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Game Changers: An interview with the minds behind Abobo's Big Adventure

This is the title screen for Abobo's Big Adventure.
This is the title screen for Abobo's Big Adventure.
Team Bobo, Nintendo

Two years ago a game was released much to the acclaim of everyone who played. Sadly this writer missed out on Abobo’s Big Adventure the first time around. However, to those that follow, one knows a good game never falls from grace, which could not be truer of ABA.

Abobo’s Big Adventure is a Nintendo love letter through and through. It’s clever, funny, bloody, and just simply fun to play. As soon as the game ended, the hunger for answers thrived for this one. That’s why Examiner set up an interview with the three minds behind ABA: Roger, Nick, and Pox.

The three creators were a blast to talk to. It was easy to see their love and compassion for ABA and game design in general. For those interested in playing the game, other projects they have taken part in, along with a Let’s Play by ReActionExaminer himself, there are tons of links below. Otherwise, enjoy the interview and be sure to send these guys some love afterwards.

Abobo’s Big Adventure:

ReActionExaminer’s Let’s Play ABA:

ABA trailer:

Pre-Abobo Flash Games:

Roger’s I-Mockery site:

When did you first get into videos games?
When did you first get into videos games? Team Bobo, Nintendo

When did you first get into videos games?

Roger: When I was a child, my father worked for an electronics retailer and he brought home an Intellivision. I immediately got addicted to the game Astrosmash that came bundled with it. Some of my best gaming memories are playing all those classic titles with my father. We had some extremely long sessions of Tank Battle against each other. Night Stalker was another one we were addicted to. I was also lucky to grow up when arcade games were everywhere, so there are a lot of good memories with them as well.

When I was about 12 years old, I remember going into my favorite pizza joint with my family and I asked them for some quarters so I could play Commando and Xevious. They made a bet with me that if I could finish an entire pizza on my own, I could have an entire roll of quarters. Long story short, I beat my high score records on both games that day.

As time went by I eventually got my first PC and got into most of the classic adventure games from Sierra and LucasArts: King's Quest, Space Quest, Indiana Jones, Monkey Island, etc. To this day, The Secret of Monkey Island is my all time favorite game. I also got a NES and that truly was the golden age of gaming as far as I'm concerned. I could spend all day going over my favorite titles from that system, so I'll spare you from that lengthy list.

Nick: My first gaming experience was on the NES when I was about five. I also used to love wasting quarters on arcade machines. My favorite NES games are Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link and Mike Tyson's Punch-out. My favorite arcade games were TMNT, Wrestlefest, Punch-out, Alien vs. Predator, Golden Axe, and Double Dragon.

Pox: One of the first games we ever had for the Nintendo was this pirated cartridge with a hundred really terrible games on it. Being six at the time and owning basically only that and Mario, I did not realize that the Legend of Kage wasn't one of the greatest Nintendo games.

What influenced you to start creating your own games?
What influenced you to start creating your own games? Team Bobo, Nintendo

What influenced you to start creating your own games?

Roger: Monkey Island was definitely a huge influence because the humor in that game was unlike any other I had played before. It was refreshing to play a game with lots of tongue-in-cheek humor that didn't take itself so seriously. I mean they are games after all. You’re supposed to have fun playing them. I love to laugh so I see no reason why a game shouldn't make you do just that.

Abobo's Big Adventure wasn't the first game I worked on, but it was one of my earliest game ideas. The very first one I made was a silly interactive Flash game called Kill The Old Man From Zelda. It still resides on Newgrounds to this day and makes me laugh at how dated it is, but those older projects are a reminder of how far we've come. Newgrounds definitely played a big part in getting into game development and I'll always be thankful for it.

Nick: I used to tool around on my high school's Macintosh computers using Hyper-card to make animations and games. I wish I still had those old Hyper-card games. Some were pretty complex! So all three of us made quite a few Flash games before Abobo individually and we even made a few together before it as well.

Pox: I read a lot of comics growing up and thought I'd want to be working for Marvel or DC later on. I grew up and realized that comic book artists looked like a really miserable, unrewarding job. I had joined this site called Newgrounds as a teenager and found the idea of making my own cartoons way more appealing. Eventually I made free online games and got sponsorship deals and enough ad revenue to live off of. This job is way better than drawing Spider-Man.

What was the inspiration for ABA?
What was the inspiration for ABA? Team Bobo, Nintendo

What was the inspiration for ABA?

Roger: I originally wanted to make a game about Abobo and having him tear his way through other classic games, but the project got sidetracked when Tom Fulp, founder of Newgrounds, and I decided to make a similarly themed game starring Domo-Kun. After Domo did extremely well, I knew I had to see Abobo's Big Adventure through no matter what.

The reason I chose Abobo is simple. He was the angriest looking video game character I had ever seen and his face always made me laugh. I thought here's a character that has basically been relegated to being a mini-boss, but why? He could be so much more! I knew people would recognize Abobo, even if they couldn't remember exactly what game he came from, and having him as the ultimate NES anti-hero was sure to go over well with players.

The NES world was fairly innocent for the most part and the idea of bringing a lot of chaos and carnage into that world was something I had wanted to do for ages. So from there I just started working on the story of how Abobo would have his time to shine in the spotlight. The project kept getting sidetracked, but fortunately, I met Nick and Pox and we started making games together like Trick-or-Treat Adventure Quest and Ivan Drago: Justice Enforcer. Eventually, they agreed to work on Abobo's Big Adventure with me, not realizing what a huge undertaking it actually wind end up being.

What were some of the challenges you encountered when making ABA?
What were some of the challenges you encountered when making ABA? Team Bobo, Nintendo

What were some of the challenges you encountered when making ABA?

Roger: Everything was a challenge with Abobo. If I had to narrow it down to one thing, I would have to say time, since the game started development back in 2002 and wasn't released until 2012. Trying to stay motivated when you're working on a project that will seemingly never end is tough. Considering that this game was my entire fault, I also had to try to keep Nick and Pox motivated. After all, we were doing this game for absolutely free. It was just a big parody of everything NES and we couldn't sell it. Our truly biggest fear was that few people would even know the game existed.

I think what really helped us through it all was the San Diego Comic Con. I'm lucky to have a booth at CC every year for my I-Mockery site, so we decided that since Abobo was taking so long, we could at least start building up hype for the game by having playable demos of whatever stages we had completed at the time.

Things really took a turn when some of Nick's pals generously donated their time to help design an arcade cabinet for the game. It really turned out better than any of us could have hoped and people flocked to play the latest demos each year. Seeing people laughing and playing the game really gave us an extra boost of motivation to work on the project, not to mention it really gave us valuable feedback on what was and wasn't working. My friend Brad got word out by producing an amazing trailer for the game. It really took our project to the next level. We still get chills watching it.

Nick: One big problem from the programming side was fitting so much content into a Flash game. For a while our file was not compiling well and some assets were getting corrupted whenever we'd edit anything. There was just too much in the game for the Flash-programming environment to handle. Eventually we figured out some slick work-arounds, but even to this day it's hard to find a Flash game with such a ridiculous amount of content.

Is there anything you wished you could have changed in the game?
Is there anything you wished you could have changed in the game? Team Bobo, Nintendo

Is there anything you wished you could have changed in the game?

Pox: When I made the ending the first time, Roger said that it should be violent, so I had Abobo killing actual old people and kids. They had me change it to Nintendo characters, but it was clearly a mistake. We could have been rich!

Roger: Yep, he's right. That one change cost us bazillions of dollars. In all seriousness though, I know it sounds insane, but I wanted the game to be even longer. For example, I really wanted to have stages based on Castlevania, Excitebike, and Metroid, but considering how long the game already was and how much time it had taken us to develop, we all agreed that adding any more into it would be pushing ourselves too much. That said, maybe if we have the free time some day we can revisit Abobo in the 8-bit world of the NES with Abobo's Big Adventure: The Lost Levels, or something. I wouldn't count on it though.

Nick: I was kind of a stick-in-the-mud on some things that I thought were too sexual, or heavy on swearing. The original Easter egg S&M scene in the Double Dragon level used to be a lot worse! Some people have criticized us for the extra helping of violence, but I look at it as a way to send-up the old Nintendo Seal of Approval that turned blood into sweat in the NES version of Mortal Kombat. It’s like an unfiltered romp through the NES world from the point-of-view of one of the bad guys.

Any plans for an ABA sequel?
Any plans for an ABA sequel? Team Bobo, Nintendo

Any plans for an ABA sequel?

Roger: ABSOLUTELY! Abobo has already smashed his way through the world of the NES and now we want to take him through the 16-bit era. We want to make an official Abobo sequel that we can actually release on consoles. That's been the dream all along. We’re currently trying to get in touch with the rights holders of Double Dragon in Japan, Million, including Yoshihisa Kishimoto himself, but it's been an extremely slow-moving process. We know we can make an awesome sequel that fans would go bonkers over, but we want to do it right, and we really want their blessing to make it happen.

Considering all the games we've produced over the years, I think we've proven ourselves more than capable of doing it and hopefully they'll see it that way too. We want to make it happen for all the fans as we're constantly being asked about when we're going to do a sequel. And believe me, there are so many fun ideas we've already been jotting down for what we'd like to do with it.

What's the end goal for ABA?
What's the end goal for ABA? Team Bobo, Nintendo

What's the end goal for ABA?

Roger: The end goal for Abobo's Big Adventure was honestly just to finish it. After all those years of working on the game, we weren't sure if it would ever see the light of day, so the fact that we saw it through was a victory for us. It was an amazing experience especially seeing so many people raving about how much fun it was. And the fact that people are still talking about it today really made all those years worth it and I hope we can have the opportunity to deliver an even crazier sequel.

Abobo did open some doors for us. Nick is getting to finish Super Chibi Knight with his daughter. Pox and I got to make a big game for Adult Swim called Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla. But all three of us want to work on a new game together, whether it's an official Abobo sequel or something else. We're hoping to get to work on something soon. After all these years of working together, we know what to expect during a project. Plus we make each other laugh a lot and that's something we don't take for granted.

Nick: The game was the goal itself. We wanted to package up our love for the NES and our childhoods into something that would do justice to how we remember those days and provide an experience that would transport people back in time and strum up some of those nostalgia strings. Yet not strum them in a way that reminded them of the past, but as a whole new tune on its own. I would love it if Nintendo wanted to work with us on something, but that thought never crossed our minds as the motivation for making it originally.

Is there an established franchise you would like to make a game for?
Is there an established franchise you would like to make a game for? Team Bobo, Nintendo

Is there an established franchise you would like to make a game for?

Roger: The Ghosts 'n Goblins series has always been a personal favorite of mine, so I'd love to take that on. I've also wanted to do a new Karnov game for a long time as well. There must be something about angry, bald-headed characters from the 8-bit era that strike a chord with me. Other ones I'd love to revive and make a game for would be Smash TV and Paperboy. Those would be so much fun to work on! Again, if the rights holders to any of those franchises, or other classic ones, would like to see those games brought back to life, please consider us for the task. We put a lot of love into all the games we make and I think players recognize that.

Nick: There needs to be more Commander Keen games. Also bring back Little Nemo the Dream Master. I've also always wanted to make a retro-styled Ghostbusters game. Oh, and an updated Altered Beast! It would be cool to take some classic NES franchises and enable online co-op with them like Ikari Warriors, or Excitebike.

Do you have some encouraging words for other indie developers out there?
Do you have some encouraging words for other indie developers out there? Team Bobo, Nintendo

Do you have some encouraging words for other indie developers out there?

Roger: Make the games that you truly want to make. Being an indie developer isn't easy. You don't have a big audience like you would working for a giant game company, nor do you have all the resources that they have. The one thing you do have is complete freedom to make whatever kind of game you want. I think a lot of indie developers lose sight of just how valuable that freedom is. Worrying too much about making money or anything like that is a waste of time. All that stuff can come later on. Just focus on making your original game exactly the way you want it to be.

Nick: The main thing, in my opinion, that separates good indie stuff from the AAA titles is the amount of love and polish a developer crams into the nooks and crannies of their project. The extra time spent on selling a joke, or a character, or a certain gameplay element shows that the person really cared about what they were doing and were trying to say something with their work andnot just meeting a deadline. Make sure that what you make has your individual flavor and is not dictated by committee.

Pox: No, don't compete with us. You're terrible, go be an accountant and leave the awesome jobs to us.