Have you heard about the game Armikrog? Well Nintendo certainly have, they\’ve been in touch and fasted tracked the team behind the game, Pencil Test Studios, to become approved Wii U developers. Now just three days before the end of their Kickstarter campaign, they\’ve taken some time out from their busy schedule to answer a couple of our questions about the game. Check them out below, and once you\’re done, don\’t forget to head to their Kickstarter campaign, and pledge your support!
Who are Pencil Test Studios? Which games/projects have you worked on in the past?
Mike Dietz — Pencil Test Studios was founded by Ed Schofield and myself in 2009, but Ed and I have been working together on games and other animation-centric projects for 20 years now. We worked together on games like Disney’s Aladdin, Jungle Book, Earthworm Jim, The Neverhood, SkullMonkeys, Star Wars and a whole bunch of Pixar licensed games. We’ve also worked on TV shows like The PJ’s, Nickelodeon’s Random Cartoons, as well as stop motion specials for SpongeBob and Community. Also a whole slew of commercials, theme park attractions and film work. We’ve been lucky to work with a lot of great people on some really fun projects.
If you could choose one game or system which inspired you to get into video game development, what would it be?
Ed Schofield—In 1980 I was in jr. high and my best friend had a TRS-80 computer. We spent a lot of time playing text Adventure games (and loading them from the cassette drive!). Even though there were no (or very limited) graphics, I was so fascinated with these worlds that I could navigate (NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST). I began writing funny little question and answer “games” in BASIC programming language, and while they weren’t very advanced, it made me realize it was possible
Now, onto your current project, what is \’Armikrog\’?
Mike Dietz — Armikrog is our brand new stop motion animated point and click adventure game. It’s not a sequel to our previous stop motion game The Neverhood, but it seems to have acquired the label of a “spiritual successor” to the Neverhood. It’s being developed by the same core creative group and it definitely comes from a similar place in our hearts. Featuring the unique characters and signature art style of creator and art director Doug TenNapel, the magical appeal of stop motion animation, and the musical genius of returning Neverhood composer Terry S. Taylor, Armikrog will definitely deliver on the enjoyable challenge, whimsy and humor that made the Neverhood so in Armikrog, we tell the story of a space explorer named Tommynaut and his blind, alien, talking dog Beak-Beak, who crash land on a strange planet and find themselves trapped within the walls of a mysterious, mystical fortress called Armikrog. Players will be called upon to solve an array of entertaining and mind-bending puzzles to help Tommynaut out of his predicament, and will very quickly discover that Armikrog is in fact much more than simply a fortress from which they must escape.
Why did you choose the stop motion style of animation for Armikrog?
Ed Schofield—In 1997 we created a stop motion animated game called The Neverhood, which was our first real experience with clay and puppet animation. Since then, Mike and I have had a lot of experience working in this medium, and the stop motion process of animating is something we really enjoy. When we started to talk about Armikrog, doing it in stop motion seemed like the logical choice. Because stop motion animation is created with objects in the physical world (clay,foam latex, etc), it has a hand crafted appeal and inherent charm that you don’t get from animation
Your previous game Neverhood had a very unique and awesome soundtrack, are they any plans to provide Armikrog with the same? How about voice-overs?
Mike Dietz — Absolutely! Neverhood composer Terry S. Taylor is back to provide a full soundtrack to the game in his unmistakable style. He’s already delivered the first song for Armikrog called “Boo Hoo Ha” which you can hear over on our Kickstarter page. We’re also about to introduce a new reward tier on the Kickstarter where a limited number of Armikrog backers will have the opportunity to have their names included in the lyrics of one of Terry’s songs!
Nintendo contacted you to discuss bringing the game to Wii U, had you considered bringing the games to any consoles before this?
Ed Schofield—We had talked about possibly releasing on consoles in the future, but that was as far as we got. Armikrog is our first independent game, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with the reception we’ve received from Nintendo. They see the value of the smaller indy titles which if refreshing.
The Wii U has had a bumpy start, as an indie developer what do you think caused this, and what can Nintendo do to improve the situation?
Mike Dietz — Any new console is ultimately driven by the games available for it. Nintendo is making a conscious effort to attract and accommodate independent developers like us so we can bring our games to the Wii U. They’ve treated us well and so far have made the process very easy for us. I can only assume they are doing the same with other developers, so I expect to see more and more cool games coming out on the system.
Have you had much time to explore the Wii U yet? Are you able to explain how you think you might make use of the Gamepad as well as any other of the consoles unique features?
Ed Schofield—It’s still too early to know exactly how we’ll use the features of the Wii U, but we’ve already begun brainstorming some early concepts. Check out the concepts including in this article….
How is development going and when could we expect to see the game release?
Mike Dietz — We’ve done quite a bit of preproduction and once we get funded we’ll be ready to finish up preproduction and start full bore production on the game. Characters are designed, the storyline is in place, the bulk of the game’s through-line puzzles have been worked out, it’s just a matter of getting the greenlight to go. We’re aiming for a July 2014 release, which may seem quick, but it will actually give us more time to work on Armikrog than we had on The Neverhood so we feel it’s very doable.
Once Armikrog is completed, what is next on the radar for Pencil Test Studios?
Ed Schofield—We’ve already got some ideas for projects that take place within the Armikrog universe, as well as some other game ideas we’d like to explore. We’re committed to making sure that our projects are packed with visual appeal and unique gameplay, so who knows what ideas might surface by the time Armikrog is complete!
On Nintendo Enthusiast, we have a series called The Score where we ask our readers a question and poll their responses in a weekend feature. We\’ve just asked our readership and would like you to do the same….What feature, article, interview or news coverage would you like to see on Nintendo Enthusiast? If you are unfamiliar with Nintendo Enthusiast (first, shame on you) I am happy to substitute this question with last weeks… What was your Game of E3?
Mike Dietz — I’ll answer both questions: I’d like to see Nintendo Enthusiast continue to spotlight independent developers who are trying to break out of the mold and push the art of games. There are so many talented artists and creators in this business, but unfortunately many of them are working on projects that don’t provide an opportunity for them to spread their wings creatively. Whenever someone tries to do something different and creative, if they succeed, it opens the door a little further for others to do the same. Nintendo Enthusiast has the power to help that cause.
My game of E3 was… Asteroids in the Video Game Museum section of the show! There were so many great games at the show, but I kept finding myself drawn back to that old Asteroids machine…
I\’d like to wish Ed & Mike luck with the last few days and hours of their Kickstarter campaign, I really hope they make the Wii U stretch goal as I want this game baaaaad!