This week i'm introducing you to the game Mutant Chicken, created by Thomas Knox, founder of Norseware (@NorsewareOrg). Let's get stuck into the interview & discover more about Thomas...
So, who are you?
'First off, I'd like to thank you for reaching out for an interview! It's rather humbling to have talented people like yourself interested in Mutant Chicken.
My name is Thomas Knox, I founded Norseware in 2015. I'm 23 years old, married to my high school sweetheart, and a soon to be father! I'm currently working on my BS in Computer Science in Idaho, US. I grew up in Arizona, and definitely plan on returning after I graduate. Prior to switching my major to CS, I was originally planning on attending medical school to become a pediatrician. After shadowing physicians among other reasons, I realised I didn't want to do that anymore, but rather focus on my life long passion – game development! I've been making games since I was young, and don't plan on stopping anytime soon!'
What is your game called and what is it about?
'Mutant Chicken is awesome, you get to play as a lab experiment on Mars, killing aliens with a plethora of insane weapons! Being a top down twin stick shooter, you have strong control over combat and movement. I've always been a fan of fast paced gameplay, and it definitely shows here. The two main mechanics are the doors, and mutations.
Each level has a number of doors, and each door a panel. With aliens building up behind the doors, you'll need to think about when you are on and off the panels (which open the doors). If too many aliens build up, the door explodes releasing all of the aliens! Once they're all destroyed, you lose control of the alien flow. In other words, you better scramble!
Mutations are the foundation of combat. As you kill aliens, you collect Ooze, which can be spent on various upgrades, like increased health, speed, or Mutations, among others. Each of the three playable characters have 4: Fire, Shock, Death, and Gamma. When in combat, Mutations charge, allowing you to transform into an insane version of your character wreaking havoc with awesome powers! For example, when you mutate into Death, you can summon skeleton hands that cause damage over time, or as Shock you radiate thunder like Thor's hammer!
I've never been a fan of completely procedurally generated games. So the 12 levels, across the 3 maps will be finely tuned in design and layout, for timing and strategy. However, the aliens, guns, and items that spawn will be random (with some limits in regards to progression).
Additionally, there will be 3 epic bosses. I don't want to give too much away, but they will be a challenge, and definitely insane battles! The first boss you'll meet is called the Cyborg. It has a large Laser Beam Monocle that you'll need to watch out for!'
What is your vision for this game?
'When I was young, I was given Doom for the SNES by a friend who was moving away. In order to keep it, I scratched off the 'M' rating label, because my mom wouldn't let me play violent games. At that time, 3D free moving console titles were rare – I was in love. The exploding barrels, roaring demons, and powerful shotguns really left their mark. In Mutant Chicken, you'll see all of those!
Originally, Mutant Chicken was just a single room arcade game, where you were a chicken with a plasma gun that made fart noises, shooting aliens until you died. A good friend of mine did the art, and music, while I made the sounds and wrote the code. After submitting it to Ludum Dare 35, and doing pretty well, I decided to expand the idea to more characters, guns, aliens, etc. And it's evolved into what it is today.
My hope for the game is that people will enjoy playing it - and want more! I've put a lot of blood, sweat, and ooze into it, trying to make it fun, challenging, and unique. I pull a lot of inspiration from Doom, and hopefully people will see my love for it, and feel it too.'
What made you get into game development?
'As a kid, I played a lot of video games. My childhood favorite is Donkey Kong Country 2 for the SNES. I played it so much, I could beat the first world blindfolded, just listening to the sounds! That's where it really started. I had so much fun playing, I wanted to make them.
When I was in about 2nd grade, my mom and I had a Windows 98 E Machine desktop. With it was a book on how to automate tasks with batch files, and manage the system in DOS. I took it in a different direction, and made a [terrible] Tic Tac Toe game. There wasn't any win checking, and you could only place X's... I remember being frustrated trying to understand the logic – so I gave up.
It wasn't until a couple of years later when attending the local Boys and Girls Club did I rediscover the passion for game development. In the computer lab, there was a program called RPG Maker 2003. Needless to say, I became obsessed, burned a "copy to a floppy", and brought it home! Being a fan of Final Fantasy games, having the power to make my own without having to program was a dream come true.
A couple of years and a handful of bad JRPG clones later, I found RPG Maker XP, which gave access to the game's code, written in RGSS, a form of Ruby. That's where my love for programming really blossomed. Since, I've made small games using C++, C#, and Python, with various frameworks, as well as engines like Game Maker, and Unity. Today, I strictly use Unity for development. With its power and platform compatibility, I don't see myselfy using anything else for quite a while – I've fallen in love with the workflow.'
What do you hope people will like about the game?
'I focus on fast, and balanced gameplay. Hopefully the players will enjoy that as well as the tight controls (something I spent a lot of time designing). I prefer to play with a controller, and when done right, I believe twin stick shooters, or even top down action games are played best with them. In Mutant Chicken, the right thumbstick aims your gun, but when you release the stick, the crosshair snaps back to you. I was frustrated playing other similar games and them having poor controller support, so I decided to do something about it!
Mutant Chicken has grown organically, initially I had one core idea: More Characters, Guns, and Aliens. Now we have 4 mutations, bosses, several maps, etc. It's folded out to be quite a fun game with a lot of variety.'
What part does music play in the game? Is it important? What do you think of game music generally?
'Music is very important. Music in any game sets the mood. Have you ever played an FPS without it? Or without sound effects even? It's dreadful! I reached out to our musician because I heard his work before and knew that he would be able to really give life to the game. The tracks are designed to build intensity, so for the first few seconds, while you learning the layout, planning your strategy, and finding a gun, the music is building up, until it peaks, and the aliens start coming. Sound effects play a large part as well. I've taken extra care in designing the sounds to compliment the music in a way that when you're playing, shooting, blowing stuff up, or when the aliens roar, it's like a new track each time. His music does a great job at keeping the pace and intensity as well. Because the combat is fast paced, intense music that compliments that is a must.'
Do you have any favorite game music styles or composers, or favorite games?
'Growing up, I was a huge fan of the earlier RPG's, like Final Fantasy II, and Zelda titles. I really enjoy the work of the composer Kenta Nagata. He's worked on titles like Mario Kart 64, Windwaker, Pokémon Stadium, and Animal Crossing - All games I grew up with as a kid. Whenever I hear the menu theme for Windwaker, I just feel happy.
When a song can instil emotion, fit gameplay, and leave a lasting impression, you've struck gold. Donkey Kong Country 2 has some of the most recognizable music, at least for me. If I were to hear a track, I could probably tell you which level or area it's played in. David Wise is an extremely talented composer that's worked on titles like Wizards and Warriors, Battletoads, Donkey Kong, and Star Fox.
Basically Nintendo has the best game music! :P'
When will your game be released and how can we get it?
'Mutant Chicken should be available December of 2016 on Steam. Don't expect to spend more than $9.99! We have plans to try and get it on the Xbox One as well, but that process takes a little bit longer with more hurdles to jump.
Thank you Ninichi for reaching out and letting me ramble on! It's great to connect with other passionate people within the industry.'