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Drop Everything: Aaa(Snip!-Ed) Interview

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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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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