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Strawdog Studios Interview

Posted by TurtleGirl On March - 8 - 2010

GGUK were lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with the guys from Strawdog Studios about their upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game, Space Ark.

strawdog studio

In Space Ark the player gets bounce spacesuit clad animals into the air in an attempt to collect fruit, perform combos and eventually make planets inhabitable again. With gameplay that pays homage to some of the greatest arcade games ever, such as Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands and Arkanoid, Space Ark looks set to offer  a host of arcade fun.

Before the bouncing began, we sat down with ???Simon??? from Strawdog Studios and asked a few questions. Here is what he had to say…

GGUK – Can you tell us what the main inspiration was for Space Ark?

Strawdog – It started the same way that all of our games do, with a crazy idea. Paul (Paul Smith), our MD, is also an animator. He used to work for Disney and did a few Disney films and stuff like that, so animation is kinda his thing. He came in one day with a little movie that he’d made, of a dog on a trampoline. It was jumping up and down and there were bricks, a bit like Arkanoid. It was knocking all of the bricks out and it was really cool. We thought “thats really cool, we should do something with that”.

We sent it to Microsoft because you have to get approval. Microsoft really liked the video and we got the approval that we needed. So we decided to make the dog bouncing game, it was called Bounce at that point, and we didn’t really know much more about how we wanted it to be, other than it was about bouncing animals.

GGUK – Who first decided to use animal astronauts and how much had they been drinking?

Strawdog – Haha, I shall be asking myself that question a bit later. “How did it happen?”. Its Paul’s fault. He came in with that video of a dog jumping on a trampoline, I blame him entirely.

How did that become Space Ark? We made a game called Bounce initially. It was called Bounce because we had a bouncing dog. Then we swapped him for a penguin. But in the end we couldn’t call the game Bounce because it was already trademarked. So we had to think of a new name.

Over the course of time, we had been doing the pre-production, we had been thinking about all of this stuff. “It would be great if the animals were in eggs”…We must have been drinking. You have to be careful that you are not veering off down some path that leads to a totally random game. The premise is quite unusual, I guess. I think the premise came along a bit later. We just had this idea of collecting stuff just like the old games. You don’t really spend too long thinking about the why’s. The backstory is just something that glues the whole thing together and we kind of put it on the board and said “lets go with that one”.

GGUK – How long has the game been in development?

Strawdog – Its been in development for about two years. We are a small team and we have moved at quite a steady pace with it. Looking back now, it was quite a big game. You have to watch that you are not being too ambitious, especially with the competition now on XBLA.

GGUK – What audience is Space Ark aimed at?

Strawdog – Audiences that like colour and bouncing animals.

We wanted to make a game that was inclusive. We are all family guys and we all have kids and stuff. You see what effect games have on kids, it just consumes them. I think that what we have done is that we have connected to our youths. The kind of games that I played growing up were Arkanoid, Pacman and Space Invaders.

GGUK – Space Ark is also coming to PSN and WiiWare. Why did you choose XBLA first?

Strawdog – It chose us I think. We showed Microsoft first and they took it first. I think that it is a good thing, in a way, but I also think that it is a tough challenge because it is a different audience. We are bringing out a fairly untypical game, Space Ark is not a typical Xbox Live Arcade game. We were always aware of what the audiences needs were and, as a business, you have to be aware. It costs a lot of money to make a game and you want it to succeed on the platform it is on, so you have to temper that creative freedom with a little bit of pragmatism. But we didn’t want to compromise too much on what our flavour is, what we like to do and the kind of games that we want to make.

So, I think the fact that its going on XBLA is ok. It is quite possible that we may tweak it a little bit when we do the Playstation 3 version, to take on board the feedback. We have to go out on all of the platforms because, for us, we are making a game that we want people to play and if you restrict yourself to one channel, you are ignoring a whole bunch of the gaming audience. I don’t think, as a studio, we are all that loyal to a particular platform. We just want people to play our games and the platform is just a means to an end. I think that we will be doing an iPhone version, because we want our game to be played.

GGUK – Will the game be available for the PC and the other handhelds?

Strawdog – PC definitely. I think the PC is a great platform. The only downside is when you are making a game for XBL first, Microsoft have certain requirements to make sure that you are showing their console in a positive way. If you are making for PC first, you might tone down some of the technology. I think that Microsoft have a technology agenda that they need to fill because you’ve paid £200 for their console and they don’t want to see a game going out that is low res.

GGUK – Do you have any plans to release add-on DLC?

Strawdog – No, we haven’t yet. That could all change though. The great thing about putting a game out on a digital platform like that is that its not set in stone. A lot of other games have shown that you can improve the game.

GGUK – Do you have a price for Space Ark yet?

Strawdog – Its going to be 800 MSPoints I think, but that is subject to confirmation.

GGUK – Are the achievements straight forward or a bit devious?

Strawdog – I couldn’t possibly judge that. I am not the best at the game and I am not an achievement grabber. I would say that they are medium.

GGUK – Whats coming next?

Strawdog – We would really like to develop Space Ark. The way that iot has come about, we have ended up with this really nice premise, this whole idea of the little animals and a terrible catastrophe has fallen on their planet, so they are out in space looking for stuff. This is just one way that we could use that. When you look at Nintendo and what they do with Mario. They innovate it. They don’t change the ingredients, but just come up with a new recipe. I think that is something that we would really like to explore.

I think, when you look at the diversity of games, a lot of them are new games and everybodies making new games and it is really expensive. You don’t ever seem to fulfill your ambitions. You can’t make the game and get everything that you ever wanted into the game. So I think this is probably kind of episode one for us and I think there is plenty more that we could do with a bunch of animals in a space rocket, in space.

Space Ark will be coming to XBLA soon

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