Interview: Drinkbox Studios - Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
Posted by Corbie Dillard
The good, the bad, and the blob
After enjoying success on PlayStation Network with the release of Tales from Space: About a Blob, developer Drinkbox Studios has now brought its unique brand of blob-rolling plaformer to Vita.
With Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack just recently released on Vita's own download service, we thought now might be a good time to sit down with the developer and find out a little bit more about the game and what makes it tick.
Drinkbox Studios' Chris McQuinn was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our pressing questions. You can find out what he had to say to us in the full interview below.
Push Square: First off, after releasing the first Tales of Space game on PSN, why the decision to go with Vita for this new release?
Chris McQuinn: Basically we were approached by Sony with this offer to make a game for a mysterious new handheld they were coming out with. After seeing the initial Vita development kits sent to us we realised the innovative possibilities available from the touch screen that haven’t ever been done before with a classic platformer. Oh, and the possibility of being a launch title is cool — it’s just fun to say — “launch title”. Going to space or something.
PS: There's obviously a unique 50's sci-fi theme going on in Mutant Blobs Attack. What prompted this rather interesting theme?
CM: A few ideas for an art style were tossed around, and what stuck with people at the studio was this stylistic 50’s look, a cartoony Mad Men mockery. Since our Blob was very classic 50’s monster-esque (not scary at first, but then you slowly realise you’re going to be eaten) the combination of a sci-fi theme just made sense.
PS: Can you tell our readers a little bit about the actual gameplay of Mutant Blobs Attack?
CM: Sure! The game is a 2D platformer where you control a blob. Ok, now, playing a blob might not sound exciting, but it is. You basically are on a mission to destroy mankind, which requires you to find objects to eat and grow bigger. Each level is split up into areas where you need to reach a certain size before you can move on. All the while you’ll be using your blobby powers to navigate platform sections, puzzles, and causing mass destruction.
PS: Obviously the motion and touch screen controls offered you some new ways to spice up the gameplay. What was it like to have the unique control functions of the Vita at your disposal, from a development standpoint?
CM: Overwhelming at first. The danger is just prototyping cool ideas all day long where you never get around to releasing the game. It got so far as to experiment with blowing in the microphone to jump (terrible idea). Eventually we got crazy excited when brainstorming platforming challenges that required the touch screen since this was new ground we were breaking into from a gameplay standpoint.
PS: For gamers who already own or have played the PS3 release About a Blob, what changes can they expect in the Vita version?
CM: An all around tighter experience. Kind of like going from a “Yaa?” to a “YAAAAAAAA!”
PS: The game looks great on the Vita's OLED screen. Can you tell us a little bit about what it brings to the visual presentation and what it's like developing a game for it?
CM: Yeah, that screen is crazy good. The sheer size of it really allowed us to be aggressive on pulling the camera back to show more of our world to the user — to really let our backgrounds pop out.
PS: One of the most striking aspects of the game would have to be the soundtrack and as over-the-top as it is, it seems to fit the game like a glove. Can you tell us a bit about the musical score and the influences behind it?
CM: The soundtrack was really given direction by our main Mutant Blob. We said, ok, this guy at first appears cheesy 50’s, quirky, kind of a jerk, and just brings chaos wherever he goes. Take all those emotions and convert them to a musical score.
PS: You went with a much angrier-looking blob this time around. Was that something you guys were going for given the fact that the Blobs had just finally had enough of being pushed around?
CM: Exactly. The appearance change was made for a few reasons, one was to match the story a bit better. This time around we weren’t as innocent as in the first game. Our character had to reflect the terrible experiments that had been done on him. Second, it made destroying the world easier to swallow (literally... ok, terrible joke, I’ll never do that again.)
PS: Obviously, there's nothing quite as satisfying as swallowing up a human whole, but what do you think it is about the Tales of Space games that seems to strike a chord with PlayStation fans?
CM: We had a huge focus on keeping the game tight — teaching the player abilities, and using those abilities in a million different ways that pushed their limits. Games are on this trend of ignoring depth of gameplay only to replace it with loads of gimmicks. Players aren’t dumb, they want genuine experiences, and I think that’s what we provided with MBA.
PS: The Tilt-a-Blob bonus levels are a nice change of pace from the regular game. How did these bonus levels come about?
CM: We had always wanted to make mini-games in between regular gameplay in the original About a Blob, but ran out of time. For MBA we made sure to have the time — and were also hoping to create an “out of blob experience”. Playing the Blob via tilt was fun as hell, but had little place in the normal gameplay. It just made sense to use the mechanic as our “take a break” levels.
PS: How was your experience developing for Vita and do you think you guys will be developing more titles for the unit in the future?
CM: Overall our experience developing for the Vita was really positive, unusual for new hardware. I wouldn’t be surprised if we put out another title on the Vita down the road.
PS: Any chance of some downloadable content for Mutant Blobs Attack?
CM: Definitely a chance — does that sound non-committal? (smiles) We love creating content for MBA, so if the demand is there then we’d do DLC.
PS: The game is one of the lowest-priced Vita launch titles. Was there a concerted effort to price it low, perhaps in the hopes of attracting some impulse purchases?
CM: Well, let’s say there was a concerted effort to keep the game priced appropriately for people who had just shelled out a lot of dough for a new device + other games. People have a lot of choices to make when shopping for games, and it was important that they felt a high sense of value for money spent after playing MBA. Money ain’t free!
PS: We'd like to thank you guys for taking the time to take part in this interview with us. We look forward to your future projects.
CM: No, thank you.