Getting my Tongue Tied, an Interview with Mojo Bones
Mojo Bones is a UK independent development company who recently opened their doors, with the announcement of Tongue Tied . I recently had the opportunity to interview Stuart Ryall, from Mojo Bones, about Tongue Tied among other things.
IGM: What is the story behind Mojo Bones, what led to the creation of it as a company?
Stu: Mojo Bones opened its doors at the beginning of September so we’re still very much in our infancy. A few years ago it would have been tough for a group of guys to form a company, self-publish a game and make a viable business from it, whereas now it’s very much achievable. I think the emergence of the digital market, social gaming and smartphones have created the shift. Obviously there are still risks involved, and it requires hard work and dedication – as with any business – but we saw an opportunity to do what we love, and that pretty much marked the start of Mojo Bones.
IGM: How many people make up Mojo Bones, and does any of your team have previous experience in working on video game titles?
Stu: Mojo Bones is made up of three guys: programmer, artist and designer. We all have previous experience and have worked in the industry over the last 13 years. Collectively we’ve worked on various different hardware platforms ranging from the original PlayStation to the current smartphones and handhelds. I think having experience has helped us a lot in regards to the practicalities of making a game but we’re always learning. The great thing about our industry is that it’s always evolving, so you can never afford to sit still or it’ll pass you by: which is a good thing in my opinion.
IGM: You recently announced Mojo Bones’ first title, Tongue Tied. Can you tell us what the game is about?
Stu: Tongue Tied is our debut game and we’re planning to release it early November. We’re still yet to fully unveil the game but I can say it’s going to be a physics-based platformer featuring Mick & Ralph; the two dogs featured in our teaser video. We’re planning to have a gameplay trailer ready very soon which will unveil the game in all its glory. I think it’s also important to mention that one of the reasons we started Mojo Bones was to give ourselves the freedom to make the games we wanted to. We’re very conscious of trying to be original. Whether that’s originality in regards to gameplay, or perhaps the game’s art style or setting, we’re always striving to keep things fresh and we hope people see some of that in Tongue Tied. That doesn’t mean that we’re reinventing the wheel each time we make a game – we take a lot of inspiration from the games and genres we love – but we’d like to think that our games are trying out new ideas and don’t come across as derivative.
IGM: What was the inspiration behind Tongue Tied?
Stu: We’re big fans of classic animation from the 50s and 60s (Hanna-Barbera, Looney Toons etc.) so that was very much our starting point for the presentation and theme. Gameplay wise, we decided to utilize a physics engine to complement our original concept. There’s something erratic and unpredictable about real-time physics that help to keep the game fresh and gives it a certain energy that would be hard to achieve with ‘canned’ animation. The game definitely has a slapstick feel to it and hopefully people will see that when we release the gameplay trailer.
IGM: In the announcement for Tongue Tied it was said that the game was being developed for Smartphone devices. Is the game being developed for any particular phone operating system, or can we expect to see the title on a multitude of phone devices?
Stu: Long-term we’d like to release our games across multiple formats. Tongue Tied is currently being developed for iOS but we’ve discussed releasing an Android version soon after. The exact timing will depend on the game’s success and the demand to see it on other formats. We’d love to though.
IGM: Could you describe the development process behind Tongue Tied and how the idea came about?
Stu: Being an indie developer, it appears as though you have the world at your feet and you’re free to make any game you choose. Although we’d love that to be true, in reality – like anyone else – we have to be very mindful of time limits, budget and scope. So the challenge is creating something interesting and ambitious but without over committing (especially for our first project). Prototyping is so important. Once the initial idea was there, we started by creating a physics demo that enabled us to test the core gameplay mechanic and see how fun and responsive it felt. Since then, the process has involved layering the different elements into the game one-by-one and building it up gradually. The game is still in development so we’re adding features and tweaking all the time, but it’s coming together nicely.
IGM: A teaser trailer was recently released for Tongue Tied, how have you found the reception so far for the title?
Stu: Because Mojo Bones is a newly established company it’s been tough to get ourselves noticed. But so far the comments for our teaser trailer have been really positive. I think the other thing to mention is that no matter how good your game is, it really isn’t anything without support from the fans and community (and that goes for any game no matter how big or small). Every twitter follower we get, or Facebook ‘like’ we receive, means a great deal to us and we’ll always try to repay the fans as much as we can. I think sometimes gamers can become a ‘statistic’ in a spreadsheet or a ‘number’ on a whiteboard. One of the other great aspects of indie gaming/development is that there seems to be a really close relationship between the developer and their fan base. The whole process becomes much more personal.IGM: Apart from Tongue Tied, do you have any other games in development?
Stu: We have a lot of plans for the future but they are so dangerously top-secret I couldn’t begin to describe them [Symbol] On a serious note, we do have plans for other projects but we’re so preoccupied with making Tongue Tied that we don’t really have the time to unveil them. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future we can draw back the curtain. I will say that not all of our games will be the same as Tongue Tied in regards to genre and/or theme. We have a lot of interesting ideas that span different genres and cater for different audiences and ages. Our dream is to grow Mojo Bones into a studio that’s synonymous with quality, but is unpredictable in regards to what’s coming next.
IGM: During the development process of Tongue Tied, what have been the most important lessons that you have learned? What advice would you pass on to fellow developers?
Stu: I’ve learnt over the years that it’s very hard to design a game on paper. Documentation has its place, but there’s no substitute for getting hands-on with a prototype and ‘feeling’ what works (and what doesn’t). In more general terms, communication will always be key to whatever project you’re working on. Although Mojo Bones is only three guys, there’s something great about being in the same room and being able to bounce ideas off each other. You need that chemistry, especially in a small team. The final golden rule: always have fun.