A Convoluted Conversation With Martin Hollis
April 27, 2009 Page 4 of 5
So, how many people did you have working on this project?
MH: People who were full-time in production phase? Nine.
And about how long did it take you to make it?
MH: Well, it's kind of complicated because it's kind of up and down. Including prototypes, and all of the on and off, like 18 months, I guess. But a lot of our time working on this game was just in the back of our heads.
How is the prototype process for you? Is it a process?
MH: It's like a process... of chaos. We spend a long time playing around with Wii, trying to come up with core mechanics that were novel and worked well on the Wii. And this is like our first game to come out of that whole process. We hope there will be more. A lot of those are still in flight. We hope to have more games come out of that.
AK: Oh wow, this one's hard.
Yeah, wow, this one's serious.
MH: Well, you're on day two here, now, Andrew. That's scary, that hole in the middle, isn't it? That's like a transformation. Like, "Oh no!"
So, there are twelve characters; there are twelve kinds of branch structures. So, they've got different shapes of hair, which makes a different. Some of them have got one root, two roots, three roots.
The way the branches branch out, it's got different kinds of trees -- oak, maple, sycamore, willow. So, every character is different. Later characters are harder, especially Charles B. Foster, who is like a weeping willow.
Tendrils going down.
MH: Yeah, it's kind of droopy. He's like super hard. However hard you want the game to be, he's that. He's good for that. Only two testers out of sixty people could do all the styles with Charles B. Foster.
Do you worry about that, given your audience?
MH: No, because it's for the Nintendo-core as well as... If a six year old kid doesn't want to play Charles because they had a bad experience the first time with him, nothing bad happens.
Do you have to complete all the plants in one day to enjoy tomorrow? I'm assuming not, right?
MH: You can have no stars, and skip with the gong -- for one thing. It just means you made Charles unhappy, right? But you can live with that. If you choose to hate him, then you just hate him.
But we're not used to that, as gamers. We're used to going through task lists, right?
MH: A six-year-old will be fine with it, because they're completely unconcerned.
And they're unaware of the face that we're trained. Clint Hocking put it like this: gamers are like lions trained to jump through fiery hoops. And if you take away the hoops, then they don't know what to do.
MH: This game has hoops, but actually, if you notice that if you don't jump through the hoops, great things happen.
AK: [Playing game] This one's crazy.
Your tactic of shaving off the leaves and then attacking the branches is pretty clever.
AK: This is a Martin tip. It's a ProTip.
AK: I don't know how much you can do down there.
That's what I wonder about. You can probably leave her with one branch, though.
Until someone knocks those off. [Observes Andrew's tactic in action.] Yeah, see.
Here, the conversation's happening, right? It's funny. I asked you how you design for it. I don't know how you do it, but you've done it, I guess. [laughs]
MH: You try lots of things and learn about the possibility space, and you start to get a feel for how things work, and you hone on it, and you have lots of trial of error, and you have it as cheaply and painlessly as possible.
It's painful, but prototypes get thrown away, you start again, do a new one, start again, do a new one, and your team starts to get down, as people, and you start to ask for things you want, and they push and pull.
[Observing the game being played] This is the problem with showing your game after you've made it. I remember we tried like 20 things. I can't remember, which one, in the end, worked the very best. In the test, when you actually sit down with people who've never seen it.
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