing it at the same time. Then there’s the issue of bringing the game to four players. The original only supported up to two players, and now we have four-player – local and online. As we all know, collaborative multiplayer is a very hard task. Making sure your multiplayer is good, where you’re able to track the aliens and have a solid online experience.
Did you work on Castle Crashers at all?
No. I came in at BattleBlock Theater. Castle Crashers 1 was already done by the time I got there. I helped with the Castle Crashers Remastered version a little bit, but the genesis of Castle Crashers was before my time.
Given the fact that you helped with the Remastered version.. so we’ll call you one of the Castle Crashers people, if that makes sense. Beat ‘em ups haven’t been that popular for a while, and now they’re coming back in a big way with Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Final Vendetta… To the extent that they’re spearheading what is arguably a revival of the side-scrolling brawler… When you consider the fact that games like Streets of Rage and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are out there, and riff on that cartoony sort of look, where they are once again popularizing the beat ‘em up genre, do you think that we’ll see Castle Crashers come back again? Do you think you’re going to jump on that new beat ‘em up wave?
Honestly, there’s no plans. But I know what you’re saying. “Do we see ourselves doing that?” I’m not sure. Right now, we’re just focusing on the Alien Hominid game, and when that game is done, which it will be this year, then we’ll start thinking about the next thing. Castle Crashers is a great game, and people love it. I think it still holds up against all these new titles as well. We already revisited that once with Castle Crashers Remastered to just make sure it’s running smoothly on all current-gen stuff. That’s why we did that. I don’t want to say “no”, and you never know, but I don’t see it happening in the immediate future. We like to make new stuff and explore new genres.
You’re also involved in audio…
In terms of vibe, even though you didn’t work on the original Alien Hominid game, as somebody who’s an audio producer, did you have to change your style at all? Or how did you have to somehow mesh your style with what you’re doing now to make it fit with the overall feel and the vibe of what the original Alien Hominid did?
The original was all done by one person – Matt Harwood. This time around we’ve worked with our longtime collaborators since BattleBlock Theater, his name’s Patric Catani. He’s a Berlin-based composer, writer, producer, DJ; super talented guy. He’s doing a majority of the music for this game this time around. It wasn’t just right out the gate, this one did cause for more direction. Like Dan Paladin would bring up how Tom Fulp who co-created the original game, they all had their fans of drum and bass, and stuff like that. We took all these different original themes and went to Patric and worked with him in developing the sonic identity of what the new game would be. It’s not something that one person determined everything. I think it was through a cross of collaboration and feedback. We found the sound… I think there’s elements of electronica and acid and a lot of other things at play, but we still wanted a unique identity too. I think we have a pretty cool soundtrack, especially a lot of boss themes that are a lot of fun and give a lot of gravitas and weight to the characters. There’s also a few call-backs to the original, where we did slight remix covers of some of the original main themes that people remember and are fans of, and brought that into the new game as well. So there’s these bridging songs as well as these new songs, and that’s how we balanced it out.
Last question… We’re at WASD. E3 was cancelled this year. As somebody who is at WASD, which is a consumer event, and given the fact that E3 also rebranded itself as a consumer event a few years back, where do you see consumer gaming events going in the foreseeable future – especially in the context of giving indie games – such as yours – a platform to market themselves and get themselves into the hands of audiences who will be able to give direct feedback?
Over the years, we obviously started doing more online events as everyone did as well. This year is actually our first return to live events, starting with PAX East 2023.
Did you go to that?
Yes, we exhibited at it.
Nice… You must be tired.
Oh, yeah. I’m keeping it together, I think. I’m forming full sentences, I think [laughs]. But yeah, I’m pretty knackered. That was our first one since 2020. That was our return and we were doing the digital stuff, which I think is cool because there’s been some really great digital events that have popped up over the years. But going to PAX last week, I think it was really eye-opening personally, because I think it really reinforced the positive aspects of in-person shows and feeling a control in your hand. Talking to fans and attendees in person, getting that feedback, as you’ve mentioned, from people. For us, we could do betas and stuff like that, which we have in the past, but I think for smaller devs, it’s really important and helpful for them to get people in front of their game. I was talking to a friend of mine, a friend of the company, and he was talking about the analogue nature of games. Where games start with an analogue idea, become digital, and then reconnect with the human in an analogue way with controllers – until we’re playing games with our minds, but that’s for the future. So with that in mind, I think there’s an importance on the analogue experience that these types of shows provide. I think it’s going to keep changing, and there’s going to be some bumps in the road, and it may be a long road, I don’t know. Who knows? But I think we’re on a trajectory to eventually have the live shows take on a new shape and evolve. I don’t want to say “back to what it was”, because we live in different times now. I think we’re just going to evolve, and humans are creative and savvy, and I think we’ll see some cool new things or maybe something hybrid. I have high hopes, and I think there’s a huge importance with in-person events and if the last two weeks have been anything, it’s just reinforced that idea for me personally.
That’s it… Thank you so much.