Here’s the first part in a new series of interviews which, as the name suggests, are focused upon games that are featured on Steam’s new Greenlight service. For those unaware, it allows gamers to vote on which games they’d like to see available to buy on Steam. In this first one, we took the chance to ask a few questions of Breakfall. Mike, Jason and Jan collectively answer some questions about their team and their upcoming game, Marvin’s Mittens, which currently sits among the list of games awaiting Valve’s green light.
IH: Firstly, could you start out by telling us a little bit about Breakfall? How you came together and decided to make Marvin’s Mittens?
BF: Breakfall first started with just Mike and Jason. One of the main ideas behind the team was to welcome new contributors who just wanted to make games together, regardless of experience. We’ve always believed in learning by doing, and developing Marvin’s Mittens provided some great experience for the core team members.
When we started, Mike had a couple of years experience doing game audio professionally, but everyone else on the team was completely new to game development. Jason was doing web development, and one day decided that, no bars held, he was going to make a game. Jason and Mike recruited friends and family to help with various parts of the game, but one of the most important developments was visiting the year end expo of the local college and picking up some new recruits. Beyond forming some lifelong friendships, development of Marvin’s Mittens actually got several team members industry jobs! It’s been quite an interesting journey for everyone involved.
The game was inspired by a minimalist approach to game design, like Knytt by Nifflas (Nicklas Nygren) Most of the game design and concepts were thought up by Mike in a fevered sleep! The next day Jason and Mike talked over the concept. It was so universally simple it was decided almost immediately that this was the game that had to be made!
The funny part really is that we aimed to keep a small scope for our game early on. That’s become the running gag of the group after so many years of work. It just kept growing and growing, far surpassing what we had originally envisioned, but also taking a ridiculously long time to finish.
IH: How would you describe the game to someone who’s not seen it yet?
BF: We’d say it’s a relaxing game about exploring in the snow, with a huge helping of nostalgic childhood vibes. It’s got really nice, hand-drawn art, and a very whimsical feeling. It’s sort of like an interactive storybook that has a lot of appeal for all ages.
It’s the kind of game that when someone says to us casually “oh you make games?…well I don’t play many games…” and we answer “That’s great!” because Marvin’s Mittens is designed to welcome these people into the fold. On the other hand, we’ve also turned it over to some platformer aficionados and they seem to approve of what we’ve done too – there is some skill involved. The difference really becomes that for people who don’t play any games, it’s a longer game, you spend more time just getting through the levels. Really pro players might get through it under two hours – but those are the people who might also go nuts trying to get every magic snowflake we’ve hidden, so there’s more playability there too.
IH:Having played the preview build, the word that mostly comes to mind afterwards is “cute”. The game’s style is cute to such a degree that even the biggest, baddest jock would come away saying, “awwww”. What led you down this route?
BF: Thanks! We’re glad you think even the most blackest of hearts will thaw out long enough for a cup of hot cocoa. (laughs) We really wanted to create something that was truly for everyone, and that made the player feel relaxed enough to explore further.
We also wanted to see if we could make something engaging without the sort of action that drives a lot of games. So we wanted a game concept that felt more intimate and fun, but without ideas like enemies, combat and death. It’s kind of fun to explore this whole other side of the emotional spectrum (especially fresh in the gaming sphere) and realize it’s just as enjoyable, than the adrenaline-charged emotional range you get from hardboiled action titles.
IH: What do you think of Steam’s Greenlight service and process in your experience so far? How will it change the indie scene, and what would being “greenlit” mean for you and your game?
BF: Greenlight is a great idea, but we’re a little worried about developments in the last few days. The idea that (as of November 13th) Valve is funneling just about everyone through this process could hurt the chances of smaller teams (such as ours). It’s also been hard for indie developers to actually tell if they’re making progress, or just sitting there in the system. We have numbers that jump up and down indicating how far we are from cracking the top 100. And keep in mind, so far it’s only been the top ten or so getting through per month. So we love this new path to hitting the huge audience of Steam users, but it’s really hard to say what our chances of getting in are. It’s still not a completely open store, and that’s honestly part of the appeal, but how much it changes the industry remains to be seen if it’s only a very select group of titles passing through.
That all said, we’re really happy to see some of the games that have passed through Greenlight coming out on Steam. Some awesome stuff, and maybe it never would have reached that audience otherwise. With any luck, we’ll be joining them, but only time will tell!
IH: What other distribution methods are you looking to should the green light not come?
BF: Right now we’re preparing an initial release on Desura, because Desura is a really great platform for indies. Having said that, we’re open to releasing the game through other channels. With a bit of buzz, people playing about and talking about the game, this could really accelerate the Greenlight effort. Our hope is that this is truly a timeless title where the emotions and themes are always going to be fun and relevant, so who knows where it might end up. People can follow us on our website in order to keep up to date on any future Marvin outings.
IH: Are you perhaps considering taking the game to other platforms aside from the PC?
BF: So many people have commented that this title would be a perfect fit for iPad or other tablets. We’d love to do that, but the whole engine is written very specifically for PC. There’s been talk of chaining Jason to his desk for a few months to port it, but realistically, that’s just not a commitment we can tackle yet.
IH: Anything else you’d like to add?
BF: Game development is super fun, but really hard, and ultimately incredibly rewarding. Finishing a game is not easy, the “last 10%” takes half your time. To stop adding features and really polish your game, doing service to your concept by properly finishing, this is all really difficult. But when you finally come out of it, and you have this work that you can actually show people, and heck, even sit down and play, and it looks and sounds and feels really good, it’s an amazing feeling. We certainly debated and argued all sorts of things, and not everything we could have ever wanted to do is in the game, but we’re really proud of the final product.
Mike wants to also use this space to shamelessly plug the soundtrack he’s been obsessively mixing all these years. It’ll be available on Mike’s Bandcamp page when the game launches on December 10th!
Everybody can check out our webzone to follow us: http://breakfall.ca!
Do you have a game on Greenlight that you’d like to see featured in this interview series? Or perhaps you’re a gamer and there’s a game that you really want to see featured here? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us via our Contact Us page.