We already posted the Star Fox portion of our Dylan Cuthbert interview last week, which seemingly created a buzz and mess around the internet. Since posting that chunk of our interview, we’ve been in contact with Cuthbert, and he wanted us to clear the air a bit.
First off, there is no bad blood between Cuthbert, Q Games, Nintendo, and even Shigeru Miyamoto. He wasn’t trying to trash Miyamoto, or say that Nintendo wasn’t going to make a Star Fox for Wii. Even so, Cuthbert even posted this comment on Kotaku when they linked to our story:??
“Um.. just like to point out here (this is Dylan of Q-Games) that I wasn't having a dig at Miyamoto at all. I was just explaining how he works - he gets on and does his thing. He is an amazing creator and that's what amazing creators do. And the comment regarding not wanting to make a Wii Starfox is clear, it would take a very large team and right now I am having a lot of fun with smaller teams. That's all there is to it really. That's how I intended the comment not as "Dylan spurns Starfox, shock horror!"
I also say the Wii is "more" of a toy and it is. It's not derogatory; the Wii is a great machine with lots of bells and whistles and this makes it feel (to me) to be more toy-like. In comparison the PS3/XBOX360 are more "media center"-like.”
Hopefully this cleans this up for people. Now it’s time to move on to our full PixelJunk Eden Encore interview with Dylan Cuthbert and Baiyon….
There are very few downloadable titles that push me over the edge to drop Microsoft points, or my hard-earned cash. Even though Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade has had some creative games such as Braid, The Dishwasher, and The Maw, there’s something about Sony’s PSN exclusive releases that have gravitated me towards them more often. Flow, Pain!, Noby Noby Boy, and Flower are truly unique, and then there’s the Pixel Junk series which has sucked hours of my free time away.
Most notably has been PixelJunk Eden, which I can’t get enough of, and recently I got the chance to gab away with Q Games’ President Dylan Cuthbert, and creative genius Baiyon (aka Tomohisa Kuramitsu) to find out what makes PixelJunk Eden tick, get the details about the upcoming Eden expansion, and find out when we can expect to see Series 2 of the PixelJunk titles.
G4: So how did you guys actually meet?
Dylan Cuthbert: We are often asked that, but we had a party near the offices of Q Games held by a local company that does art-based work. We met there, but it wasn’t the only way we could have met. We also had a mutual friend—a friend of my wife—who was also a friend of Baiyon and we met via that person as well, so we had a two-pronged approach…we could have met either way.
G4: Were you both based in Kyoto at that time?
G4: So Baiyon, how would you describe your style?
Baiyon: Complicated. I want to know more and learn more. That’s why I continue creating things, to try and learn more about what I can do myself. That’s kind of my style. There isn’t one category.
G4: But obviously, the art and everything is very unique. Is this something you’ve been developing over time or something that is new to you?
Baiyon: I had a number of pieces of art that I had done and developed over the course of a number of years and one of them was a very strange psychedelic forest-type scene. We looked at that and thought that was kind of interesting and I wondered if we could apply it to a game somehow. And then I went and recreated a new stylebook slightly based on that and created the look of Eden. A little bit less psychedelic. It was really psychedelic, the first one.
G4: Is this the first game you’ve worked on or have you worked on games previously?
Baiyon: This is my first one.
G4: Are you a gamer?
G4: What are your favorite games?
Baiyon: Mother (ed: Earthbound) I like Braid. Then the one from Nintendo where the crazy little character with the red nose goes around collecting money…Tingle.
G4: Oh! That wasn’t released here. Tingle from Zelda right? (ed: Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland) It was only released in Europe, but never in America.
Cuthbert: That’s a shame.
Baiyon: I really like that one.
G4: I think Nintendo thinks it’s too weird for America. Typical, in a way. Now that you’ve worked on one game, is this something you want to continue doing?
Baiyon: Yes, definitely.
G4: Do you guys want to work together on something different than Eden?
Cuthbert: I’m also open to the idea of doing that as well.
Baiyon: If I can find a game that will match, so if we do do that, we’ll have to think up a completely new style. Something that doesn’t even look remotely like Eden. A completely different game.
While making Eden, the one thing that occurred to me while I was making it, was the actual making of the game is a game itself. (laughs)
G4: It seems that Japanese developers outside of Tokyo seem to be a little bit more creative -- places like Osaka and Kyoto -- developers seem to have a little bit more freedom. Do you believe that’s the case? Why?
Cuthbert: I think in some ways, for some companies outside Tokyo, they have a worse situation because they can only do work that they’re ordered to do. They’re called “shitauke” in Japanese…it means “subcontractor.” There are a lot of companies that are like that, but the West has never heard of them because they can’t ever put their name on the games. But the ones you do hear of that are outside Tokyo are probably a bit more flexible because the cost of developing games is cheaper, so they get a little bit of extra flexibility from that.
That’s why I based Q Games in Kyoto. It’s a much more relaxed city. Tokyo is just a bit too…cold.
Baiyon: Too busy. I think Tokyo is just too busy for me. I don’t want to live there.
Dylan: Too busy.
G4: A lot of people’s favorite thing about the game is the music. How did you guys go about designing the soundtrack? ?
Baiyon: I wasn’t really thinking about making music for a game, more like making music to match the Eden look and only that. Not thinking about it as a game at all, like any restraints of a game. That’s why the music comes across as more real.
G4: Are you into techno, trance…that sort of thing?
Cuthbert: Yeah, in Kyoto, he’s actually a DJ. There’s a club called Metro. It’s been there for a long time, for about 20 years. It’s like one of the most famous clubs in Kyoto and Baiyon DJs there every now and then.
G4: I’ll have to keep that in mind when I go back.
Baiyon: I’m playing next weekend.
G4: I don’t know if I can make it, but I’d love to.
G4: So, who are some of your favorite artists? Who inspires you both with music and with art?
Baiyon: Well, music it’d be Ricardo Villalobos from Chile. He’s micro-house DJ.
G4: What about art?
Baiyon: Shinro Ohtake (ed: http://shinroohtake.jp/E_index.html)
G4: This is a question for both of you: what’s your favorite part of PixelJunk Eden?
Baiyon: Gardens 4 and 9.
Baiyon: It feels good.
Cuthbert: For me, it’s the physical movement of the main character and also garden-wise…gardens 5 and 7. The ones with the cannons where they fire you up and down.
G4: What were some of the design challenges of going from one player to a co-op game, especially three player co-op?
Cuthbert: Well, one was the camera which we had to fix a bit, because a lot of people complained about that, but the camera is actually quite difficult to develop, because there’s no real up and down in the game. So a player could be jumping down to get a Spectra, or he might be falling, and there’s really no way to tell which he’s doing. Initially, we tried a more complicated camera control and it wasn’t quite right, so we just switched in the end to a much simpler one, which is the one that’s in there now, and it seems to work a lot better.
G4: So, was it originally thought that you guys would do Eden Encore? Or was this something that you did because the fans wanted more?
Cuthbert: It was really a combination. The fans were a major factor, but also there were still a few more things we felt we could do and we felt we might as well get it over with now and out so we can get on to the next games.
G4: What’s new with Encore?
Cuthbert: There are five new gardens, each one is pretty extensive, but really well paced I think. We learned a lot from developing the original gardens and I think each garden is really fun there are no sharp bits. We tried to make it so people don’t get as frustrated as they did with earlier gardens.
In general, it’s just much more balanced, much more well-paced and just good fun. There are a few extra things in there, like if you jump into three seeds in a row, it destroys all the prowlers on the screen in one big explosion. It really has a lot. There’s a mirror world…a stage, where you kind of go in through portals and you go to the same stage, but it’s slightly different and you have to go back and forth to make your way through the stage. I think we’ve added quite a lot of stuff.
G4: Is this an expansion? Or is it something that when you open up the XMB, it’ll come up as something separate?
Cuthbert: It’s an expansion, so it’s built-in. There’s this new portal which is the entrance into Encore. That’s where you switch. So then the five gardens are in there. That grows in the same way as in the original, so it is like a whole different garden.
G4: Are you adding new trophies?
Cuthbert: Yes, there are new trophies.
G4: Cool. Some of the trophies in Eden were really tricky to get….
Cuthbert: Yeah, well there was a translation problem with one of them, wasn’t there? No wasted…what was it? I can’t remember. Anyway, we fixed it later on. It made people think they had to destroy all the Prowlers and collect all their pollen, but of course, the Prowlers are unlimited, so everybody thought it was impossible. It’s not actually that hard.
G4: Now, when you’re finished with this, the next project that everyone’s kind of waiting for is 2.0. Were you guys working on that in conjunction? Or did you put it on hold to work on Encore?
Cuthbert: We try to do everything in parallel, and pushing forward on all fronts. I think that’s the best way to do it, so we’re just not making one thing. We’re trying to develop as many ideas as possible. So, we’re also doing experiments for Series 2. It’s very early on, but we’re just trying to see what kind of stuff can be done in 3D for example. It’s a lot of fun.
G4: Do you think the next version of PixelJunk will be fully fleshed-out Blu-ray games or will they be PSN titles?
Cuthbert: They’ll be PSN titles. I think PSN is the more friendly place for that kind of game. Once you go to Blu-ray, the price of the game has to go up. It’s fun to be able to release games at this price. It’s much more flexible. People don’t have to expect so much. It’s easier for us.
G4: It’s obvious that you guys have found success in the U.S. and Europe, how are the PixelJunk games received in Japan?
Cuthbert: In Japan they’re received in about the same ratio of PS3s to the amount of PS3s that are in the market here and the amount over there. Monsters in particular did really good over there…
G4: Oh, wow.
Cuthbert: I heard a rumor, I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard a rumor that one of the main directors or designers at Square was hooked on Monsters. Sometimes you hear rumors like that and it’s interesting. I get people coming up to me from within game development companies and they’re always in Japan and they always say how addicted they are to Monsters.
G4: Will there be another soundtrack for Encore?
Baiyon: We hadn’t thought about that.
Cuthbert: We haven’t decided, but it would make sense. Of course, there are a few songs, five new full tracks and they’re all pretty cool. If Encore proves popular enough, we might consider knocking out the soundtrack.
G4: I’ve got room on my iPod. I’ll take it.
G4: One more last Eden question: do you guys ever think you’ll be able to do online co-op?
Cuthbert: For Eden, it’d be pretty difficult, but not too impossible. The controls would have to get laggy which is a shame. With a 3D game if you go online, you don’t have so much trouble with that because the controls in 3D are generally laggy anyway. Somehow, this is very pixel perfect. You know, the precision of if you’re spinning or not spinning is life or death…
G4: Amen to that.
Cuthbert: So if a few milliseconds come in there, or there’s a delay, it could be a bit frustrating I think. You never know, in the future for a similar game, we might be able to do it, but for Eden, it might be a little too much for the Internet to cope with.
G4: All right, my last question would be: when do you think we’ll see the 2.0 stuff? This year?
Cuthbert: Maybe, but definitely, we’re trying to make them as quickly as possible, so hopefully.