EI09; Nathan Vella Interview: “You’re Exploding Creatures and Barfing Them Into Your Son’s Mouth”
At Edinburgh Interactive, we got to speak with Nathan Vella, the president of Capybara Games, about Critter Crunch. He was like a kid in a candy store when it came to talking about the game, and rightly so. This game just exudes cute from every pixel.
But the game also has a massive element of gross-out ickyness, when you think about it.
Nathan was awesome to talk to, so let’s get on with it already!
1. Can you tell us a bit about Critter Crunch and how it came to be?
In about 2007 we made critter crunch for cell phones. It won IGF Mobile Best Game of the Year and IGN Wireless Game of the Year. Basically it did really well on mobile.
We realised early on that we had a product that was unique enough while not being too crazily unique to push people away, and the game was just simple fun.
It’s a fast, simple game, where you don’t need to do too much thinking but at the same time you are always thinking.
We had a chance to put it on iPhone where it did really well. At the same time, however, we were keen on putting it onto one of the home console platforms – PS3, Wii and X360.
Following the success of the iPhone version, we thought ‘ok we’re gonna do this. We’re going to fund this ourselves, we’re gonna publish this ourselves. We’re gonna make it the way we’ve always seen it, the way we’ve always envisioned it’. Basically fill it up with stuff that we always wanted to see it in the game.
We spoke to the publishers and Sony were super-excited about it – almost as excited as we were. This was something that we had wanted to find when we decided to talk to publishers, and Sony were super-cool about it.
I know it’s gonna sound like I’m totally blowing smoke up Sony’s ass, but they treated us super-well. They gave us the support we needed and said ‘yeah, let’s put this up on the PSN, let’s do this’. They gave us screens at E3 at their booth, they helped us with the PhyreEngine on the few occasions where we had problems; they are just doing so much for us and as a small independent studio that means a lot.
2. After finding Sony, what happened?
We put together a small team; a couple of artists, a few programmers and some other people on the side and set out to make the glorious HD version of Critter Crunch.
We had a mandate for the game where we said ‘we’re gonna fill the game up with the stuff that we think is cool, that we think is funny, that we think is awesome’. We hope that will come through in the game and that people will see that we’re not just robots pumping something out, that this is a game made by people who love it. We really wanted to make the game something that you could show off your HDTV with, but also had personality.
Other games like Peggle have a bit, puzzle-bobble has a bit, but usually it’s like, pop squares or explode circles. That was never our intention. Our intention was that you were playing something that had a sense of personality.
One guy did all of the characters, all of the animation whilst another artist did all the backgrounds, all the trimmings on the game, all that sort of stuff. We took a year and a bit to get the product to the finish that we were happy with and really make sure that we had done as much as possible to bring what we wanted to the game.
3. What advantages did the PlayStation bring compared to the mobile side of things, i.e. was it purely graphical?
It is crazy how much space is afforded on a console like the PS3. Graphics are the most obvious demonstration of the increase in power the consoles provide. But there is audio as well. Critters scream when you grab them, and that really accentuates the personality of the game.
On top of that, it gave us online, which plays a massive role in the game.
4. What was the reason for the tag-line ‘Nature is Gross’?
Originally, the barfing in the game was only in the final cut scene of the iPhone game. When we made the decision to bring barking into it, we were like, yeah; you are exploding critters, eating their insides and barfing into your son’s mouth.
When we thought about it, we thought ‘yeah, nature is gross’. At the same time, we thought it worked well because the game is gross but also very cute. It’s tough to think of it as gross when you look at it, but when you actually think about what is going on, it is kinda gross.
5. What is the release date?
Soon. The game is done. We are going through final QA, so hopefully it won’t be very long. It will be out shortly at a good price point and with a sizeable demo.
6. What’s next after Critter Crunch?
We’ve got a WiiWare title we are working on, and we are doing another project with a publisher that will appear on several platforms. We can’t say anything about it, but it is going on.
There will be another PSN title. It won’t be that soon, but it will be happening. As a studio, we are totally committed to working with Sony.
We hope that the game sells well, but more that people enjoy the game. If we make a great game that doesn’t sell well, but that a small number really enjoy it, so be it. That’s one of the awesome things about being a small studio; if you can find a way to fund it, you can do what you like.
That’s all for now, but we will have a preview of Critter Crunch very soon. Keep ‘em peeled…
In the meantime, a big thanks to Nathan from Capybara for chatting to us.
Keep making those awesome games!