Well earlier this week I had the pleasure of being able to sit down, at my computer, and do a quick interview with half of the Swing Swing Submarine development team. I was able to ask Guillaume(the programmer) about their recent indie game release Blocks That Matter.
The game recently released on Steam and did I mention that we will be giving away a copy of the game on Steam(contest details below).
Here is the trailer:
And now to the interview:
Kyle: Where did the concept of the game come from and what influenced you?
Guillaume: The concept mainly came from one of our experimental games.
From time to time, we take some time at Swing Swing Submarine (which consists of William – game designer/level designer and myself – programmer) to experiment with things.
The first of those experiment was Tuper Tario Tros.
At the time we were working on our big prototype “Seasons after Fall” (http://www.swingswingsubmarine.com/games/seasons/), and we took a week to have fun with this twisted concept.
The idea came from a game we played at lunch time: Lucidity
The concept seemed interesting, we were expecting a Tetris plateformer from the trailers. But when we put our hands on it, it was not really what we were expecting: the character was moving by herself from left to right, and the pieces weren’t so different, in the way that you can put them randomly and you still had a great chance that the little girl will make it, there is no real strategy to complete the level (well the level in the Xblox Live Demo).
So we decided to make our Tetris platformer, and we choose Mario to be the guy, because Tetris and Mario are somewhere linked because both were popularized by Nintendo!
This free game had a good reception, a lot higher then we ever expected!
Many players asked us for a sequel, or new levels, or more elements (turtles, pipes, boss, etc).
Kyle: I know that you spoke about an update, and there being the ability to make block art what else do you have planned for the game?
Guillaume: Yes, there is a new block in the 184.108.40.206 update that allows you to choose the color of the block, and also transparency, and to decide if the block can be drilled or not. It will be a great opportunity for creators to easily make some block art or build settings (like a little house, trees, stuff like that).
There is also rough support for dialogs, to allow creators to make the bad guy’s silhouette speak through some bubbles in their level. So more narrative levels can be built.
In that narrative mode, we also allow the creator to forbid the use of the camera mode, so to player can only see what’s on the screen and cannot have a look elsewhere (unlike in the main adventure mode).
Some bugs have been fixed too, bugs reported by players mainly, like the annoying soundtrack bug where 1 of the tracks enters a mini loop play.
A lot of little improvements in this version, but your question was maybe about the future evolution.
So for the future updates, we don’t want to bring big features, like a rewind feature, because the game wasn’t made with that in mind.
But maybe we will allow the creation of some checkpoints for creators.
To ease the use of texts and dialogs, we will probably allow creators to build their own texts/dialog database in a separate text file. We will see how they want to use this tool.
I think it will also be great to allow creators to draw their own Blocks That Matter and put it in a chest so that the player can discover funny stuff. But such a feature will give us a hard time in term of moderation, to make sure that the user content is correct and does not offend anybody.
For some occasions, we will try to run some Community contests, and the best levels can win something (or just the glory of having their level in the featured section!)
The Xbox Live Indie Game version will also have some updates that will include the bests rated and featured levels of the PC’s versions.
In a different register, we also planned to put the game on various digital platforms like GamersGate (http://www.gamersgate.com/), Desura (http://www.desura.com/) or Indievania (http://beta.indievania.com/).
But that’s a lot of work for a 2 guy team.
Kyle: The game is designed beautifully yet only is about 100 MB in size, was your goal to have a very lean game?
Guillaume: The game was originally developed on Xbox, for the Xbox live Indie Game channel. There, the smaller your game is the more players will want to download it to give it a try. So we tried to keep it simple in term of content.
Today, the biggest thing in the game is the music composed by Morusque (http://morusque.bandcamp.com/album/blocks-that-matter), even compressed (a lot) the music budget is around 40Mb.
Then we have textures, some HD textures have been drawn by Géraud (http://operion.carbonmade.com/) for the cinematics, and other in game textures were created by William.
So the budget is around 10/15 Mb.
Then you have the levels, only a few, maybe 3/5 Mb, and the code is only 1 or 2!
All the rest is just libraries to make the game run.
So it was not really a goal, but during the development, we looked at the size to be sure it would be acceptable for the Xblox Live indie Channel. So we adjusted the music and texture compression to be under 100Mb (but the game is a little bit more than 100Mb with the dependencies on Windows).
Kyle: What games did you play as a kid and what game/s are you currently hung up on?
Guillaume: The first game I ever played was Alex Kidd, on Master System at my cousin’ home. Few years later, I got my own Master System and played some R Type, Enduro Racer (my favorite game on the console… just behind Alex Kidd).
Then I turned Nintendo, with the Super Nintendo. Super Mario World was an amazing game, very long and challenging. All the Rareware games were awesome (Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct).
Then it was PayStation time, with more mature games (Resident Evil!, Gran Turismo, Soul Reaver).
Today, I mostly play “little” downloadable games, like the classics Braid, World of Goo, Limbo, Super Meat Boy. The last downloadable game I played was From Dust, and it was quite nice.
I also enjoy AAA games, like God Of War or Uncharted series (I replay them partially time to time).
The game I really want to play those days is Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I have no time to do so right now!
Kyle: It is very nice to see a great game that supports PC, Mac, and Linux. Where there any difficulties in making this game cross platform?
Guillaume: The game was originally wrote in C# using Xna (for the Xbox).
Then we really wanted to have a multiplatform game so we decided to make a Java port, because C# and Java share some particularities.
The difficulties we encountered were and are the great variety of hardware that always causes some trouble,in places, where we though it would be okay for everybody. But that’s the particularity of PC development: the large variety of Software, Drivers, OS, Hardware, Input Devices.
We learned it the hard way with Steam because some people have trouble launching the game. We do the best we can to solve this, sometimes in a case by case context.
It’s pretty exhausting but very valuable because you learn a lot on each of the system’s specificities.
Kyle: Any plans or insight on future games?
Guillaume: We have a plan to begin a game like Blocks That Matter in term of development duration (4 or 5 months), using the same tools we used to build BTM. Then we will release it in the Xbox Live Indie Game channel, and on PC’s (on digital platforms interested in the project, so we can’t name anyone yet).
It will be a game with more action, less puzzles, but there will be puzzles for sure!
That’s all I can say right now, the game is on our mind, we designed it a bit on paper, but the real decision will be made by prototyping around the concepts we wrote!
Then, if we have enough financial visibility, maybe we will continue to develop Seasons After Fall.
All I can say, it’s that we have ideas, but we need some time! And we still are learning a lot of things from the Blocks That Matter experience!
We at Noble-Press thank Guillaume for taking the time to do this quick interview and have decided to do a give-away of their game.
So here is how you can win: First: Like us on Facebook Here.
Second: Here is a template for you to create your own Block That Matters. So go ahead and grab that and create a Block That Matters and submit your design in the comments(please use Imgur for your links).
And that’s it. We will be choosing a winner Thursday Morning so the cut off for entries is September 7, 2011 at Midnight PST. May the best Block win.
The First place winners are:
- Im_Artest with the Swing Swing Submarine block here: http://i.imgur.com/oEnSQ.jpg
- Paul with the Trine Block here: http://i.imgur.com/lzGVZ.jpg
Surprise prize for 2 runners up is Booster Trooper
Runners up were:
- Bfasox with the Vault Boy Block here: http://imgur.com/MKmbm
- Ricky with the pandering box here: http://i.imgur.com/OXfSq.png
Thank you all for entering and supporting our little site, and also two great devs.
And don’t forget to look for our in-depth review later this week.
The game can be found on Steam Here