GS: You mentioned that the Jaguar was the first time you ever saw a polygon in action. How do you feel about those?
JM: Well...they're jolly good, and jolly useful, aren't they? At first it was all a bit scary, since I had been entirely sprite and tilemap-based, and at first I thought I'd have to get a calculator out and do real maths, which was scary since I'm shit at maths. Once I got settled into doing Tempest 2000, though, I thought it wasn't too bad and it was actually quite fun.
GS: Are next-gen graphics particularly important to you?
JM: To me, a powerful GPU is more important. I'm not really that interested in doing realism, but in terms of using a GPU as a more and more powerful graphic synthesizer, I'm extremely interested. Pixel shading is heaven to me. It's like it was made for me. It's like a bunch of guys sat down in a room and said, "What can we make that will please Yak?" And then they made pixel shading. Thank you very much!
GS: Yeah, Space Giraffe has things flying all over the place.
JM: The way that game is built, you have sixteen lots of rendering going on in some levels, sixteen 512x512 render targets that combine at the end to produce the final output. And it's going on at sixty frames per second! I love that kind of power. So yeah, give me more!
GS: Is it ever too much? Can there ever be too much on the screen for you?
JM: Not in the way the game is seen now. You could of course just chuck a bazillion things up there, but if you did that, the game would be illegible anyway. There has to be a certain upper limit just so you can read the game. Upper levels where two hundred, three hundred, or four hundred enemies fly in, you're still doing stuff, and the game is still running at sixty frames per second.
GS: I mean, is it ever too much in a visual sense? I was watching that one level and it was difficult for me to parse what was going on.
JM: That was level sixty-four! That's a bit of a boss level, and it's going to be difficult to parse the first time you get to it. Graphically, it's much more intense than any of the previous levels.
So I want that, I want people to say "Oh my God, what the smeg's going on?" But the thing is, if you're actually in there playing it, you can still read it. The cues are always there, no matter how weird the level starts to look. Once you get used to it, you can still play, you can still see, and you can still get through. Part of that is deliberately the difficulty of the game, though. It will chuck graphic overload at you every now and again, not as a flaw in the design, but as a challenge to the player.
GS: Until I saw it in motion, I always wondered how I could understand and play Tempest 2000. Screenshots didn't help much.
JM: Space Giraffe is the worst when it comes to screenshots. We put up screenshots, and people see them and think, "What the fuck is going on?" You can't perceive it at all until you see it in motion. Once you see it and start playing it, it makes sense.
GS: A lot of games like Rez attempt to make the musical aspect a lot more interactive, and focus more on music as the primary factor, whereas you seem to focus more on the visual aspect.
JM: For us -- at this stage, anyway -- the music's the background. It's whatever you choose to accompany your journey with, really. There is a certain amount of interaction, and the Neon will be responding in part to the music.
One thing I would like to explore in the future is making music more involved with the game, so that the type of music you put on would determine how the level played. Some music might create a more chilled level, whereas heavy metal and heavy techno might be more intense. I've got so many ideas, but we can't do them all on the first outing.
There came a point when we had to say, "Look, I've got brilliant ideas about this, but we've got to stop it here, finish it off, and get it out the door," because we haven't got time to put everything into one go. We haven't got the budget. We need to get it out there to earn some money to afford to do the next thing. I'll come back to ideas like that as I do new games.