When you started the first game, I get the sense it was a little bit of an experiment -- but now it's a franchise. Did it go much further than you thought it would when you first started with the idea?
DM: Geremy [Mustard, technical director] and I, and the team, had been thinking of this Infinity Blade franchise for quite a while. Not so much the gameplay itself, but we had this fantasy story that we wanted to tell. And we're like, "You know what? We planned to do this someday, so maybe if we're going to make this, we have this fantasy IP and we have this cool idea for a sword fighting game that we thought about for motion control stuff." And we're like, "Yeah, it could totally work on these handheld devices."
Let's think of as if... The Hobbit is kind of the prelude to The Lord of the Rings. What if Infinity Blade I was like the prelude to The Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings -- a prelude to this much bigger story we wanted to do?
And so we just thought, "Let's imbue it with some of the context of what we think we'd like," and again, it was totally an experiment. "Let's put it out there, let's see what we can do." We had no idea how to make any kind of game in five months. It was very much like running straight at a brick wall a thousand miles an hour, where it's just like, we can't. You've just got to make snap decisions and hope it works out, and amazingly it did.
It was totally an experiment. We had no idea what to expect. We imbued it with some hooks for this larger IP just in case, and it totally took off. I mean, it took off bigger than we could possibly imagine.
A lot of -- at least my -- work for the last year has been, "Oh, wow, this has taken off. Good thing we had some ideas for what this franchise could be!" But we now have millions of people asking, "What the heck is going on?" and "Who are these people?" and, "What does it mean?"
You get a lot of that from the players?
DM: More than anything else. More than [the requests for] microtransactions, more than [requests to fix] dodge button sizes, that's the main thing. People are just like, "Who is this God King? What's going on in the castle? What did that thing mean at the very end of the game?"
Well good thing you know, right?
DM: Yeah. That's a good thing. It's not like we just made that up out of nowhere! So luckily, luckily, we have it actually figured out.
Especially moving into production of the second one -- you had a rolling start.
How much did you have to start over from scratch, though?
DM: A little bit. I don't know if "started over" is the right word as much as we knew going into the first one that we were taking on a very tricky proposition, and that we were saying we were going to make the game in five months. So that's like 20 work weeks, which is crazy. That's almost like the equivalent of a normal two- to two-and-a-half year cycle, but every week is a month of production.
How long was Shadow Complex?
DM: Shadow Complex was almost two years, so it was just massively scaled down, and it was on a platform we'd never delivered stuff on, with tech that had never actually shipped on that platform. So there were a whole lot of unknowns.
So we kind of said, "Here's our idea for a game." Because we thought that this gestural sword fighting concept would be inherently fun, but in designing that, you can't help but have bigger ideas. And so we had these bigger ideas for it, but we said, to almost every idea, "That's so far outside of a five month scope on a platform we've never shipped on. We can't do it."
In that first week or two of preproduction on Infinity Blade, we said, we've got to whittle everything right down to the very core gameplay loop, and just, that's the game. And we forced ourselves to not allow any sort of feature creep at all. We just said it's going to be really small, really tight, because if that's not fun, the game fails. But if it is fun, it's a core we can build on.
And so, luckily, that actually worked, it was actually fun, and it was a good core. It was a really small core. It was just basically one core gameplay concept. So with the sequel we said, "Oh, good! Now, some of these other things that would build up that core can come in."
And that was kind of the main thrust of the sequel. We had a fun core to start with, and that core was really refined. And so with that, we refined that core even more, and then built a much more robust framework around it, with more gameplay styles, and a bigger, more nonlinear world, and a bigger meta-game surrounding it. It really is a bolstered, full-featured game at this point.
To me, the reason to make a sequel to any game should never have anything to do with "we could make more money." From our perspective, it's "do we have more to say in this genre?"
If I felt that Infinity Blade I had already done everything that a gesture-based sword fighting game in that style could do, I wouldn't make a sequel, because it would be done. It'd be like, "That's the entirety of this genre of game." But it's not. We definitely feel like we could push it forward.
And Infinity Blade is different. Because with Shadow Complex, we felt like this was an abandoned genre of game, that was one of our favorite game genres ever, and we felt like it needed to be resurrected, and we had some stuff to say in it. If we ever make a Shadow Complex 2 it's because we do -- having made Shadow Complex 1, we're like, "Oh man, we really think we can push this genre forward."