Dev. Diary #2 – The origins of the Valve Challenge
– After discovering BPE’s genesis; let’s focus on Valve-exclusive content! –
For this final episode of the “Dev Diary” series, BANDAI NAMCO Games Europe S.A.S decided to give carte blanche to the dev. team and let them speak their mind!
“Making Valve content is not something that popped up only recently in our minds; we are all fans of Valve’s games and hid a bunch of Easter eggs related to them in the original version of the game (for example, you can see the Space Core and Wheatley making a brief appearance in the Martians’ saucer). GLaDOS is directly mentioned in the title of an achievement, and another is titled “The Cow is a Lie.”
But this didn’t stop at some references here and there: the very idea of the Martian Quantum Leaper, who opens portals for Martians to jump in, is not only inspired by Valve’s Portal; the Martian originally was Chell herself! We backtracked a bit on this, fearing this could be regarded as a copyright infringement. However, from this time, the portal gun in the Quantum Leaper’s hands survived, as we felt it was a pretty subtle and therefore safe reference to keep.
Much in the same way, another Martian inspired by Valve was the Soldier; rocket-jumping itself was of course not invented by Valve, but the concept of a dimwitted, trigger-happy WW2 footsoldier with an oversized helmet and a rocket-launcher he used partly to move around is a signature character from Team Fortress 2, and we decided to go for the same concept.
Implementing the Martians!
After clearing the Greenlight process and starting to work with Bandai Namco, we suddenly figured: “hey, shouldn’t we try to make Valve official content? Why not give it a shot?” What was the worst that could happen? Valve could say no and we’d have to drop the whole idea altogether, but that was it. We decided to work on new Martians and submit the idea to Valve. Of course the Martians would have to resemble and make the most of Valve’s characters. In “Beware Planet Earth!”, all Martians were originally designed to be easily disguised/transformed to hint at their function, often taking the form a well-known archetype such as the Ninja, the Mad Scientist, and so on.
Unsurprisingly, during this early design phase, the decision to keep the Quantum Leaper/Chell and Soldier was a no-brainer; they had been originally inspired by Valve characters after all, so it was only doing them justice. But we had other ideas! The Headcrab Zombie, which summons a Headcrab Shell which in turn spawns waves of pesky Headcrabs, was older than the Valve Challenges, too; but much for the same reason as Chell regarding copyright, it ended up as a Jack-o’-Lantern in our previously released Halloween Challenges, and the Headcrabs became hopping cursed pumpkins.
To counterbalance the slow, overly enduring zombie, we needed a very fast Martian. And who’s faster than the Scout? Nobody! We endowed him with the ability to double-jump over the player’s defenses, which basically made him a very fast Soldier that would take the player by surprise. But we also had the need for a new “cannon-fodder” trooper. We briefly considered Gordon Freeman for the part but something felt odd with this idea: in Half-Life, “Freeman” is a unique hero, who stands out from the crowd. Making him a base unit would have watered him down so we decided to take advantage of his mighty crowbar and make him a Saboteur instead; only faster and tougher than the regular Saboteur Martian. It was a harsh decision because we had considered the endearing Engineer from TF2 to fill the Saboteur part with his Wrench, but by this time we already had too many ideas for TF2 characters.
So, what eventually happened is this: Gordon Freeman (or “Freemars” as we like to call him) became an upgraded Saboteur, while the Engineer was put back into the drawer, and as we still needed cannon fodder, we considered the Rebels from the Half-Life franchise, who could be led into battle by the Freemars. However, for some reason we felt it would be odd and not very cool to kill HL Rebels by the dozen, so we went for the Combine Overwatch and found it to be much more rewarding.
And last but not least, now that the base Martian roster was complete, we also wanted to pay tribute to one of Team Fortress 2’s most iconic characters: the Spy. But, saying anything about him would spoil the surprise. Just know that both the BLU and RED Spies are in “Beware Planet Earth!” Valve Challenges and both of them have a very efficient way to slip under the radar.
Submitting to Valve…
Having written the concepts for the Valve-themed Martians and designed the characters, we sent the documents to Valve for approval. We were warned that victory was far from assured, as all characters had to be submitted to each relevant team. Wait. Did that mean that our humble work would actually be reviewed by the very guys who had shipped Half-Life, Team Fortress 2 and Portal? Obviously it did! Pressure went up a notch as we were waiting for their answer. It took some weeks, but we had news about how the process was going. We kind of thought “they might be managing our disappointment.”
And then the answer came. They had accepted everything. Every single idea we had, they accepted it as it was exposed. They didn’t even ask for modifications as it is often the case in this kind of deal. It was hard for us to believe it, but we were ecstatic. Valve’s amazing in many ways, and this is just another proof of their awesomeness. We were more than happy that Valve let us use their incredible franchises, but nothing was done yet: we had to roll up our sleeves, and make it actually happen. With a big wide smile on our faces.”
BEWARE PLANET EARTH! is scheduled for STEAM® on April 11th, 2014. iOS version to come shortly after. For the latest news and updates on, join us on www.Lightmare-Studio.com and www.BandaiNamcoGames.eu.