HAL Laboratory has released a new post on BoxBoy! meant to coincide with the latest game’s release, which shows off just how the first BoxBoy! was conceived and developed from scratch.
The game was the brainchild of Yasuhiro Mukae, a designer at HAL Labs who previously hadn’t been in charge of any game projects. He took the opportunity of HAL Labs’ workplace style of letting anybody pitch ideas in order to come up with BoxBoy!.
Mukae wanted to do a puzzle game, and using his experience on creating fun games and studying other puzzle games, he came up with the vision of the game he wanted to make, which wasn’t just a puzzle game but also had action elements too. The key feature would be the ability to create boxes, and characters and stages would be kept as simple-looking as possible.
A programmer was interested in the concept, and helped Mukae out with programming a one-stage prototype to show off.
Soon, the idea collection phase began, and Mukae presented his game idea and its selling points to the higher-ups. He was asked questions like, “Why a puzzle game?”, “Why this sort of world?”, “How will you expand upon this idea?”, and more. Thanks to the prototype, he was able to partially explain what made the game fun.
Mukae was told to begin the game as an experimental project, and as the person who proposed the project, he was in charge. He put together a team of 8, including a project manager, designer, and programmer. They began to discuss the project from their various viewpoints.
What about the character design of the protagonist? Mukae had intended Qbby’s design to originally be just a placeholder, but character designer Itou wanted to make use of the character’s simple looks, with some adjustments like whether to add color, as well as the thickness of the lines. Itou put a lot off effort into Qbby’s legs to make its actions seem more comical.
After creating the basics, the team went back to the mid-project presentation, only to be met with lacklustre reactions. “Aren’t the gameplay and designs too simple? Please experiment with a different direction, like adding color and the like.” From these comments, the team went on to try many artstyles while reconsidering who the target audience was. In the end, they ended up going back to the simple-is-best monochrome look. Seeing their final decision, the higher-ups acknowledged their choice, and began to negotiate with Nintendo on releasing it as a product. With Nintendo’s agreement, the project began to scale up and add more staff.
As for the music, the beta version used live flutes, but Mukae felt it didn’t match the dot-by-dot and monochrome world, so instead synth, electronic instruments were used instead. You can listen to demos in the project introduction page here.
HAL Labs also worked on creating extra content, such as story happening in between worlds, extra costumes, and even short four-panel comics.
Once work was completed, HAL Labs immediately went into the making of the overseas version. “Hakoboy” didn’t mean anything to English speakers, so they changed the name to BoxBoy!, and decided upon a universal name for the main character – Qbby.
In the end, BoxBoy! was officially revealed in a 2015 Nintendo Direct as a downloadable 3DS title. While the team was nervous about how it would be received, they ended up breathing a sigh of relief as happy comments came flooding in.
BoxBoy! is available on Nintendo 3DS. The latest game, BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! is available on Nintendo Switch.