Guacamelee! Interview: Creating the first luchador Metroidvania

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Guacamelee! es muy caliente! I loved it and, judging by the talk online, I’m not the only one. Drinkbox Studios has a hit on their hand. When a game is this good, you want to know as much as possible about it. Which is why I tapped Chris McQuinn, Drinkbox Studios Designer, to find out more about this fantastic game.

GamerTell: What made Drinkbox decide to create a Mexican-themed, Day of the Dead and luchador-filled game?

Chris McQuinn: The driving force for the theme of Guacamelee! really originated with our animator Augusto who put forward the idea during early brainstorming sessions. Once the team started fleshing out some early concept art we began to get really excited at a game based around Day of the Dead.

GamerTell: How long have you been working on Guacamelee!?

McQuinn: Let’s see. We started early concept work as we were finishing up Mutant Blobs Attack, but real production of the game didn’t start until a year ago. Sometimes the timeframe feels like a blur.

GamerTell: Was there ever a moment when you weren’t going to make it a Metroidvania style game? Did you consider any other genres?

McQuinn: Not really. Right from the start we knew we wanted to make a Metroidvania brawler – and the other details slowly started to fill in. In the past we have changed our objective over the life of a project, but Guacamelee! seemed to have really stayed on point.

GamerTell: The art style is very colorful and unique. Did you look to actual Mexican art to make sure Guacamelee! felt authentic?

McQuinn: The art team spent a lot of time looking over art references, landscapes, and pictures from certain regions in Mexico. Additionally, Augusto provided a ton of input into what looked “right”, and what might of been too much of an interpretation.

GamerTell: One thing I’ve noticed while playing Guacamelee! is that it manages to be funny, but also respectful of Mexican culture. Did the team go out of their way to make sure they didn’t unintentionally insult anyone?

McQuinn: For sure. One of our guiding principles pretty much was “let’s be funny at the expense of ourselves, or the characters, and not of a topic that could offend somebody”. There were constant checks to make sure we were following this golden rule.

GamerTell: In addition to being a more-than-capable Metroidvania, Guacamelee! is like a love letter to classic games and internet memes. What made you decide to include all of these references and about how many would you say are in the game?

McQuinn: We’ve included references in all our past games including Guacamelee!, and for us, this is simply a nod to games that we think are great. No idea how many are in the game, I’m not very good at noticing this stuff.

GamerTell: Only the PS3 version of Guacamelee! offers co-op. Did you look into possibly implementing ad-hoc or online multiplayer for the Vita version?

McQuinn: We toyed around the idea of online multiplayer – but the truth is, that feature is very expensive to put into a smaller title like ours. At some point one has to make some tough decisions on what features to keep, and what to cut, and that the game has to get made within a time frame that makes sense.

GamerTell: Chivo the goat master blew my mind. How did you come up with that awesome character?

McQuinn: Uaychivo is based off a folklore legend from a certain region in Mexico, Wikipedia can do a much better job at explaining it than me. Many of our characters have roots from old legends from where Augusto grew up.

GamerTell: Guacamelee! was the first Sony Spring Fever 2013 game. What has it been like working with them?

McQuinn: It was a really huge honor to be the initial title in the Spring Fever. We were very excited to see Guacamelee! as the background in the PSN Store. Working with Sony has been very positive for us, they’ve provided us some great opportunities.

GamerTell: Will Guacamelee! be a PS3 and Vita exclusive? And if so, what made you decide to only go with Sony?

McQuinn: Yes, Guacamelee! has been released as an exclusive for the PS3 and Vita. There are a host of reasons we decided to bring Guacamelee! onto PSN, some of them being the ability for us to easily self publish, another being the support from the Sony Pub Fund.

GamerTell: Did Sony offer you any specific advantages when it came to Guacamelee!‘s release? Did you bring up cross-buy or did they? And how did it become the first Spring Fever 2013 game?

McQuinn: The support from the Sony Pub Fund has been a great advantage for a small studio like ours. Cross-buy was our decision – it seemed to be the most fair thing we could do for people who purchase Guacamelee!. As gamers ourselves, cross-buy is a feature we like, so it was important to include it.

As for the Spring Fever placement – I think we just made a game someone over at Sony liked. They contacted us with the offer of being in the Spring Fever, and we obviously said “yes!”.


Guacamelee! is immediately available on the PlayStation Store. For $14.99, you get a copy for both your PS3 and Vita. As I said in my review, I really think it pops on the handheld, so Vita owners will definitely want to check it out!

Site [Guacamelee!]

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