Indie Games Showcase: DrinkBox Studios

Indie studios are unique in the way that they bring us unrestricted creativity within a restricted budget. When thinking about these independent game developers, it would be foolish to pass over the unique designs of DrinkBox Studios. Based out of Toronto, Canada, the studio was created in 2008 when Pseudo Interactive closed down. The three founding members of the team previously worked at Pseudo, had no other games opportunities in the city of Toronto, and did not want to leave their home. Thus, DrinkBox Studios was born.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Originally, DrinkBox was called NaN, which is a ‘nerdy programmer reference’ to not a number. The resident Art Director and pun master, Stephane Goulet, gave the team the idea of DrinkBox, and everyone loved it. As of January of 2015, there are 13 employees at DrinkBox Studios. 

Fun Facts About DrinkBox Studios

“We’ve been in the same old building for the company’s entire existence. And by old I mean, there have been work days where the temperature in the studio has been well below 0C (32F for our USA friends) in the winter, and well above 32C (90F)[in the summer]. Working here can be arduous.”

“We also destroyed the first office toilet bowl (we won’t say how) and had to use the local Starbucks bathroom for two weeks while waiting for the landlord to replace it.”

“DrinkBox has made it’s own game engine, which has been used for all our titles.”

“Mutant Blobs Attack is considered the first success at DrinkBox.”

“It’s not uncommon for the studio to take furniture from the hotel and use at their PAX booth during tradeshows.”

“The studio used to go to fancy restaurants for Holiday dinner and then realized nobody liked that. Now we just order pizza and play video games.”

“Our CEO comes in on weekends to clean our bathrooms when Nintendo visits us.”

“There have been five DrinkBox babies (that we know of).”

DrinkBox Studios’ Games Gallery

Upcoming Game Highlight: Severed

Severed header

Severed is the next game from DrinkBox Studios, and while it retains the art style that we’ve come to know and love, it tries a few different things that you may not be used to from a DrinkBox game. I recently had a chance to get my hands on a Vita to play Severed, and I was not disappointed in this touch-based dungeon crawler. 

Playing as a one-armed woman, you wield a living sword, and you combat enemies with the swipes of your fingers. The game is played in first person, and may feel familiar to those who have played other first-person dungeon crawler RPGs. This marks a departure from DrinkBox’s traditional side-scrolling gameplay found in their past games, yet they were still able to retain the same two dimensional art style while moving through a 3D space. DrinkBox’s Chris McQuinn let us in on some of the secrets about the game.

“Severed has a unique faux 2.5D art style – where detailed 2D images are created and then mapped to the inside of a giant cylinder that contains the player. This allows for a complete 360 degrees of viewable world, but also provides the benefits of hand drawn 2D art. Add in parallax effects and a few more tricks such as pinching the corners of the background to provide depth; results in an end product that is pretty cool.”

Severed Gameplay

Severed seems to be taking on a little bit of a darker tone than their previous titles, but this egress from the familiar looks like it will pay off with an amazing Vita game. For those who may be concerned about the touch-based gameplay, don’t be. The unique dungeon crawler style combat feels right at home on a Vita, and testing is eliminating any design choices that may hinder players’ enjoyment of the game. When I previewed Severed, I encountered an enemy that I was told will likely not see its way into the final game. It required swipes that resulted in players getting hung up on how to beat it, so the team took that feedback to ensure that Severed is approachable. 

Finally, Chris McQuinn also gave us some insight into what inspired Severed.

“Severed was inspired from a combination of ideas, but specifically the mood came as a result of missing family. The game explores coping with the loss of having family live near you, and the way we maintain those relationships in a distant sort of way. This all translates into Severed following our cursed warrior through a surreal fantasy landscape fending off monsters.” 

The DrinkBox Team

Drinkbox Team 2012
The DrinkBox family back in 2012. We’ll have an updated picture from the team shortly.

Oh, and according to this FAQ, yes, at some point they are planning on doing Guacamelee 2!.

A huge thanks to Chris McQuinn of DrinkBox Studios for providing us with the information found in this feature. You can follow him on Twitter @Kulz, follow DrinkBox @DrinkBoxStudios, and be sure to check out their game, Severed, coming to Vita in Spring of this year.