Drop Everything: Aaa(Snip!-Ed) Interview

By Kieron Gillen on September 17th, 2009 at 5:34 pm.


We’ve been raving about Aaa(Snip-Ed) for the last couple of weeks. We’ve been charmed by their personal Youtube response to the RPS comments threads. The time has come for the inevitable: The RPS vs Dejobaan interview where Messrs Ichiro Lambe and Rohit Shenoy tells us what’s what. Topics including hitting on ladies at Salsa classes, what they’ll do when they sell the 76th million copy on Steam and the debristling of pigs. Read. You really have to.

RPS: Basic intros. Tell me about you, you band of malcontents. How did you pull together? How did you pull together to make this?

Ichiro Lambe: Dejobaan’s been around since 1999, but with Aaaaa!, we’ve… Actually, Rohit, should we tell him about how we met at a salsa dancing class, and that my earliest memory of Dan is in 1988, when he accused the Smartfood tour guide that they put something addicting into their popcorn? Too twee?

Rohit Shenoy: I met Ichiro at a salsa class where we were both trying to meet girls :-) We teamed up, pooled our collective playa skills and months later, after much practice, the girls were lining up – two lines, one for him and one for me. We then set about on our quest to conquer the gaming hoping to further leverage our great working chemistry :-)

Ichiro Lambe: I just remember nearly stepping on Princess Lauren’s foot the first class. I think Rohit ended up with both lines of ladies. I wanted him to write a skit on “how to be sexy” in Aaaaa!, though that’ll have to wait for the next game. As for pulling the game together, Ichiro and our creative guy Dan Brainerd (yes we get the irony in his name), were the ones who built a full blown game prototype in 3 days. I simply helped come up with the ridiculous name….I mean how could you not love/hate the name. Nobody just thinks the name is OK.

RPS: Truth. When playing, I find myself thinking “It’s the game that I’ve played since Space Giraffe which has been least afraid to let the personality of the developers show through”. How would you respond to that?

Ichiro Lambe: Personality is one of an indie studio’s greatest weapons. It certainly isn’t the $20M budget or the string of artists. The key we found, early on in development of Aaaaa! was that if a giant studio went one way, we’d have to go the other. For example, we can’t beat Crytek on realism, so to delight players, we’d have to go hyper-unreal. Along these lines, other games are so well-insulated from their developers. That makes sense for BioShock, where the story’s delicately-crafted and self-contained.

(I just did a Google search for ken levine steve carell, and apparently everyone thinks they look the same)

But think about all those games with crappy backstories — why don’t they just draw from other sources instead? Is this thought fleshed out and sensical at all? In our next game, we want to tie the studio’s personality into the game a bit more. Right now, we have these discrete pieces (cookie recipes, how-to on debristling a pig) — how do we make that more part of gameplay?

Rohit Shenoy: A lot of the character in the game grew organically as our team got more comfortable and started expressing themselves. Nebin a character created by one of our awesome intern is really just a sort of alter-ego. Tamlyn/Nebin are quite similar in many ways.

Ichiro Lambe: Nebin’s drugged out, man. Tamlyn’s our star tech intern. Very bright guy. But it was eerie how easily Tamlyn was able to write as him.

Rohit Shenoy: Our earliest press release talked about “flipping of protesters.” The press loved it so we knew that giving the game some character and allowing our “unique” personalities to shine through would only help people recognize this and future games as truly “Dejobaan.” One day gamer geeks everywhere will be heard saying (in praise) “that is so Dejobaan dude!” or “Once you pull our the Dejobaan, women don’t stand a chance.”

Ichiro Lambe: Hey, Kieron mentioned Space Giraffe. I’m now listening to this as I answer these. What an odd soundtrack.

RPS: Do you enjoy winding people up? Or is it a case you’d rather do something true to what you’d like to do, and fuck anyone if they can’t take a joke?

Ichiro Lambe: Oh, no! We want to be inclusive, not exclusive. We want folks to know that they’re as much in on the joke as we are. That said, if people hate our humor, they’re going to hate our humor. You can’t please everyone. Not even in bed.

Forget that last bit.

Rohit Shenoy: We actually tried to reach out to some of our early fan’s to get them in on the joke. (We believe) they loved it! Some of them even showed up in the game on Billboards:

Ichiro Lambe: I’ll have to dig up an image. We also put our lawyer into the game.

RPS: Another basic question: the idea of the game. What made you focus in on the joy of falling from the heavens? And then, why did you tweak the game the direction you did, towards this glorious barrage of nonsense?

Ichiro Lambe: Dan, our Gameplay Architect (I think we should start calling him Chief Scientist) sent over a bunch of videos in December. People falling at 100MPH, with their tiny, juicy heads floating mere feet away from a rocky mountain. Holy crap. We had to tweak the direction because, in the prototype, straight BASE jumping is not that fun. Partly, the thrill is in the sensation. Unless you have a USB fan and an angry walrus hooked up to your PC, you’re not going to get the wind or the sense of danger.

Rohit Shenoy: Music too, appears to make a difference. Listening to Enya evokes a more ethereal feeling of floating down from the heaven’s, angel-like. It totally robbing you of all fear of death. Turn on some Anthrax (We are old-school, or just old) and its a whole new experience…F’ you Bird!!! Of course we would never harm a real bird…we are all vegans from midnight to noon.

Ichiro Lambe: He’s right — the first tutorial level uses Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Amicus Meus, and it’s very relaxing. As for harming a bird, I’m still waiting to have a proper Dejobaan rotisserie this Saturday.

RPS: I’m describing the game to friends as “this year’s Trials 2″. In other words, a hyper-punishing, score-chasing joy. The one thing that’s missing from that equation is Trials 2′s big pay-off – being the person flying to their doom when you screw up. Was it a technical problem why you didn’t decide to show any third-person deaths, or actually a design choice?

Ichiro Lambe: I’ll have to try Trials 2. I looked at it yesterday, when someone forwarded Kieron’s “try this!” e-mail (thank you!). I was a fan of Action Supercross, back in the day. In this case, I was afraid that, were we to do a floppy third-person person, it would look crappy, and everyone would hate us. But many of life’s high points come from overcoming fear. Hell, how about a second-person view? The main character falls, out of control. A camera is fixated on his face as it cycles through expressions of terror, pain, and (finally) resignation.

RPS: And linked to that, would it be something you’d be tempted to add. And if you did, exactly how bloody would you make it. If anyone would go for comic-dismemberment, I fear it would be you.

Ichiro Lambe: We’re not (too) a bloody-minded (a) lot, so even if the character were hurt, he’d probably spew baby birds or Cyrillic characters (maybe spelling out the first chapter of Crime and Punishment — why not? it’s free over Gutenberg). The painful screams might sound realistic, but that would be incongruous with the visuals. From a gameplay standpoint, why not make it interesting to lose? You might be able to control yourself after a crash, and (say) knock down buildings. The more you knock down, the bigger your DESTRUCTION score, which unlocks something else. Huh. That way, even if you die, you’re rewarded.

Some of our best material comes from when we’re writing a press release or giving an interview, and one of us says (on the spot), “Oh, yeah, we want to do X in the game,” and the rest of us just look at him and say, “that has nothing to do with what’s in the game already, but it’s AWESOME!” I don’t know if that’s awesome, but it’s already better than just being given a “You’re Dead” screen. Ooh. How about a “Your Dead” screen instead?

Rohit Shenoy: Currently we have sold 75 million copies on steam. Our plan is to wait till we hit 76 million and then hire one low-priced college student to add that feature. That way we can provide a good example to our younger siblings on how to be fiscally responsible. As it stands we are working on future press releases, which in turn will lead to more features (we hope). Over time if the community of current Aaaaa! fans help convince us that they would like to see more in the game, we will do our best to put happy crazed smiles on their faces.

Ichiro Lambe: I want a vacation.

RPS: I also want a vacation. Thanks for your time, gents.

Aaa(Snip-Ed) is currently available to buy on the electric internet for fifteen American Money Dollars. You can download a demo here and read RPS’ full review here.

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32 Comments »

  1. Wacky says:

    These guys are pretty hilarious lol

  2. The_B says:

    Look, last time you went on a vacation Gillen, you ended up with a seven day long Mega Feature. YOU DO IT TO YOURSELF.

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    I need to take vacations from my vacations.

    KG

  4. Markoff Chaney says:

    Dear Goddess, a Crashbreaker like post-death mode built into every level of this game would provide not only bees with knees but also be smashing, figuratively and literally. It would elevate it from wildly entertaining to a thing of crystallized splendor and joy. Oh please. I’ll buy a second and third copy. Superseriously.

    Also. Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke. Any of ‘em.

  5. Heliocentric says:

    Honestly, I find the name a bit meh. I’m not just trying to get with the cool kids saying that.

    • Kast says:

      But you don’t just think it’s ‘OK’ – You have an opinion and it got your attention. So, from a developer’s perspective isn’t that a success of a sort? No such thing as bad publicity and all that.

    • Ichiro (Dejobaan Games) says:

      I’ll agree with Kast. But in an attempt to be fair, we have re-jiggered our world view:

      http://www.micropoll.com/akira/mpview/661754-203729

    • JohnArr says:

      Brilliant.

    • Heliocentric says:

      I’m not sure how i feel about this subversion.

      I’m going to go and sit in a darkened room. Fyi, your game is quite good (from the trailers, i an rather seperated from a pc with internet access) but i require the ability to play courses in reverse, falling up like a baby filled with helium.

    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      Is it any surprise that the “meh” states are Maryland and Missouri?

      Anyway, I think the interview should’ve read “angry fan and a USB walrus” because I would purchase a USB walrus.

    • Andthensobecause says:

      These developers are honestly like sexy ladies. Everything they do is seductive and I feel like they are saying “be a part of our lives!” And it’s so damn hard to say no. The video response, the poll, the message to the alpha reviewers…it makes me feel…wanted. And then I give them money.

  6. Christian says:

    That base-jumping-video is just amazing. No wonder they got inspired.

    While I can’t really get into the game (tried the demo, and that might just be me not trying hard enough..or trying too hard.hmm..) I really like the idea and the game itself is pure fun…and it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously without giving the impression of trying too hard to be funny. Feels natural enough. So well done, gentlemen.

    One question though: is there a sort of predefined ‘optimal’ path in each jump or are all of the possibilities equally tooth-worthy? And another thing comes to mind: might there be a possibility of a nearly-endless level which is generated on-the-fly (I think the current buzzword would be ‘procedurally generated’)?

    Also, I guess making the interview was fun as well with these guys.

    • Vinraith says:

      Ichiro mentioned in a previous thread (or maybe it was the video response?) that something like this would interest them. Hopefully a press release and the hiring of an intern will ensue.

    • Ichiro (Dejobaan Games) says:

      The star ratings are based on what we thought were optimal-ish paths, but I’ll be damned if the players haven’t found better ones. I can’t beat the Steam high scores anymore.

      Old age? Oy.

  7. DAMN says:

    Christian:

    Please Play the game. I also dislike the “heh so random” humor and the stupid name, but the game itself is pure joy. I hope the Developers either get funnier or more serious for their next release… and keep the brilliant game design!

  8. PHeMoX says:

    “From a gameplay standpoint, why not make it interesting to lose? You might be able to control yourself after a crash, and (say) knock down buildings. The more you knock down, the bigger your DESTRUCTION score, which unlocks something else. Huh. That way, even if you die, you’re rewarded.”

    That’s hilarious! :)

  9. BlazerKnight says:

    <3 Dejobaan! My new favourite indie dev. Community interaction is something all devs should be doing, big or small. Valve knows this all too well.
    Anyway, about the game itself. The insanity of falling between buildings at unholy speeds is great fun. And the bajillion random tidbits, like anti-relaxation meditation, billboards, and even the pictures on the cubes in the options menu, are all oozing with personality.
    Don't get me wrong, I love the game muchly, but I have a bunch of ideas, suggestions and comments. I think there's not enough sense of self – the player is more like a disembodied spectator camera. Take Mirror's Edge, the experience is intensified by seeing your flailing limbs and such, making you feel like a person bounding across rooftops. Other benefits would be that it might be easier to see how close you are to a building, if a shadow of your player model appears as you approach the roof of one. Many times I was sure that I would skim close to a building only to end up splattered against the edge of the roof.
    A fun idea would be to have a the player screaming Aaaaa! when navigating towards doom, and to have him sigh with relief if he dodges the obstacle.
    Also, more unlockables would be nice, such as a limited-fuel jetpack that, when activated, grants the effect of a Bounce panel. To prevent it from becoming a hotkey fest, you could perhaps make an equipment system where you can select items to bring on jumps. Adding some more intense split-second decisions to make when falling.
    I loved the opening monologue, and the exposition about the city, wouldn't mind learning more of this psychedelic, whimsical setting.
    Possible bugs: once, when using a Bounce panel, I hit the bottom of another structure, and was trapped against it for a few seconds until I started falling again. Doesn't make much sense, physics wise. Also, during one session of the game, I was insta-dying when hitting the side of buildings, instead of bouncing off. But on the next time I started the game it stopped happening.
    Love what you have done, love what you are doing, keep it up! Will support you all the way.

    • Ichiro (Dejobaan Games) says:

      I have made this post a part of the Internal Forums. What that means is that after I am done going, “OH GOD, I CAN TASTE AAAAA! IN MY SLEEP,” we’ll look at it and say “Hey, that’s some pretty good ideas.”

      > Also, more unlockables would be nice, such as a limited-fuel jetpack that, when activated, grants the effect of a Bounce panel.

      This, in particular, I’d like to experiment with. Because of http://www.synthscribe.com/media/ohdowehaveascreenshot14.jpg — which didn’t make it in because it broke the game. But it was FUN.

    • Christian says:

      While I do like most of your ideas (yeah, a shadow or such might really make it easier to see), I really, really hope they don’t pick up the idea of other unlockables and items. This really would destroy the nice and easy feel of the game and kill the balance. After all, it’s not a flight-sim, it’s about the simple difficulty of falling gracefully at top speeds without much control.
      If there would be extra levels designed just for a jetpack.thingie, great..but more usable items would make the game just complicated and less fun.
      And then again, I might just be too old to adapt to using more tools in a short time. Damn you, time!

      But I like that you yourself said: “To prevent it from becoming a hotkey fest,..”. Good point there.

  10. army of none says:

    Dear Dejobaan. Make more games. Faster.

    Love, Armyofnone.

    P.S. Not fast enough.

  11. Ben Abraham says:

    This should have been one of those “insert the wrong questions for their answers” interviews like the Ben and Dan one. Reprise the “Say more words!” question!!

  12. Diji says:

    I <3 Dejobaan too. :D Just wish I had have waited till Aaa! was on Steam instead of pre-ordering it straight away, 'cause I'm a sucker for achievements.

  13. Matosh says:

    Hey, I’m totally up for that death&destruction idea. Making death a fun experience would automatically make this game better than 99,9% of games ever made.

  14. BlazerKnight says:

    Thanks for reading! Oh yeah, one more thing, when caffeinated, the screen is tinted red, so I can’t tell fans from protesters. Unless this is an intentional drawback… Ooh, another idea for an unlockable, how about a grappling hook that detaches 3 seconds after impact? So you can briefly change direction by being pulled to a structure. Could use it to dodge an incoming rooftop or to span a large empty space quickly.
    (What does Aaaaa! taste like?)

    • BlazerKnight says:

      D’oh, forgot to hit the reply button on this one. By the way, if Dejobaan is doing after-launch content, how will people who DDL-ed get updates?

    • Ichiro (Dejobaan Games) says:

      We’re working on that issue now. We’ll do some patching mechanism that’ll seem tough to manage at first, but turn out to be easy. We’ll laugh. We’ll cry. We’ll lean to love.

      I just have to figure out how.

  15. Christian says:

    Just to let you know: I seem to be easily influenced by media-suggestions, because the very subtle presence of this game on this fine site has finally brought me to buying the game.

    And while I am easily frustrated by this game, as just being pulled by gravity is harder than it sounds, it still draws me back to try another jump and maybe get better.

  16. Cunzy1 1 says:

    Maybe in the next one you could have jam squirrel ears in some mockinsons. Or potatoes in a blender that wear cheese.

    Yeah! ‘Random’. Yeah!

  17. Bassem B. says:

    That’s it, I’m reinstalling my Inago Rage demo. Love that game.
    I wish I could get the full version but I live in a 3rd world country and the credit cards I try to use are not valid for international purchases, according to the Internet.

    By the way, I want more of that lovely chick from Epidemic Groove.