Since 2009, the folks at Texas based developer Twisted Pixel have been responsible for some of Xbox Live Arcade’s very best games, not to mention the funniest; from the babbling lunacy of ‘Splosion Man to the fourth wall-breaking misadventures of Captain Smiley. Recently I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to fire some questions at the guys at Twisted Pixel and level designer Alex Jones was only too happy to answer. What makes Twisted Pixel tick? What’s the deal with The Gunstringer? What else are they up to?
The Reticule – So far, you’ve brought us a one-eyed alien, a comic book-jumping superhero with an emoticon for a head and a pair of exploding lunatics made of fire… so first things first, I have to ask: what the hell are you guys smoking?
Alex Jones – At the end of a long day there is nothing like the rich, bold taste of the crystallized tears of war orphans.
The Reticule – The Maw, ‘Splosion Man and Comic Jumper are all pretty unique, but what have been your biggest influences when creating games?
Alex Jones – Most of the guys grew up with the games and movies from the 80’s and 90’s. We are always playing and seeing new things so influences can come from anywhere.
The Reticule – Up until Ms. Splosion Man, you’d only brought out new IP’s. What were your motivations behind revisiting that game? What were the most difficult and/or daunting things about doing a sequel to such a well-received game?
Alex Jones – There were so many ideas left over from the original Splosion Man that we still wanted to do. We also did not have enough time to polish the previous game as much as we would have liked and felt we could do a much better job with a little more time. I don’t recall anyone being too daunted about it living up to the sequel. The sheer volume of levels as well as getting the networking to be smooth on launch instead of needing to be patched like the original Splosion Man were two big hurdles.
The Reticule – All your games have been laugh out loud hilarious up to now; a great achievement considering that as a rule, games that try their hand at humour rarely end up being genuinely funny. Was injecting your games with a sense of humour a big focus when you started out or was it something that came along later?
Alex Jones – Having likable character-based games with a sense of humor was a big focus starting out. Everyone is always joking at the office so it is hard not to include all sorts of crazy things as projects go forward. We weren’t going to make the next big MMO so the founders had to focus on something they thought they could do well and would set them apart from what was on the market at the time.
The Reticule – Your debut game, The Maw, was very ambitious for a studio’s first ever game. Was it particularly challenging doing a 3D game right off the bat as opposed to starting smaller and progressing from there?
Alex Jones – Creating our own 3D engine from the ground up and making a game at the same time was very challenging. Even though it was 3D things were very rough and there were a lot of limitations on memory and the size and structure of the levels for example. It would have certainly been easier to do something smaller but I believe the founders really felt they needed to make something that would grab peoples’ attention.
The Reticule – Was it a conscious decision to move into 2D games after The Maw?
Alex Jones – Not that I know of. Doing a 2D game is definitely much easier in many ways, so that was a good choice for a game with a short development time like Splosion Man. The Gunstringer is a 3D game however, so we have not limited ourselves to 2D games.
The Reticule – What can you tell us about your upcoming Kinect title, The Gunstringer? What’s the premise? Is the Kinect sensor the only control method available in the game or will we be able to play it with a conventional Xbox 360 pad?
Alex Jones – The Gunstringer is a cowboy puppet that is controlled by the player as he makes his way through several different themed plays seeking revenge on those that betrayed him. You spend most of your time running, jumping, shooting, punching and fighting bosses. The art style is unique in that the props and enemies are all like pieces of a play that have been hand-made by people. Kinect is the only control method but if you want you can play the entire game sitting down.
The Reticule – When can we expect The Gunstringer to ship worldwide?
Alex Jones – The Gunstringer will be in stores September 13.
The Reticule – Once The Gunstringer is completed and shipped, what can we expect from Twisted Pixel going forward? Will you be focusing on new IP’s or doing another sequel (that was a big hint for a Comic Jumper 2, by the way)?
Alex Jones – We have not announced what we will be working on next. We love doing new things so we will keep doing that as long as possible. We are lucky in that we don’t even know what the future will bring.
The Reticule – Do you guys have any plans to maybe develop for other platforms other than Xbox 360? Is developing for the PS3 or maybe even the 3DS something you’ve ever considered? Personally, the prospect of playing your games on the move is an enticing one.
Alex Jones – Yes, we definitely consider developing on other platforms and are excited by new technology and what we can do with it. What platforms we release on is due to many different factors that are constantly changing.
The Reticule – While I’ve got your attention, I’m going to pitch you an idea: I always thought that a Super Smash Bros style brawler featuring characters from your existing properties would be the epitome of cool. Any thoughts? Since I gave you the idea, I’ll gladly take a free copy.
Alex Jones – I have heard someone else mention something like this also. It is a great idea!
The Reticule – Thanks for your time.