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Making Shadow Complex: Donald Mustard Speaks
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Making Shadow Complex: Donald Mustard Speaks

August 28, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next

In the contemporary landscape, even though the basis of its design, essentially the foundations, are laid in like the Super Nintendo era, right? Still, it costs a lot more to make this than a Super Nintendo game, even with nine people, and it costs more to generate assets obviously and stuff. And the business world of games is so much more complicated. How do you control that stuff?

LM: Plus, we're growing our team.

DM: Yeah, that's one of our main goals now moving forward. A lot of our emphasis now is to grow our team. We've got this great kind of foundation. Right now, we're looking for the best talent in the industry to come and help us make even better stuff.

I don't know, it's a balance. Shadow Complex is definitely an experiment to push the bounds of what a downloadable game can be right now. I don't know the budgets of other games, but I imagine we're on the higher end of the budgets that have ever been considered for a game like this. It will be interesting to see if the market validates that... Because we're giving people a lot of game for $15. They're getting just a lot of content.

I would love to see more games like that made. So, we'll see. We'll see if the market place justifies the existence of a Shadow Complex. If it does, then we'll see more games like that, not just from us, but from other people as well. If it doesn't, then... I think there are a lot of people right now looking at Shadow Complex to see how we've moved another step in this direction. So, we'll see.

The things Shadow Complex got from Super Metroid are mostly pretty obvious. But some may not be. Super Metroid doesn't actually stop you for story, but it does tell you a lot of story, cleverly, through its visuals. I think it was more sophisticated than most games in that generation. Was that also an influence?

DM: Yeah. Even long ago when we were doing Advent, a lot of times I'd say to people that I thought the best story ever in games was Super Metroid. And people would be like, "What? What are you talking about? There is no story in Super Metroid." I'm like, "No, you have to understand."

To me, it's almost like the ultimate form of storytelling. It did so much through just the mood, the pacing, and visually what they were telling you that it didn't have to rely on the traditional forms of narrative like dialogue. It had a great story to it. And so we certainly looked to Super Metroid, and we also looked at Fusion a lot -- Metroid Fusion, which had a more traditional narrative -- to see what the evolution of their thinking way and incorporate some of that.

I actually thought they overdid it in Metroid Fusion.

DM: I did, too. That's kind of the conclusion we came to. "Oh, here are some of the pitfalls they ran into doing this," And we tried to learn a little bit from some of the stuff they tried to push and do as much as we could. We'll see... [laughs] We are seeing how people are reacting to it.

Because those kind of games, to me, are so much about the exploration and so much about the discovery that we really were happy to pull back a little bit on shoving plot down your throat and try to just kind of eke out kind of what's happening in this facility and what these guys are up to as opposed to just being like, "Dun dun dun! Here it is." I don't know, we'll see. We certainly looked at Super Metroid. We talk about the other influences, but Super Metroid by far is my favorite game ever made.

Can you tell me about the origins of the project?

DM: Yeah. We formed Chair in 2005... Right after Advent. So four years ago, pretty much right now, we formed Chair and we were starting to think about what our next project would be, and I had this idea for a contemporary fiction universe where there'd be this near future civil war in the United States. And really what it was, was in growing up, one of my favorite toys was G.I. Joe.

LM: Well, everyone on the team... G.I. Joe fanboys.

DM: Yeah, we loved G.I. Joe growing up. We started to look back and say, "Why did we like G.I. Joe so much?" I think the conclusion we came to is we loved the dichotomy between G.I. Joe and Cobra -- the idea that there was this high-tech bad guy versus this regular military good guy.

And so we said, "Wow, that would be cool to create a story or a universe where we could have high-tech enemies versus low-tech good guys. Wouldn't that be a fun play dynamic?" So, I started thinking about that. "How can we make that realistic in today's world?" Because we didn't want to quite go down the road of just whatever, the "look like Cobra" route, or something. And so that's where we started to come up with the idea, and that's actually where we started working with Orson Scott Card.

And his idea was, what if there's this element within the United States that doesn't think America is imperial enough, and they want to be more like Rome? So they come up with a scheme and a plot to cause America to collapse into one of these civil wars where they can basically subvert the government, separate the populace by fueling the extremes of the population, and then really taking over the government and basically turning America into this new imperial force on the Earth, which then sets up to be our high-tech bad guy that our good guys can fight against.

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