May 7, 2019
Brief Battles is a cheeky party game brought to life with Unreal Engine 4
Originally built as a concept in Unity before making the transition to Unreal Engine 4, Brief Battles sports an absolutely massive lineup of 50 arenas at launch and utilizes a few of Unreal’s best tools along the way to speed up iteration. Focusing on the joy of playing locally with friends, Brief Battles combines fast-paced action alongside gut-busting humor while keeping things PG so the game can be fun for all ages.
We chatted with one half of Juicy Cupcake, Creative Lead Andrew Freeth, to find out why they chose the party game genre for their first foray into development. He also discusses where his love for couch co-op games come from, elaborates on how the studio effectively utilized Unreal Engine 4, and explains what inspired him to weaponize underpants. What inspired you to go into indie game development?
Playing classic PC titles like Jazz Jackrabbit and Commander Keen as a kid, I got it into my head that one day I wanted to make games like that. Tim (the other half of Juicy Cupcake) felt the same way when he first got his hands on the original Prince of Persia and other classics like Wolfenstein 3D. John Romero and John Carmack were his heroes.
We were both new to the industry when starting out. Throughout school, I spent weekends messing around in Blender 3D, made mini-games in Flash and eventually Torque, with the goal of one day putting together an indie game team. I love to play games, but the appeal to make them has always been greater.
As a kid, Tim was into modding Doom, Quake, and Elder Scrolls, and made games from scratch with C++ in his spare time. After high school, he studied 3D modeling and animation and was excited to finally put those skills to use commercially upon joining Juicy Cupcake.
We eventually met each other working at our day job in a liquor store. Not long after that, Juicy Cupcake was founded and we started to catch up outside of work to teach ourselves how to make games.
Do either of you have previous experience working with Unreal Engine?
Aside from Tim messing around in the original Unreal Engine 1 editor, our first experience with UE was getting into online tutorials and messing around in UDK years ago, when we were still fresh into game development. I was blown away by the possibilities and toolset available, though it was a little overwhelming to adopt at the time.
Fast forward to when Unreal Engine 4 was released, we’d been working on a 3D adventure platformer proof of concept in Unity. The core mechanics were a lot of fun, but we had blind ambition and lofty goals to turn the project into a 3D platformer in a seamless world without loading screens. The tools to achieve this were already in Unreal Engine, so we spent a week or two bingeing online tutorials, then commenced re-building our project in Unreal.
Even using the early versions of UE4, the transition was surprisingly easy. Having Blueprints, Node-based material editing, great landscape tools, fast lightmapping, and GUI tools built into the engine made adapting to the new toolset a seamless experience.
After re-building our aforementioned proof of concept in Unreal, we evolved it into the cheeky butt-em-up party game that Brief Battles is today.
For people hearing about Brief Battles for the first time, could you provide a high-level overview of the game’s premise?
Sure thing! Brief Battles is a fast-paced underwear-fueled party game where players use their underpants to fight friends, family, or foe!
Local multiplayer is at the core of the experience, allowing you to grab up to three friends to battle in underpants-themed game modes. “Hold the Gold - Bare Buns” is probably my favorite at the moment. Everyone starts out pantless, fighting for a hefty pair of golden undies. It’s sure to evoke some laughs and shouting at your friends.
There’s a heap of solo and co-op content that you can play to improve your underwear mastery and unlock “Underwearrior” crossover mash-ups from the likes of Yooka-Laylee and CommanderVideo to name a few!
You can battle it out with buns of steel, toxic tighty-whities, flaming hot pants, underpants of protection, icy undies, and leopard-print undies in 50 unique and sometimes treacherous arenas.
Brief Battles is easy to pick up, but rewarding to master. Trophy hunters can push their skills to the limit to reach the hardest challenge goals, while accessibility options open the game up to everyone.
We recently released Brief Battles on PS4, Xbox One, and PC!
So, what was the inspiration behind Brief Battles (aside from the fantastic play on words)?
We’re both huge fans of couch co-op and party games! Brief Battles was created on a foundation of love for local multiplayer, and the times we’ve shared with friends and family playing games in that space.
Brief Battles started out as a simple arena brawler based on a fast-paced platformer mechanic that allowed roof and wall climbing and some pretty wild agility. We had four of the same pink blob-like jiggly characters running around in tighty-whities, eating melon and spitting melon pips at each other with power-ups.
While ideating what this local multiplayer prototype would come to be if we developed it in full, we gradually embraced the power of the butt, reworking everything to be based around super-powered underpants and the posterior of players.
Without imagery, reading about a game where players battle it out in their undies can lead to some interesting imagining of what our title looks like. In reality, it’s a cheeky, light-hearted, and family-friendly underwear-laden experience aimed at all ages.
Brief Battles contains quite a few arenas to play in, so how did Unreal Engine 4 help streamline the process of creating so many unique spaces?
Yeah, we’re at 50 arenas for launch and we’re still working on more ideas behind the scenes!
Every arena we work on has to be greyboxed, playtested, and tweaked heavily before we approve it for an art pass. We’ve found Binary Space Partitioning (BSP) brushes to be ideal for this. Every arena was initially built with BSPs so that we could tweak everything easily. Once an arena is just right, we’d convert the BSPs to meshes and keep them for collision.
When it comes to populating arenas with assets, the default editor tools have been great. The flexibility of viewports and speed of the interface has been especially useful. When it comes to creating new regions, we’ve made use of material instances for quick changes without compile times getting in the way.
Does the studio have a favorite UE4 tool?
Blueprints, hands down! The speed, flexibility, and complete integration of Blueprints is insane. Brief Battles runs on 90 percent Blueprints. I can’t imagine living without the ability to make quick visual changes and debug on the fly.
It’s a dream tool that really makes tweaking functionality of our game accessible to me as a designer.
Brief Battles isn't just a couch co-op arena battler - it also offers extra challenges and a single player mode, too. Was it difficult to incorporate so many different mechanics into the game? Did Unreal Engine help make this development process easier in any way?
We have a lot of data to handle that helps drive our many solo and co-op levels. We originally stored this data in a structure in the game instance, which became cumbersome. To solve this, we migrated all this info into Data Tables, making data management breezy.
Using Blutilities (Blueprint Utilities) we were able to automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks when creating and editing levels.
Now that you've released Brief Battles, what have you learned that you think will be of great use to the studio as you look forward to developing your next game?
We’ve squeezed in a lot of experience during the development of Brief Battles. Along with it being our first full commercial title, we’ve learned about marketing, localization, development, and console porting for all major platforms coupled with ratings and legal requirements, crowdfunding, conventions, and more!
The combination of all this experience has been phenomenal, and we’ll use it all when looking at new and exciting projects, though we’re always going to push ourselves to learn more with whatever we do next.
Reflecting back on all that you've learned, what would you say to developers looking to jump into Unreal Engine for the first time? Any advice for first-time developers that you wish you had when you started?
If you’re looking to make the jump to Unreal and it’s the right time for your team, or if you’re just getting into game development, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. The Unreal Engine community and staff are incredibly supportive, and there are so many great resources online to help you get started.
As for advice that I wish I’d had when I started? I wish I’d followed @HighlySpammable on Twitter sooner! They are always sharing neat tricks and hotkeys that would have made development easier. Also, do yourself a favor and stick through as many neat tips and tricks tutorials as possible before diving into development. There are so many neat hidden hotkeys and tools in Unreal that can speed up development.
Where are all the places people can keep up with Brief Battles and Juicy Cupcake?
Embrace the power of the butt at briefbattles.com to learn more about Brief Battles and our team! It’s now available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
You can follow us for more cheeky updates on Twitter @thejuicycupcake or on Facebook/Instagram.