January 26th, 2012 | By Chris Priestman
One of the complaints that many reviewers seemed to share about Toxic Games’ debut first person puzzler, Q.U.B.E., was that it lacked the character and personality of Portal but shared a similar environment. It turns out that the game’s narrative, which could have alleviated that matter, was originally in place and may be coming back to the game in the future.
We recently spoke to Sam Mottershaw, the narrative designer of Q.U.B.E. (as part of an interview for the next issue of our magazine) about his input into the abstract puzzler and found out there is a lot more to the game than what has currently been released. Sam told us that he was quite frustrated at the fact that a lot of reviewers said that the game lacked something, mostly because they had been spoiled by the wonderful character interaction and and narrative of Portal which features the highly memorable GLaDos, of course.
“I was tempted to email every reviewer and say ‘no I did something’”, Sam cheerily informed us.
That “something” that Sam did was a whole narrative thread to Q.U.B.E. which was pulled from the game so that it could be released before Christmas. Of his input – the narrative design and the accompanying story, Sam says not much has survived. The main remaining input you can still see from Sam is right at the start of the game when the walls close in on the player to give a sense of hostility and claustrophobia. These kinds of effects and continuing themes were originally included throughout the entirety of Q.U.B.E., most notably with the input of a female AI character voiced by Emily Love – a friend of the development team.
“Emily did one of the characters and, well, it was like an announcer but more like a soundboard which said ‘sector one’ and ‘emergency’, more that type of thing”, Sam reveals. “Emily’s other character wasn’t really a character it was just telling you information…it didn’t really guide you, it would just say things like ‘look at that!’”
This female AI character was part of a whole other back story that was completely cut from the game. Sam says that there were a number of reasons why this huge part of Q.U.B.E. was cut out in the end. The primary reason was that the developer’s wouldn’t have been able to release the game in time for Christmas, Sam says it could have taken up to three more months for the game to be finished. Another reason was because some parts of the game needed to be reworked, otherwise they would have been released at a noticeably lower quality than the rest of the game.
“When we took it to E3 a lot of the American players couldn’t understand the accents, either because they were quite strong British ones or the audio quality wasn’t quite good enough” Sam explained to us.
Of course the game was also funded by IndieFund who were apparently very good at helping the project along and giving the new studio guidance with their first big release. One of their suggestions to Toxic Games was to not fill themselves with AAA ambition so as to not overwhelm their workload; another factor which led to the withdrawal of the narrative of Q.U.B.E.
There is good news though, Sam told us that the team are currently looking to add more to Q.U.B.E. after they finish work on bringing the game to Mac and iOS. He says everything is to be discussed between the team still, but in a recent poll Toxic asked players what else they would like to see in Q.U.B.E. and the top two requests were story-based DLC and a level editor. It could end up that Toxic will revive Sam’s long lost story either via updates or DLC to the game, then again they could scrap it all together and conjure up some entirely new narrative threads – we’ll have to wait and see.
Look out for our full interview with Sam in the next issue of The Indie Game Magazine sometime in March.