If you can cast your minds back to December of last year, you’ll remember that we got our hands on a preview build of the upcoming puzzle game, Mushroom 11, developed by independent studio, Untame. Well, the game was such an intriguing mix of the familiar and the outright alien that we felt we needed to speak to the creative minds behind the game to delve into the influences that look set to make it exactly what it is, and learn more about why it is a project that you should be looking out for. So, with that in mind, we sent James out to speak to Untame’s Julia Keren-Detar…
HRG: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves? How did the studio come about?
JKD: Untame was founded by Itay Keren in 2008. The company’s first game was a mobile puzzle game called Rope Rescue. Shortly after the game’s launch, Itay and Julia participated in a Global Game Jam, where we stumbled across the idea for Mushroom 11. It seemed to have potential, so we continued to work on it. When he was ready to address how the game world would look, Itay approached artist Simon Kono about collaborating on Mushroom 11. Simon and his wife Kara had plans to travel around the world, so he took his tools on the road with him so he could continue working on the game art. When they returned, Kara joined the project as producer to add structure to the production. Julia had also joined full time at this point, to help with game design and to craft a PR plan.
HRG: The game is quite an unusual concept, so aside from Paul Stamets’ TED talks discussion on the ways in which mushrooms benefit the Earth, can you tell us where the idea for Mushroom 11 stem from?
JKD: The idea came from the Global Game Jam of 2012. The theme was Ouroboros, the snake eating its tail. We didn’t have an idea beforehand coming into the jam but shortly after Itay came up with the idea for Mushroom 11 and at the end we had a working prototype of the game here.
HRG: The narrative for the game is equally unusual, why did you settle upon the idea of advancing it through the posters that you have scattered throughout the landscape?
JKD: At Pax East last year we had an early version of where you would stumble upon story elements to collect them. But we felt that this took you out of the game and interrupted your flow. Putting this imagery in the background is far better, and players could still stop and investigate them without being forced out of the gameplay.
HRG: What have you found to be the greatest challenge in creating a puzzle game that is both taxing, and yet accessible to less experienced gamers?
JKD: The game tutorial system is so hard to make, and we’re still tinkering with it. But it is also here that we find game design to be the most fascinating. We had to swallow our pride a bit along the way. We have this helper that will appear if players are struggling with the game (and at first this happens quite a lot) and a part of us all fought to keep this out but the outcome is far better. Sometimes handholding is worth it if we can avoid player frustration, while simply introducing them to the core control mechanics. The reaction from players is also interesting. When they see this helper, some would definitely complain, but learning is already taking place and the difference in how they control the mushroom before and after is like night and day. I think this hand-holding is necessary because unlike many other aspect of the game which can be taught via puzzles, if you lack basic control over the mushroom, any amount of learning isn’t going to be fun.
HRG: Securing electronica legends Future Sound of London to create an original score is something of a coup for you, how did this come about? And can you tell us anything about the music that they have created for the game?
JKD: Itay is a big fan of FSOL and when he was first working on the game, he would design with their music playing in the background. When it came to thinking about music we both thought that we might as well ask… we were sure they’d say no, but they really believed in the game and decided to go along with us. We are using some of their licenced music and recently even got access to some unreleased material that we can use in the game.
HRG: What platforms do you expect to release on? Naturally, the game will be released on Steam, but are console versions a possibility?
JKD: First on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux. We will also plan to release it on touch screens next (Android and iOS). We are still looking into Wii U and PS Vita as touch-screen also works really well with the game, but these are still unknowns for now.
HRG: When is the expected release date?
JKD: We hope to launch on PC, Mac and Linux around June/July of this year.
Special thanks to everyone at Untame for taking the time out to chat with us