The game design of Supernauts - Grand Cru Interview
Who are you, and what is your role on Supernauts?
Harri Granholm, Grand Cru creative director and co-founder. I was there from the beginning, creating the original concept together with the other founders, and the project's main design person for the first two years or so.
More recently I've been spending most of my time in our next game projects while Saana Vartama, who was in charge of level design, stepped up to handle overall Supernauts game design.
I still take part here and there, especially in UI, story and art. I'm not good with numbers, so I leave Excel to those who for some reason enjoy that.
How did you help to make the finished game?
Well, game development is team work and at Grand Cru we have a very transparent and participatory method of making games. We want everybody in the team to be able to work independently and take initiative, and this is only possible if communication between all team members works well.
This very "flat" way of doing things can be a disaster if you don't have exactly the right people, so we are super careful about who we hire. And I'm proud to say that the Cru is one fantastic (or should I say 'fabulous') team.
I guess you can find some of my design more or less everywhere in the game, except not so much in level design and the production game.
The original theme, story and characters were pretty much my work, and I still like to look after those parts of the game, even though now its the whole team doing that.
How did the idea for Supernauts come about?
Almost all of the founders had been making games together for years already, so we knew what everybody's preferences and strengths were.
Supernauts was basically defined by the team, meaning that our first game had to be something everybody would love to do.
The creative building element was a core feature that we all could agree on almost immediately. Obviously we're fans of Minecraft, but LittleBigPlanet was also a huge influence. We wanted to have a similar kind of accessibility and fun and especially the community element of sharing your creations. In fact, we experimented with player-created missions at one point, but then decided to take a slightly different route.
The original concept of the game was much more MMO-like, but we decided to concentrate on building a fully functional single-player experience first. The soul of Supernauts is multiplayer and community though, and luckily we are finally at the stage where we can implement many of those cool social elements that have been waiting in the backlog.
Some clear influences behind the Supernauts universe that I can think of are The Incredibles, Futurama, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and old Lucasarts adventure games.
We wanted to have a theme that would be unique enough, but still part of popular culture. Critically, it should also not limit the player's creativity too much. For example, we were also thinking about a (fun) horror / monster theme, but that would have made it difficult for players to build, say, disco floors.
The "comic sci-fi" concept just felt natural, and we could also slip in a topical environmental element in there without being too serious about it, so what's not to love. I've actually written a lot more story than what eventually made it into the game (which is probably for the best, because most of it is really bad jokes).
At the moment there aren't too many ways Supernauts can interact with one another. Are you looking to change this in the near future or expand this aspect?
Definitely! As I said, we are now returning our focus to the social features, which is what Supernauts is all about in the end. We are painfully aware of how limited even basic communication is at the moment and there will be huge improvements in the upcoming updates.
We have so many cool things we want to get into the game, but I can tell you that the main focus is on player communication, co-operation and competition. Right now we are testing internally a very cool social building feature.
Character customization is also something we'd like to implement in the near future, as it can now get fairly ridiculous with multiple Supernauts in identical tights on turf at the same time... we actually had a great character customization system prototype quite early on in development, but it turned out to be too resource-intensive for iOS devices. Let's see if we can do a better 2.0 version!
The game's absolutely massive already, but how do you see the game evolving in a year's time?
We have a lot of great ideas in the backlog, but a year is a long time. We want Supernauts to eventually be the ultimate creative playset that is easy enough for anybody to use, and also a place where you want to hang with your friends.
I would really love to be able to continue building the Supernauts universe, story and characters further. In the end, we hope to build a strong community that will come up with ideas that will totally surprise us.
Supernauts is a service, which means that players will play a big part in how the game develops. The team is very flexible and able to react really quickly if needed. In fact, I'd like to take this opportunity to ask Pocket Gamer readers and current Supernauts about what they would like to see in the game. Let us know in the comments here - I promise we will read them all!
You heard the man, drop a comment here about what you'd like to see in future updates.
Peter Willington 25 April 2014