Interview supplied by www.xblaratings.com
For our second interview today we’ve got Deejay the Managing Director of Binary Tweed the creators of Xbox Live Community Game Clover. Clover is one of the most unique Community Games released so far and I thought everyone might be interested in how it came to be.
Question: How did the idea for Clover come about?
Deejay: There were several factors that all fed into the creation of Clover. Primarily when starting Binary Tweed, it was necessary to pick an initial project that made the most of the skills available. I do all the programming and I’ve never been terribly good with 3D maths, so a 2D game made most sense.
Funnily enough I was going through some old stuff at my parents’ house recently, and I stumbled across some doodles and sketches for Dizzy-style games that I must’ve made when I was about eight years old. I was a massive fan of the Dizzy games, so I suppose it’s been a life-long desire to make something in that vein.
When Xbox LIVE Community Games was first announced, it was clear that a lot of the games available initially were going to be twin-stick shooters. I knew that we couldn’t compete on fancy 3D graphics, so I decided to take the battle for sales somewhere I knew we could be strong – plot.
Question: Could you describe Clover for anyone who hasn’t seen it?
Deejay: That all depends on how old you are! If you’ve been gaming for 20 years, it’s like Magicland Dizzy; if you’ve been gaming 15 years it’s like a platform version of Monkey Island; if you’re younger than that, it’s a platform adventure game with lots of puzzles, and not much action.
Question: How large was the team that created Clover and how long did it take to develop?
Deejay: Most of the work was performed by myself and Jeanette Abrahamsen, who looked after all the artwork. Chris Chillingworth composed and recorded the music, Owen Price looked after sound effects, and Paul Alexander Thornton was a support artist.
Originally Clover was supposed to be finished by the end of February. Not only did the artwork take a lot longer, but after the very positive reaction to announcement we realised that the world was expecting! That combined with the unexpectedly smaller size of the XBLCG market meant we spent a good while longer on polish.
Question: When you first set out to make Clover was it always planned to be a platformer/puzzler?
Deejay: Absolutely. It’s a genre I know very well, is fairly straightforward programmatically, and allows us to convey a story better than many more modern styles.
If I’m honest, I’ve also got an ulterior motive. I’m secretly hoping that if Clover does well enough that Codemasters’ new management and Blitz Games will be able to sort the issues over the Dizzy IP and create a suitable remake.
Question: Clover has very unique watercolor graphical style. How did you decide to go with that style?
Deejay: The art style was decided upon partly for design reasons, and partly as another example of embracing our limitations. We knew we wanted to do something relatively unique and striking, that had to be 2D and enabled that ‘blue sky’ look of the games of yesteryear.
There’s been a fair amount of criticism over the character design. Whilst admittedly we could have done with more resource to put more work into animation, the simplistic and almost child-like characters are made that way to imply a certain amount of innocence. To back up the plot, we needed something to create a ‘bittersweet’ ambivalence, where we’re telling a not particularly cute story, but within a cute aesthetic environment.
Question: Looking back on Clover what are the things that you are most proud of?
Deejay: That it got finished. If there’s one thing The Jitsu Foundation has beaten into me over the years, it’s never give up. I never want to be that guy who said “Yeah, you know I said I was going to start that business? Well, we hit a problem and I couldn’t be bothered any more.”
Question: Was there anything you were hoping to get into Clover that did not make it?
Deejay: There aren’t any specific features that were omitted, but in an ideal world we would have spent an extra month or so making the tactile elements of the game more enjoyable. A common complaint is that it gets pretty tedious strolling from one side of the map to the other, so it would have been nice to be able to make that more enjoyable. We had plans for more ‘baddies’ and obstacles, but we simply ran out of time and money.
Question: Now that Clover has released are you planning another XNA game?
Deejay: I’ve got plans up my sleeve for future titles, and at present XBLCG still has the lowest barriers to market. However, the market really is disappointingly small, and depending on how Clover sells it might not be financially viable to continue. I’m also exploring opportunities to convert Clover to other platforms, but again this depends largely upon the financial performance on XBLCG.
Question: Can you give us some tips or hints for Clover?
Deejay: Read the dialogue. We had quite a few people in playtest complaining that they couldn’t figure anything out (normally after trying one and only one thing), only to discover said individuals either hadn’t talked to any of the characters, or had gone to the effort of talking to them, but hadn’t read the actual dialogue!
Oh, and remember that some items work merely by holding them at the right time.