Back in May 2011, Riverman released a video showing off ten different gameplay modes in Pizza Vs. Skeletons. Did all ten of them make it in, or have any ideas ended up on the chopping block since then? How’s a developer able to tell when there are too many modes of play in a single game, and when there aren’t enough to keep the player’s interest?
Paul: Yes, all ten gameplay variations from the original prototype video made it into the final game! We filmed the prototype video after brainstorming tons of different gameplay concepts and testing out which were the most fun, so the ten in the video were the ones we picked after several rounds of cuts.
We regretted calling the ten clips “modes” shortly after releasing the video, because the term “mode” is misleading in this case. Pizza Vs. Skeletons has 100 levels that fall into ten (conceptual) categories based on the objective of the level. For example, in Level 1-3 your goal is to crush a certain number of enemies, Level 1-5 has you rolling down a snowy mountain to reach the goal at the end, and in 4-1 you’re under water eating fish to grow into a giant. While too many separate modes (like Time Attack, Endless, etc.) can be confusing and unnecessary, we feel that more level variety is always a good thing as long as the variation’s fun, intuitive to learn, and compatible with the game’s core concept.
The camera system, with all that lovely dynamic zooming, looks like it would have been a real challenge to implement – or was it after all? For that matter, did you have to learn any new memory management tricks, considering how large the player character and some of the enemies are?
Paul: Oh boy, I could talk about the camera for hours! It was the greatest single design and programming challenge of the whole game. One of the coolest aspects of Pizza is that you control a character who (normally) is as tall as the iPhone screen, but this leaves a lot less screen real-estate to show the player what else is going on. Every level of Pizza required us to pan and zoom the camera so that you can see exactly what you need to while keeping the character as large as possible.
You’re spot on about memory. The gigantic character and numerous large, animated enemies required us to manage memory in ways that we never have before. We had to be very meticulous and only load what will actually appear in each individual level — all 100 of them. Some graphics even load and unload on the fly, like what a big 3D game does, but we only employed this technique when we could load something instantaneously or at a time that would not disrupt gameplay.
What’s next for Riverman Media now that you’ve wrapped up Pizza vs. Skeletons and hopefully gotten some R&R? I saw that you’re huge Chrono Trigger fans, so I have to wonder whether a big RPG might ever be on the horizon – do you see yourselves reaching for something that ambitious one day, now that you’ve got plenty of experience under the belt?
Jacob: I’d love to make an RPG or story-driven game one day. Neither Paul nor I consider ourselves story writers though, so we’d have to partner up with somebody with a plot and characters that really inspire us. As for our next game, we’ll be announcing it soon. All I can say now is that it will be our first sequel!
And finally, the all-important question: deep dish or thin crust?
Jacob: My favorite way to enjoy pizza is to make it at home, partially from scratch. In the frozen section of the grocery store, you can buy pre-made white bread dough that makes great crust. Let the dough thaw, divide it into four balls, and roll each ball into small round crusts, about six inches across. Heat a large skillet, and pre-cook (parbake) both sides of each crust on the skillet for about a minute, until golden brown.
Load up the pizza with your sauce of choice (try Alton Brown’s recipe), cheese, and toppings. Load the pizzas onto a baking sheet two at a time, and stick it under your oven’s broiler until the cheese is melted and the sauce is heated. After that, your pizza will be ready to smash some skeletons!
Our thanks goes to Jacob and Paul Stevens for taking some time out to answer our questions and give us some pro pizza-making tips! Pizza Vs. Skeletons releases on February 25; find out more about it and previous releases at Riverman Media’s website. Also keep an eye on their Facebook and Twitter accounts for the latest studio news! Now let’s roll some beautiful skeleton-smashing footage: