Gary Corriveau, lead designer; Augusto Quijano, concept lead
Asmall team at Drinkbox Studios started work on Guacamelee 2 while the rest of the studio finished work on dark firstperson adventure Severed. Lead designer Gary Corriveau and concept lead Augusto Quijano were among the former group; here, they discuss pacing, speedrunning techniques and where the game’s many jokes come from. When you decided to make a sequel to Guacamelee, did you have a particular story idea in mind, or did it begin with certain mechanics you wanted to explore? Gary Corriveau Probably a little bit of both. I think Augusto had the story pretty early on, but it was independent from the mechanics. That was more about, ‘What are we going to do to preserve the feel of the first game, as well as making it feel fresh?’ That was the big thing we were trying to sort out in pre-production. Augusto Quijano For the story, there were several questions because the first game had a normal ending and a good ending. So I remember asking Graham [Smith, Drinkbox co-founder] ‘Which one’s canon?’ and talking about how we’ve got different timelines now. And then we were like, ‘Okay, that’s interesting.’ [laughs] So we started exploring those avenues with the character. How long has it been? Does it take place right away or a few years later? Where’s Juan now? Apart from that, it was pretty open for the design team to come up with ideas. It’s quite a bold choice to keep Juan’s moveset roughly the same as the first game. Did you try out new ideas, or was it a case of, ‘If it ain’t broke...’? GC Close to that, yeah. We did experiment with some new mechanics for Juan, but we wanted to keep his same basic moves. Additionally it was pretty clear that there was a lot more we could do, particularly if we focused on some unique environment ideas that would force you to utilise those core mechanics in a new kind of way. We did some different experiments and they were okay but nothing that would be groundbreaking. Then we were taking a look at the chicken and there was a lot more room there, simply because it was not fully explored in the first game. We started doing a couple of things with the chicken and trying to give it a very different feel from the human form.
Moving the action seven years on from the original is a good excuse for Juan to lose his previous powers... AQ Yeah, exactly. When he finishes the first adventure it’s like, what’s next? I liked the idea of a period of peace where he gets a bit bored because there’s just nothing to do. And having him struggling to fit into a family role was also interesting from a character perspective. We wanted a different scenario from the first one to show that there’s a permanence to this world. Videogame sequels are often more like reboots. If you play Mario or Zelda... I mean, there’s lore in terms of how they connect, but you’re kind of starting from scratch each time. With Guacamelee 2 we thought it’d be interesting to keep the narrative going and see where it takes us.
Pacing is important in a game like this. Given that Guacamelee 2 is a significantly bigger game than the first, was that one of the main challenges you faced? GC That’s a really good question. There was certainly no shortage of ideas. When we were doing the paper design for the levels we were listing out all the things we needed to do: we need to introduce the player to this, we need to teach them that, we need them to be able to practise it in a basic form and then we want to challenge them. By the time we were done we had so much crammed into the levels that when we did our playtests it was too much, too intense. It was one thing after another. So yeah, there was a lot of iteration around the pacing side of things to cram in all the stuff that we wanted to cram in, but not make it feel overwhelming.
It’s apparent you’re more conscious of speedrunners this time. Have any special techniques emerged through playtesting? The chicken looks handy. GC Yeah, definitely the chicken, but there are other things as well that I won’t mention. There are pretty clever techniques both in terms of mechanics but also in terms of how you’re exploring and certain areas that you may be able to skip. AQ I also find the skill tree interesting, in choosing what to invest in first. GC Yeah, somebody is going to crunch the numbers and figure out what the optimal path is. It’s not immediately clear because the upgrades were all designed around people being able to choose the path that best benefits their particular playstyle. When I go through canvassing playtesters in the internal studio here, everybody’s got a different optimal way to do it which is great. I mean, that’s what we’re shooting for.
Finally, and most importantly, who came up with the Wonderwall line? AQ I did! [laughs] GC The jokes come from a lot of different places. It’s such a mish-mash because if somebody is implementing something they’ll put in what they probably think is placeholder dialogue. And then suddenly everybody’s laughing at it, and it’s like, ‘That’s not placeholder – that’s shipping.’ AQ Yeah, if it’s funny, it stays.
We were taking a look at the chicken and there was a lot more room there
Augusto Quijano (top) and Gary Corriveau