Freeware Garden: Mouse Corp

By Konstantinos Dimopoulos on August 27th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

Nothing like a solid, cheery title pic to lure the masses in.

If you know and thus love what thecatamites have (has) been doing these past few years, chances are you have already downloaded Mouse Corp and are already defacing the graves of an impossibly colourful 3D world. A world filled with sentient vegetation and a wild menagerie of oddities you’ll have to traverse, quasi-RTS style, as three mice.

Now, I could go on all about the wild mechanics of Mouse Corp or its wondrously grotesque take on the Sonic universe, but I won’t. I will instead provide you with an interview featuring the wonderful Mr. Stephen Murphy — a.k.a. thecatamites:

RPS: Who would choose to re-imagine the Seven Cities of Gold (either the game or the myth) as part of the/a Sonic the Hedgehog universe? Why would anyone ever do this?

Stephen Gillmurphy: I wanted to make something pretty with good colours, but there is something very melancholy about bright videogame prettiness. I read a while ago that thinking something is beautiful means desiring that it be exactly what it is, but, with something like the checkered field backgrounds in Sonic etc, I think it’s different because while those things read as abstractions to me rather than things in themselves they’re not abstractions of anything in particular. You wanna get closer but there’s nothing to get closer to because they’re fundamentally unreal and that’s part of the appeal. They’re evocative but what they mostly evoke is distance.

A really fussy, unregenerate and videogamey militaristic resource gathering thing seemed like a good framework to lay onto my own fussy, unregenerate attempts to play around with those feelings… I think it is a little glib to make any real comparison exploring and assimilating things in a videogame world to historical colonialism, but there were smaller details I like about 7COG that I thought would work well when adapted as part of new and very obviously unrealistic context. I like how eerily empty and uniform the experience of exploring a new continent in it looks, as if being mediated as gold collection sim means flattening the world out even on a visual level. I like the little trumpet sounds that play when you land on a new continent and the plaintiveness of noticing these little touches of grandiosity from little bug guys stripping a new continent bare.

RPS: What is a Mouse Corp?

Stephen Gillmurphy: The remnants of a dead mouse.

RPS: What is a Mouse Corp game?

Stephen Gillmurphy: Mouse Corp Game is a truly exciting opportunity to explore, sleep, perform uncompensated labour, poke around old ruins, listen to records, collect shit, shoot things, fulfill tasks, fail to fulfill tasks, experience gradual dissolution of purpose, enter other dimensions and get eaten by a dragon. It is exactly like real life, except with music from NEW VADERS, so it is better.

This screenshot contains over 20 photoshopped pixels. Honestly, it does.

RPS: Do you hate mice?

Stephen Gillmurphy: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RPS: Do you hate people?
Stephen Gillmurphy: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RPS: Do you hate colours?
Stephen Gillmurphy: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RPS: What do you hate?
Stephen Gillmurphy: Other videogames… the police.

RPS: What are you hoping to achieve with Mouse Corp, then?

Stephen Gillmurphy: I hope it is cute. And lets people explore inviting or other 3d spaces in a structure that’s broken up and reflexive enough to allow for different levels of focus and energy expenditure. Also money would be nice and is necessary.

RPS: And could the catamites provide the esteemed RPS readership with a very brief, very lovely making-of this latest excellent thing of yours?

Stephen Gillmurphy: I started making it in July of last year after playing Radia Senki for NES and really liking the soundtrack, primary-colour fantasy stuff, but also kind of distant and melancholy, and wanting to make something with the same feelings. I made most of it in a month but there were parts I put in that didn’t work too well and things I wanted to do that were very fussy and complicated. Like, cutaways to Mouse Corp central offices where people would throw themselves out of windows if you started falling below the berry quotas. But Tom Whalen aka NEW VADERS had already sent me a lot of good songs for it, which contributed to me wanting to finish it off at last. I picked it up again for the first time in a while around the start of this month and liked a lot of it and stripped a lot of stuff out and redid other things and generally made it more focused again. I wasn’t sure whether to charge money for it so settled on making it optional. I like the idea of having a bunch of disparate games that all cost the same and the implied equivalency that this invokes, but I also like freeware and the lack of the sense of guarantee that people assume a commercial thing implies. It is a quandary. Please send me money.

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13 Comments »

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  1. GameCat says:

    For Christ sake, RPS, please stop putting badly compressed JPGs in headers. :x

    • Sam says:

      Now this is a games journalism ethics issue I can get behind.

      A 620×300 cropped PNG version of the original Mouse Corp splash screen is 16.5KB and of course lossless. The JPG header used of the same pixel size is a whopping 56.3KB, and has quite noticeable compression artefacts where the blocks of solid colour meet.

      It would be simple to blame this on a few rogue individuals wantonly encoding images inappropriately, but we must look deeper and see to the systemic causes behind this all. Allow me to introduce you to the murky world of the style guide: Header images on RPS are forced by the so-called “editorial team” to be 620px in width (the height is not uniform and gives rise to obvious bias where some articles have TENS of extra rows of pixels in their image.)

      Uniform image widths might seem like a good idea, to keep the front page flowing nicely and so on. But look back to this terrifyingly JPG encoded header image. It matches the 620px requirement but at what cost? The original image that it is sourced from when cropped to a 620px width has the game’s edge borders partially in view – an entirely unpleasant aesthetic experience. Crushed by the oppressive style guide, our overworked author is forced to scale the image slightly. But whatever interpolation scheme might be used, resizing the crisp pixels of Mouse Corp creates unpleasant artefacts. How to hide those artefacts? By encoding the resulting image as JPG! The encoding’s own unsuitability for handling crisp art will disguise the evidence of the style guide’s terrible crime.

      The only morally acceptable action now is to abandon the style guide. Paragraph-long headlines. Header images that are 30 minute GIFs. Every word in a different font. 4k sized screenshots inlined into the body of the article. And absolutely no amusing alt text.

      • Premium User Badge

        caff says:

        This is the longest comment I’ve read on RPS for quite some time, and I have to say you really seem to have given this subject some thought. Bravo. I really like the idea of reading articles with 4K images on my smartphone.

      • Alice O'Connor says:

        I do think about my own header images. I used to go with 95% JPG compression (or what GIMP calls 95%–with 4:4:4 subsampling, floating point DCT Method, both Optimize and Progressive), but in recent weeks have gone as low as 88% when differences seem negligible. Below that seems too much of a mess. I’ll use PNG whenever it fits and doesn’t balloon file sizes; I don’t use PNG much.

        I try less to mangle contributor and columnist images, as I don’t have the source files and would feel a bit of an arse e-mailing them with “Say, do you know you could have higher image quality AND save 40KB if you saved as PNG?” If someone sends me a huge PNG, though, I will save that as a reasonable JPG.

        The height is not uniform and that may be an issue. For a while I standardised on 620×322, as that’s what my old site used, but in recent weeks I have even dared to go below 300px. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Undecided. I might return to 322. It looks and feels right to me.

  2. Premium User Badge

    padger says:

    D:

  3. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Well this has certainly woken me up!

    One for Sunday I think….if I can take my hands claws away from yesterday’s game, Impulse.

  4. Gog Magog says:

    Boy was I in for a surprise that one time I googled what a catamite was.

  5. Gorm13 says:

    Sounds like an interesting game. I’m gonna wait till they put the actual ground and wall textures in, though. They are working on those, right? Right?

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      Yes, all of the catamites that integrate the dev team are hard at work to bring you the best Assassin’s Creed game you could ever wish for

  6. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    <3

  7. BooleanBob says:

    Thecatamites seems to be capable of making games faster than I can play them. Characteristically, I will attribute this to lethargy and personal dissoluteness: forgoing the opportunity to pay anyone, ever, a compliment.

    Personal failings aside, I’m grateful for the thecatamite games I have played, and for the introduction to Monster Killers, and the efforts of both participants in this interview.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I’m so glad to know that thecatamites doesn’t hate mice!
    (Also, he made a lovely game)

  9. Fnoros says:

    All of my loyal mouse workers deserted! All i can do is wander aimlessly around the map! the beneficent empire will crumble!