Learning to Guac: The Journey to Guacamelee 2, Available Now on Xbox One

Video forLearning to Guac: The Journey to Guacamelee 2, Available Now on Xbox One

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¡Hola amigos! This is Augusto Quijano. In case you don’t know anything about me (you probably don’t!) I’ve been working in the games industry since 2009, focusing mainly on concept art/design and animation. I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to Canada after high school to pursue a degree in animation. Shortly after graduating, I joined the team at Drinkbox Studios, and pitched the crazy idea of making a game based on luchadores, which ultimately became Guacamelee!

Guacamelee! was a labor of love and a big success for us at Drinkbox, and we’ve spent the past couple of years working on a sequel. Guacamelee! 2 is available now on Xbox One, and I thought it’d be fun to look back on what we’ve learned — or thought we’d learned — since we started.

When I think back on the early days of Guacamelee, it always seems to be as weird and wild as the talking chickens in the game itself. We were just so excited! For me it was that naiveté that made me feel invincible. That, and an overwhelming sense of nostalgia about my home country. Guacamelee takes place in a fantastically absurd version of Mexico and is meant to show all its color, glory, folklore and, you know, that Mexico is more than cartel wars and cactus shade nappers.

When creating the original game, we had to figure out a lot of problems, like making a combat system inspired by wrestling, enemy variety, platforming challenges, a visual lexicon to keep the game clear yet colorful, and many other challenges. Many things were tried and dropped. Thankfully, the game resonated with all of you, and we were so happy all that effort meant something for the players. So, when the idea to do the sequel started to become a reality, it was like smelling that pulled pork sandwich at 5 a.m. at your friend’s wedding. We jumped at that torta.

Guacamelee 2

If life can teach you something, it’s that the more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is left to learn! I was feeling confident that my naiveté entering the development of the first game would not be an issue on the sequel. “We’ve done this before.” All the major problems were solved already, we’ve even done a successful sequel before (shout out to Mutant Blobs Attack!) — how naive of me…

Turns out Guacamelee 2 was quite a challenging project! We realized we needed to make the game better, more engaging, finer tuned. And, in the end, I think we succeeded. The experience has better flow, it’s ambitious but stays grounded, it’s bigger but better paced, the upgrade system has more depth, the art direction was taken up a notch. For the untrained eye these changes might be a bit invisible, but these were complex problems and — ok sorry, I’m tooting my own trompeta.

I want to share some examples, though, of things we couldn’t figure out that got left on the cutting room floor. Not all our shots are going to be golazos, but failed bicycle kicks are still very entertaining. So, for your enjoyment, here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at a few of our failed ideas from Guacamelee! 2Warning: Light spoilers!

Cabezón’s Pontoon

We had an idea to have a waterfall as a point of no return, featuring a studio favorite: Cabezón in his pontoon. I did a quick flash animation to illustrate the story beat for it.

Guacamelee 2

We had planned to cut Pueblucho out of the map here, but later we realized it would be better (and metroidvania-er) to have the Darkest Timeline version of Pueblucho as a place the player  could revisit. Sadly Cabezón’s pontoon was relegated to a dialogue mention, but his love for boating is still a core character trait in our hearts.

The General, Coscorrona Sisters and The Handler

The bosses in Guacamelee are quite extravagant characters, and their complex nature makes them very challenging to design. Before our beloved Muñeco came to dazzle us with magic tricks, or Cactuardo teamed up with the Bird-who-must-not-be-named, we had The General, the other Coscorrona Sisters, and The Handler. Well we never really “had” them. We couldn’t make them fully work for one reason or another…

General Huesitos

Guacamelee 2

General Huesitos was a dead dictator who stole an enormous golden machete from a giant. He died when a cannonball smashed into his face. I love that visual, but for various reasons he didn’t make the cut. Only his machete did (as Muñeco’s melee weapon of choice).

Guacamelee 2

Coscorrona Sisters

The third Boss in the game was the hardest to design, as they needed to play a role in parts of the story which were still taking shape. Eventually we settled on Zope as an antagonist for the Chicken Illuminati, having teamed up with the monstrous Cactuardo. But that didn’t stop us from endless trial-and-error with his design.

Before we had settled on the Zope/Cactuardo pair, we experimented with the idea of a pair of boxing twin sisters who could transform into Giants. They were the Coscorrona sisters. Later in production we rescued one of them for Coscorrona, the grappling trainer!

Guacamelee 2

Oh, and there was a third Coscorrona sister, who died after overusing her ability to transform into a giant.

Guacamelee 2

Cactuardo and The Handler

We experimented with Cactuardo too — a character who himself had been concepted then set aside in Guacamelee 1! At first, we were toying with the idea of a mystery handler in charge of him.

Guacamelee 2

Eventually, as I mentioned, Zope took the role of Cactuardo’s partner, and helped us tie up the narrative with the Illuminati subplot.

Guacamelee 2

I hope you enjoyed some of the behind the scenes images in here, and I truly hope you enjoy playing Guacamelee 2! I’m very proud of what the team has accomplished and on a personal note I’m thrilled to have a game with a Latin American protagonist and cast.

¡Órale!