Conan Chop Chop: How an April Fools' Day Joke Turned Out to be Much More
While Funcom and Mighty Kingdom's Conan Chop Chop for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch was revealed on April Fools' Day, it's not just a joke.
On April 1, Funcom released a trailer for what was seemingly a fake game – Conan Chop Chop. With a polished but simplistic art style and a keen sense of self-awareness when it came to the Conan franchise, this satiric trailer captured the hearts of many. This then fueled an even bigger surprise when Mighty Kingdom and Funcom and revealed at E3 that Conan Chop Chop was, in fact, real and coming to several platforms in September.
For the Conan Exiles developer and publisher that typically focuses on more mature titles, especially with their Conan the Barbarian license, Conan Chop Chop is a breath of fresh air in their lineup. While the game may initially have seemed like a joke, it is actually much more than that. In a discussion with Mighty Kingdom’s Founder and CEO Philip Mayes, DualShockers learned more about the genesis of this project, the process behind the April 1 trailer, and how Mighty Kingdom is bringing Conan Chop Chop to life after the surprising expectations set by that April Fools’ Day trailer.
Interestingly, Conan Chop Chop did not actually start out as a Conan game, but a prototype by Mighty Kingdom that caught the attention of Funcom. “Funnily enough, it started as a student project,” said Mayes. “We were lucky enough to show that demo off at the Paris Games Show and it caught the eye of Funcom. Back in those days it was a little 3D two-player game.” He elaborated on the initial concept for the game, revealing that “The genesis for it…was inspired by The Legend of Zelda and The Binding of Issac, banging all of these things together to come up with this sort of art style and this gameplay style.”
It was actually Funcom’s idea to “do it with four players and do it with Conan” and from there Mighty Kingdom began working on Conan Chop Chop in the form we see it today. “The bones of it are still very similar to what Dungeon Chop Chop [the original name for the project] was, but bringing the Conan IP in allows us to deepen that lore, there is a whole lot of stuff you can draw upon..it added a lot of more depth.”
Conan Chop Chop is a fairly simple game, a procedurally generated roguelike inspired by games like Castle Crashers and The Binding of Issac. While those are typically fairly unoriginal comparisons for an indie game, Conan Chop Chop surprisingly manages to defy all expectations and be a roguelike that not only revels in its satirical take on Conan the Barbarian but the quality of its mechanics. Players start the game in a central town and then must travel and find dungeons in 4 various biomes with unique enemies. I played the game for nearly an hour with Mayes, but never got bored with it even though I never got past the first dungeon and two grassy biomes that surround it. Due to the game’s addicting roguelike nature, I could see myself dumping hours into it with friends upon its release.
When it came time to reveal Conan Chop Chop, Funcom and Mighty Kingdoms noticed that April Fools’ Day was a great time to do so due to how the game pokes fun at the Conan IP. “In light of us not taking ourselves too seriously, the decision was made to present it as a bit of an April Fools’ joke.” The April Fools’ trailer, which you can watch below, was actual gameplay footage from an alpha version of Conan Chop Chop.
The response to the April Fools’ Day video was surprisingly positive, with many people unknowingly asking Funcom to publish a game they were already planning to release. Mayes says that response “was certainly what we were hoping for…which was great.” He continued, confirming that “all of the comments you saw in the E3 trailer were taken from reactions to that first trailer.” When asked if any of that April Fools’ trailers more radical features like a 1,000 player battle royale mode would make it into the game, he only stated “I’m not quite sure we’d get to 1,000 players. Some of that stuff was definitely tongue and cheek, but we’ve some got big things we can do with it and places we could take it.”
With a satirical trailer that got such a great response, I wondered if Mighty Kingdom decided to change Conan Chop Chop in any significant way due to how players reacted. “We’re always building towards the September release date, so we’re on a critical path, I guess. The reveal did not change our opinion on what we were going to do, it actually helped us double down and focus in on the elements that they reacted to – the comedy and the art style. That really justified the direction we’d taken it in.” Overall, Mayes thinks the hardest part of Conan Chop Chop’s development was “keeping our mouths shut from April to June without saying anything about it” as Mighty Kingdom had passionately been working on it for several months.
Conan Chop Chop is coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on September 3, 2019. After trying out the game for myself and having a lot of fun with it, I can agree with Mighty Kingdom’s CEO’s sentiments that, “Conan Chop Chop is definitely real. As we say in the office, it’s real and it’s spectacular.”