Following up from our review of Cute Things Dying Violently, we thought we’d approach the game’s creator for an interview. As we cautiously edged our way into the room, we wondered what kind of person designs a game that features a lot of adorable onion-like creatures being frazzled, shredded and generally mutilated. We imagined a lot of weird combinations of person, and even thought of what kind of disturbing aroma they might give off. Just think how pleasantly surprised we were to find Alex Jordan looking back at us when we finally sat down. Here’s what he had to say when we asked questions at him.
Cute Things Dying Violently was originally released as part of the Xbox Live ‘Summer Uprising’. How did that come about?
The game itself came about because I wanted to make a small, quirky, funny game, and somehow the title “Cute Things Dying Violently” flashed into my head and it passed the Laugh Test. I then designed a puzzle platformer around it and went through a few iterations before I hit on the design I wanted. As for the Summer Uprising, I was lucky enough to be almost done with the game when it was announced and made a good showing during the initial voting stages.
Now, the pitch; for those who don’t know, what exactly is CTDV?
CTDV is a game wherein you play as a disembodied, omnipotent font of authority and judgment and manipulate little Critters under your control to see whether they arbitrarily live or die. It’s kind of like the Bible, really, only with physics and more cursing.
Humour is a consistent and important part of the experience. Was this intentional, or was that just the way it turned out?
Oh, it was very intentional. Humor comes easily to me, and I found myself having a hard time promoting my first game, a geography quiz game called Around The World, mostly because it was boring and not funny. For my followup project, I very much wanted to let loose and make people laugh.
Why release a PC version, and why the graphical overhaul for this latest release?
I’ve always wanted to transition to PC, there’s so much more you can do there than on the hermetically sealed and regulated Xbox 360. CTDV was very popular on the Xbox so I hoped its popularity would translate to the PC and therefore serve as a nice stepping stone for me. But the PC market is also a more discerning one, so I commissioned an artist to redo the background and tile graphics and make it more presentable to new customers… and to Valve, the guardians of Steam.
How has it done in terms of sales across both formats so far?
It’s sold over 25,000 copies on the Xbox 360 and only a few thousand copies on the PC. 99% of the PC sales were due to my participation in the Indie Gala bundle at launch. Thanks to Steam denying me, the most prominent PC market I launched in was Desura, and although it’s a great platform, it hardly leads to any sales. For most indie developers, it’s Steam or bust.
In the notes for the 360 version, you say that you plan to add new features for free if the game proves popular enough. How close are you to popular enough?
Oh, I’m popular enough, largely thanks to how successful it was on the Xbox 360. I’ve been brief break from the game in order to test out another project, but I’ll return to it to get some updates in there, have no fear. Level sharing is something I really want to tackle.
How many people worked on the game, and who did what?
I did the majority of things myself: coding, Critters, object art, voices, promotional materials, outreach, etc. etc. I bought all my sound effects online and contracted out for everything else. Zack Parrish did the music, Melanie Bourgeouis did the backgrounds and tilesets for the PC version, and my brother Dan did the box art and webpage. All three of them are immensely talented and I’m glad I had their help.
How long would you spend designing a typical stage, and what problems – if any – did you run into?
Most stages only took about 15 to 20 minutes to design because I lavished a lot of time on making a powerful, easy-to-use level editor. When I ran into problems, it was usually because I was trying to design a level based more on coordination than on puzzle-solving, and it would frequently devolve into questions of “Is this too hard?” or “Is this level design too redundant?” The stages that got cut from the game won’t be missed, frankly.
What feedback have you had?
The feedback I’ve gotten has been very, very positive. Certainly not “game of the year!” or “have my babies!” positive, but still very gratifying for the size of the game and the time and effort that went into it. Most of the people who play it seem to really enjoy it. I just wish the PC version had gotten more word of mouth… although my trailer got plenty of mention on places like Joystiq, Destructoid, and Rock Paper Shotgun, none of them deigned to talk about the game when it was actually released.
Any plans to release this as a PSN mini, or perhaps even take advantage of the DS/3DS touchscreen via DSiWare or the eShop?
None right now, although I’m investigating how much effort it would take to port it to Mac and mobile.
Have you started to think about a sequel, or perhaps even a new project entirely?
I haven’t started on a sequel yet, as CTDV took over two years of my life and I’m eager for a break from it. However, the code base is still strong and flexible and I have a lot more ideas, so I fully intend to make a CTDV2 in the near future.
That said, I’m currently working on a side project that I hope will turn into a full-fledged game that might prove to be less of a developmental timesink than CTDV. No details yet, but we’ll see!