Recently, we reviewed MiMiMi Productions’ excellent action-adventure title, The Last Tinker: City of Colors. If that’s not enough, we also published a Let’s Play Video, so you can see the game’s wonderful art direction for itself.
We’ve been lucky enough to be able to ask the devs a few questions about the game and the development process. Here’s the full transcript.
Q: Tell us a little about yourselves. What do you love about gaming, and do you, as a studio, have a particular philosophy when it comes to approaching game design?
A: We met during our studies and beside our own games, no one has a special job background. That probably made us re-iterate on some of the “old-fashioned” ways to make games without blindly accepting them, which in turn led us to being a very efficient team.
We think a game should be fun first and foremost. We’re happy if players appreciate the underlying themes of the story, but we won’t force them on you. If you’re just enjoying the ride that’s perfectly fine. As long as you’re having fun, we did our job well. And if you even feel a bit touched by the ending, we are super proud.
Q: From conception to final release, how long was The Last Tinker in development for?
A: The very first prototype was developed during our studies, back in February 2011, in 25 days. Since then we reiterated the game play and graphics a couple of times. Full-time production kicked off in early 2013 and lasted for roughly twelve months with an average of ten people working on it. So it has been quite a ride for such a small team.
Q: The Last Tinker is an incredibly vibrant and colorful game (and makes for some utterly gorgeous screenshots, one of which is currently set as our desktop wallpaper), particularly when contrasted against many other games these days, which tend to opt for a bleaker palette. Was this artstyle a conscious choice made at the beginning of the development process, or was it more of a natural evolution?
A: The artstyle was there from the very start. We simply wanted to make something bright and colorful, a world that invites you to explore it and that would always be amazing to look at. And like Nintendo, we wanted our visuals to stand the test of time.
Q: The Last Tinker takes a decidedly old-school approach, hearkening back to the golden age of single-player platforming and adventure games. More and more games these days are becoming increasingly violent, with an emphasis on multiplayer. Was The Last Tinker a deliberate reaction to that, or is it simply that you set out to create a game in a genre that you love?
A: We simply wanted to make something bright and colorful, a world that invites you to explore it and that would always be amazing to look at. We wanted a cool, accessible game that everyone who’s looking for something fun and colorful would play, no matter what age they are.
Q: You’ve already cited Jak & Daxter and Zelda as inspirations, but are there any other games which you drew from in the course of development?
A: Absolutely! For instance, many of us played all of Rare’s classics when we were younger, and we’d love to see the studio find back to their old class. Don’t get me wrong, Kinect Sports Rivals looks gorgeous, but it’s no Banjo & Kazooie or Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Q: The music in The Last Tinker is wonderfully eclectic, moving between folksy tunes to orchestral bombast, and everything in between. What was the inspiration behind the soundtrack? Did you choose to give each area its own distinct musical as well as visual feel? If so, can you provide some insight into the mood you wanted to convey in each area?
A: Naturally, emotion was one of the major themes that influenced the soundtrack – for example, anger in Red District. Then again we had more specific musical themes, like the excitement when you climb the windmill, or the meditative resonance of the caves. In general, we wanted the soundtrack to be as unique as the visuals.
Filippo Beck Peccoz, who is responsible for the game’s entire sound design and an awesome guy in general, worked like crazy to give the music the variety and distinct quality it has, and he more than deserves the love he gets for it.
Q: The game does a good job of establishing the world and its history. Is it a world you can see yourself returning to? Perhaps in a sequel, or future DLC content?
A: We’d love to expand the world we have created with new content or even future titles. There are other places besides Colortown we want to explore, like the Glue Hives or the Paper Mountains, which both produce materials needed for papier maché. The other thing is that, although it isn’t touched upon much in the game, Koru is indeed the last remaining Tinker, and we’d like to show what that means for Tinkerworld.
Q: Koru strongly resembles Monkey from Journey to the West. Was this deliberate?
A: It happened more by accident during the many, many iterations we had to go through to get him right. We needed him to look like he could pull of all the jumping and climbing we have him do in the game. Additionally, the more human versions we tried were too much of a contrast to the other citizens of Colortown, who are all some form of animal. And we tried to stay away from that Uncanny Valley effect.
Q: Throughout the game, four colors are dominant – red, green, blue and purple. What about the rest of the spectrum? Are there perhaps Yellow, Orange, and Pink spirits in the world that we haven’t seen yet?
A: Why not? Let’s see how Colortown develops from where we left it. Maybe when we return, there’ll be a whole family of them. I’d certainly like that. [laughs]
Q: With the latest generation of home consoles, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are all positioning themselves towards catering to indie developers. Do you have any particular thoughts on this? Do you think one particular company’s approach is better or worse than the others, for example?
A: I think it’s a great evolution that will democratize game development even further and all parties are doing a great job. It only makes sense to gather creative talent around these grown-up platforms. And given the fact that these are huge companies with bazillions of people having to green-light decisions, the movement still has a good drive.
The only thing we are kind of worried about – and a lot of other developers are too – is the ever-lurking danger of consoles and Steam becoming similar to the app stores of mobile devices, where it’s far too easy to release software with subpar quality.
Q: With schemes such as Kickstarter, Steam Early Access and indiegogo, developers have more ways than ever before to get their games out there. Are there any hurdles which you think still need to be overcome, though? After all, it’s one thing getting your game out to market; it’s another thing entirely to have the money and resources to market and promote it.
A: Marketing is certainly a problem, though a successful Kickstarter story is always a great anchor for that. We learned a lot with our release and the weeks that led to it, and you can be sure that a post-mortem will one day pop up regarding this topic. [smiles]
A: Budget. We recorded some narration for the intro and outro sequences, and Peter Baker’s voice helped greatly to achieve the storybook atmosphere we were aiming for. That said, I think the lack of spoken dialog actually makes our NPCs that much more likeable. Also, the speech bubble system we implemented only works without voice-overs: all optional content can be skipped by simply running past it, and it would be super annoying if every NPC would start his voice over if you get too close. So, while voice overs are certainly cooler, we still tried to use text-only to our advantage.
Q: If you could go back to the game, is there anything that you think you would change or expand upon?
A: We’re extremely happy with the level of polish we achieved; after all, it’s our first 3D Action-Adventure and only about ten people worked on the game for one year. You are never really done with your game, of course – but at least we didn’t have to strip away anything essential, or do crazy crunch times to fix bugs before launch.
Q: Do you have any ideas or plans for your next project?
A: We hope that The Last Tinker will allow us to do more on the bigger platforms – we’d rather not go back to mobile games only. A couple of new projects, ranging from cuddly to bloody, are already in the works. But I can’t give you any more details yet.
Q: Can we have a real-life plushie version of Tap please? He’s adorable and we want to hug him.
A: Oh definitely! There’ve been so many requests for a Tap plushie that we’re starting to think we’ll earn more from selling that than with the actual game!
Q: Same goes for the Green Spirit.
A: We already made him into a teacup, but yeah, why not? [laughs]
Q: Which do you prefer – cake or pie, and why?
A: Pie, the kind we make for ourselves every year for PI day. The main ingredients are: sausage, bacon, minced meat and eggs. Delicious!