God is a Geek Meets Twisted Pixel

by on January 4, 2011

Twisted Pixel are fast becoming everyone’s favourite developer. With their fabulous sense of humour that translates into their games, it’s not hard to see why either!

Recently, Twisted Pixel announced their latest upcoming title to be Ms. Splosion Man, the follow up to the much acclaimed Xbox LIVE Arcade hit ‘Splosion Man and GodisaGeek.com were lucky enough to get access to Lead Programmer, Mike Henry.

What made you decide to revisit the ‘Splosion Man universe instead of creating a fourth new IP?  How do you feel about sequels in general?

We have lots of ideas for new IPs rattling around in our brainpans that we’re all pretty excited about, so we’re not generally interested in doing sequels unless we feel like we’ve got something compelling to add to the original, or a new direction to take it in. In the case of Ms. Splosion Man, there was just so much awesome stuff that we wanted to do in the original and didn’t have time for that we would probably all slowly go insane if we didn’t get to do some more of it.

And as it turned out, we didn’t actually have to choose between the sequel and the fourth IP, because we’ve grown to the point where we were able to start two projects at once. The second project is indeed something new, and we’ll hopefully be revealing more about it in the next couple months.

Will we see Ms. Splosion Man on formats other than the Xbox 360?  PlayStation 3 perhaps, what about Apple devices?

Unfortunately, I can’t talk about that just yet, or Mike Wilford (our CEO) would lock me in the server room again. I’d definitely like to see our games get into the hands of as many people as possible, though!

Now you are an established and popular studio, do you ever think of taking on a multitude of staff, increasing your size in general?

We’re up over 20 people now, which still blows my mind every time I walk in the office door. I’m not sure we’d want to get too much bigger than this, though. A lot of us have worked on large teams at other companies in the past, and there’s so much managerial stuff that you have to deal with in that environment that you can’t just focus on making the games anymore.

How has the development process changed for you from titles such as The Maw to Ms. Splosion Man?

The main difference is that when we started The Maw, we had no engine, so we were developing the game and the engine at the same time. It was super hectic, and we worked some very long hours to make that project happen. Now that our engine has matured a little, we can focus on adding two or three new features that would be nice to have for each game, and spend more of the time working on the game itself.

What new features can we look forward to in Ms. Splosion Man?  What makes her different to ‘Splosion Man?

Well, first off, the whole [redacted] is [redacted], and we’ve totally [redacted] the way that [redacted] works. We’re adding [redacted] and [redacted], and the engine has gotten some more graphical improvements, so there’s a jump in visual quality of the [redacted]. Plus a bunch of other stuff.  I’m actually not sure if we’re supposed to talk about features yet, but Wilford never proofreads interviews anyway, so I’m sure that’ll all stay in.

Will Ms. Splosion man retain 4 player co-op local and via Xbox LIVE?

All I can say is that there will be multiplayer.

Ms. Pac-Man, Ms. Splosion Man?  Any correlation there idea wise?

Absolutely! Aside from the obvious play on the name, Ms. Pac-Man was an upgrade visually and gameplay-wise to the original Pac-Man, and that’s what we’re shooting for with Ms. Splosion Man.

What do you think of the state of the gaming industry, what is it like to be an “indie” studio nowadays?

I think downloadable gaming is sort of narrowing the gap between “indie” studios and big publishers.

Obviously, there are still going to be huge differences in the budgets that they can toss around, but when you’re not competing with them for physical shelf space, there’s a lot less of a barrier to getting your game in front of people, so oddball stuff like The Maw can be a success. Marketing is still challenging for indies, because there’s usually no publisher to do it for us, and most of us don’t have backgrounds in it. Our biggest allies in that department are PAX, Twitter, and word of mouth.

Will you be addressing the Xbox LIVE latency issues some people experienced in ‘Splosion Man?

Actually, we released a Title Update a while back that fixed a lot of the latency issues that people were experiencing. ‘Splosion Man was our first encounter with networked gaming, so we learned a lot of valuable lessons that we’re definitely keeping in mind as we make Ms. Splosion Man.

Will there be more unlockable avatar items, or any additional bonuses as with Comic Jumper?  You seem to innovate in that area every time a new one of your titles comes out!

You can count on it. We love bundling that kind of stuff in for our fans. We’re starting to run out of things that nobody has done yet, though!

Does it ever get boring being told how awesome you are?  Do you remain humble at your success?

You know, that never gets old. Not. Ever. I absolutely love going to PAX each year, because even though I always leave tired and hoarse and with four different strains of flu, I spend the whole weekend with a big goofy grin on my face because of all the awesome fans that come and let us know how much they like our games. If you guys promise not to stop doing that, I promise not to let it go to my head!

Is there a collective “Game of the Year” for the guys at Twisted Pixel?  What are you guys playing at the moment?

If I took a poll right now, I think Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Rock Band 3, and Bayonetta would probably be at the top. The competitive game of choice at the office is currently StarCraft II, although there’s a pretty fierce Pac-Man DX rivalry going on as well. Frank, you might as well give up now and save yourself further anguish.

Does the cake make a return for Ms. Splosion Man?  Any homage to other games?

We always like to pay tribute to past games that we love that have paved the way for us to do what we do for a living. As far as the cake goes, that was ‘Splosion Man’s favorite thing, but Ms. Splosion Man may have her own taste in collectibles…

Can you give us a description that would make our visitors want to buy Ms. Splosion Man on day one?

Ms. Splosion Man will single-handedly bring world peace and end world hunger. It will cure cancer and the common cold. It will usher in an age of happiness and prosperity unlike any the world has ever known. Unless you don’t buy it.  Then none of those things will happen. Would you be able to live with yourself?

Which other developers out there currently get your respect?

As far as big developers go, Naughty Dog and Blizzard have become synonymous with “quality” for me. I will buy anything those guys release for the rest of my lifetime (which I realize in Blizzard’s case is only committing to 3 or 4 games). My list of indie developers would be super long (and I’d totally leave someone out and offend them), so I’m just going to give a shout out to a smaller one that deserves more exposure: Radiangames. You should go buy all his games on XBLIG right now.  They’re magical.

Any world exclusive you can give to GodisaGeek.com? Nudge Nudge Wink Wink!

We haven’t told anyone this yet, but… [redacted]’s [redacted] is actually [redacted]. I bet now that you know that, you won’t be able to look at [redacted] the same way again, eh?

…and with that, we ran out of ways to attempt to coax out more details from Mike. We felt it best to leave it there and just remind everyone that Ms. Splosion Man is due out next year sometime and that you should probably think about trying all of Twisted Pixel’s back catalogue as they are all great games!

Thanks to Mike Henry for the wisdom and to Jay Stuckwisch for making the Q&A happen!

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