You may have noticed there's been an influx of fun cooperative party games on Xbox following the success of Overcooked. We've had the removal service mayhem of Moving Out, along with the DIY disaster squad in Tools Up. There have been some pretty unique experiences, but Get Packed: Fully Loaded may be one of the most bonkers yet.
To talk about the upcoming release on Xbox, we sat down with two of developer Moonshine Studios' co-founders, Marcus Gardner and Jamie King, to discuss the conception and release of the their first ever game.
We've slightly re-worded some of the following questions for clarity purposes.
1. In a nutshell, what is Get Packed: Fully Loaded and what can we expect from it?
Jamie: Get Packed is a physics based crazy co-op game, where you play as a company known as Last Ditch Removals. You come from the town of Ditchlington, which has been bought out by the industrial salt corporation, and after a while of helping people move out, you realise you’re not happy this company’s buying up your land. You and your crew try to do something about it, so you end up using your removal skills for other purposes.
We released on Stadia last year, but Get Packed: Fully Loaded will also include two new stages, a bunch more competitive levels, and a lot of cosmetic stuff as well.
2. With similar games such as Moving Out and Tools Up!, what makes Get Packed: Fully Loaded stick out from the crowd of an ever growing genre?
Marcus: Well, it’s quite an interesting situation. When we first announced our game, it was actually around the same time, or slightly after, Moving Out was announced. It was just kind of one of those situations where both titles took a lot of inspiration from games such as Overcooked and kind of arrived at the same similar kind of theme. I imagine that’s kind of similar to Tools Up, everyone’s kind of taking the inspiration from those big cooperative games that became really, really popular, and as a result, a lot of those started popping up at the same time.
But fortunately for us, and a lot of those other titles, everyone kind of moved in their own direction. Although it’s clear a lot of them took games such as Overcooked as their biggest inspiration, we ended moving way more towards the physics side of things - especially as we took Gang Beasts as a big inspiration as well. We liked the idea of floppy arms physics, throwing ragdolls around, and things like that. So we moved way more into that side, whereas something like Moving Out or Tools Up stuck to the puzzle side of elements. Although we have very similar themes, we’re very different in gameplay, so you can easily play Moving Out or Get Packed and get very different experiences.
That’s what’s so great about the genre. A very small difference in the way the mechanics work can create an entirely new game.
3. Were there any other influences outside of the usual games players will most likely compare the game with?
Marcus: So when we first started conceptualizing the idea for Get Packed, we kind of started off with Overcooked and Gang Beasts as our main inspirations. Of course, something like Overcooked is very much a cooperative game, whereas Gang Beasts is a competitive beat ‘em up. What we loved about those kinds of games is ‘sure, there’s a cooperative element’, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had in the competitive side.
There’s also a game known as Crawl. I don't know whether you’ve heard about it, but Crawl is this kind of game where there’s a human and three ghosts. Players can choose to be either the human or the ghosts, and the ghosts can take control of different traps or monsters. We loved that idea of having a cooperative game, but then there’s also that competitive element, so although you’re working towards the same goal, the competitive atmosphere also brings out a lot of kind of interesting interactions between the players. For us that core concept was a big inspiration.
When you look at Get Packed, players have individual scores. Even though everyone is working towards the same goal and helping each other, there is also an element of who gets to be the ‘Employee of the Month’; who gets to wear that crown. Likewise, in the competitive gameplay we can have two teams of two vans against each other. There’s also that kind of situation where you’re working together with your teammates, but also competing against another removal team, deciding whether or not you try and disrupt your opponent or focus solely on yourselves. It's entirely up to you and your strategy.
4. Getting the comparisons out of the way, can you tell us a bit more about the features in Get Packed: Fully Loaded? What’s new from the original release back on Stadia?
Jamie: We have two new stages, which have got three levels in each one. Then we also have two brand-new competitive levels and then five more campaign levels converted to competitive levels to add to that map selection. Then there's a bunch more characters, hats, unlocks and that sort of stuff.
We initially only planned to do the first stage to kind of complete the campaign, but we just had extra time, so we really wanted to see how far we could push certain mechanics, and as a result, we managed to squeeze an extra stage in there.
Marcus: Not just that, but we’re bringing out a brand new gameplay mode called Time Attack. For me that’s one of the most fun modes, as typically you only have a few minutes to complete each level. But in Time Attack. every time you pack away something in the van it adds to your overall timer so the more things you pack, and the less damage you get, you could potentially pack away the entire level if you’re good enough. It’s that kind of challenge that I really love in these kind of games, so for me Time Attack is one the big highlights of the new extra content we added.
5. Games of this ilk are usually built around co-op play, but Get Packed has 10 versus levels. Can you explain a little bit more about these?
Jamie: I think with Get Packed, when we were developing it is, even on the campaign, it is always a co-op game. But it’s never quite the same as say Overcooked where if you don’t work together you’re screwed, there’s no way you’re going to get three stars. With Get Packed it’s slightly different so that players can do their own thing and you can help each other out and develop strategies. It also just works as a solo game or people who just want to do their own thing at each turn.
I think that made us kind of realise it could work quite well competitive, because often, even when we were playing co-op, we would end up screwing each other over and smacking into each other. It would create a competitive element with each other, so we thought let’s make it an actual game mode.
It’s fun. I think it’s probably something we haven’t played quite as much as the other versions, just because we just haven’t had the chance to, but there’s some interesting strategies you can do for sure. You can basically knock someone out and put them in your van before sending them off, or you can throw a bomb into their van and then it’ll explode, and since they’ve touched items the most, they’ll get charged for that damage. It really adds to the strategies you can do.
6. How does the gameplay evolve over time? Anyone who’s seen the trailer will note pretty crazy environments and a lot of destruction. How is progression seen throughout Get Packed?
Jamie: I think we definitely get crazier as it goes on. We all sat down when we kind of knew the rough game mechanics and we made a list of all the crazy ideas we could potentially include. I think as time went on it got weirder and weirder, and crazier and crazier, and then after that we tried to group them together and find out what works for these. That’s when we kind of got in the rough stages.
The first stage in the game is quite reasonably simple with things like cars, some flying kegs, lifts, trampolines, that sort of stuff. But then you quickly get crazier and crazier, and by the point of stage five you’ve got UFOs and anti gravity. We wanted each stage to get crazier to the point where you don’t know what will happen next.
7. Is there anything you’re excited for fans to experience in the game? Without spoilers, are there any particular environments or stand out levels that you think may elicit a reaction?
Marcus: For me I think a lot of the fun comes from the players interacting with each other, and for us I see the physics in our game and I like to think of the slapstick humour that we throw in as kind of like a catalyst for those player interactions. I love seeing the way they react to certain situations, and because the way in which physics works is it’s very unpredictable and you can get yourself into some really hilarious situations. It’s those kind of things which I absolutely love to see, and seeing the different methods in which players can take advantage of these physics mechanics in ways that we haven’t predicted. They can use them to either score more points, or in competitive you can make up strategies to defeat your opponents. I always love seeing those things in other games.
8. Has the COVID pandemic affected development on Get Packed: Fully Loaded? Or is it business as usual?
Marcus: It’s certainly had a few different effects. Previously we already had a remote work flow setup, because there are members of our team who may need to work remotely for a month or two, so it wasn’t too difficult. But the communication lines were certainly a bit more of a challenge, because we also had the different channels between Stadia who would speak to our publisher Coatsink, who would then speak to us. They of course all had their changes and disruptions between their own communication, so everything was just getting pushed back a little bit further and there were delays across the board really.
There were also other kinds of challenges such as having to try and QA test a four player co-op game locally when no one can see each other in a physical space. It’s always quite challenging because you’ve got to force simulate an extra person playing sometimes, so you have those kind of challenges as well. But for the most part we’ve done pretty well remotely. We’ve kind of come to realise that we don’t always necessarily have to be in an physical office space anymore. A lot of companies have found out they can work just as well from a remote environment, of course with adaptions to their workflow. But a lot of them have found out “Oh, we can probably have a fully remote working office and still deliver the same results”, whilst still saving on that finance of the office space.
It’s kind of what we’ve found as well. Previously, all of us were based down here in the far reaches of Cornwall in England, and now that we’ve had to experience the whole lockdown situation on multiple occasions, we found that we can have a fully remote work flow if we wanted to. All we need to do of course is improve those communication channels so that we always keep our work culture, but on a remote level.
There will be challenges ahead, and there have been in development such as things being pushed back unfortunately, but I think that was the same for everyone out there.
9. Can we expect any Xbox Series X|S enhancements? And did you find any challenges working across three different consoles?
Marcus: When developing Coatsink can handle a lot of the Xbox porting on their end. But we needed to make sure that the game runs as smoothly as possible for all of the generations, so even the lowest generation. Previously we launched on Stadia, and they have quite beefy hardware behind their streaming stuff, so to kind of come away from that and then suddenly having to build for much more limited and slightly older generation hardware - the Xbox One for example - we needed to make sure it’s running smoothly across everything. I imagine we have different graphical options for those things, but in order to make things run as fast as possible we had to basically optimise for the lowest performing platform.
As the generation gets improved, we can certainly see FPS increases across the board and smoother physics based gameplay. As you can imagine, physics can get a little glitchy and choppy sometimes, but the faster the system is the more kind of stable it is. Of course, we’ve made sure to try and make it as stable and a really smooth experience on the early generations as well, so it can only get better with the later ones.
10. Any final words for our Pure Xbox community ahead of Get Packed’s launch on Xbox?
Marcus: I suppose one thing, now with the whole COVID situation things are starting to open up a bit more and friends can start meeting up again, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to get back into those casual gaming sessions with your friends, your partners and your family. I think one of the best things about being in the indie game scene is trying some really interesting new games that are out there that you haven’t really seen before. Whether being able to play that as a local experience on the console, or even online, I think now things are opening up a bit, it’s a great idea to get involved with your friends and give it a try.
Many thanks to both Marcus and Jamie for speaking to us. Get Packed: Fully Loaded makes the jump to Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S on July 29.