dark        

Jackbox Games talks You Donít Know Jack, Twitch, and the future

0

Quiplash is on Kickstarter this week

Jackbox Games has been busy. In addition to reviving the You Don't Know Jack franchise for modern consoles, it's also built an intriguing online infrastructure from the ground up. As an innovative way to solve the "controller problem" for fairly new platforms, Xbox One and PS4 owners can use their mobile devices (or anything that has internet access) to tap in and play with seven other people.

It's a really cool concept, and now Jackbox is poised to integrate it with Twitch for a full-on virtual party. Since the company is launching a Kickstarter for a brand new game that uses the same tech, I decided to reach out and pick CEO Mike Bilder's brain a bit.

Destructoid: Tell us a bit about how you started Jackbox Games, and how you ended up here from Jellyvision so many years back.

Mike Bilder: Jellyvision Games was originally Jellyvision Inc. which was originally Learn Television. Harry Gottlieb, creator of You Don't Know Jack, founded the company in early '90s and is still very much a part of both Jackbox Games and its sister company The Jellyvision Lab. Like you, I was a big fan of YDKJ and left Midway Games in 2008 to join Harry and others in rebooting the games company.

How successful has the recent You Don't Know Jack series been? Would you say it's still your flagship franchise?

You Don't Know Jack is certainly our flagship franchise. The franchise has sold over 5.5 million units since the first release and our recently retired social and mobile versions had over 5 million installs. The 2011 console reboot was a huge hit critically and with fans, and the latest version, You Don't Know Jack 2015, can be found in our most recent game release: The Jackbox Party Pack.

We’ve been very pleased with the reception to our new party bundle. Longtime fans seem to love the new YDKJ and new players that have discovered The Jackbox Party Pack through Fibbage and Drawful can enjoy YDKJ for the first time.

I noticed that the newer titles have toned down some of the graphic content from the older series -- did you want to bring the franchise to a broader audience, and do you have any plans to bring back an adult-oriented Jack at some point?

If you asked our editors they’d tell you they’re pushing the boundary of a T rating now more than ever. I guess if you looked at the old CD-Rom versions there may have been a few more over-the-top questions, but in these ESRB days we have to be a little careful not to attract an M rating. And at least for now, we’re going to try to avoid that M rating. Overall, we think the tone is on par with the older games, but updated for today’s comedic sensibilities, of course.

For example, some of our most recent fake commercials and prizes have been for The STD Superstore (“parking in the rear”), Peeping Todd’s Pervert Supplies, Fat-Mouth Fascist Fish, Ted’s Drop-Dead Gorgeous Body Bags, and a dating show where women vie to mate with a horse. I could go on.

So let's talk about Quiplash, heading into its Kickstarter this week. How did you come up with the idea?

After Fibbage came online last year, we began rapidly prototyping other game ideas that worked with our mobiles-as-controllers technology. Many prototypes later and we had our first Jackbox Party Pack. After the content for that game was locked and production was well underway, the idea of Quiplash came about. The more we played the Quiplash prototype in the office this year, the more fun we had.

Unfortunately our production plans for 2015 are full, and yet this prototype kept bubbling to the top. We want to finish Quiplash as a full game and bring it out by summer 2015 which is why we’ve turned to Kickstarter. With help from backers, we can bring on the resources we need to finish the game.

What moved you towards supporting Twitch play directly? Do you see this new type of gameplay catching on?

Our recent games have been developed with parties in mind. Our expectation was 2-20+ players in the same room laughing and enjoying party games – much like you might do with board games, Rock Band, or Cards Against Humanity. After we launched Fibbage we realized that despite the stream delay, people were streaming their games and viewers could join and play along anywhere in the world. By the time we realized this we were pretty far along with development of The Jackbox Party Pack, but we took some extra steps to further embrace the streaming mode of play by extending timers in Drawful and making some tweaks to Lie Swatter.

With Quiplash, and our future games (if it makes sense for the game mechanic), we’re going to fully embrace this streaming mode of play. We’ve seen many large streamers play our games and get 100 or more people joining their game and playing along with their live stream. We want to let thousands of viewers participate. We think it’s an amazing way to use Twitch and other streaming services. Instead of viewers only being able to comment or perhaps affect gameplay through comments (as has been done in some games), we’re giving viewers a way to actively participate with their favorite streamers by playing the game with them. And, we’re giving streamers everywhere a multiplayer experience they can share with their audience.

In terms of the mobile functionality, I have to say, it's pretty genius. How long did it take you to develop the tech, how does it work, and how long do you plan on supporting it?

Thanks! We think it’s great too. We spent a few months prototyping the technology and then proving it would work and the experience would be fun…and then we spent about a year perfecting it. Although it seems simple on the surface, it’s a very complex system. Besides the game itself and all of the platforms it runs on, there’s a large scalable server architecture that hosts and manages the “rooms” for each game as well as the customized controller systems that display the real-time game interfaces on your mobile/tablet/browser.

We worked hard to eliminate any friction with getting people into our games. There isn’t any app to download or install nor is there a need to sync devices or ensure they’re on the same Wi-Fi. As long as your device has an internet connection and a browser, you can participate in our games. We fully believe in this method of play and we’re planning to support it with all of our future party games, at least until VR and telepathy interfaces take hold.

What platform have you had the most success with from a programming perspective?

The Jackbox Party Pack is on a ton of platforms. While we’ve had different financial success on different platforms, I’m not sure any programming successes stand out in one platform vs. any other. Each platform has its own quirks. Thankfully, we have a very talented team that’s built a robust cross-platform engine that can run our games from the most powerful current-generation consoles down to the simplest set-top box.

Honestly, the biggest success was getting the console manufactures to allow us to use mobile phones as controllers. What a challenge that was – but they all supported us!

I see that you haven't focused on the Wii U yet. Is there a reason for that? In that same vein, what is your experience working with Amazon's platforms, Ouya, and the Roku?

We’re a small team and we’ve done the development for all of our platforms in-house and we’ve self-published all of our recent games. We like the Wii U and may support it in the future but our recent lack of support is really a function of production resources, as well as market size. Amazon, Ouya, and others have been easy platforms to get to because of our technology.

We really feel the type of games we make – party games – are uniquely suited for this recent generation of set-top-boxes that feature games. Consumers of those boxes aren’t looking for AAA console quality games. If they are, they likely already have a console. But, some awesome, affordable party games (our games) that you can easily fire up on your TV seem like a perfect fit for that audience.

Finally, if you can share them, what are some ideas you have that are on the cutting room floor?

We have hundreds of ideas and dozens and dozens of prototypes. I feel very fortunate to work with such a creative, talented, and funny group of people. One day we may release Willy Pee, Everybody Help Grandma, or Space Farts, but until then, you’ll have to put up with our recent games in The Jackbox Party Pack… and hopefully Quiplash!

You are logged out. Login | Sign up

 
 

 

TwitterRedditEmailFacebook
 
Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


 




 


Also on destructoid: Quiplash   (4)   From our database:

  • Jackbox Games talks You Donít Know Jack, Twitch, and the future - Chris Carter
  • More related stories
    Filed under... #Destructoid Originals #Developer stuff #pc #ps3 #PS4 #Top Stories #Xbox One

    READER COMMENTS LOADING BELOW...


    LET'S KEEP THE COMMUNITY GREAT


    You're not expected to always agree, but do please keep cool and never make it personal. Report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community team. Also, on the right side of a comment you can flag nasty comments anonymously (we ban users dishing bad karma). For everything else, contact us!



     
     
  •