Interview: We Get the Scoopy Banoopy on Bugsnax Straight From the Young Horses’ Mouths

Bugsnax. Young Horses Games.

Back in June, during Sony’s PS5 Reveal Event, we were keeping track of all the amazing games we wanted to play when we came across something…weird. It started off innocently enough, with a cute little anthropomorphic strawberry babbling and wandering along on what seemed to be a desert island. Before long though, the poor berry’d been caught, eaten, and in a body horror twist, become part of what we now know as a Grumpus’ arm. Cue incredibly catchy theme music and what you have is the amazing announce trailer for Chicago based developer Young Horses’ new game, Bugsnax.

You may have heard of Young Horses before, and if you have, you’ll likely see the through line from a little cult hit student title, Octodad,  about a totally regular human dad who was in no way an octopus in disguise. Once that won the student showcase at DePaul University and started getting more attention, there was a Kickstarter, and after the success of the Kickstarter came Octodad: Dadliest Catch, which, as it happens, really caught on, becoming a cult hit and one of our personal favorites.

We, like many others, were intrigued by the isle of Snaktooth and its inhabitants, and wanted to know more, so we reached out to the team behind Bugsnax and arranged a little sitdown for talkin’ bout Bugsnax. For this interview, we talked with Bugsnax Gameplay Designer John Murphy, President and CEO and Community Manager Phil Tibitoski, and Creative Director, Writer and Designer of Bugsnax, Kevin Zuhn.  It was a great conversation where we covered everything from the amazing trailer (and equally amazing theme song by Kero Kero Bonito) to how Bugsnax come to be and how the team landed a spot in what turned out to be the most watched gaming stream in YouTube history.

The team at Young Horses Games. Photo provided by Young Horses Games.

THIRD COAST REVIEW: So, first: It’s great to have you guys here.  Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about Bugsnax. When I was researching for this article, I was looking at some of the responses from the announce trailer at the PS5 event yesterday and they were so enthusiastic and creative. People are already really hyped for Bugsnax.  Did you guys expect that? I know Octodad was pretty viral on its own and kind of a cult hit but did you expect this kind of response right off the bat?

PHIL TIBITOSKI: So something interesting, or interesting to me at least, is that we tested the game with a lot of people before this announcement–friiends and people our friends knew and stuff like that–and we got a lot of positive responses from that. I think to some degree we expected people to like it and be excited about it, but you’re never quite prepared for the volume and scale of something like that PlayStation event just because there’s so many eyeballs on that. I think it was like, their most watched event ever, so it was really cool to see everyone excited  about the game, and to find out what things in that initial trailer stuck with people or interested them the most, because those are the kinds of things we can’t ever quite predict. 

JOHN MURPHY: Yeah. So Bugsnax compared to Octodad is a lot less of a perfect meme, in that pitching Bugsnax has always been a little bit harder than Octodad, because you can’t put  the whole thing into one sentence. So I didn’t expect to get as big of an initial response as Octodad, and it to spread, but then we kind of discovered that even though the concept isn’t as much of a meme, or as elevator pitchable as Octodad, there’s a lot of memeable stuff in it, because it’s so much bigger and richer. So that was a pleasant surprise that shouldn’t have been a surprise, I guess. 

KEVIN ZUHN: I agree with John. Bugsnax has been difficult to describe for us–and I think that has turned into one of its better qualities. The fact that it is strange and hard to describe i think caught a lot of people’s attention, in that the big question is “What is this actually?”

Definitely. It’s a slow burn. When we saw it we had a whole range of emotions. We started off like “Oh, look at the cute little strawberry! Oh no, that cute fuzzy guy just ate it!” which quickly turned to a sort of shocked “Oh my God it has a strawberry arm!”

KEVIN: It only gets weirder from there.

I heard that. I saw it on your Twitter, actually. I sign on fully for that. 

Bugsnax. Young Horses Games

So, how do you get from Octodad to living fruit that also becomes a part of you? What are the origins of that?

JOHN: Our whole goal at Young Horses, when we initially formed the company and were working on Octodad, was, if Octodad goes well, we’re gonna keep trying to do this–we’re going to keep trying to make something that no other team would be foolish enough to work on or try. And we take those ideas that seem absolutely absurd and maybe seem like they came off the back of a little kid’s notebook, and we take them very seriously and get really invested in making all of it at least internally within that world make sense. And so with Bugsnax we were kinda trying to outweird ourselves while continuing to keep true to our games having a lot of heart and feeling and maybe they look kind of simple and cute on the surface but oftentimes there’s something underneath that has a bit more depth to it. 

That’s a great answer. I was recently talking to Big Sir Games for Cosmo’s Quickstop

YH: Yeah, we know them!

Yeah–and some of their tenets are “we want to make people laugh and want to be silly.” Sounds like you guys kinda have weirdness baked into everything you do, and that’s perfect, because I think it’s something that a lot of us that are weird kids that have weird thoughts are looking for.

PHIL: I mean I think a lot of people have those weird thoughts, but I think not everyone is willing to voice them and often feels kind of embarrassed maybe about them, whereas we fully embrace them, and are willing to kind of just say, and pitch, anything internally.

Bugsnax. Young Horses Games.

There’s been a lot of positive feedback–but have you gotten weird or negative feedback on Bugsnax

JOHN: There’s a certain proportion of the population that really doesn’t like weird, or for whom it doesn’t resonate. So we definitely see some amount of confusion I don’t know what it is that draws people to weirdness, but I think it’s somehow related to curiosity. The vast majority of people have responded to positively to it, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who just saw it and didn’t respond at all,  but it seems like a pretty small proportion of people negatively responding and a lot of very positive. 

That’s great.

PHIL: I really like the responses where it’s clear that a person is interested and thinks it’s cool but then they’re like “but…this is kind of a kid’s game, so I probably won’t play it.” For me it’s just like, “Well, you’re just keeping yourself from happiness” to some degree–setting up invisible boundaries for yourself on what you can and can’t enjoy. It’s interesting. 

That’s actually a really good point, because I feel like there are a lot of silly factors that keep people from playing games that could be really fun for them.  “It’s too fantasy” or “it’s too cutesy” and that makes it uncomfortable for some people who think that’s not what they “should” like.  I think that’s where stuff like Octodad and Bugsnax comes in really well, because it has that hook where it isn’t exactly what you think it is, so maybe it’s okay if you explore it, and that’s a really good place to be in i think.

PHIL: I’m happy with it. I like that our games kinda trick people into clicking with things that they otherwise might not try. 

Yeah it can be hard to get people who are only playing first person shooters–and I say this playing a lot of first person shooters myself–to try other stuff, you know?

JOHN: Yeah, there’s an interesting tension in the stuff that we make in that one of our goals is to appeal to a broad audience and then another goal is to make really weird stuff. so, yeah. So we’re tricking–well not tricking you into liking it, but making something that is really weird more palatable than it, than you would expect it to be. 

PHIL: Like a frog boiling sort of situation– just slowly, slowly feeding someone something that’s slightly weird–just enough that they can accept–and then you can just get weirder and weirder with it until you’ve indoctrinated them.

I actually felt like that was even how the trailer went. It started off innocent enough, but by the end of it you were like, “What the hell was that? “

PHIL: Yeah.

Who put together the trailer? I was curious how that came about.

PHIL:  That was entirely a team effort. We’d been concepting and working on that initial trailer for actual years before it came out.  Pretty much the entire team had a hand in bringing it to life. Kevin Geisler, who is a programmer and producer on the team, spent a lot of time doing the editing as well as Chris Stallman who’s our head artist, spent a lot of time doing the editing. Kevin Zuhn here did the writing for the script of it but we also had table reads of that script and a lot of feedback from everyone, and there was a lot of involvement in just picking what Bugsnax we should show and how much of the story we should reveal. So there were all those sorts of creative decisions alongside trying to show that this is a much larger game than Octodad and it’s a completely different type of game, which is kind of interesting in terms of mechanics. 

KEVIN: We were also kind of stuck in a different situation because Octodad had been such a public development, because we had a student game and then we did the Kickstarter, and so it wasn’t exactly unknown that we were working on it, but Bugsnax was a secret for years. Our gravest concern for this show was trying to make sure that this one trailer, the first thing anybody saw of it, was as succinctly interesting and compelling and also explained the idea to them in the two minutes that we had.

Rarely have I seen a better trailer, so you did a good job.

KEVIN: Oh, thank you. We put a lot of focus on it, and even still, the amount of stuff that we have to not get into and not explain or show, it’s huge. 

Yeah that’s what I liked the gameplay trailer for. It gives me a much better idea of what’s going to be happening in the game as I’m actually playing.

PHIL: Yeah we were a little worried about not showing gameplay in that initial trailer–wondering if people would be invested in this not knowing exactly how it plays, but I think leaving the mystery also drew a lot of people in, just to wanting to know more.

I think the type of game Bugsnax is makes it easier. And sometimes it’s good to leave a little mystery to be discovered.

How did Kero Kero Bonito get involved? I think part of what makes the trailer so memorable has to be that theme song…

PHIL: So part of making the trailer was figuring out what the music should be. We were trying to figure that out with our in house sound designer and composer Seth Parker, who did all of the music for Octodad, deciding if he should compose something custom for this or if we should try and do a theme song, kind of like Octodad. So we were looking around for inspirations–music that fit the mood of the game and the vibe of what we wanted to give off. 

Seth and I had both been fans of Kero Kero Bonito for a while and had gone to their shows when they’ve been in Chicago, and I think “Picture This” was the song of theirs that we most thought fit the sound of Bugsnax.  It fit in with how Seth’s in game music feels, and so we just reached out to them, haphazardly at first. We’d never worked with a band before, at least not a band as big as them, and so I emailed someone who I thought was their representation and ended up just getting a person at a label that put out some of their singles. I have no idea how the music industry really works, but then luckily, that person was nice enough to actually put me in contact with their actual management, who put me in touch with Gus from the band, and they knew what Octodad was luckily, because they played games and they were stoked to see what we could do together.  Then after all the business stuff was figured out, we gave them a bunch of materials from the game, whether it be like the script or builds to play or concept art, character profiles, stuff like that, so they can get a real feeling for what the game is, and what it’s about and we also had a couple conversations with them just explaining what the themes that we’re trying to cover, and evoke, and then I want to say a couple weeks after that they came back to us with some demos and they were very close to what the final song is, and they kinda got it in one, or at least you know the progress and iteration that we saw was very close to what the final song is. 

Yeah I checked out some of Kero Kero Bonito’s discography, including “Picture This” and it seems like it has the right vibe for the game.

PHIL: Yeah the beginning part of that song with that really singsong synth sound to it is almost like a Lost Woods Zelda sound, and I think really fits in with some of the music that Seth has composed for the game, because I know one of the things that he tried to capture in a lot of the songs is–what would it sound like if Bugsnax were singing? And I think that fits well. 

JOHN: Another reason we thought it would be cool to reach out to them and to see what they could do is that their older stuff has this very saccharine, very poppy, sort of feel and the lyrics are almost naive or something. 

PHIL: Straightforward. 

JOHN:  And we wanted to have that be the on the surface feeling but a lot of their newer stuff is a little bit more serious or dealing with more, in reality stuff, so we kind of approached it. We were talking to them, and brought up that we liked these aspects of their newer direction in terms of themes and ideas and it kind of matches up with what we’re doing–but the aesthetics and the surface level aspects of their older work, too. So it was interesting to see how both of those phases of their work could contribute to making something for us. 

That makes sense because I think that anything that has kind of like a dark edge, the sweetness really kinda pairs really well with it.

JOHN: Right, and they really got what we’re trying to do with the game. They really dove in and played it and read all the stuff that we gave them and  you can tell particularly in the lyrics of “It’s Bugsnax” um, that they really really know what’s going on with the game. 

Yeah it’s really cool because it explains the game and its lore but it’s so catchy you’re gonna be listening to it over and over.

JOHN: Totally.

KEVIN: Yeah, similar to a Saturday morning cartoon, in which they’re like “This is what the cartoon is about, you should like it!” –It’s that sort of thing.

Bugsnax. Young Horses Games

Since we were talking a little bit about how you were thinking about the game, what other type of influences did you have coming into Bugsnax ?

KEVIN: So–lots. Countless many is my answer but in particular, toward the beginning we were definitely researching a lot of colorful animal games like Viva Piñata and Pikmin and Ape Escape but outside of that there’s also The Muppets and Lost and other games about being on an adventure on an island. I don’t know how deep to go down this well, but…

No that’s perfect, I was just kind of curious what some of your background influences are as you’re making this, you know?

PHIL: I think things like Adventure Time and Steven Universe also slightly affect the mood we give off just by osmosis since a lot of us like those things and then we’ve also thought about things that are less direct influences but are more about some ideas in the game in terms of Apocalypse Now and Ferngully and Aliens and stuff like that that is less obvious or I think, like Kevin on Twitter has said, Bioshock and some other things have slightly influenced some parts of the game.

JOHN: Yeah and then also for the mechanical aspects of the game, in addition to starting out with various influences shaping things, other games have been coming out during the six plus years that we’ve been working on this that have been influential–you need injections of inspiration that are more current showing up, so in building the sort of systems for hunting and trapping Bugsnax we’ve tried to do a smaller, more accessible, toy version of, aspects of Horizon Zero Dawn, for example.

Oh that’s interesting.

JOHN: There aren’t that many hunting games, so if a hunting game comes out a couple of years into you working on a hunting game it’s like, “Oh, there’s some ideas to steal from this”

KEVIN: Also Breath of the Wild had a huge impact on you, I remember. 

JOHN: Oh yeah, I mean that is the best game that has ever happened. That resulted in like a much smaller version of like, the system in Breath of the Wild where anything can be set on fire or frozen–something like that ended up in Bugsnax just because that was an inspiring thing that arrived on the scene while building these systems. 

Oh yeah. We spent so much time with Breath of the Wild when we first got our Switches at launch. 

JOHN: Nice. Wonderful use of time. 

Bugsnax. Young Horses Games

As far as mechanics go, I noticed the physics first, because the way that those ribs undulate when they’re walking around is so amazing. Obviously that seems like it’s kind of a nod back to Octodad because physics seem like they’re so key for you. And Bugsnax physics look fantastic. Is physics a focus as far as how things move and react?

JOHN: Yeah, I’m glad that you brought that up. It’s a very different game from Octodad but something that Octodad did that was really awesome was the phyics. It would surprise us because of this physics-based thing where some combination of objects would fly around and collide with each other in a way that you couldn’t have predicted, so we wanted to bring that to Bugsnax. We wanted to retain some of the physical comedy physics of Octodad , so that is definitely infused in the bug trapping. 

KEVIN: So, a funny anecdote about that–I remember super early in the project I had done a prototype of the first snack trap, where it was just a box that closed around them, and everyone was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s fine,” and I was like, “You know, I’d like more enthusiasm out of the team on how this mechanic works” so i added flaps to it that flapped around when it moved and everyone was like “Yeah! Now it’s good!”

It reminds me of a Ghostbusters trap…

It kind of is like that trap, yeah. It’s sort of a weird umbrella bear trap thing.

As far as animation and modelling, and this question may be because I have a weird DIY obsession, but, it seems to me like it’s natural to make the snacks in real life. DId that actually happen? 

JOHN: It’s funny that you mention that because early on when we were brainstorming, we created lists of foods that we wanted to represent and lists of types of silhouettes and a taxonomy of insects and other non insect arthropods, like spiders, that we wanted to represent and then tried to match them up, and then also early on we did some just physical prototyping with PlayDoh that didn’t actually work out that well but the few–a few designs came out of that. 

A lot of the ways the food moves is the way you’d expect it to move in bug form, which is a little surprising to me.

JOHN: A lot of that is our character designer and animator Chris and his creative interpretation and problem solving of how to combine things. We give him an orange that is a pill bug and then like, that kind of implies what it should be, but there are more complicated example where it’s really not obvious how the food and the bug go together, where Chris just invented some really clever way of combining them. Help me out?

KEVIN: Ummm…let’s see, going through them all, like…there’s 100,  so now I’ve gotta think hard.

Yeah that’s a LOT.

PHIL: I mean I feel like the pickle, the pickle is really weird. 

KEVIN: The pickle’s a hermit crab. So i mean, that’s not technically a bug but…

JOHN: Crustaceans, arthropods–we’re pretty loose with what counts as bugs.

PHIL: But it’s like–how do you make a pickle into a hermit crab, and the answer is, you use the pickle jar as its shell, and it can draw the pickles into the jar to hide,  and it can be separated from that jar or shell, which is pretty weird and cool. 

That is…awesome actually.

I had some questions about gameplay after watching the gameplay trailer. Tagging on to the physics–when you eat a snack and you get a strawberry arm, does it give you a certain sort of power or does it react a certain way like it might be softer because it’s a strawberry vs. something else?

PHIL: We decided kind of early on given that our team is only about 10 people, allowing the player themselves to eat Bugsnax was going to open a kind of, pardon the phrase, can of worms in….

KEVIN: Don’t pardon the phrase

PHIL: …In that if we allow players to eat the Bugsnax then they’d wonder, with these transformations on my own body, what do they do, and they’d expect almost Bioshock like powers. Like plasmid style sort of things, and we just pretty much didn’t have the bandwidth to make a game of that scale, where you had active actiony powers in that way. And so the player doesn’t actually eat the Bugsnax, you’re feeding them to the other characters in the game. 

That makes sense. So you’re kind of in the journalist role where you’re here and you’re observing and bringing your finds back to the Grumpuses, right?

PHIL: That’s kind of the in universe explanation,  is that you’re an observer of this group of people, this group of Grumpuses who eat Bugsnax, and so you’re not partaking because that wouldn’t be ethical. 

KEVIN: And if that’s not enough of an explanation, then we establish early on that you’re allergic. 

I love that. The humor just makes everything work together and I like that so much.

Preying Picantis. Bugsnax. Young Horses Game

Do each of you guys have a favorite Bugsnak?

KEVIN: My favorite is a Preying Picantis– I already love praying mantises, so a mantis themed Bugsnak is my favorite. 

What’s a Preying Picantis made of?

Just a host of Taco Bell dinner options. Like, it’s got a burrito for a thorax, and like, tacos for claws and a big Dorito head. 

That’s amazing.

PHIL: One thing i know that’s been shown that we like a lot, is the Sub Sandipede. 

Oh that’s a good one. 

PHIL: It’s kind of a train of sub sandwich slices or pieces that follow one another that are individual Bugsnax that act like a unit. It looks really cool when they’re crawling up a wall or over a hill or something. It just looks like a little train on tracks or something, but it’s a sandwich. 

That’s one of the ones that stood out in the trailer I think.

JOHN: I think my favorite is the Scorpenyo, which is a scorpion made out of chili peppers that shoots little spicy projectiles at other bugs and sets them on fire, causing them to run around in a panic.

That’s pretty good, I like that one a lot! I also really like the pickle hermit crab you mentioned earlier. It sounds like it has an extra mechanic like the Scorpenyo, too which is neat, because it makes it unique.

PHIL: Yeah I think John would be able to speak more to it because he spent a lot more time developing bug behaviors, but it was an interesting challenge trying to get 100 Bugsnax, with having enough varied behaviors to make them unique, but trying to make categories in which you could alter certain aspects of them to make each Bugsnak feel unique without doing 100 completely individual behaviors. 

JOHN: Yeah. So Bugsnax can interact with each other. Some of them can pick other Bugsnax up, some of them just crash into and knock Bugsnax around, things like that. And then there’s a menu of puzzle pieces of behaviors that Bugsnax have, like, a Bugsnak can be flying, a Bugsnak can charge and attack things, a Bugsnak can shoot some sort of projectile and then you mix and match these 12 to 15 attributes to create these different bugs. 

I think enemy variation is important. You can have beautiful levels that are very different from each other, but if you’ve got the same old enemy coming at you with a pitchfork, it falls a little flat. I think ti’s a big deal in the first place that you have 100 different bugsnax, but the fact that they have different interactions like that is something that I think will make a big difference.

JOHN: Hopefully! I think to some degree we’ve made a puzzle game in a way, because with each bugsnak you’ll have to figure out what it likes, what it doesn’t like, how it behaves, and then how to use that information to capture it. 

Our goal was to create something where it is kind of puzzley like that, but it’s also another way in which Breath of the Wild is an influence–we didn’t want it to be puzzley in the way that there’s one way to solve this. We wanted to give a set of tools that can be used in combination with each other, where oftentimes there is one obvious way to catch the Bugsnak, but usually there’s a few options, if the player gets clever. 

It’s always interesting seeing people approaching problems in different ways, so if a game can allow for that it’s a good element.

Bugsnax. Young Horses Games.

When you were making Bugsnax, aside from keeping it a secret for six years, which I can’t even imagine, what were some of your biggest challenges with developing the game? What made it difficult or where was the sticking point?

KEVIN: The biggest difficulty was just figuring out what Bugsnax was in the first place, because the idea that it’s kind of complicated, and made of a lot of moving parts and is hard to explain to other people meant it was also hard to explain to ourselves, and Octodad having a really clear central premise made that kind of a stark difference. The vagueness of the concept of Bugsnax meant that we needed to do a lot of exploring throughout our development, and almost every year there was some kind of big shakeup in our understanding of the design as it continued to evolve. That’s something that stuck out to me.

PHIL: I think that Octodad almost did too well. It afforded us the privilege of taking our time with Bugsnax which allowed us to do all that exploration. I think in the future if we’re as lucky as we were with Octodad, just being able to set some more consistent constraints on when we need to decide something by would be helpful because there are times when we’d be working on something and working on an answer for a design question and we’d be like “We need to come back to that later” because we can’t figure it out or decide on it now and it almost felt like, to me, that there was too much time where you could decide to not make a decision at that point because we always had enough time.

JOHN: And the tendency is, if nothing is every finished you keep working on things. It’s exacerbated by wanting to avoid a sophomore slump.

PHIL: Yeah–wanting to make the right decisions to make a not disappointing followup game.

JOHN: We didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder. So in development we were like “This needs to be a lot bigger and better,” and it is, I think.

PHIL: It is.

JOHN: But it also took, instead of two to two and a half years half time, six years full time.  It’s probably ten times the size of our first game, with ten times the amount of time and work put into it. 

PHIL: Just the complexity alone compared to Octodad

It does seem like it would be pretty complex, between the fact that there’s 100 Bugsnax and then Grumpuses and weapons and things.


Is there any kind of multiplayer, or will there be? Can people hunt Bugsnax together?

PHIL: Not as of yet. It’s always been kind of designed as a narrative driven single player game, but y’know like, i could see that possibly being something in the future, but we haven’t even tried it yet, so I don’t really know.

JOHN: I mean we have a lot of ideas for things we might do, for DLC or expansion stuff, depending on how the game does, and how people react to it.

I’m hoping the reaction will be overwhelmingly positive, because we’re already excited. We had a lot of fun with Dadliest Catch and Bugsnax looks super fun too.

Bugsnax. Young Horses Games.

The other thing I wanted to circle back to is the sense of humor and where it comes from. It seems like that sort of sarcastic but funny and punchy feel comes from all of you and that it’s a natural thing. 

PHIL: Yeah i think that’s just our nature or the kind of culture we’ve cultivated internally, in that we’re always joking around with one another about almost everything.

KEVIN: I think we’re really drawn to the absurd. Cuz the more absurd an idea is, the more compelling it is to us I think, and the absurd is often extremely funny. 

That’s exactly how my brain works and that’s why I was so excited to talk to you guys today. In fact one of the things I was thinking was “I want to be in the room with you guys when you create a new Bugsnak”

KEVIN: Oh those were wild meetings, all of those ‘What Bugsnax to Make’ meetings. And probably the most exciting part of the project. 

And I’d love to be there while you’re naming stuff, too. I laughed out loud when I heard “bunger” in the gameplay trailer.

KEVIN: Ah yes, the naming meetings. We had meetings specifically to decide what the names of the Bugsnax were. They were very long and very, contentious–weirdly contentious.

If you really like your idea, you’ll fight for it. That makes sense.

PHIL: I think with us we attempt to set some constraints and rules for how things should be, and how things should be named or designed, but there’s other times where we’re like “I dont’ know, this is really funny so we’re just gonna do this even if it doesn’t fit.”

JOHN: Right. We want to get both some indication of the name of the bug into the name sometimes,  but sometimes you lean more towards getting the food in there and then sometimes we’re just like “Uhhhh, we’re gonna call the banana split Scoopy Banoopy, just because it’s funny, right?”  So there are a lot of different priorities I guess, or constraints, and we lean on some or let some slide. We’re not super consistent with naming in particular.

KEVIN: Yeah. Well, to me, the reason why the naming isn’t consistent is related to how and why Bugsnax get designed, because there were many pathways for a Bugsnak to come to be and we didn’t only ever have one design scheme after making one. Sometimes we said “Oh, this bug doesn’t exist, we should make something that relates to this bug”  but sometimes we said “This food doesn’t exist, we should make one that’s this food” and sometimes we say “This behavior doesn’t exist, and we need both a bug and a food that will fit it.” So because there was never particularly one reason for a Bugsnak to be. It would be easy if we had named all of them by choosing a pun first, and then creating the design–

JOHN: Right…but then we might have ended up with holes in the design in terms of behaviors.

KEVIN: Right.

PHIL: Even though we’ve been in this now for almost 10 years to some degree, we’re still just little kids being like “Well, what if we did this?” You know?

I think that translates and I think that speaks to a lot of people, and I also feel like, especially right now, you need to have something that’s not serious and that’s absurd and  a little weird, to offset all the weird and terrible that’s going on in the outside world…

PHIL: I think in a similar way to how comedians take comedy very seriously, we take the absurd very seriously.

I can appreciate that. 

Bugsnax. Young Horses Games

One more question. You guys are debuting the game on a brand new console–part of the new console generation. How does that happen?

PHIL: Yeah, that’s pretty weird isn’t it? So, we’ve had a good relationship with Playstation for a while now with Octodad,and they did such a great job supporting us with that game, before and after its release that we figured that they would be a good partner for Bugsnax. We had been showing them the game since I want to say, 2016. I remember going to GDC in the before times when we could see humans, and showing them a really really early build that was kind of a nightmare compared to what the game looks like now, and one of the comments from one of our account managers at Playstation was “is there a gas leak in your office?” because of how weird and surprising it was even then And since then we’ve been keeping them updated on where we’re at and when we think we’re ready to announce and release the game, and it just so happened that our cadence of releasing a game is a console cycle.

But yeah, I mean, then we just, tried tofigure out when the PS5 is going to get announced and if that lined up with when we’d be able to prep a trailer and actually release the game and they just happened to line up,  and PlayStation liked Bugsnax enough to be nice enough to include us in that huge event.

Do they tell you you’re gonna be on PS5 or do you tell them?

PHIL: We kind of knew. When you’ve been around games and working games long enough, you kind of intuit when new things are likely to happen. So we went to them being like “Hey, we know that it’s about that time for a new console, can we be a part of that? “

And so we were just pitching and showing them progress and what the game really is and is about and in our interest they were like “Yeah, sure!”

Well we’re super excited, we love supporting Chicago developers and the Chicago game scene, and we really appreciate you guys talking to us. 

JOHN: Thanks for being interested!

That’s a wrap for us on Bugsnax for now, but we’ll bring you all the latest news as we get it. You can also check out the Young Horses website, or follow them on Twitter to keep talkin’ ’bout Bugsnax.




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Marielle Bokor
Marielle Bokor