Well, I’d hate to prove Derek right, and not post anything after my initial burst, so I did an interview with Moonpod about Mr. Robot. (Jeez, those questions are a lot harder to think of when you’re the one asking them.)
So, click here to read the full thing!
Most of the younger generation of gamers have been brainwashed into only playing things newer than them, so could you clarify the “Inspired by games like Ultimate” for us?
Nick Tipping: ‘Ultimate’ was a game company, one of the best of the 8-bit era in fact. These days, most people know them as Rare (part of Microsoft game studios). Ultimate made some of the early 8-bit greats like Lunar Jetman. Then, out of nowhere, they brought us a game called Knight Lore – in full isometric 3D. It’s hard to explain to the current generation of gamers how amazing that was. 2-colour graphics might seem laughable these days, but the isometric 3D nature of Knight Lore was something that just blew everyone away at the time. (Incidentally, for anyone interested, there’s some great information on Ultimate’s isometric engine here.)
Games from that time like ‘Knight Lore’ and ‘Alien8’ were punishingly difficult and you couldn’t save. I recently went back and played Knight Lore using a Spectrum emulator, which was great, because it allowed me to save, and I could also pull up a map from the web at the same time so I didn’t forget where I was going. It’s still a really great game, but perhaps far too hard for today’s gamers.
Even though Mr. Robot is fully 3D, unlike the pseudo-isometric 2D style of those older games, it uses a similar principle of a room-based map and fixed camera angle. I hesitate to compare Mr. Robot to those games though in case anybody who was a big fan of them thinks Mr. Robot will be more of the same. Whilst they were the spark of inspiration for the game design, it went in many different directions during the design phase and strayed far away from a room-based platform game. Half the game is an RPG for instance.
How much will “User Adventures”, or a level editor be supported?
NT: There’s already a lot in place for this. We have a back-end content sharing system on the server, so we can add to a list of user created adventures. When players look at the user adventure page in the game’s menu, it can connect to the server, grab a list and then download any you want to play. It’s a bit of a gamble – because there’s always the chance nobody but us will make any additional adventures! In theory, you should be able to connect all the time and get completely new adventures to play.
As far as supporting players in what they can do with the editor – they already have a lot of power at their fingertips, including full lua scripting capabilities; everything we have used to make the game in fact. I don’t think we need to concentrate our efforts on functionality. It’s likely where we need to concentrate our support effort regarding user adventures is in documentation (currently sparse, to non-existent, but I’m working on it!), Q and A via the forum, and ‘bullet-proofing’ the game against whatever is thrown at it. Mr. Robot isn’t the sort of game where the editor can be made so anything you build just works. It’s easy to break the game by creating something it doesn’t like in the editor. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put more checks in for common problems that people come across.
There’s more we can do if creating user adventures proves popular, we’ll have to see how people get on with it. Some of the beta users have gotten up and running with the editor, and have already been asking us about some pretty advanced things like scripting, so I’m pretty excited to see what end users come up with.
I assume there aren’t any huge boss fights like in Starscape, so what challenges can we expect in Mr. Robot?
NT: The game contains two major elements – a platform/puzzle adventure and an rpg. In the platform adventure area, the player has to avoid lots of different types of robots which have gone haywire, solve puzzles and navigate their way through a giant spaceship trying to work out what has gone wrong. The RPG part takes place in a virtual world called ‘ghost hack’. The player comes across computers in the spaceship that need to be hacked, and this involves entering a turn-based battle system where you must fight against the computer’s defence programs.
That reminds me, do you think of Mr. Robot as an improvement over Starscape?
NT: It’s obviously vastly more complicated than Starscape and has been an enormous undertaking for us. So, in that regard, I do think it’s a greater accomplishment. As far as gameplay is concerned you can’t really compare the two as they are totally different. So far, from showing the game to people we know, Mr. Robot does seem to appeal to a broader range of people than Starscape did. I’m not sure why that is, but then Mark and I love both games (else we wouldn’t have made them :) ).
Why should consumers spend the money on your games, rather than another Bejewelled clone (I think my hatred shows through here)?
We’ve answered that question for ourselves by sitting down and thinking about we ourselves would like to play that we can’t get anywhere else. Conventional game marketing wisdom states that you should design a game round what the market wants to play rather than what you as a developer want to play, but then we’ve never been conventional or wise :) Anyway, marketing people are all twats. Who wants to end up like them with their shiny new Mercs and jet-set lifestyles? I ask you!
For us, the game doesn’t have to be the most innovative thing ever made; just something you can’t get anywhere else that you would love to play. There’s no game out there that works quite like Starscape or Mr. Robot and luckily there’s a group of people out there looking for something different. It’s nowhere near the market size of casual or mainstream games but they are out there, and they are a really enthusiastic bunch of people. Besides – who wants to have ‘animated menus’ as a bullet point on their feature list? How about ‘Can hack into a robot’s brain via a turn-based battling sub-mode’? :)
Still, I have to love Bejewelled for its ubiquity; it turns up on just about any piece of hardware out there. PC’s, consoles, ipods, phones; I’m waiting for them to port it to my washing machine! The truth is, there are more people buying the Bejewelled clones of the world than buying indie games. That market is just so much bigger than the one we cater to at Moonpod. I feel it’s important to stress that, because I’d hate to give the impression to would be indie developers that the route we’ve taken is anything other than the most difficult one.
I love all your robot designs, Nick. My favorite is Raistlin, yours?
NT: Thanks! We get loads of great feedback about the robots, which is really nice! Several companies have contacted us asking if they could use pictures of the robots in their promotional materials. Which was quite bizarre, but I suppose proves we must be doing something right. As for my favourite, it’s easily Samson. Surely every artist has to make a big clunky robot at some point in their career? Samson is another tick on my list of things to do before I die (yes, my list is rather daft!)
Have you ever played Bruce Lee for the Commodore 64?
NT: There’s an original tape of it in this room actually along with Mark’s C64. Although he can’t remember playing it now (We’ve been having lots of coke since the Mr. Robot Beta started so we can stay awake. I think it has affected his memory!) I had a Speccy back then but I remember playing Bruce Lee on that. Not sure how the two compared, but I loved it. Though the game could have been pants – I think I was just happy to be Bruce Lee!
What do you plan on doing once you’re ‘done’ with Mr. Robot?
NT: We have been stacking up boxes of Stella Artois for the celebration, so we’ll probably be in an alcohol induced coma for the first week. After that, there’s some planned changes for Starscape, and we are already planning an update for Mr. Robot, which we have loads of ideas for. It should give us plenty of time to decide which game we are doing next. Currently we aren’t short of ideas, it’s just whittling them down to one that’s the problem. We are possibly going to switch back to 2D for the next game though. One of our favourite designs right now requires quite a lot of art content. So much so, we estimated it would take over 3 years. I’ve been prototyping a stylised 2D look that might allow us to make a lot more art for the same ‘cost’ which if it works would mean the idea could be back on the table. I need to do a lot more work prototyping it to be sure though.
When do you think the game will be released?
NT: Surely giving out release dates when you are in indie developer is like saying “Macbeth” if you are an actor? Beta is going really well though, so I’ll tempt fate and say “within a week”! (I’ll probably get hit by a bus now…)
Thank you very much for the interview, guys. Any last words?
Oh, I hate that bit of interviews! That’s where everyone always comes up with something boring like “Support indie developers and buy Mr. Robot”.
“Fuck the army of middle men that suck cash out of the economy by sitting between artists and consumers! Buy Mr. Robot direct from our website and plant the cash directly into our hands. Be happy that your purchase has stopped another poor game developer from becoming a male prostitute to make ends meet.”