Minecraft Devs Mojang To Publish Cobalt

By John Walker on August 18th, 2011 at 3:00 pm.

A picture which tells us precisely nothing.

Here’s some news. Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, are expanding from being developers, to also being third-party publishers. And the first to appear through the company is action game Cobalt, by indies Oxeye Game Studios. What is it? We’ve tracked down the team and asked them all about the game, and how the deal came about. And how they might put teabagging in the game.

Going into publishing was always part of the plan. Mojang’s Carl Manneh explains that from the beginning of the development studio being set up they had intended to collaborate with other indie developers. Of the right sort. “We wanted to find studios who have our philosophy of developing games, which is staying close to the community and treating it as a service.”

Oxeye is somewhat related to Mojang. Founded by Mojang member Jens Bergensten, and Daniel Brynolf and Pontus Hammarberg (Swedes get all the best names), it also has music by Mattias Häggström, who is behind the tunes in Scrolls. The relationship is such that the team have been spending a few months working in the Mojang HQ.

So what is Cobalt?

“It’s hard to be a metal face,” explains the information we’ve been given.

“Agent Cobalt has learned as much after finding the Space Exploration Foundation’s lost colonization ship The Seed at planet X9CSEC5.5B-blue, Trunkopia. It was once built by a one million strong development team back on Earth, but disappeared merely 30 minutes after its subspace jump. Whatever happened on board during its misadventure, sanity was not invited.”

So what manner of game? It seems the umbrella of “action” is probably easiest, bearing in mind the game involves (deep breath):

“Running, jumping, rolling, shooting, throwing, dancing, hacking, rolling, flying, sliding, climbing, looting, deflecting, racing, piñata-ing, passing, scoring… and even more rolling!”

Well that’s not enough information for the likes of us, so I tracked down Daniel Brynolf to find out a lot more.

RPS: Can you tell us how did the idea for Cobalt begin?

Daniel Brynolf: It began about two years ago when we were sitting at home contemplating the demise of our company, Oxeye Games Studio. Basically, we had to come up with something, or we would shut it down and move on. Kinten reminded me of an old prototype I had made sometime during 2001, which we had come to revisit a couple of times over the years. We both agreed that it was a cute game with an interesting feel, and we wondered what could happen if you took that concept and scaled it up into a full game. So we called Jeb and we discussed it, and after one weekend of work we had a first hi-res prototype with a robot running around on platforms and rolling. All we knew back then was that it was going to be focused on having a kick ass platform movement…

RPS: What will we be doing as a tiny robot?

Daniel Brynolf: It plays not so much like a platformer, which I guess is strange. We have very few “platforming” challenges in the game. Instead we have focused on a very action oriented flow where you move from one crazy situation to the next. Commonly, you could run into a situation, someone would throw a grenade at you, game turns into slow motion as the danger looms closer, you would pull up your fist, charge it, auto aim at the grenade as it comes closer, and whop it so that it flies away as you right after switch to some gun and moves into a roll which turns you around 360 degrees allowing you to aim at the robot that threw the grenade, and pop its head with a well timed shot. Stuff like that. The bigger picture would be that you do these kinds of things in various levels and gamemodes, both versus and cooperatively in some sort of challenge.

RPS: That sounds complicated – how have you managed to get slo-mo to work in multiplayer?

Daniel Brynolf: Slow motion is local to the things around the players that are exposed to danger, so one person on the edge of the level can run just fine, while two other players might be in the middle of a matrix-esque duel. If the third player would approach the two players, or throw a grenade into the mix from afar, the approaching objects get increasingly slowed. We were pondering for a long time how exactly to solve this, and there were lots of fears about things that could go wrong in the design. But so far, during testing its been working out perfectly. When you are the creator of the slow motion (you are in danger), you are only slowed 90% of the effect, which in practice gives you “more” time than you would have had in normal speed.

RPS: It sounds mind-boggling! So what role does dancing play in all this?

Daniel Brynolf: Dancing came about as we were moving around with the character, and we realized it was quite fun just exploring the different moves. So we got the idea to register each move you did, and match it to the beat of a song playing. We then registered the moves in pairs of four as you were “dancing”, and by not repeating the same four-pattern during the dance, you would increase the “dance” level. The idea was to use it for say, gaining entrance to a “secret dance club” in a city. However, we have not actually put this to use yet. Currently the spirit of dancing lives on in the movement. But the dancing game is still in there, and I sometimes think about it. It would be cool with a dance-off game mode.

RPS: That seems essential!

Daniel Brynolf: Now that I think about it, maybe it could be added Cobalt’s version of teabagging. Where if you stand on someone’s corpse and pull of a level 5 dance, you get an extra point!

RPS: Er, moving on… Piñatas?

Daniel Brynolf: Piñatas might not be as colourful as it sounds. It originates from an interview with the lead designer for Diablo II, where he sort of explained what he thought made D2 fun. One of the things he was emphasizing was the piñata effect of slaying mobs, where the items would burst out and fly through the air and landing with a satisfying sound. This is something we have taken very seriously in Cobalt.

RPS: Will the game have a single player component?

Daniel Brynolf: The game started out a heavily story driven campaign game, lacking multiplayer what so ever. During this last half year or so, we have changed direction and are now focusing on multiplayer, including cooperative play. So I guess you could claim there is no dedicated single-player campaign planned now. But we are including the map editor in the game and the game supports campaignish content. So this we hope is something we could develop together with our hopefully future community.

RPS: What happened to all those single-player ideas?

Daniel Brynolf: They live on in the cooperative side of things

RPS: Ah, so the co-op is separate from the multiplayer?

Daniel Brynolf: Yes. There are versus game modes you can play with friends, or you can team up against bots in the very same game modes. But the co-op is something else entirely. It is the past single-player experience, but focused more towards cooperative replayability than tens of hours of story driven content.

RPS: So how did the thing with Mojang come about?

Daniel Brynolf: Well, during the time Cobalt started, it was mostly me that had the time to do it, So I’ve been the only one working full time on it since the start, with Kinten and Jeb helping out as much as they can. Kinten was studying to be a doctor and Jeb worked at various tech companies until he finally landed at Mojang. This led to me and Kinten often visiting and hanging out at the office and also hanging out a lot with the Mojang people in general. I’m not sure exactly sure how the next step came about, but one day they invited us out to dinner and asked if we would like to collaborate. Basically, they loved Jeb, and they really liked the look of Cobalt, and we really enjoyed working together already. So it was quite natural. We had met some of the guys prior to the success of Minecraft as well, so it felt like we were experiencing the whole shift together in a way.

RPS: What is the deal you’ve worked out with them? Is Notch taking all your profits to build another wing onto his platinum palace?

Daniel Brynolf: Notch is not taking all our profits! Any profit sharing you are referring to will be with Mojang which shockingly is really a bunch of nice people who enjoy to make games. Its a win-win deal. They wanted another game to put their time and efforts into, we, Oxeye, are really good at core game development but really bad at doing everything else. This was a very good fit both for us, for the project, and for Mojang. Mojang grew very fast, and because of that, they have a good range of talented individuals whose focus is not only core game development. I think they needed another project to sink their teeth in, since the tasks needed for each game project very much varies over time. And we really needed someone to sink their teeth into ours.

RPS: So would you recommend this route to other indies?

Daniel Brynolf: I’m not sure it’s a route at all. I mean, its a very special situation, both for us and for them. It’s not like there is a form to fill out! But I guess if I were to imagine this being a standardized route indies could take, then of course. It’s good for us, it’s good for them, it’s good for the project. It’s a symbiosis, where neither of us has to give anything up really, so yes, I would. But I don’t think its something you actively hunt for. It sort of emerges naturally if there is such an opportunity.

RPS: What is it they offer that you don’t think your team could do? Other than free drinks on Friday.

Daniel Brynolf: It’s hard to answer because they offer us things on so many areas, but give or take: their name, their contacts, the people working at Mojang, their offices, their expertise, their attendance to events, their payment system, their account-system and so on. I mean, it’s basically a fully dynamic collaboration. Also, their incredibly comfortable sofa in the gaming room to sleep on.

RPS: Do you know when the game might be coming out?

Daniel Brynolf: Our plan is to have an alpha or something like that by the end of the year.

RPS: Ah, so you’ll release on the same model as Minecraft, a purchaseable alpha?

Daniel Brynolf: That’s the general idea. We really liked that model, so why not.

RPS: One other thing.

Daniel Brynolf: Yes?
RPS: Could you beat Notch up until he releases mod support for Minecraft? Really, really hurt him. Kick his shins, pull his hair.

Daniel Brynolf: Actually, we haven’t really reached the “comfortably-hugging” state just yet, so I don’t know how down with I would be about hurting him. I did own his ass on Counter-Strike: Source though, if that is of any help. But I’ll probably have to eat up those words later on as he gibs me in Q3 some day…

RPS: Awesome, thanks so much for chatting.

Daniel Brynolf: Thanks John for your time!

RPS: That’s our line!

__________________

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52 Comments »

  1. db1331 says:

    The name “Cobalt” makes me think of WoW, because you could mine cobalt ore. They had better change it so no one gets the two games confused.

    • Bilbo says:

      That’s fine, they’ll settle it over a couple of matches in Alterac Valley. Zerg the graveyards!

    • Kody says:

      In Terraria you can find a Cobalt Shield item, and Terraria pretty much IS Minecraft, so clearly Notch is in violation of Relogic’s copyright.

    • Chizu says:

      Cobalt is an element in the perioidic table.
      They are clearly breaching Science’s copyright.

      They better change it or Science will come after them.

    • JFS says:

      Don’t forget Mother Nature, who fucking invented it! I don’t want to be there when she bursts in, raging.

    • azathoth says:

      Fuck, I’m an idiot. Ignore my previous comment before the edit. I did not detect your sarcasm/reference.

    • Tatourmi says:

      God, stop using the english language already! Are you crazy? Do you remember the last guy he sued? That’s right, and that’s why I’m switching to a language of my own cleverly made out of a mix of French, Spanish and German.

      Wunderbar es el nouveau sprache!

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      Ja, une langue ganz mejorado.

  2. Kaira- says:

    Interesting, but expected from Mojang, I remember Notch hinting that he’d like to become a publisher of sorts (“I don’t want to be on Steam, I want to be Steam” or something like that).

    For some reason the game itself remind me of Soldat, though I guess it doesn’t have that much in common with it. At least it would seem like that, after a quick read.

    • Inigo says:

      I remember Notch hinting that he’d like to become a publisher of sorts (“I don’t want to be on Steam, I want to be Steam” or something like that).

      Well, Gabe can disrupt that more or less permanently by mailing sheets of bubble wrap and tinfoil to Notch, which should keep him occupied until he decides to go on vacation again.

    • Mctittles says:

      Soldat is so much fun, but man is it dated. I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone make a similar game with a newish engine. I’d totally pick that up.

      This game looks to be fun, but I don’t think Soldat really. The guys are not tiny worms level enough :).

  3. Hanban says:

    Reminds me of Soldat. I do love these platformy shooty games!

  4. Teddy Leach says:

    Notch is clearly planning on amassing a large fortune so he can buy Bethesda.

    • Askeladd says:

      That will take him many many years. At least.

    • Starky says:

      With his mountain due and takeaway pizza monthly bills, he’ll never make enough money.

  5. Dreamhacker says:

    Seems like a good investment of all those Minecraft millions.

  6. Godsmith says:

    I’ve grown accustomed of Americans not knowing the difference between Sweden and Norway because, well, I don’t know the difference between Alabama and Oklahoma. But you are right across the North Sea, you should be ashamed!

    • Nemon says:

      If it wasn’t for Bethesda threatening with lawsuits because we’d look too much like angry Nords, we should start pillaging the British Isles again. Then again, they seem to have enough of that stuff now anyway.

    • dadioflex says:

      In Oklahoma the corn is as high as an elephants eye, in Alabama it just helps to be high to live there.

    • ankh says:

      I was in Alabama once and I wasnt allowed to drink so I just got high. So, accurate description there, sir.

    • ankh says:

      Double post fail, sorry.

  7. nootron says:

    Looks awesome. I was psyched for it until I got to:

    “we have changed direction and are now focusing on multiplayer, including cooperative play. So I guess you could claim there is no dedicated single-player campaign planned now”

    Now it looks like im passing :(

    • Pew pew LAZORS! says:

      Yeah, same here.

    • thewreck says:

      I feel for you. I too reaaaaaally want to play a long story driven campaign in cobalt. And i hope we manage to add something like that. We have yet to find a good formula for creating this since all our attempts so far have taken far to long in relation to playtime.

      The reason why we focus on cooperative missions is that it will motivate the time it takes to develop these story driven things, because when they are cooperative, there will be more replay value.

      Example of Co-Op playing:

    • bowl of snakes says:

      same here, I remember being excited, then not being excited after reading that last time I heard about this game :(

    • thewreck says:

      you guys are breaking my heart..

      Sounds like I will have to dub the following winter holiday the single player story campaign holiday working spree!

    • banski83 says:

      Same, single player story would be desirable.

    • Mctittles says:

      Actually the opposite here. Looking at the screenshots I didn’t think much. Not that I don’t like platforming games, but so many indie platformers get it wrong or lack the polish and detail of levels trying to make an entire campaign.

      Having seen the multiplayer makes me much more excited to play though!

    • xabbott says:

      Yea I was hoping for a SMB/VVVVVV + story single player. I don’t need another multiplayer game.

  8. Zorganist says:

    I also see that they’re using some of their millions of monies to advertise their new game right here on RPS.

    You know, that Scrolls one.

  9. Crainey says:

    What an awesomely fun looking game, I can’t wait to try this one and I’ll probably invest in the alpha and the game. I remember hearing about this a while back and I’ve been aware of Oxeye Game Studio for a while though I didn’t know they had this masterpiece coming or the deal between them and Mojang other than Jeb being involved with both party’s. Thanks for the nice interview John and all the best to Daniel.

  10. deadly.by.design says:

    Nevermind. I should’ve read first. :/

    Looks interesante.

  11. Tei says:

    Hehehe… trunktopia

  12. MellowKrogoth says:

    The slow-motion mechanics sound like a strike of genius. Other games that have slow-motion/bullet time but slow everybody down whether they’re in the action or not, such as Killing Floor, could really benefit from that idea.

    And the game looks like some awesome platforming action. Coop? Count me in.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Bulletstorm had pretty much the same “localized slomo” stuff.

  13. mickygor says:

    This game sounds like it has the potential for some epic LANnage!

  14. CaspianRoach says:

    Only a matter of time now before Mojang invents a new DRM and include always-on and day0dlc in their games.

  15. SquareWheel says:

    I was all for it until he stated multiplayer is the focus.

    Forever alone.

  16. JackDandy says:

    Sounds like a funky way to invest your money… we’ll see how it works out.

  17. JohnnyMaverik says:

    If you can’t beat Bethesda, become Bethesda.

  18. noonat says:

    There was a Cobalt deathmatch video posted on Twitter a while ago. Quite impressive. The drunken laughing makes it that much better. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sy0m22FFSzk

  19. Berzee says:

    I was excited about this until I heard that it wasn’t an MMO

  20. Tatourmi says:

    The gameplay so far looks incredibly good (From the duel video, shiny stuff) but I still have one concern about the game: The design of the maps.

    I know, it might not sound duper super important and stuff but it doensn’t go well with the design of the robots for me, and well, it kills the game a bit in my opinion. It sort of feels “cheap”, incoherent, and really it would be sad, in my opinion, if it stayed that way.

    EDIT: Well, to be a bit more precise: The robots and props are heavily outlined and the maps are not, which creates that impression. Well, there is also the fact that that the robots are stylish and the environment looks insanely generic.

  21. hoobajoo says:

    Interviews with foreign studios are a cruel reminder of my second-rate German, next to these guys, who are pretty much fluent in English.

    Game looks awesome, I really like the solution to multiplayer slow-mo.

    • Kaira- says:

      I feel you. I mean, I speak good English (at least I think I do), but can barely talk in Swedish, French or German. What would you call that one… multi-not-lingual?

    • BathroomCitizen says:

      @hoobajoo:

      Don’t be ashamed of your German: I find it’s much harder to learn that, than English. German is capable of destroying a fullgrown man’s mind.

  22. Josh W says:

    Interesting, looks like it’s got that classic thing that makes games like this interesting; where defensive moves are easy and effective, so actually killing each other is pretty tricky, and you spend a lot of time manuveuring around each other.

    You can compare that with games where killing each other is really easy, so you spend most of the game on the run, or in quickdraw type contests.

    This applies to beat-em-ups where countering and blocking are highly effective, but it looks better in this, because the blocking move puts you in motion, so mixed with environmental hazards, it’s a lot harder to have a standoff.

    I also like the way slomo triggers in situations when you need fine timing, meaning that the overall speed of the game probably stays pretty constant.

    Looks like a semi-tactical and pretty relaxed game, I hope they continue to add depths to it tactically.

  23. MythArcana says:

    It seems Mojang is doing quite a bit of everything these days…except developing.

  24. vivlo says:

    isn’t it from that game i watched a memorable drunk versus mode gameplay footage ? that was enjoyable :)