Monday, October 16, 2017

Jackbox Games Interview Jackbox Party Pack 4 Out This Week

Jackbox Party Pack 4 is coming out this week on every current system (see below). It's part of a super popular game series you can play with friends with just your cell phone as the controller. Jackbox Games are a Chicago-based game making studio and have been making trivia games for years. They'll be in LA or technically Long Beach this week for TwitchCon. As they're gonna be so close, we thought why not ask them a few questions about making their games. So, read on as to how some of their games are made and if we might be getting any merch.

Jackbox Party Pack 4 Release dates

·         October 17: PlayStation®4 via the PlayStation®Store
·         October 18: Apple TV (4th Generation only)
·         October 19: Nintendo Switch™ via the Nintendo eShop, Windows PC and Mac via Steam, the Humble Store and Bundle Stars, as well as the Mac App Store, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Nvidia Shield
·         October 20: Xbox One through the Xbox Games Store

The new games
Jonathan Bilski/TTDILA: You have the new game pack, Jackbox Party Pack 4-which I’ve been looking forward to- headed out the week of Oct 17th with multiple new games to try. Can you give us a little bit on each to remind gamers to check it out?

Spencer Ham (writer/director): Sure! We’re excited. This is easily our biggest Party Pack yet as it has five and half games! Anchoring the pack is Fibbage 3, which is loaded with more question types plus the new game mode Fibbage: Enough About You, where you try to guess all the obscure facts about your fellow players. Then there’s Survive the Internet, a game where you take your friends’ “online” comments out of context in hilarious ways. For the romantics, there’s Monster Seeking Monster, which is all about messaging and dating fellow monsters who have secret powers. Bracketeering is a deranged debate tournament where you have to make smart bets on what will win stupid arguments. And rounding out the pack is Civic Doodle, a one-up drawing game where your objective is to “beautify” the murals of Doodle Valley.

Just looking at how different all the games are in the new pack, it seems you don't set yourselves into a corner on just making sequels. How many other games didn't make the cut? What were some of them? 

Spencer (writer/director): Yeah, we make a concerted effort not to just make sequels. We pitch A LOT of game ideas throughout the year. Only a handful of them get the green light, so that means a lot of ideas go back into the incubator, are used for parts in other games, or just never resurface. I think it’s safe to say the world will never see my brilliant game idea of a rapping trivia host.  

Arnie Niekamp (writer/director): We like doing sequels, it’s fun to figure out to how to make the games even better… but we really love doing new games and one of the great things about doing a Pack of games is we can do both.

Possibly going off that previous question. What is the process in developing new games? Where does it start? How long does it take to develop?

Arnie (writer/director):We paper test a lot of ideas throughout the year, especially in the beginning of the year just trying out weird stuff, so our office is usually littered with weird drawings and pieces of paper with nonsense writing on them. Then we digitally prototype some of those and even less of those eventually become real games.

A friend asked me about the amount of unique dialogue the games generate. How much would you say you come up with? I believe in some of your streams you explain there’s so much in there it even amazes you.

Arnie (writer/director):It depends on the game. Some games don’t have much at all, while something like Fibbage or Trivia Murder Party have so much it’s hard to even guess right now. We have a hard time resisting the temptation to add too many jokes.

Spencer (writer/director): As the host of Trivia Murder Party, I can confirm that we wrote a crazy amount of dialogue. There are moments in that game when I’ll hear a line of host dialogue and think to myself, “Wait, I recorded that? I honestly don’t remember that.”

I was just amazed the first time I played TeeKO, the t-shirt battling game, that I could order the shirts that were created, how hard was it to set up that process? And thanks for doing it. I have very inappropriate shirt I wear when I play.

Arnie (writer/director):It was definitely time consuming… and continues to be iterated on and hopefully improved. It’s probably not the most practical use of resources for a small team like ours, but I still love that it feels like a magic trick. “Wait… I can ORDER these shirts? What?!!”
You've made the games knowing they'll be on Twitch/YouTube/ streaming somewhere, has that changed what games you’re trying to make. Do they have to have an audience appeal beyond just friends playing?

Arnie (writer/director): We’re very invested in making our games work to allow people to play together by streaming, even with the delay… especially when it can lead to cool things like up to 10,000 people actively playing along. But if we really love a game idea and it doesn’t work as well to be streamed, like, say, Fakin’ It from Party Pack 3, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t make it into a Pack.

You don’t ever seem to shy away from new technology. I remember playing you Don’t Know on Facebook. Do you always want to be on the latest system or the next product?
Andy Poland (music/sound): We always try to innovate, technology-wise, and we have some really amazing programmer/engineers who are constantly trying to push the technological boundaries. We’re also just trying to find ways to get our games into the hands of more people. The Facebook YDKJ game helped us reach a larger audience and the phones-as-controllers thing has helped us cast that net even wider. Twitch has been really great for getting the word out about our games. We don’t really have a huge (or any) marketing budget, so we just try to be creative in finding ways to increase our reach.

Follow-up, if so, are we going to see you in the VR realm any time soon? Is there anything cooking there?

Spencer: Nope, but if we did a VR game I’m sure it would be Word Spud 2. Just imagine how realistic those floating words would look!

You seem to listen to your fans. I’ll sometimes watch your live stream. (I’m watching it right now as I write these questions.)Your community manager even answered one of my questions on the DLC content for Jackbox 360 version in a thread I found online. Would you say you’re more hands on with hearing your fans then other game companies? Do you value the fan input more?

Spencer (writer/director): As a small company, we definitely care about what our fans think. We’re always looking for ways to improve our game experiences and the best way to do that is by just watching people play. We often watch streams of our games to get insight into what’s working and what’s not. In fact, one of our highlights during the launch of Party Pack 3 was hopping from stream to stream and interacting with fans. We ended up on a fan’s stream who was playing Party Pack 3 with a few friends. She didn’t believe it was us until we sent her a selfie of the company watching her play. 

Trivia Murder Party, perfect for Halloween and now Monster Seeking Monster? Do guys love horror movies? Any influence on the games?

Spencer (writer/director): We’ve never been given orders to focus specifically on a Halloween-related game, but since we release in October it’s probably always in the back of our minds. Also, Arnie is behind those two games so I blame him.

Drawing games always stand out in the packs. What keeps drawing you to create them? 

Andy (music/sound): Because our games use phones/tablets as controllers, we’re always thinking of ways to best exploit that device in your hand. Drawing is a great way to use these devices in ways that a normal game controller never could. Plus, most drawings that people make on their phones are inherently funny, which is always a plus. 

I’ve heard so much interest on collectibles of the dolls from Murder Trivia or TeeKO mascots. I want to buy the pin you gave out at PAX, but it’s $30 on eBay. On that, why no team-ups with iam8bit, Fangamer or Gametee up in the UK on merch? Or really any merch other than some t-shirts on Amazon. I mean some of your design work is so great.

Spencer (writer/director): Thanks, we do have a bunch of talented artists. Good question. We should probably forward this someone on the business side of our company. Should we be making billions of dollars?! 

Have you thought of making a real stand-alone story driven game using the same mechanics of using phones or tablets? I’ve seen some attempts at IndieCade, an indie gaming festival and want to see what happens with PlayLink and Supermassive’s Hidden Agenda. Is there anything like that you might like to try? A story game, people can play with their phones?

Spencer (writer/director): Making games that are more narrative is something we always talk about. We did that a bit with Bomb Corp. It’s certainly possible that we’ll explore a story game in the future. To be continued...

Lastly, humor seems to be the best part of Jackbox, what makes you games so funny? Did you start off trying to get work as writers or be comedians? Are you constantly thinking of strange facts and jokes?

Andy (music/sound): Funny people make for funny games. A lot of our writers and directors come from the improv/acting world. Since the very first YDKJ games, we’ve sought out funny people to create our content and Chicago is chock full o’ hilarious, talented people. We try to come up with games that, at their core, allow us to be as creative and funny as possible. And it’s not just the writers -- pretty much everyone in the office contributes to the humor in our games, in one way or another. Except the programmers. They’re not funny at all.

Finally, props to your sound team. I love all the little sounds made while playing the packs. Thanks again for taking the time to answer these.

Andy (music/sound): Thanks! [SFX: wet fart]