There’s a good chance that you might have heard of Drinkbox Studios, or at least played one of their games. Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee! are fantastic titles, and Chris McQuinn from the Toronto based developers spent some time talking to us about their upcoming Vita exclusive Severed, their existing titles, and what they think about the Vita.
It’s been a while since we last spoke! How’s Severed coming along?
It has been a while! That’s what happens when we cage ourselves up making games. Severed is coming along well. The studio has finally arrived at the point in a project where we have all cylinders firing and are very focused. I’m not sure if cylinders can be focused, but let’s say they can. What I’m trying to say is production is going well.
So what exactly is Severed about? What can we expect to see going through the game?
In a nutshell, Severed is a touch based dungeon crawler with some light RPG elements. There will be a range of offensive and defensive techniques available to be used against a variety of enemies. There’s also exploring too, branching routes that will require some thought to solve blocking puzzles. The environment itself is set in a surreal dream world and the story is about your effort to discover the reason behind the disappearance of your family. Mix all those together and you have Severed.
Guacamelee! Was well received in most quarters and is easily (in our opinion) one of the best indie Vita games. As a studio how did that affect your approach to Severed?
Guacamelee! gave us a lot more confidence as a studio. Although our previous title Mutant Blobs Attack was well received, the resulting number of people who actually played the game was relatively low. One of the nice things about having a successful game is that people aren’t afraid to tell you they like it (the flip side is that people are not afraid to tell you they don’t like something…). This positive encouragement spills over onto Severed.
The Vita struggles with games that are unique to the system, especially in this age of cross buy/save, but Severed looks like it was built purely for the Vita. Do you plan to release it elsewhere in the future or is it Vita only for now?
Right now we’re focused on the Vita since it provides a nice combination of a D-pad with an excellent touch screen. Whether we bring a game to additional platforms later on usually depends on how it is initially received, and also if it makes sense. For example we’re not going to bring a touch based game to a platform that won’t provide players a good gaming experience.
What was the inspiration behind Severed?
The inspiration for Severed originated from the feelings of loneliness when living away from family and friends. How one copes with these emotions is explored in Severed’s gameplay as you take on the role of our main character to battle monsters.
As we noted earlier, we loved Guacamelee! Can we expect a sequel at some point? If so do you already have some ideas of where this could go?
At the moment the studio needs a Guacamelee! break. If (when?) we do return to that world it should only be under the pretext that the entire team is enthusiastic about doing so. From a creativity standpoint sometimes you just need to walk away for a little while and let new ideas subconsciously seed themselves in your brain somewhere. The last thing we want to do is force a sequel. Forced sequels can be a real let down to fans.
Mutant Blobs is another of your noted series, do you have any plans to revisit this in the future?
Well, this is much more divisive in the office. There are two camps in the studio, one who want to do a new Mutant Blobs game, and the other camp (we call them the no fun camp). Who knows what the future holds, but rest assured there are people here always pushing for it (this includes me).
Whenever I speak to other developers, your name is always mentioned as an inspiration. Which studios and games most impress you?
Too many studios to mention, and that’s just in Toronto alone. I think some small teams have really done an excellent job staying within scope to produce interesting and fantastic game mechanics like “Papers, Please” or “Gone Home”. Then there are some larger studios that are constantly producing games in completely different genres, like Klei and Capybara. To me, this is really brave and impressive. After coming back from PaxEast I’m blown away at the quality of games coming out of the indie dev scene.
Is there anything (other than Severed!) that you are most looking forward to on the Vita this year?
Off the top of my head I’d say I’m looking forward to playing the Banner Saga on the Vita, that game should really pop nicely. There are some other great games coming, I’d also add onto that list Super Time Force Ultra and Mighty No. 9.
What is it that you most like about developing for the Vita, and the Vita community?
For me one of the best parts of developing a game for the Vita is the chance to meet all the hardcore Vita owners at game expos. The Vita community comes up to us with big grins, flash us their Vita, and immediately jump into some fun nitty gritty video game talk. It is really enjoyable. It feels like we’re part of a super secret club.
We’d like to thank Chris for his time and agree that we also feel like part of a super secret club. Chris is on Twitter, and you can follow him via @kulz. Severed is due out this summer, and we can’t wait!
This article first appeared in The Vita Lounge Magazine Issue Two. Look out for more exclusive content in the magazine soon!