Interview: Dylan Cuthbert

With Q-Games’ PixelJunk Monsters hitting PSN Stores all over tonight, we caught up with the main man Dylan Cuthbert to find out what’s happening with the next PixelJunk title, the work he did with the PS3’s XMB and what he thinks about Super Rub-a-dub.

Hi Dylan. So, Monsters is finally released tonight, did the reception to Racers influence the way you finished off Monsters?

Hi. Yes, the reception to Racers influenced us quite a bit – there were a few things we just didn’t have time to fit into Racers, given that it was the first in the series. The middle part of the game is really well refined, but the beginning and the end are a bit rough, so first time players (or people who downloaded demo) quite often just didn’t ‘get it’. This was a shame, because as you yourself know once you get past that initial ‘what is THIS?’ phase the game is really great fun.

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So what have you done to make it more accessible to gamers who were perhaps alienated by Racers?

We added a small tutorial and lots of screen indicators to try and give you a hint at what you should do and I think this will really help people ‘get’ Monsters as soon as they pick up and play it. We also added a more detailed in-game manual which explains the game more.

So the game is more user-friendly?

Yeah, overall, the game feels more friendly as a result.

Monsters is obviously based on the Tower Defense mechanics, are you a big fan?

Yes, the Tower Defense genre is superb but I always felt the game could be more immersive and a little less ‘mechanical’, which is why I fleshed it out for Monsters in the way I did.

Do you still play the Flash versions?

After playing Monsters extensively I find it difficult to go back to the Flash versions, but they are a hotbed of ideas because of the quick iteration/turn-around of the developers. Something like Monsters takes 6-8 months and a small team of developers to make.

So how long before the third PixelJunk title, anything you can tell us?

Nothing yet, but I really hope to show a clip at GDC. No promises though. It’s crazy and fun in yet another direction.

Elsewhere on the PS3, you worked on the recent Planets visualiser and parts of the XMB – was there anything you were forced to leave out?

Well, nothing too wacky but the original icon rendering we made for the XMB were rendered with refraction and a spectral dispersion type effect which made them look like they were made out of solid glass. It was a bit over the top though so we toned down the settings – however, if you look really closely in the current XMB, you can still see the toned down effect as the icons pass over things (especially if you change your background to something detailed).

And what about the Duck in a Bath tech demo that you did for the PS2 that also appeared on the latest console?

Yes, I had interest in the PS3 duck-in-a-bath – it kind of annoyed me (only a weeny bit tho) that they could take a concept I had created personally and without consulting or even e-mailing me about it make a not particularly good technical demo. In some ways it was even a step back from my PS2 demo which was actually real-time spline curved surface rendering :-) But then they came out with a game based on it! :-)

And what’s for the future for Q-Games aside from PixelJunk?

In the past we’ve developed a lot of tech stuff behind the scenes for Sony that hasn’t seen the light of day, including some really cool stuff a few years back for the PSP. But I’d have to shoot you if I told you more about that. We developed some developer tools too – for example, the original VFPU (vector processor) extensions for the main PSP GCC compiler.

But what we are focusing more on now is interesting graphical experiments or features that can be integrated into the OS.

Do you play any other PSN games, which do you like?

I really like the original and personal stuff like Everyday Shooter, we should all strive to make our games personal in that way. Most games nowadays are way too sterilised.

Well, we’re still waiting for that in Europe, so in the meantime why should people buy Monsters?

Because (of course) it is probably the most addicting and fun game you’ll play this year! PR speak aside though, I’ve made a lot of games over the past 20 years or so and this one has that certain “something”, a little bit of magic to it. We are an independent development company and we’ve funded this entirely ourselves, so no game-sharing please! Every little penny counts and keeps us going!

Thanks for your time, Dylan, and good luck with the game!

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