Friday, May 2, 2014

PAX East 2014: An Interview with Robotube Games

Spring has arrived, and with that, another PAX East has sprung up, inviting gamers and game developers from all over the world to Boston, all to show upcoming games and revel in what the industry has in store.  We at Third Rate Minion were there, and we got to try out a sampling of what was there on the showfloor!


In the Indie Megabooth, Gaijin Games was present with its sub-label Robotube Games to show off its upcoming titles: the galaxy-destroying Destructamundo and the alien-smashing Woah Dave!  We were able to get in contact with Robotube head Jason Cirillo about working as part of Gaijin Games and what inspired these arcadey adventures.  We also have gameplay videos of both games, so check them out!

3RM: Robotube Games has been part of Gaijin Games since 2011. How has working under Gaijin Games compared to working as an individual entity?

Jason Cirillo: Working as a sub-label inside of Gaijin is a much better, fulfilling experience. Working alone as a game developer was not something that suited me, though I know some people who pull it off very well. I enjoy the feedback I get from the larger team, the play sessions we have of titles in development, and the all around fun and wacky hyjinx we enjoy. We also drink beers together, and beer is something that we enjoy with our mouthparts. Also lots of flavors of potato chips, or as we call them, "the poor man's French fries."

3RM: One of your upcoming titles, Destructamundo, involves the necessary obliteration of planets and galaxies alike. What inspired you to take on this destructive game mechanic compared to your previous game, Bloktonik?

JC: I like puzzle games a lot. They're where I kinda got started in game dev many years back when I had to design short, graphically simple games for low resolution Nokia cell phones in the early 2000's. Destructamundo was inspired by a dream I had. It was kinda vague but I saw circles spinning around and chaining together somehow. I think that's where the idea started. Sometimes I eat weird snacks before bed and it gives me gnarly dreams.  I started weaving in the story after I was playing some old ColecoVision games and rediscovered this gem called "Space Fury". The main alien character is directly inspired by the weirdo in Space Fury because he's such a jerk. In fact, I like to think that he is the same guy, but he is not officially the same guy, because of legal reasons I think. But yeah, he's the same guy.

3RM: Initially, planets are defenseless and easily destroyed, but even in earlier stages, some become fortified and require multiple hits to be vulnerable. Can you elaborate on what else these  planets will do to try and stop their inevitable destruction?

JC: Well, the people that live on those planets are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. The planets do very little themselves to thwart your destruction, but what happens is that the systems get a little more sparse with planets way out of direct reach of each other. You'll eventually acquire weaponry that you can use to fill in the gaps in creative ways. I liken it to almost having to design part of the level yourself in order to beat it. There are also some other weird things that float in space and react differently to being blown up in the later levels.

3RM: Destructamundo is Robotube Games’ and Gaijin Games’ first release onto Ouya, a small android device funded in large part by Kickstarter. How has development of the game (and Woah Dave!) been on the platform?

JC: It's been fine, really. We did easy Android ports to it to test console controls and on-TV feel. Iterating and testing the game on Ouya is very quick and easy. Also, the Ouyas are mega portable, and we literally put them in our pockets at the end of each day of PAX to bring back to our hotel. We're gonna eventually put it on Ouya because we easily can.

3RM: Your latest announced project is Woah Dave! which looks very much like an old-school arcade game in the modern era. What arcade games would you most compare this one to?

JC: I was most definitely inspired by the original Mario Bros. I think it's slightly underrated and overshadowed by the Super version. I also took a few ideas from Joust and another ColecoVision title called "Space Panic".

3RM: Woah Dave! involves throwing eggs and bombs at aliens before they overwhelm you, but there is also the Woah Block which can destroy everything on screen. Did other power-ups and items get considered to be in Woah Dave!, or was the Woah Block always the only major item to use when it was planned?

JC: There is a considerable amount of stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor. As development progressed, we started to realize that the beauty of the game is its simplicity, and every time I tried something new, the pureness got mucked up a little. Yeah, we did have other power ups planned and some other weird stuff, but really they just hurt the game. I think the Woah Block was the real winner that made the most sense in terms of gameplay. It allows you to form strategies and carefully balance risk and reward, and then you get this super rad huge payoff. 

3RM: Woah Dave! has a single-player experience, but it also has a competitive multiplayer option, too. Can you explain some of the differences between the modes? Did you make any particular changes to mechanics such as enemy spawns for the latter mode?

JC: Yeah, there are some differences in the modes. 2 player mode has limitless lives, so you can die as much as you want (or don't want), but you're penalized in coins when you do. Also, the keen eye might notice that the little jarring pause upon bonking in the 1 player mode is not present in the 2P mode. You may also see a slightly more frequent appearance of the Woah Block.

3RM: Woah Dave! is a straight arcade experience, but Destructamundo takes a level-by-level approach. How did designing these games differ for you? Was one harder than the other?

JC: I would say that Destructamundo was a tougher game by far to make, because it required an insane amount of time designing levels. The placement of all the objects on the screen was super delicate, sensitive to both location and timing.

3RM: Destructamundo and Woah Dave! were both playable at PAX East this year. What did you think of the convention, and what did you take away from the experience?

JC: PAX is a great show, because you get total full-on face time with fans. We were overwhelmed by the positive feedback we got on our two games.  Going to these shows is super important to us and to lots of other developers because you get real, honest feedback from fans, and seeing people have fun playing the games is immensely exciting and rewarding. Makes you want to keep doing what you do.

3RM: Both games look fairly far along in development. When can we expect to hear more concrete details on the games’ final release dates and platforms?

JC: We'll be releasing more info probably in May regarding release and platforms...some of which we have not officially announced yet!

Well, May started yesterday, so we are getting ever-closer to more information about both of these games!  Thanks to Jason Cirillo for taking the time to talk to us, and be on the lookout for more from Robotube Games soon!

For more info on Robotube Games, check out Gaijin Game's website here!

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