SDCC: ‘Splosion Man Interview with Michael Wilford

959210_07012009_790screen002At San Diego Comic Con, there were tons of chances to sit down and talk with the creators of tons of new titles coming out for PC, XBox 360 and PlayStation. I was given the opportunity to talk with Michael Wilford, CEO of TwistedPixel, the creators of The Maw and ‘Splosion Man which are both available for XBox Live Arcade. A review of ‘Splosion Man will be coming later this week as well as exclusive video of Michael Wilford playing through the first level of the game with us and giving developer commentary as he progresses through the level.

John Carle: John Carle from the Flickcast standing here with Mike Wilford who is the CEO and Producer on ‘Splosion Man which is one of the XBox Live Summer of Arcade featured titles. If you could just tell us a little bit about the game and the ideas behind it, like where it came from.

Michael Wilford: Yea, you bet. The main premise of the game is we tried to make the most crazy, nonsensical, hilarious, off the wall game you’ve probably ever seen. It’s really simple to play. It’s about a character named ‘Splosion Man. He’s made out of ‘splosion and he just runs around and all you do is ‘splode. Every face button does the same thing. It’s kind of like a jump but it blows up everything around you. You can do a triple jump in the air and bounce off walls. It’s really simple to play but we end up throwing a lot of stuff at you and it gets really challenging later.

JC: What was the inspiration behind the character?

MW: The first game we made was called The Maw and it came out in January. And once we finished working on The Maw, we started thinking about what we wanted to make next. We held a meeting, we just bought pizza for everybody. We sat in a room and we were like, “Hey, what do we want to make?” And everyone just started throwing out these really whacky ideas like you’re a dude made out of ‘slosions and you’re bouncing off walls and when you blow up scientists meat goes flying everywhere, like rib eyes and steaks and stuff and that the bosses were going to be really over the top and say really crazy things.

And so it just kept bolting on and becoming this really crazy idea. It came time to finally pitch these ideas to publishers and I was like, “Dudes, I don’t want to pitch ‘Sposion Man. I can’t. No one is going to take me seriously with ‘Splosion Man.” But they convinced me and I went and I pitched it and everyone loved it. So before we knew it, the next thing we knew we were working on a game called ‘Splosion Man.

JC: Speaking of The Maw, what kind of fan feedback did you get from that because I know you guys must have done pretty well to get to the point where you had an expansion to the game for download?

MW: So The Maw has done very well for us. We’re very, very happy with how that game’s done. Especially for our first title. And we kind of always planned on trying DLC. We didn’t start working on it until The Maw, the main game, was completely done but it was always a plan of ours to try and do DLC because we had never done it before so it was an experiment just to give it a try.

JC: And what kind of feedback did you guys get from the DLC?

MW: We actually got some mixed feedback. The people that were real big fans of the game, they loved the DLC because the levels that we offered much bigger and more substantial than the levels in the main game. So that was really cool but I think there was a little bit of a mix-up because we kind of marketed those levels as deleted scenes like you would on a DVD. I think that some people thought they were just like cut scenes so there was a little bit of confusion there and whatever but ultimately it worked out good.

959210_07012009_790screen007JC: What was your favorite part about making this game?

MW: Hmm, I would say since the fact that everyone on the team since it was kind of a collaborative idea, everyone contributed what the game was going to be, that everyone really wanted to see it through to the end and really wanted to make it special and awesome. We just had a really, really fun time throughout the whole development. It was a lot of work. We made the whole game in six months which is a really, really short timeframe for a game like this.

JC: Especially for a game that looks as beautiful as this one does.

MW: Thank you. That’s what we were trying to go for. As a studio, the thing we are trying to do is make games that are very character driven. Hopefully pretty memorable and funny and personable characters. That’s what we were trying to do and with a hundred levels in the game, we ended up having to crank out a level a day. And then we have the four player multiplayer co-op, online and local, and that’s the first time we’ve done that before too. So it was a whole lot of work but because it was a passion project, everyone was so excited about it, ya know, it was a lot of fun.

JC: Now what kind of gameplay does the co-op involve? How does that work in this explosive content?

MW: So we ended up having to make fifty levels for single player and another separate fifty for multiplayer because we wanted to try something different, something new with the multiplayer where you actually have to work together. So you’ll ‘splode towards each other and then ‘splode in the air and you’ll propel the other one flying in the air into higher locations so the levels are laid out where you have to work together. It’s pretty interesting.

JC: When you play a multiplayer game, is everybody the same character or are there unlockable characters or anything like that?

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MW: No unlockable characters but we do have the four different ‘Splosion Men. The pink, the orange, the green and the blue. And each ‘Splosion Man gets his own soundtrack. So there’s like the brass and the strings and the guitar and when you’re playing with all four you’ve got all the instruments jiving together and it sounds awesome.

And when one ‘Splosion Man dies, that instrument kind of fades out and when he comes back at the next checkpoint it kind of fades in again. We like to do kind of dynamic music things. We did it in The Maw, we did a lot of it here in ‘Splosion Man.

For the 800 Microsoft points for the game, you get the game with all hundred levels, three boss battles, fourplayer co-op, but it’s important to us, like we did with The Maw, to try and give everyone as much as we can for the money. We give away free gamer pictures, free premium theme, and we are the very first game to give away free Avatar accessories, so you’ll be able to have a ‘Splosion Man t-shirt. And we are the first one to do that. That was very important to us.

We thank Mike for his time he spent with us at the hectic Comic-Con and look forward to bringing you all the review of ‘Splosion Man for XBox Live Arcade in the coming days.

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