Developer Interview: Big Moustache Games

Grimmwood – They Come at Night is Bulgarian studio Big Moustache Games‘ first entry — and what a stunning and innovative success for a first entry it is. Launched on August 2 on SteamGrimmwood has ever since captivated and challenged players with its vast MMO cooperative system and memorable, if macabre, art and gameplay. We caught up with Big Moustache Games to learn a little more about what motivated them to create such a co-op empire, and what they just might be planning on doing next.

Big Moustache Games

|| Give us a taste of Big Moustache Games’ lore. We hear you’re located in Bulgaria. When and how did your studio come to be what it is today – and, of course, where did that name come from?

As with most (well, some at least) start-ups, in the beginning there was this tempting thought – I think I can do this better. I had already 10+ years of experience in the industry and Alex (our lead game designer and the other co-founder of BMG) wasn’t exactly new to the business of making games. I had this overwhelming nostalgia of the good old days when making games was still a passion rather than a lucrative carrier choice. Once, not that long ago, creating a fun game wasn’t that much different from writing a good book, or composing a catchy song, or shooting a solid movie. We both wanted that back.

As for the name, remember those pictures of 19th and early 20th century explorers and adventurers? Remember those determined gazes, almost always coupled with a pair of magnificent moustaches? That’s where the idea for “Big Moustache Games” as studio name came from. For us, it’s a synonym of daring to dream big and live big.

|| What’s the elevator pitch for Grimmwood – They Come at Night? Congratulations on your first title releasing on August 2! What do you want potential players to know about it?

Thank you! It was a big day for us because starting something is great, but finishing it is even better :)  Grimmwood in a nutshell? It’s a socially oriented co-op MMO where your inventiveness and your team spirit count more than your previous gaming experience. You find yourself in an abandoned 17th century Village, hidden in the depths of a mystic forest. Together with up to 40 other strangers you need to learn how to defend your refuge, because each night, around midnight the wile forest creatures will attack, trying to tear the Village down.

We wanted to make a game for everyone who enjoys playing with others but doesn’t necessarily have the option to engage in something too time consuming. That’s why Grimmwood allows both for synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer. We also like to believe that (although there’s a complex game system “below the hood”) all the choices in the game are based on common sense.

|| What inspired the unique genre-fusion of Grimmwood? Your indie is a fascinating blend of online multiplayer cooperation, strategy, and exploration. Were there specific previous titles that helped to spur on the idea?

We were inspired by a browser based game called Die2Night. We felt that there’s a lot of potential there if somebody decides to develop the concept even further. Regarding the genre mix – I was never a big fan of the genre tags and the artificial limitations they come with. Many fun games are based on real life situations rather than predefined genre boundaries. When you have to survive in a hostile environment, you’ll have to build a refuge, you’ll have to scout your surroundings for enemies and supplies, and you have to defend what you have built. It all comes together naturally.

We’re also big fans of the classic group survival movie/book scenarios. There’s something quite appealing to us in the idea of being forced (in a group of people with different walks of life) to work out your differences with total strangers. In real life, where our lives aren’t at stake, we often tend to be overaggressive and unforgiving towards the others. “Strangely” that’s not the case when your personal survival rests on the shoulders of the group. I believe there are a lot of great lessons to be taken from situations like that.

|| Are there hints of Bulgaria embedded in Grimmwood? Big Moustache Games calls Bulgaria home, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see some of those cultural aspects woven throughout.

Bulgaria’s a country with amazing natural sights and amazing folklore. But instead of staying strictly in the realm of what surrounds us, we wanted to go for something more universal, more pan-European if you like. In Grimmwood you’ll find inspiration coming from a lot of places – the Bulgarian and the Slavic folklore, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, the Nordic mythology, even the works of Astrid Lindgren. And there are so many sources we haven’t even tapped into yet. We “just” have to be careful to keep the fiction of the game as consistent as possible. Hopefully we succeeded in that so far.

|| Do you have faith in the gaming community to survive and ultimately conquer Grimmwood’s terrors? Many online games struggle with toxicity among their players. Do you foresee any potential issues with unhelpful or unkind players?

It is a big threat, no doubt, even a bigger threat than we initially suspected. The gaming communities are micro versions of today’s world as a whole. People are getting more and more cynical and alienated, more aggressive and intolerant. It’s something actively fostered by today’s pop-culture. And this does not exclude the computer games. As game makers we are determined to do everything in our power to change that tendency. It’s not that difficult to see where the source of the problem lies. Speaking of Grimmwood in particular, we are working on ways to promote the constructive, team oriented playstyle, and at the same time – to discourage the destructive, selfish and obstructive actions of the players. Banning players is not the solution. More like, as in real life, every game action should have its consequences.

|| Are there any other projects in the works? It’s too soon to ask, but with such a successful first launch, we’re curious to know. Are there any other games forthcoming from your studio, or will the focus be on Grimmwood for a long time to come?

Both :) As a team, we’re always on the search of that amazing idea for a new game. That’s probably the most fun part of being game developer – constantly asking yourself that “What if” question. We definitely plan to expand the Grimmwood universe, not only by delving deeper into its lore, but also by experimenting with other genres which could compliment the Grimmwood experience.

In parallel, there are so many other wonderful worlds and ideas to explore! And the indie dev scene definitely leads the way in in this respect. We’re currently in pre-production of one such potentially great project and we’re having a blast! Hopefully, we’ll be ready to announce something very interesting before the end of the year. Fingers crossed!

|| What was the most rewarding part about having Grimmwood in open beta? And the most frustrating part, if there was one?

Without a shadow of doubt, the most rewarding part is seeing the game getting slowly populated by real players. That “It’s alive!!!” moment is… well, it’s hard to put it in words!

The most frustrating part? Experiencing negativism for the sake of negativism. Unfortunately it’s becoming a thing, for some time now.

|| Can you explain your Iron Triangle to us, and how your studio abides by it? You’ve mentioned honesty, humbleness, and hard work elsewhere as being your core. How does Big Moustache Games utilize these in their game development process?

Well, it’s our iron triangle at least :) Honesty – you can’t lie to the players, they are smarter than you think, guaranteed. When you have failed them (and this will happen, no matter how good you are) – simply admit it. If you have done something right (hopefully lots of things :) ) they’ll forgive you. If not… we’ll probably that’s not the right job for you.

Humbleness – we’re working in one of the, if not the most dynamically developing IT sector. The minute that “seen it all, know it all” thought crosses your mind, you’re already dead. You just don’t know it yet.

Hard work – it’s the magic ingredient… that isn’t magic at all. It’s the one thing you control in this life. Luck is nice, hell, luck is amazing! But you cannot build anything on luck. BUT working hard and working all the time – two different things :)