Interview: Dipping into Guacamelee! with Drinkbox Studios
Posted by Sammy Barker
Having a good taco 'bout the Canadian developer's latest project
There’s less than a week to wait until Drinkbox Studios’ Mexican-themed adventure Guacamelee! spices up the PlayStation 3 and Vita with its fusion of fiery delicacies and Metroidvania-inspired action. In order to celebrate, we recently sought out our shocking pink luchador mask and stepped into the ring with designer Chris McQuinn, where we tussled over a number of topics, including special powers and the PlayStation 4.
Push Square: For those that don’t know, exactly what is Guacamelee!?
Chris McQuinn: Guacamelee! is a Metroidvania platform brawler based in a Mexican-themed world. Phew, that’s a mouthful.
PS: What made you want to tackle the Metroidvania genre?
CM: For the love of it! We love the old Metroidvania games, the games that made the genre. But we also love the new ones that redefined the genre, such as Shadow Complex and Cave Story. The advantage of being an independent studio is that we can do what we want. Well, within reason.
PS: Could you tell us a little bit about some of the powers that we’ll unlock during the course of the game?
CM: Definitely. The powers are split between power moves and miscellaneous moves. The power moves that you unlock will contribute to your arsenal of combat attacks, and will also allow you to access new areas. For example, the first power that you learn is the Rooster Uppercut, which is a devastating attack that knocks enemies into the air. This allows you to string together standard punch and kick attacks that lock down opponents for long periods of time. Also, the Rooster Uppercut will allow you to break through all of the Red Blocks that you discover in the game.
PS: What inspired the Mexican theme? What sort of research did you do?
CM: Our animator Augusto, who is Mexican, originally proposed the idea of a Mexican-themed game during a bout of homesickness. We all loved the idea. As far as research goes, we consulted books, people, and the mighty Internet. And, obviously, Augusto himself was a great resource as to the sort of folklore that he learned while growing up in Mexico.
PS: What lessons did you learn from the Tales from Space games that you’ve applied here?
CM: From the Tales from Space titles, at a high level, the team became better at bringing a game to completion. I know that sounds like a simple idea, but, as a small company, that’s really important. I think the toughest part of making a game is really that last 10 per cent – that ability to take a game from almost complete, to complete.
PS: Talk a little bit about the decision to make the game cross-buy. What incentive is there for you to do that?
CM: Simplicity. Cross-buy is a feature that we love when purchasing a game, so why not provide that for other people? We might have been able to make more money selling a copy for each platform, but it didn’t seem completely fair for a game like Guacamelee!.
PS: Was it a challenge working on both the PS3 and Vita versions simultaneously?
CM: There is always a challenge when supporting a game simultaneously on two platforms, but, to be honest, the process was fairly painless. The power of the Vita meant that the game that we made for the PS3 only required minor modifications to run at 60 frames-per-second on the handheld. From a design perspective, we had to remember that the actual characters would appear smaller than on a television – but that never became a roadblock.
PS: Coming out of GDC, there’s been a lot of positive talk surrounding Sony’s treatment of indie developers. What is it that keeps bringing you back to the company’s various platforms?
CM: Cooperation, feedback, and support. These are things that Sony has been doing well with our studio. There are so many challenges as a small independent studio when it comes to making games, that when a platform holder makes your life easier, there is a natural inclination to work with them.
PS: What did you make of the PS4 announcement? Are you already thinking of ways that you can support the system?
CM: All new platform announcements are exciting! There have been a few discussions about PS4 possibilities within our studio, but Guacamelee! has kept us really too busy to go beyond that.
PS: Finally, just for fun, what’s your favourite Mexican food?
CM: Call me unoriginal, but I love good fish tacos.
Thanks to Chris McQuinn for taking the time to share a packet of Doritos with us. Are you planning on picking up Guacamelee! next week? Let us know in the comments section below.