PAX Prime 2013 Spearhead Games

Published on August 31st, 2013 | by Zach (beezn) Beason

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An Interview With Malik Bouhkira, Co-Founder of Spearhead Games

We have yet another interview for you. This time with the Co-Founder of Spearhead Games, Malik Bouhkira. He was on the PAX show floor to promote their upcoming game, Tiny Brains.

TGL: What drove you to make Tiny Brains, a really entertaining co-op puzzler type of game?

MB: Well, one of our key interests was co-op to begin with because me and most of the developers are fans of co-op. And we wanted to do something where the cooperation was actually meaningful, (where) people would talk to each other. There are some good co-op games out there, but not all of them have that interaction between the players. Some, you are basically just people playing in the same game, but you don’t really interact. We tried to build something like that and the direction we took was basically give each player a different ability that’s physics based and synergized with one another so that players kind of communicate with their power and interact with each other.

TGL: So you can act like friends instead of telling people to directly do this or do that?

MB: Yeah, but people actually do it to talk to each other. Which is really cool. For example, the four guys we see here (indicates demo next to him), two of them are friends and two of them have never met. So it’s a group of strangers that are having fun playing that. That’s a result of that natural interaction between the players through the gameplay mechanics.

TGL: Was their any game that you hoped to be as good in the co-op puzzle genre? Or were you trying to make your own path on that?

MB: We obviously have a lot of influences and games we love, but we just tried to do our thing, basically. Sure, we love all the Valve games and for example Left 4 Dead we think is a great co-op game. Portal is a great puzzle game.

TGL: I saw some pieces of Portal in there.

MB: Yeah, I guess there is some influence somewhere in our subconscious, even though there is no portal gun in there.

TGL: The teamwork mechanic, having to work towards the same goal. In Portal it’s a lot harder when you can’t talk to each other.

MB: (notices a child playing the demo) Oh, a kid is playing. I’m curious to see that. I think it is the youngest yet. That is the difference, for example, between our game and Left 4 Dead and Portal, which are very core games. For example, a shooter you need to have experience with that first-person camera. So the game we built, we wanted it to be more accessible. For example, if you have four people and two of them are gamers used to any type of game and two who are not so familiar, like a mom and her kid in this case. We wanted them to be able to have fun as a group. It happened that we wanted to play Left 4 Dead and there was a girl who was not used to first-person shooters who just looked at the ceiling, it was disappointing for us. Because we wanted to play as a gang. I think this game kind of scratches that itch, to where it is accessible enough for most people to play it but deep enough for hardcore players to play it. There’s a lot of depth to it even as we playing some of the challenges internally and try to beat each other.

TGL: Where did the lab rat idea come from?

MB: Well, we started first with the gameplay. First we had abstract shapes playing around. And the lab rats came from our Art Director. The idea was to find an artistic environment that fit well with the gameplay, that kind of makes sense as a group at the same time puzzle-ish. So basically, it was gameplay first and then find the ambiance that fit well with that. It felt like we were looking into cages, so it made sense.

TGL: Will Tiny Brains just be released on the PS4?

MB: No, we are looking at PC, PS3, and hopefully Xbox 360 as well.

TGL: What is the expected release date for Tiny Brains?

MB: Well, we are hoping to be a launch title with the PS4, meaning November 15th.

TGL: All the consoles on the same day?

MB: Yeah, that’s our goal. We are working on that.

TGL: I’m sure that’s an up hill battle right now.

MB: Yeah, especially since it’s our first game as Spearhead Games. We’re learning a lot right now.

TGL: What price point are you trying to hit?

MB: We don’t know yet. I am guessing somewhere between $10-$15.

TGL: After this, do you have anything in the works?

MB: (In a sly voice) Maybe….

TGL: Possibly some expansions on this?

MB: Yeah, possibly. We will see how it goes. We obviously have a ton of ideas about this and a lot of things we want to do. So if the game is successful then definitely. There are lots of things we just didn’t have time to do, because we have to get this game shipped.

TGL: And then there is a convention and another convention and it happens to be all in the middle of it. That’s the one down side to PAX, it takes up so much time.

MB: Yeah, it does. Right now, everyone here are the developers. The rest of the team is working hard to get the game released in time for the PS4. We always have that in mind, but it is always a lot of fun to come to these conventions and actually see people play the game. That’s really rewarding. Because all that work becomes meaningful when people love what you do.

TGL: Will Tiny Brains just be released on the PS4?

MB: No, we are looking at PC, PS3, and hopefully Xbox 360 as well.

TGL: What is the expected release date for Tiny Brains?

MB: Well, we are hoping to be a launch title with the PS4, meaning November 15th.

TGL: All the consoles on the same day?

MB: Yeah, that’s our goal. We are working on that.

TGL: I’m sure that’s an up hill battle right now.

MB: Yeah, especially since it’s our first game as Spearhead Games. We’re learning a lot right now.

For more info on Tiny Brains, visit the Spearhead Games site.

Editor’s Note: The interview was performed by Beezn and transcribed by Smikey1123

Want another interview from a good indie developer? Check out Beezn’z talk with Dragon Fantasy: Book II Creative Director, Adam Rippon.

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About the Author

I suppose that I'm what happens when you give a kid a 25 gallon tub of Lego and a lot of free time. I play games, I take things apart, and I build things (not as successfully as I took them apart). On occasion I have been known to put pen to paper and write about games, movies, comics, basically a whole bunch of stuff.



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