Picture this... Tracy and Liz sitting down on a Friday afternoon, a special English cider in hand for the occasion, preparing to pitch some profound, hard-hitting questions for their interview with the Bumpkin Brothers. Across the pond somewhere "in the English Countryside," which, for the sisters, conjures up images of riding through the meadow on one of Mary Poppins' carousel horses, Rich and Andy sip their tea totally unaware what's in store for them...
First things first, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? How did you get started in the game development business?
Andy: Anyone who makes games, loves games (despite having hardly any time to play them) and the same is definitely true of me. I'm a huge fan of a wide range of games and genres, and I've been playing around with game creation since I was nine. The really big turning point for me was after I'd played Final Fantasy 9 back in 2003, I was completely awestruck with it, and I was desperate to make something similar. A friend at the time pointed out a programming language called Blitz3D, I made a small Final Fantasy style game in it (for which I can't even look at the code for now) and I've been programming games using that series of languages since.
Rich: I got started with programming when I was nine. My parents brought me a ZX Spectrum for Christmas but the tape drive was broken, so I spent the holidays reading the big guide to BASIC that came with it and typing in the examples. When I found you could make games, that was it, I was hooked.
Tracy: Programming at nine huh? Well… I’m sure we were writing at eight. Didn’t you finish your Great American Novel at eight Liz?
Liz: Yes, it was an existential analysis on the secret profound meanings of the cutie marks of my favorite My Little Ponies.
Tracy: Cutie Marks? You mean the butt tattoos?
Liz: Yes, Tracy… the butt tattoos.
Your company name is the Bumpkin Brothers... we have to ask... are you two really brothers? Where did the name come from?
Andy: We're brothers in arms! I blame Rich for this one actually.
Rich: We’re not brothers but we are good friends. The name is my fault. I like the juxtaposition of technology and country life. I like to think that one day we'll work in an old barn. Outside will look like an ordinary barn but inside will be a high-tech game making experience.
Andy: We’ll have bean bag chairs too.
Rich: And a room where Ninjas are being trained.
Liz: See, I told you they weren’t brothers. Definitely not as cool as us.
Tracy: Not many people are. They don’t even have a Ninja room yet…
Your latest game Tribloos 2 is pretty popular, can you tell us a little about the Tribloos concept? Where did the idea come from? Were you guys watching teletubbies one night while drinking too much... tea?
Andy: Teletubbies! That baby in the sun sure was scary... Anyway, the concept changed quite a bit to start with, but here's the short-ish version of how it happened. I had this mad idea about a builder type game where it was a side view, and you could build houses anywhere as long as they were near the chief hut, then there was a shop and the little tribe’s people could jump down onto lower platforms but needed lifts to go back up.
I'd been playing quite a few Big Fish Games titles at the time, like "My Kingdom for the Princess" and "Roads Of Rome" (I'm a huge fan of both series), and it suddenly seemed so obvious that the game could be a time management game rather than a sim game. After that, everything just fell into place, the story, the reason everything was trashed and needed rebuilding, and how the levels would progress.
I drew this all on a whiteboard and tried to explain to Rich why it was a good idea. When he told me he couldn't understand why anyone would play it, I felt I needed to prove him wrong.
So, I went home and drew out some proper ideas. The original Tribloos design included a long pointy nose and the buildings were patchwork tents basically.
A lot changed in the first few weeks, (we still have the development diary on our blog) but it all started to take shape. I sent a demo into Big Fish Games, and they were a big help in giving advice and feedback until it was ready for launch. That sounded very quick then - that last part took nine months!
Rich: I'd just like to point out that I always thought it was a brilliant idea and was just using psychological techniques to encourage Andy to make the game. And we do drink an astonishing amount of tea.
Tracy: Do you think he knows that when I say tea, I really mean booze?
Liz: I don’t know… British people do love their tea.
Tracy: Should I say something?
Liz: I would just let it go. Let him think we’re classy…
Seriously... how do you pronounce Tribloos... where does the name come from? Is it a made up word? Two words smashed together? A noise your cat makes?
Andy: It's definitely a made up word. I'd seen the word "Tribe" thrown around in quite a few time management titles, but I wanted something cuter and more unique. I wrote the name as soon as I drew the first character and it kind of stuck!
But yeah, it's not "Tribe-Loos" it’s more..."Trib-a-loos" - but I'm not too bothered how people say it myself. Mainly because I was gutted when I learnt that Final Fantasy Chocobos were pronounced Choke-a-boes rather than Chock-a-boes like I'd been saying for years!
Rich: I'm sure the name also spawned from the name Terry, which was the lead character in Contact, a Nintendo DS game we were playing at the time. We both thought having a lead character called Terry was awesome.
Andy: Terry is awesome and Trey was actually called Terry originally. I can’t remember who suggested we change it to Trey now though (possibly my wife!)
Tracy: I still don’t get it.
Liz: Me neither.
Tracy: Smile and Nod?
How long did it take to create the game? Did you hit any major obstacles on the road to developing it? Any point that made you want to throw things?
Andy: Game development always makes you want to throw things! There are rare occasions where bugs can be funny, like when the tribloos would run backwards but faced the wrong way as if they were doing the moonwalk. There are times when bugs can be useful, like when drawing a line in the wrong place gave me an idea how to represent target completion. But usually they're blooming annoying like when the tribloos would occasionally (and only maybe one in 30 times) dive bomb off the screen when starting down a zipwire. Super frustrating!
Tribloos 1 took nine months to complete and that included me drawing everything too. In comparison Tribloos 2 took 13 months (and we had a wonderful artist draw everything!) But my excuse there is that I became a dad at the start of 2012, that kind of set me back a bit last year :)
Rich: We’re not full time devs either! All of our games have been created in our spare time, or at least what we have left of it.
Tracy: Blooming... That’s a funny word. I’m going to start using that one. Liz, you’re blooming.
Liz: I don’t think that means what you think it does.
Tracy: What do I know, I don’t speak British…
Can you tell us a little about the other games you've created? What game has been your favorite or most rewarding game that you've worked on so far?
Andy: We've made three major games so far: "The Machine," a Production Line Sim Puzzler and then Tribloos 1 & 2. We also have a web game we made for a "make a game in 48 hours" competition called "Ella's Umbrella."
I think our closest collaboration was Ella as we were all in the same room (my (biological) brother Jon also helped with this one), and it feels like a real mix of us all. Rich did the coding, I did the level design and music while Jon did the artwork. I certainly had a lot of fun doing that.
Otherwise Tribloos 1 obviously has a special place in my heart, but I'm so proud of how Tribloos 2 has done.
Rich: I’ll also add “Eden,” which was another 48 hour project I did for Ludum Dare. It was a solo entry, so Andy couldn’t help but he was there in spirit.
Liz: Do you think we could make a game in 48 hours?
Tracy: Sure, we’re going to need some glitter, some shot glasses, a bedazzler, Right Said Fred’s Greatest Hits, a limited edition of A Clockwork Orange, and five pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Liz: But that just sounds like Friday night…
Now that Tribloos 2 is done, what's the next project we can look forward to from you guys? Is there a Tribloos 3 in our future?
Andy: At the moment, we're still concentrating on Tribloos 2. We're writing a guide, helping people with issues (no critical ones thankfully), and trying to do marketing on a shoestring budget!
Tribloos 3 is definitely on the cards, the only question is when! I'm currently writing the story, so hopefully more news in the coming months there.
Otherwise we do have some other projects that are slightly further along.
Rich: If there’s interest, we’re going to look at Tribloos on iPad and Android. I’d really like to see how that works out.
We also have an iPhone game that’s been in development for a few months, so we’ll be showing that really soon.
We’d also like to expand on the 48 hour games we’ve created. There was a lot more to the design of Ella than made it into the final game, and I have lots of level ideas for Eden in my notebook.
Andy: Yep, watch this space!
Tracy: Don’t worry Andy… we will. All joking aside, we want to extend a special thank you to the Bumpkin Brothers… even if they’re not really brothers… for agreeing to do this interview with us. We adored their newest game Tribloos 2 and can’t wait to see what else these two can cook up across the pond… we hope it’s blooming.
Liz: Still not what you think that means.