Noah Sasso is the rad dude making the game which won our first ever GAME OF THE SHOW award at the 2012 Eurogamer Expo - BaraBariBall. Essentially a blend of Smash Bros. and Football/Volleyball, it captures everything that is brilliant about local competitive multiplayer videogames. Easy to pick up, impossible to truly master and will cause arguments between even the closest of friends, putting it in good company alongside some true greats - Mario Kart, Street Fighter, even Super Smash Bros. itself, to name but a few. Even at this beta stage, high praise indeed. We asked Noah a bunch of questions about the development and eventual release of BaraBariBall.
How are you?
What has influenced the development of BaraBariBall?
BBB made sense and played pretty well from the earliest prototype, so a lot of development has been in refining the basic idea and adding features to support it, along with lots of playtesting. Earlier this year I was running pretty frequent meetups at some universities, bars, fighting game events... its tough because you not only need a core set of talented players who understand the game and can play at a pretty high level, but you also need what feels like an endless supply of people who have never seen it before. BaraBariBall is in this weird place where its half fighting game and half something else, and even though that "something else" can seem incredibly obvious after playing it for 5 minutes, it can be difficult to get people over that hump and find ways to clearly communicate how the game works.
How has the development of BBB differed from the development of Miracle Adventures in 2113?
Miracle Adventures required a lot more art and level design. Neither of those are things I'm especially good at or interested in, so I've been able to focus on the controls of the game and the combat and way the characters move. The way the objects in the game move has always been really important to me. I want to create that kind of motion that gets stuck in your head when you close your eyes, or when you're trying to sleep after playing for too long. Actually, someone just told me they'd dreamed about the characters jumping around after having played the game at an event, so that might be working out! People seem to like BBB, which is nice for a change. Miracle Adventures was a weird and unforgiving game, though I do have a friend who is trying to 1cc it now. I had a little more resources while working on BBB, too, since it was commissioned by the NYU Game Center for No Quarter 2012. This came with a bit of money that I could use to buy some hardware and hire help with some of the animation.
You’ve mentioned ‘reaching out to the existing fighting game community’ in the past. What are you looking to gain from this?
One of the most rewarding things about making a game is watching it being played well. It's great when people optimize or exploit or break stuff - especially if the game is resilient enough to still be interesting afterwards - so part of me just wants to see what happens when such scary talented people have a chance to bang on the game for awhile. This helps me make the game better, but its also lots of fun to watch, at least for me. I've already been lucky enough to get a lot of love from the FGC - the game was featured in this Indie Showcase at EVO this year, and we ran a small tournament there that went really well. It also appeared at a mystery game tournament at SeattleVersus last month.
Would you promote BaraBariBall as a game to be played in front of an audience, as has happened with Nidhogg, JS Joust and the recently-released Super Hexagon?
Yeah, definitely - it's great when games like this make sense and are exciting to watch. This is something Charles Pratt, the organizer of No Quarter, feels strongly about, since the whole point of that event is to gather a bunch of games that are meant to be played in public. Part of this is making sure the rules of the game read well, as I mentioned above, but it's also important that the game creates drama and interesting situations.
What do you gain from ‘touring’ the game around these various events, as opposed to say, releasing a beta (paid or otherwise)?
The game was designed to be played in a public, arcade setting, so I appreciate that there are a few institutions who can make that possible. Also, the two aren't mutually exclusive - BBB will be available to everyone soon.
Super Smash Bros. is an obvious influence, but BaraBariBall is an exciting twist on that basic formula. What do you think of Sony’s forthcoming All-Star Battle Royale?
I'm not in the beta so I don't have a ton to say about it, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it's received. There have been a handful of games that borrow from Smash Bros., but none with as many resources behind them as All-Stars, and none that have really advertised themselves as supporting competitive play. If nothing else, maybe it will be a way to heal the stupid rift between the Smash Bros. community and the more traditional fighting game scene.
BEARD CHAT. Have you ever considered making a drastic change to your beard, but become too scared that it might make you look ridiculous, and chickened out?
I use an electric clipper, but the plastic guard thing broke, so sometimes I make drastic changes by accident.
You are also the producer of Another Castle. What's it like to work on a successful podcast?
I wouldn't know! We tend to interview people here in NYC or people who come through, so we're pretty small-time and local.
Tell us your favourite BaraBariBall tactic. Mine is the ‘scrape across the bottom of the screen throw’.
I like the counter to your tactic, which is to spike you back into the water on the way back up so you lose that point. Not many people know this yet, but you can tap down to tech off the surface of the water if you're tumbling into it, which lets you recover quickly and will push you back up a little bit.
Okay, some quickfire questions...
What is the best functioning toilet in a game?
Probably one of these Minecraft toilets:
What is your favourite ‘Barry’ in a videogame?
Barry Lyndon. The moral choices in that game are incredibly dramatic, even though I'm not much of an RPG guy. Still, if I had to pick my favorite Kubrick game it would probably be Full Metal Jacket.
What is your favourite Ball in a videogame?
Maybe the Marumari, or the giant ball from the secret mode in BBB.
When/Where can we expect to see BaraBariBall available for all?