Jim it’s a pleasure to meet you. I know we are here to talk about a new title you are working on called Unwound but let’s find out more about you first. You are the head of Troll Inc. Tell me more about the studio and your goals for the future…
No problem at all, I’ll start from the beginning then. We set up in 2010 a little while after finishing university, myself and cofounder Gavin Mc Laughlin had just finished a course in Computer Game Development. There wasn’t really any industry in Ireland at the time, we would have had to travel a bit to get a job, which is understandable but I always liked a challenge so I thought it would be a good idea to set up a games company out of University with no experience.
We’ve always wanted to develop some bigger games but to do that we needed to grind a little.
We started on our first game Jellyflug, an idea from one of our co-founders Mark Quinn, where you played as a lost germ making his way home to the bathroom. We didn’t realise at the time what a massive undertaking the game would be, originally we thought it would take 6 months but we finished development after 2 years. Despite it taking a while I’ve always been really happy with what we made, especially with all we learned in development.
Since then our team has grown and we’ve made a bunch of fun arcade games including Star Troll, Seagull Swipe and Graffiti Grinder. We’ve always wanted to develop some bigger games but to do that we needed to grind a little, now we’re finally at the stage where we can take on bigger games and do them justice.
When did you realise you wanted to make computer games for a living?
After picking up the Master Sword in Ocarina of Time and stepping outside the Temple of Time, and seeing what the world looked like in the game. I decided making something that gives people this feeling had to be fun
What was the first computer game you remember playing and what console was it on?
I think the first one was Burning Rubber on an Amstrad I got for Christmas, I was rubbish at it and it started a life of being rubbish at car games which continues to this day.
When did you write your first piece of code and what language was it in?
It was on the Amstrad, I didn’t know how to open the tape deck and rather than read instructions like a big loser, I just yanked it out and broke it, which meant if I wanted to play something other than Burning Rubber I had to write the game myself. I wrote it in Basic and once you turned the computer off it was gone forever, or you’d have to retype it all to play again. You’d think that would’ve made me a good programmer, but you’d be surprised.
Do you have a favourite game of all time?
Zelda Ocarina of Time, it was the first game that showed me what games could really do. The game starts off locked into a very limited area but after you defeat the first dungeon the whole world opens up and lets you travel, get lost and find new things. It was the first game that I ever played that made me feel my actions affected and changed the characters and world.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
It’s making games, there’s no other job where you get to create worlds for people to explore and enjoy. It’s a slog some days, I know I have to work around work-for-hire projects, business matters and submitting funding applications but if it means getting to create new worlds and new experiences for people then it’s always going to be worth it.
Let’s talk now about Unwound! Its official description is a narrative led puzzler/adventure. Can you elaborate?
Sounds good! Unwound is a 2D exploration adventure through a decaying mechanical world with an engaging narrative exploring free will, artificial intelligence and whether our choices are really ours. Kairos can bend and stop time while recording his actions to solve puzzles and overcome pathological robotic AI that’s gone mad as time passed.
As you play through the game your character and the world’s history will unravel through a 2D platforming experience.
Kairos has different time based abilities that allow you to affect enemies, obstacles and items in the world. He can slow, speed up and record time as well as many more powers.
The game is a Metroidvania so it will have tons of 2d exploration to look forward to.
Will the game have any social aspects? For example can I show off to my friends that I beat their score? I am known for my maturity.
We’re still looking at achievements for Steam and what elements to include on leaderboards and the like. What do you most like to brag to your friends about?
Andrew – That I can beat their score mainly! I remember playing Piano Tiles on the iPhone. The neighbour got annoyed when I beat their high score. I have a bit of a wicked side.
Where did the inspiration come from?
It’s an idea that’s been bouncing around my head for a few years, I always liked messing with time in games and the idea of having multiple versions of your past self all working together to solve puzzles always felt like it would be a fun game.
I also knew after our first game Jellyflug that we would need more resources to do this kind of game justice, over the past few years we’ve developed a really skilled team and now we’re just trying to get the right support in place to move into full development.
One of the game art shots I’ve seen bears a striking resemblance to me of the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. Was that intentional?
Thomas: It sure was. The plant’s name is Audrey 2.0. See what I did there!? Hahahaha! I crack me up.
Do you like that film?
Thomas: It’s good, aye. They should have used the original ending though. That was class. Giant plants destroying the world. Cannae beat it!
I love steampunk! Why did you choose this style?
I always had steampunk in mind when developing the idea. The time travel mechanics and the basic plot I had all leaned to the style. As we’ve gone further into development we’ve adapted the style to be a blend of organic metal. An aged world where robotic environment and characters have their own unique animal like biosphere.
On release what is the target platform?
We’re targeting consoles and Steam initially and will look at other platforms later.
Tell me more about the team involved.
Our main artist is Thomas Mc Closkey, Thomas has been in the game for a few years now, he started with developing great games like Goldeneye 2D, he’s since made a bunch of other games including Soul Grinder, Strongerman, Castlemania, Davey Bones, and a really class wee game he has been developing called Spicy Piggy. He’s been our main artist for the last 3 years and has worked on Seagull Swipe, Star Troll, and Graffiti Grinder and of course Unwound. In Unwound everything you see in so far has been done by Thomas, everything from characters to environments.
Our main programmer is Michael Semple, Michael started with us on his placement year and we haven’t let him leave! Michael has programmed on all of our latest games. In Unwound he’s done the majority of the coding and he’ll be doing much more of it as we go on.
Our level designer Emma Robinson, Emma has been with us for over 2 years and takes care of business dev, conferences, marketing and level design too! She’s been in games in a lot of different facets in both the development side and the business side which gives her a really good perspective in seeing from both aspects. Emma has done all the level design to date and she’ll be doing even more of it as we go on.
I take care of game design. Looking at the initial concept to what we’re developing today, the game has changed quite a bit, but it’s something much much better and it’s because of the help from all of the team with various different ideas and ways to improve from the initial concept.
Alan Monaghan has done the sound effects for the game, he’ll be doing many more as we go on. Alan has done the sounds on all our games to date and we’re really looking forward to how these will turn out.
Christopher Norby is our composer for this and many of our other games, you can check out some of his great work here.
Additional programming has been done by Darragh Lydon and James Bradley who both have helped a lot in getting our prototype ready.
Early concepts were also helped by Niall Doherty, Tom Stockman and Rebecca Monaghan, and Thomas Ferris has helped us develop various promo videos for the prototypes.
I think that’s everyone so far, but I imagine as we get further in development the team will get a little bigger.
This question goes out to all the team and it is a very serious question of course. If you could be a superhero who would it be and why?
Jim: Superman so I could make toast by just leering at bread, think of the savings.
Thomas: A shapeshifter. That’d be good craic. I could morph into people n’ cause all sorts of mix ups with their friends n’ family. Then morph into the guy who serves popcorn in the cinema, get me some free popcorn, then sit back n’ enjoy the show.
Michael: Stretchman, so I’d never have to get up again (We’re pretty sure he just made up this one).
Emma: I’m Super Princess Peach (yes, that counts) because no matter what comes my way I’ve got the heart to handle it! Also, I love love love umbrellas!