Some games come along and peak your interest, others hold your interest to ransom and refuse to yield until you finally have them within your grasp; For me Q.U.B.E. is the latter. Unable to contain my excitement any more I began desperately shouting questions from nearby rooftops to try and alleviate my anticipation, and luckily for me moments before the police got involved Jonathan from Toxic Games (the studio behind the upcoming puzzler) answered my pathetic pleas. The resulting act of pity can be seen below:
Finners: For those unaware of your forthcoming game could you explain a little bit about what Q.U.B.E. is?
Jonathan: Before we start I’d just like to thank you for your interest in Q.U.B.E. and everybody that is eagerly awaiting it’s release on 16th December 2011. OK so Q.U.B.E. is a first person puzzler that is set in a mysterious environment made entirely of cubes, the player must traverse their way through the cubic world and solve challenging puzzles set out for them. The player is equipped with a pair of special gloves that enable them to manipulate coloured cubes in order to solve these puzzles. The player is dropped straight into the world with little instruction and simply needs to figure their way out.
F: What started as a university project is fast approaching a full release, what are the main changes that have been made to the game, and how did the idea develop in the first place?
J: It’s quite funny as to how we came about Q.U.B.E. – Dan, Dave and Myself came together at the last minute in university when we were supposed to have a game concept ready to begin our final year projects – but we didn’t have a concept. At the last minute the best we could come up with were generic first person shooters or third person stealth games. I showed the guys a short video that I viewed a while back where the environment was made entirely from cubes (funny enough) – this is where we originally found our inspiration for Q.U.B.E.’s design. So we had the simplistic design sorted, all we needed was to plan out the mechanics of the game.
F: Q.U.B.E. seems instantly reminiscent of Portal. Is this an apt comparison, and in what ways does it distinguish itself?
J: Well, I bet you wouldn’t be surprised by how many people have said that it ‘looks’ like or reminds them of Portal, and I believe this is because Portal was the pioneer of first person puzzle games but we haven’t really seen any others to follow. Q.U.B.E. has it’s own qualities, if you play Q.U.B.E. you find that it is different by design and different in how you can interact with the world.
F: In terms of puzzle design did you start with a finite set of different blocks and develop the puzzles around them, or were some blocks added later on in development to allow certain puzzles to be realised?
J: Due to being able to prototype an idea very quickly we felt the need to create cubes with other functions to enhance the puzzles. Originally we started with just the Red, Blue and Yellow cubes that the player was able to manipulate, but then as development progressed we started running out of ideas due to the limitations of just three cube types so we added a green cube which is the physics cube that can be manipulated by other cubes, then later we added other manipulator cubes such as the rotation cube which are able to rotate entire sections of a puzzle, and the magnetic cube which, well you get the idea.
F: The narrative element of the game seems purposefully sparse, will players be given a clear narrative focus, or will a lot be left to their interpretation of events?
J: We had so many ideas for a storyline in the game that eventually we felt there was no real need for a huge narrative with multiple characters as it usually complicates things and upsets people if done poorly, but instead of disappointing people with no story we decided to have a loose narrative in the background so that the player can let their imagination take over. Along with the challenging puzzles, there are elements of a smoothly blended in story drawn to the player by their surroundings which makes a great gameplay experience.
F: Aesthetically the game is very minimalist, with an almost sterile, scientific feel. How did you decide upon this design, and in what ways do you feel it facilitates the experience?
J: At first the player is drawn to the very clean and simplistic feel of the game due to the bright and colourful contrast it produces, this helps it being a puzzle game. We wanted to keep the environment simple so the player doesn’t become distracted from the focus of their objective – solving puzzles. After the player is sucked in by the attractive aesthetic we were then able to experiment with the design a little more and loosen the ‘minimalist’ grip of the sterile environment which the player witnesses further into the game. Having this change of scenery later in the game really helps keep the players immersed by turning their interest into questions but not taking focus away from the puzzles.
F: The game was created using UDK (Unreal Development Kit) as none of you are programmers, were there any limitations you faced with this approach, and might Toxic Games be acquiring a programmer in the future?
J:Well we have actually required to use a programmer for some functions in the game, such as the save system which needs to be perfect, and Steam integration – but that’s it. Everything else in the game, level wise, puzzle wise and mechanic wise has been made by ourselves and our outsourcers in the UDK without programming. The programmers that we have worked with have been a great help in getting these issues sorted, so I believe we will use programmers in the future.
F: You are the first ‘Indie Fund’ project to be released, how did you get involved with them, and what has the development process been like?
J: We found Indie Fund thanks to one of our lecturers in university that was pointing out different funding methods for indies and small company start-ups, so we did research on most of the funding methods and decided to sign up for indie fund. They said that one of the reasons why they accepted our application was due to having a working demo with the main mechanics were already figured out, plus they thought that it had potential. Indie Fund have been great through the entire development, at first asking us for a build every month to check that we were making progress, then about half way through development they became more relaxed about it and gave us critical feedback all the way through, but allowing us to keep our creative freedom throughout. Overall this process with indie fund has been a great experience, at first we were pretty intimidated by them as these guys are renown in the industry but as time went by they just seemed like friends we can chat to, and we do.
F: It is somewhat of a Just Press Start staple to ask what games developers are playing in their downtime. So what is currently occupying your time, and are there any games on the horizon that you are really looking forward to?
J: At the moment I’m playing a lot of Battlefield 3 in my spare time, along with Limbo – as I haven’t had time to complete it yet but it’s such a great game!
I would personally like to thank Jonathan for his time and implore you all to check out Q.U.B.E. The Indie Funds first offering promises to be Quietly Understated and Brilliantly Entertaining.