Canadian developers DrinkBox Studios have been behind a couple of fantastic and much-loved title on the Vita and their most recent title, Severed is available now. We caught up with Chris McQuinn from the studio to find out more about this excellent Vita title.
Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Can you tell us a little bit about Drink Box Studios and how you/the studio got into developing games?
Of course. DrinkBox Studios was founded back in 2008 when a studio called Pseudo Interactive shut its doors. The founders had all been working there and realized there weren’t many other options for game development in Toronto (that was back in the day, before Toronto became the indie games capital of the world) so decided to start their own company. We’ve made Tales from Space: About a Blob, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee!. Oh, and now Severed.
It’s been more than a year since we spoke to you about Severed, way back in Issue 2. How has the last year been?
Our year has been really solid. Busy as you can imagine – besides finishing Severed, there has been a lot of showing off the game itself. Getting the word out usually requires a lot of travel on top of, you know, trying to make a game fun. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining though – it’s been a really great experience and I’m very fortunate for how everything has gone.
For those that haven’t been paying attention, can you explain what Severed is?
Yes! In Severed you play as Sasha, a soon to be warrior who is trying to figure out why her family has disappeared. The game is a 1st person dungeon crawler that utilizes swipe-based touch controls to fight monsters, explore the world and solve puzzles. Along the way you’ll sever off monster parts that act as a currency that you use to purchase character upgrades. The world is based in a freaky surreal world where you won’t be sure if you’re in a dream or an alternative universe.
What was the inspiration behind Severed?
Severed was born out of an internal game jam we had at DrinkBox Studios. A bunch of ideas were created and the initial Severed prototype (I use that term loosely) seemed most promising. We spent a bit of pre production time on the idea and liked the result so decided to go ahead into full development.
What gameplay mechanics can gamers expect to experience in Severed?
The primary mechanic in Severed is the touch fighting mechanic. While exploring dungeons a player is going to be jumped upon by groups of enemies where they’ll have to figure out attack patterns – choosing when to parry and when to attack. Multiple enemies will require the player to take on a Bruce Lee type role – keep some enemies temporarily disabled while dealing with others, deciding which enemies to deal with first and which to deal with later on. We give the player a lot of choice about how to fight enemies in a play style that best fits them.
You have developed three games on the Vita so far, Mutant Blobs Attack, Guacamelee and now Severed. Each of these are very different to each other – is this something you deliberately planned?
I wouldn’t say that was deliberately planned but came about more from us subconsciously wanting to create fresh experiences. At the end of a project your brain tends to be drained of all creative ideas that had anything to do with your game. One’s brain becomes “design pruned”. I think there is a naturally tendency for your thinking to shift to a completely different set of ideas so your next game might come from totally left field.
Your Vita work is regarded by many as a benchmark. Which Vita games stand out to you?
Recently games that have stood out to me have been a Virus Named Tom, Hitman GO and Taco Master (obviously). I think my favourite experience to date though has probably been Spelunky (Tearaway being a close second).
Do you have any plans for additional content for Severed?
We’re not sure at this point. That usually depends on how well the game initially does and if it financially makes sense to us. We always want to make additional content since so many ideas get chopped.
What’s next for DrinkBox?
Great question. Our first task will be supporting Severed after release – this means fixing any nasty bugs that may pop up (of course, there won’t be any bugs right?). After that we have a couple of options we’re working on internally, there are pros and cons to starting an idea completely fresh or returning to a game we’ve done before – so let’s see where the wind takes us.
Of the two Vita models, which do you think is best? The OLED or the Slim?
I’m sticking to my guns here despite my preference being very unpopular. The OLED is a superior screen but I prefer the lightweight of the Slim. There, I said it. I PREFER THE SLIM.
We would like to thank Chris and DrinkBox Studios for their time with this interview. Severed is out now on the PlayStation store, if you haven’t yet grabbed it you should read Kyle’s review.
This article first appeared in May issue of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Look out for more exclusive and magazine first content in the magazine soon!