Exclusive Interview: Paige Ashlynn of Team Tripleslash Discusses Magnetic By Nature

Magnetic by Nature is on its way to OUYA this May and has officially completed its Steam Greenlight campaign which means that it will be heading to PC in the near future. We recently spoke with the leader of Team Tripleslash, Paige Ashlynn, about Magnetic by Nature that includes challenges faced by the team in the early development phase, as well as, the importance of the magnet system in gameplay. Read on to learn more.

AMANDA DYAR: Team Tripleslash's new title Magnetic By Nature is due out in May for Ouya. Can you tell us a bit about your favorite gaming moments growing up, how you first got into game development and how you eventually became part of Team Tripleslash?

PAIGE ASHLYNN: As a team our tastes and influences are all over the map, so I’ll speak for myself here.

One of the strongest games-related memories I have is of getting to the end of the first Dr. Wily Stage in Mega Man 2 when I was 11 and that enormous dragon appearing behind me. Such a wonderful blend of awesome and terrifying! Another would be my first time playing through the opera house sequence in Final Fantasy 6, ending with the searchlights over Vector as you approach the southern continent. That moment really stuck with me.

I’m principally a coder by trade, and some of the first code I ever wrote was for a simple pseudo-platformer on my family’s Commodore VIC-20 when I was 13. But I’m a pretty recent addition to the profession. I never expected to get into game development as a career until I attended my first GDC in 2013. There were so many wonderful experiences rolled into that trip for me, but overall it was just this powerful sense of “I belong here” that convinced me. For one thing, it was the first time I had talked to a large number of other coders who wear facial jewelry and dye their hair extravagant colors. That was a nice change of pace!

AMANDA: Magnetic By Nature is a fantastic looking platformer heading first to Ouya in May. What were some of the main influences for Magnetic By Nature during the early days in its development and what were some challenges you faced in developing the game early on?

On the design side, Portal was always our go-to game when discussing how we wanted MBN to feel, specifically the way you experience and utilize momentum. Momentum became the central word we used internally, so it’s strangely gratifying to hear players picking that exact word themselves when they try the game out. We also looked to the quick re-spawn and concise level design of Super Meat Boy, the environmental puzzles of VVVVVV, and the smooth feel of the grapple beam in Super Metroid.

On the visuals side, I remember talking a lot early on about Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, but we actually made heavier reference to non-game visuals. Two that we relied on in the early days were the shape design of the Chrysler Building and the colors used in Samurai Jack. We also tried hard to make MBN look very different from games that some of our team members had worked on in the past.

In the audio department we first discussed a wide variety of inspiration: Sonic Generations, Mighty Switch Force, Time Surfer, Swords and Sworcery. However, during the time that the OST was being composed our number one inspiration was Dust Force.

As far as challenges go, by far the biggest in MBN’s early development was the controls. We tried many concepts! At one time the demo version of the game had 12 radically different control schemes built in that the player could cycle through. I don’t just mean remapping buttons, either, but more on the order of “Does the game play like Bionic Commando or Mario 64?”

AMANDA: Magnetic By Nature is a platformer that uses magnets and physics based propulsion to create fast and difficult gameplay. We're assuming the game was always designed with the idea of using magnets to get around the in-game world, but how did your ideas for the game change once you really started experimenting with the game and magnet system early on?

In a word: greatly!

The core was always using magnets to traverse the environment but initially lots of other mechanics were on the table. Things like disassembling yourself, magnets that interacted with one another, destructible terrain, gluey surfaces, all kinds of things....

These were intended to make for more cerebral, stop-and-think types of puzzles. But as we play-tested we saw that the fun wasn’t in working out how magnets respond in different situations, it was in throwing yourself around. So we stripped away everything that didn’t directly contribute to that. The prototype is actually more complex, mechanically, than the final product! Some of these ideas may reappear in future expansions, if we find a way to keep them fast and flowing.

AMANDA: One thing that really stands out with Magnetic By Nature is its very impressive graphical design. How much did the game change from the conceptual phase to its final release, and where there any challenges that faced the team while trying to keep the game looking good even at the high speeds at which the camera needs to travel to keep up with the player?

PAIGE: The game’s visuals have altered a lot but there weren’t any drastic changes in direction. Rather, it’s been a continual process of iteration and improvement. We did have a more monochromatic, Limbo-like look at first and we were much more abstract; the style has gradually grown more representational and 3D. Although, the magnets themselves retain a graphic-designer quality to help them stand out and because their initial shape design was so strong.

As for technical challenges, the main issue has been where the camera is pointing. It’s taken a huge amount of tweaking to get the camera positioned so that the player sees what’s coming without the levels appearing lopsided or bland. If we were to do it all over again, we’d design a smarter camera system.

AMANDA: It has already been announced that Magnetic By Nature will include over 120 Levels, a SpeedRun+ Mode and a Hell Zone that will challenge players in a variety of difficult ways. About how difficult is Magnetic By Nature, and how does the main campaign compare with Hell Zone? Also, will there be any additional challenges, hidden secrets or similar items included in the final release?

PAIGE: I would say that the central campaign lies somewhere between FEZ and Super Meat Boy on the difficulty scale. We worked really hard to smooth out the learning curve so that players come to each level with the skills they need to beat it. It can be pretty challenging but it’s not intended to be a punisher platformer like I Wanna Be The Guy.

The unlockable “hell zone” is much, much harder than the rest of the game. To give you an example, last weekend Magnetic By Nature was playable at Salt Lake Comic Con which had around 100,000 attendees. We had three stations going for about ten hours each for three days and the controllers were always busy, but no one was able to complete every level in this area. So far, only a handful of skillful players have beaten every one. It’s still probably not as hard as a true rage game but I’d say it’s up there with the unlockable Training Hall area in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.

There are other secrets, including a handful of hidden levels and some Easter eggs. Some of these are pretty difficult to find but I expect most players will find others on even a casual play-through. I’m not going to spoil any of them just yet, though!

AMANDA: Magnetic By Nature has been announced to arrive first on Ouya and has also been Greenlit on Steam. Why was it important for the game to hit Ouya first, and what are the current plans for releasing the game on other platforms currently?

PAIGE: We’ve been interested in both Steam and the OUYA since development began. Back then it seemed like more of a dream than a likelihood, so we’re thrilled to be heading to both now!

We’re super grateful to the support that the OUYA team has shown us ever since last summer. MBN is massively, measurably better because of the feedback that Jared Yaeger and Kellee Santiago in particular have given us. In that sense, players on every platform will benefit from MBN having come to OUYA first. We’re also grateful for the amazing enthusiasm shown by the Steam community — we seriously never expected to be green lit so fast!

We’ve got our sights set on some other platforms but we need to focus first on making the game shine in these spaces. We haven’t completely ruled out anything, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see MBN on a touch-based system any time soon. The controls and level design would need to be entirely reworked and we don’t have the resources for that at present. But people keep asking, so who knows what the future may bring!

To learn more, please visit the official Magnetic by Nature website.

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