ProRattaFactor is bursting onto the Mac gaming scene with El Ballo, the story of a young man on the planet Testicular who just wants to get his girlfriend a present. Of course, trouble pops up in the form of mean Dr. Cough who wants to subject the planet to a world-wide physical (and these puns are intentional). The game has a unique, hand-drawn style and an irreverent bend to it that covers everything from the sound effects to the subject matter. In this day and age of Hot Coffee Controversies and Senate majorities, are newcomers like Pro Ratta's Casey Gatti (Owner/Lead Designer) and Ivan Milles (Programmer) worried? Nah. They're ready to be thrust into the limelight.
IMG: Tell me a little about the story and premise behind El Ballo...
Casey: El Ballo is a bum, just like its creator Casey Gatti: lazy, broke, and naked. All kidding aside, "The Adventures of El Ballo" stars an unlikely hero thrown into the midst of mayhem caused by a crazed doctor.
The planet of Testicular is full of creatures of all genders and flavors. Enter the race of Testiculites: peaceful, playful, and naked. Today is their yearly "Swip-Swop" day. This day is dedicated to sharing your treasures with a loved one. Our hero, El Ballo, has nothing to give his girlfriend. He plans to venture out into the forest with high hopes of finding the perfect present. Little does he know that the evil Dr. Cough has completely different plans for this year's Swip-Swop day: a planet-wide invasion and hygiene operation. In this story of bare necessities, anything goes.
This game was created to capture, re-create, and expand upon the old-school fun we had with side-scrolling platformers of the late eighties and early nineties.
IMG: What is it that, other than the story and theme, Pro Ratta Factor feels will set El Ballo apart from the crop of platformers out there today?
Casey: Strike a vogue. That's right: our game has style and attitude. It may seem like a laid-back environment of cartoon antics at first, but as you progress further, the game truly uses the dynamic of "insanity" being thrown at the player. Wild sound effects, inventive weapons, and a bucket-load of enemies grace the player's footsteps to victory. In addition, tight gameplay/control leads to a solid action/adventure game many gamers have been seeking.
IMG: What were your influences and inspiration while working on the project?
Casey: Some key influences in the project were old Nintendo games that we grew up with: Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, and MegaMan. Those games embodied the aspects of fun, challenge, and reward. We feel that El Ballo captures and honors those key elements.
On a personal note, the "Lord of the Rings" movies and Peter Jackson's dedication to them kept me inspired the entire 2 1/2 years of El Ballo development.
IMG: What are your favorite games to play?
Casey: At this point I'm a World of Warcraft alcohol abuser. Er, I mean drug user. Um, I mean user. My name is ElBallo and I'm on the Lightbringer server. No, I do not have a problem! Pass me swig of elixir potion please. (...hiccup...)
All kidding aside, I truly enjoy all the Metal Gear Solid, Legend of Zelda, Mario, Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Secret of Mana, and Final Fantasy games. Each series mentioned captures a specific feeling around it.
IMG: Ivan, what are your inspirations when working? As a programmer, do you differentiate between games you enjoy playing and games you admire the work behind?
Ivan: I try to look towards new crazy ideas. I'm not very fond of the gaming industry right now, so I guess both me and Casey are trying to break the mould in more ways than one. El Ballo isn't a design that allows for much craziness in the actual gameplay, so we just try to make it different in every other way. I really feel that we have succeeded there. It is a regular ol' retro platformer game, but it's not like anything else out there when it comes to art, music, pacing and humor. The humor of this game pretty much sums up the process. We're doing this for ourselves, and there are tons of obscure jokes, subtle hints and stuff that no-one is ever going to laugh at. I mean, I've put jokes in there that I'm sure that even Casey has overlooked, and he's done the same to me. We're having a blast.
As for games I enjoy playing etc, definitely. I'm very picky when it comes to playing games, because I don't have very much time. However, I can be very impressed with a bad game, and I can have hours of fun with a bad game. The two games I've played the last years and enjoyed the most were Beyond Good & Evil and Burnout 2, because both were superbly executed, while still bringing new things to the table. BG&E had the best story of later years, and gameplay mechanics that could've made ten other games. Burnout 2 took a adrenaline racer and married it to a set of arcade game rules. That's the kind of thing I love, unexpected mixes. An action adventure with a camera? A racer where I'm forced to drive on the wrong side of the road? Yum.
I kind of had a moment like that with El Ballo as well. I had created the level editor, sent it off to Casey and gone about my own work. I expected him to create levels with perhaps 2-300 decors, and I expected to create a regular sidescroller. So, Casey sends me his first finished level. I fire it up, and my jaw literally dropped. I was completely blown away with what he had done, it looked just like the concept sketches! I bring the level into the editor and examine it. 1500 decors! I went: holy cheese, can this game even do that?! Casey had faked lighting effects, depth and lots of other things that I had no idea the engine was capable of. I just walked around the level for twenty minutes, looking at stuff. Then I decided that this kind of art deserves some goddamn programming effort as well, and three months later, we had a lot of new stuff in there.