IGM Exclusive Interview With Colin Northway Part 2

incredipede Screenshot 01
incredipede Screenshot 01

Last week I published the first half of my epic interview with Colin Northway which can be found here, today I am going to conclude the awesome interview. Expect a lot more design talk, some information about the names uses along with Colin Northway’s fondness for Spelunky, hold on to you hats.

Me: Do you feel that the story or any of the messages in Incredipede reflects you on a personal level?

Colin: You know, last week I would have said yes. At PAX I was talking with Davey Wreden about his game “The Stanley Parable”. He puts so much of his personal experience into that game I don’t feel like I can compare myself to him.

The Stanley Parable is such an emotional journey for him. Incredipede is just a different thing. It’s about wonder at life and playing, but it isn’t about me personally as much as The Stanley Parable is about Davey.

Me: So where did the name Quozzle actually come from?

Colin: I was trying to come up with a name. Naming things is so hard, “Quozzle’s Quest” popped out of my brain at some point. Anything “Quest” is just silly and overused but the name “Quozzle” stuck. I think it sounds vaguely Central American, which is good.

Me: On the subject of names does the name Incredipede come from Incredible centipede?

Colin: Pretty much, the suffix means “foot” in latin. So Quozzle is an Incredible Foot. I think of the bones on the end of her legs as feet so I think it’s quite fitting. I was worried that it was too close to Incredibots, so I made sure the Incredibots guys were cool with me using it.

In the code it’s still called Novus Vita (new life). It had all kinds of names before I had to nail it down for Sense of Wonder Night. It was terrible coming up with a name. I got suggestions from friends, spent forever writing long lists of possible names, talked endlessly with Sarah about it. It just took forever, i’m really happy with Incredipede though. One of the first articles about it said it was the best name for a video game ever so that was nice :) .

Me: The art style in Incredipede looks fantastic and is quite striking. Was it hard to settle on the cut wood style from all the other possibilities.

Colin: I always wanted the style to be like a botany book from the 1700’s. In the 1700’s europeans were still discovering the world on wooden sailing ships. Often these voyages of exploration would include a botanist to document the plants they found along the way. When they got back sometimes the botanist would publish a book of plants from far corner of the world.

Imagine you’re living in a little English village (or Manchester maybe) in the 1700’s and you find this book about creatures that can make limbs appear wherever they want, you would totally believe it!

That time must have been amazing, when it seemed like you could find anything on the next island over. The problem was really executing that idea. Sarah is an artist but not that kind of artist and i’m hopeless. Luckily I randomly stumbled upon Thomas Shahan. He’s never even worked in video games before, but his work has been totally amazing.


Thomas Shahan

Image of Thomas Shahan via http://www.thomasshahan.com/art/

Me: So how did you managed to find Thomas Shahan.

Colin: I was reading a Wikipedia article on spiders and his spider picture was used in the article. I followed the link to his site and found his woodblock prints. They were so perfect for the game I wrote him an e-mail. He was just finishing art school when we started working on the game together. He is also an amazing photographer by the way and has been featured in National Geographic. Just a stunningly talented man.

Me: From the art I have seen it does look to be an amazing fit for the game, I don’t think you two could of put that all together better really.

Colin: Thomas has made the game look better than I ever imagined. We’ve worked very closely together, it hasn’t been a matter of “Thomas, art this!”. We find a way to make the code support his art. Well as close as you can work with someone when you’re on different continents.

Me: So do the two of you talk a lot about many different aspects of the game and then try to decide on the best art for it as it grows.

Colin: There was a lengthy period in the beginning when we were trying to figure out what exactly the game would look like and what world it inhabits. Quozzle and the ground are both very dynamic, this is due to the level editor that allows players to change the shape of both Quozzle and the ground anyway they like. Making everything look good no matter how the player contorts things was a real challenge, it was a real marriage of code and art.

Me: To make a game so dynamic with so many ways to change everything must have really put the art and code under a great deal of strain.

Colin: It was a lot of work, especially as I had never done any real graphics programming before. But we pulled it off.

Me: You must be incredibly happy with the end result especially with the amount of people who have now gotten interested in the game.

Colin: I am thrilled with the result. The first thing Thomas sent me I thought was totally amazing and he just kept sending me better and better stuff. It was also really nice to have him push me on some of the little graphical glitches, I might not have fixed if it was just me. Not that there aren’t a few that are still in there. Sorry Thomas, I’m probably not going to remove the bones when a player drags out a limb!

Me: Has the design of the Quozzle been difficult to make all the limb mechanics work well together, especially with the unpredictable designs people can come up with?

Colin: The raw design of exactly how you make limbs, muscles and how they work took forever. You have to consider the UI, player expression, depth of gameplay and you have to make it as simple as possible. Always as simple as possible.

It’s one of those things. Now I look at it and think “yeah of course it works that way, how else would you do it?”. It took literally months to come to this point, hopefully players won’t even think about all that work though. Playing will just be like breathing, it will just work.

There is a little bit of secret sauce that i’m particularly proud of. I feel like game authors are always trying to fake stuff, like “I’ll add a little gust of wind here that the player won’t notice but will help them out”. When I do that it often breaks the game and makes things feel wrong. Incredipede has one great fake-out in this though. As you run around in a level your limbs would slowly get out of sync (as the limb in the air can move quicker than a limb pushing against the ground). So the game subtly changes the speed of limbs so that they stay in sync and your spider always looks like a spider.


Me: Did you find the level design to be difficult overall.

Colin: There are 60 levels in the game. The first 20 took literally months. The whole first world (there are three) is tutorial. Not a terrible pop-ups everywhere tutorial but each level keeps you learning with a new challenge. Getting that just right was a lot of work, I think the new player experience is incredibly important. Even the core building mechanics are written specifically from the point of view of a new player. Not to say the game doesn’t reward mastering the mechanics, the first world takes about 30 minutes to finish. To finish the rest of the game it takes more like ten hours, it gets hard!

Me: Was it difficult to get so many levels in the main story mode that kept the player entertained continually.

Colin: Not really, there are a lot of ideas to play with. Just moving around the terrain gives you a lot of options add in lava, collecting static as well as rolling fruit, wind that can lift you into the air, there are lots of options. Like Fantastic Contraption I expect people to make a lot of classic levels with the level editor.

Me: How has Incredipede compared to Fantastic Contraption in terms of the creation process.

Colin: I was very lucky with Fantastic Contraption, that game just worked. It fell out of the sky and was great being able to purposefully reproduce those results has been hard but fun. I’m kind of sad Incredipede is in the same vein as Fantastic Contraption. Every other game I tried to design was very different, I guess i’m just good at games where you build stuff.

Me: Although Incredipede is still in pre-release are you considering any future DLC.

Colin: All the levels and creatures people make will be kind of like DLC and that’s all free! You don’t even have to own the game to play with other people’s creatures. Only if you want to make your own.

Me: You don’t even need the game to play with pre-made creatures?

Colin: There will be a flash “player” online. When your friend makes a creature they can send you the link and you can play it.

Colin Northway Cosplaying Spelunky

Colin Northway Cosplaying at Pax 2011 as his Spelunky Character

Me: I am interested to know what are some of your favorite indie games, I know you love SpaceChem any others you hold great love for.

Colin: I may be the biggest Spelunky fan in the world. I was the first person to beat Hell and Derek actually based the blue spelunker on me, so i’m kind of in Spelunky. I cosplayed as myself (the blue spelunker) at PAX in 2011.

I have also been playing an early version of Steph Therion’s Faraway for a while now, I really love that game. I’ve watched him work on it for years now and while I wish he would release it the game is getting better and better. It has amazing depth I’ve sunk hours and hours into it and i am still getting better (my high score is better than Steph’s).

I would like to thank Colin Northway greatly, for his awesome interview he was a great guy to chat with for a few hours. Incredipede can be ordered from the official site here and expect the beta to be going live soon. Colin Northways official site can be found here, Thomas Shahan’s official site can be found here for all things arty! Everyone at IGM wishes Colin Northway, Thomas Shahan and Sarah Northway all the best with the release of Incredipede in the coming month, and I hope to hear more from them in the not too distant future.

Be sure to check back to The Indie Game Magazine for all the latest on Incrediepede!

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