Monday, September 21, 2009

Interview With Scribblenaut's Creative Director, Jeremiah Slaczka

Scribblenauts is the game that allows for you to summon just about anything you can think of in order to solve puzzles or satiate your own inner omnipotence. To get the lowdown on the game and the inspiration behind it, Jeffrey Matulef spoke to 5th Cell’s Creative Director Jeremiah Slaczka at this year’s Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. He found out where the idea for the game came from, as well as the newly suggested official Scribblenauts tattoo.

TGR: What initially gave you the idea for Scribblenauts?

Slaczka: After Drawn to Life I still had a couple ideas. One was this building block idea called, "Once Upon a Time" where you’d write stories on the bottom screen like "the dog went through the forest", and then it would play out on the top screen. I thought, "That’s a really cool idea, but it’s not a game." So I shoved that idea for a while. And then I had a dream... I’ve never had a game dream before. I was in this Aztec Temple and there were these rooms, and in these rooms there were these weird puzzles to solve. There’d be like these three pictures and I’d have to line them up and then the exit would open up and I’d go to the next room. And in the other room there’d be like these dirty dishes and you’d go wash them. There wouldn’t be any clues - you’d just instinctively know what you were supposed to do with these objects. So I thought, "That’s a really cool idea for a game." But it didn’t really have a hook and there’d be no replayability, so I thought, "What if I just smash all these things together and we use keywords to solve puzzles? Then the replayablity becomes infinite."

TGR: Does the game have any kind of story at all?

Slaczka: No. No it doesn’t. And I didn’t want it to. I have another game coming out in October called Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter. It’s a direct sequel to the first. There’s a Wii version too, but we didn’t work on that. The Wii version is very different from the DS. And that game has a lot of story. I actually have a background in screenwriting and I’m really big into story, but for Scribblenauts I didn’t want it to have a story because I wanted it to be accessible to everybody. Just get in, get out, have some fun. Story can turn off a lot of people. Some people will want to skip through the cutscenes and just play, and some people will want to watch them. But we wanted this game to appeal to everybody. So it’s sort of a lowest common denominator- make it as simple as possible. That’s why I made the starites - they’re a macguffin - you just know you want to get them. Then think, "OK, what do I need to do to get that?"

Just one of the many ways to help a lumberjack in Scribblenauts

TGR: Did the thought ever cross your mind to do a very silly Katamari-esque story?

Slaczka: There was! That’s why it’s actually called Scribblenauts. Originally [Maxwell] was an astronaut and he would go around these different planets and help them by scribbling on this notepad. So we kept the name. So if you write ’Scribblenaut’ in the game, you’ll actually get the original Scribblenaut. He’s an astronaut dude who looks kinda like a robot, but we wanted a guy who looked more human, so we went with Maxwell.

Read the rest of the interview here at TGR.

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