One of the more interesting games we sat at E3 this year was Alien Spidy. Featuring some fantastic visuals and a different twist on the platforming genre we had questions about the game and were fortunately able to get some answers directly from the company
Could you introduce yourself and talk about your role on Alien Spidy?
Hello, I’m Daniel Parente, CEO of Enigma.
For readers that are unaware with Alien Spidy, can you describe the game's premise? What are the key gameplay features we can expect to see?
Our goal with Alien Spidy is to take what everyone loves about classic platformers, and use modern graphics and gameplay style. In the game, you play as a spider who’s been trapped on Earth, and must make his way through three different world types (Ponds, Caves and Forest) and secure the missing pieces of his spaceship. You move through the worlds by slinging your webs between objects, and swinging past obstacles, distracting enemies, and making use of objects in the environment. For example, you might need to swing along the tops of various tall plants in a swampy area, then sling a web to hook onto a wasp, sticking along for a free ride through other parts of the level. Then, you might need to use your web to knock a fruit off a tall plant, which then causes a bat (who’s currently thinking about how good a spider would taste), to move out of the way as he goes to capture the fruit, thus letting you pass.
What are the sources of inspiration and ideas behind the game's unique visual style? How long did it take to come up with the perfect look for the game?
Visually, Alien Spidy draws its inspiration from a large number of games like Braid, Patapon, Limbo, and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. From a gameplay point of view we were very interested in emulating some cool game modes and mechanics from great videogames such as Sonic, Super Mario, and Super MeatBoy.
Early in development, we wanted to have puzzles and gameplay mechanics that harkened back to Donkey Kong, Centipede, Space Invaders, etc… But in the end, we had to take them out, though maybe they will find their way in a future version of the game.
Creating the current game style took us approximately 12 months of trying to figure out what we were missing. We were sure that the game had great potential visually, but something seemed to be missing, and we had to struggle for months with the feeling that something was missing that we were not actually really seeing.
It was very strange to not be able to understand exactly why the game was failing to be fun. But the answer was actually always right in front of our eyes, and one day, we understood looking at Spidy, that we were not taking in account the natural characteristics of speed that the web gave him. So we redefined the overall game to focus on speed and agility, and suddenly the game was really fun, with a diabolic hardcore feel to it.
Could you provide some insight into the development process behind the creation and evolution of the main character?
Initially the game was supposed to be a slower platformer where the player could play as a spider, because, as referred earlier on, we thought that spiders could be good heroes for a game. The first versions of the spider were interesting but not really “cool”, as we were failing to make it come alive. We had to perform several iterations until we were able to come out with some of the main assumptions toward making it a lovely and cute character.
The first one is that people usually don´t like spiders, so we were forced some were to make creative changes that would make Spidy different from other spiders, in this case we decided to create a spider with only six legs instead of eight.
Secondly, in order to make it look nice and friendly we needed some tool for the drawing and animation that could help us breathe those qualities into the character, and we always say, the eyes are the window to the soul, so we decided that the character would need to big eyes that would be able to express emotions along the action. So we did a couple of tests, and in the end we found that big yellow eyes were the right combination for Spidy.
With the popularity of platform games, what sets Alien Spidy apart from other titles on the market?
We think that we have a very visually attractive game, with a combination of game mechanics focused on speed and control. Our gameplay style causes the player to take each challenge personally, you really want to get past that next checkpoint, level, etc. We have designed things so that although you may fail a puzzle or level, you won’t be frustrated, as you’ll have a moment where you kind of “see” the solution, and just need to try a bit harder.
Overall, we like to say that Alien Spidy is easy to learn, but a real challenge to master and it features visuals that make you fall in love for the game at the first sight.
How would you describe your approach to the level design? Do you have a personal favorite level or puzzle in the game?
Each member of the team has their own preferred level and environment. In my case, I love the level in the caves, where Spidy has to hitch a ride on a ladybug, and waterski behind her.
How has the development team dealt with balancing the gameplay between providing challenges and avoiding frustration? Do you think there’s a market for exceedingly difficult games right now (such as Super Meat Boy)
☺ Playing, Playing, Playing …. These kind of games need to be balanced by playing the game a lot with different people in a continuous effort to guarantee that you don´t cross the thin red line of frustration.
All the checkpoints are located in places were the impact for the player to be teleported back is minimum, allowing him to get back into the game without losing time having to repeat stages that you’ve already completed. We have also included a color mechanism to show the player at any time how is he doing as far as completing the whole level. Thus, if you get too many red checkpoints, for example, you know it’s time to retry the level.
There is definitely a market for challenging/hard games, as we think that in the last few years, due to the casual trend, games have become too similar to one another, and too easy to play, which takes away the fun that was present in the good old games, where sometime you had to try to find a walkthrough to overcome a part of the game. Now, some games look like “autopilot” games, where the player only hits the Start button and that’s about it for interaction.
How long did it take to get the controls and swinging mechanics down?
It took us months to get it right, there were a lot of attempts at using different options and solutions until we felt that we were comfortable with the controls and their overall smoothness in relation with the framerate of the game.
Did you ever consider giving Alien Spidy additional powers?
Yes the original game design had different powers, powers ups, weapons, gadgets, etc… Maybe for Alien Spidy 2. : -)
What are you long term plans for Alien Spidy after launch? Do you see additional levels coming in the form of DLC?
We are planning some DLC, and we already have ideas for additional levels, and on extending environments – of course, this will only happen if people buy and love the game ☺
Do you see this becoming a new franchise? What kind of critical and commercial success would give you the confidence that this would allow for a sequel?
Again that is not for the developer to decide (it all depends on the response to the game by consumers), but we have been talking over the last few months with our publisher, Kalypso, and we have different possibilities in mind. We also have other platforms that we have always intended to deliver the game on : PS Vita and the IOS/Android touch devices, so you could see Spidy there.
Has there been any thought to adapting Alien Spidy for the mobile market?
Yes, we have a very cool design that we cannot talk about, but that would certainly be very fun to play.
Is there anything important that we missed?
Yes, you haven’t asked me about Spidy and Virgi, the two lead characters in the game, and if there’s more than friendship in their relationship … ;)
he way we have set it up, their relationship is ambiguous, the kind of romantic tension that you can see in the X-files, Blue Moonlight, Bones and other TV series. You have this kind of relationship between the leading characters where you know that there should be love but somehow it never manifests itself.
So from our point of view it should be kind of Scully-Mulder romance . :-)
Thank you very much for you interest in the game, and thanks to all your readers who have read this interview. We make games for them.
We'd like to thank Daniel for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Ted for coordinating the interview.