Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Chris Totten, Founder, Pie for Breakfast Studios about his upcoming game, Kudzu, which appears to be a treat for anyone looking for something new and special on the original Game Boy.
Kudzu is a non-linear adventure game about a man trying to save his mentor from a world-eating plant. From the developer of Little Nemo.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special for people that adore the Game Boy?
Totten: My goal is not just to recreate your childhood with something that too-closely resembles the landmark games on Game Boy (though there are some obvious and not-as-obvious callbacks in there for fans), but to create something new that can stand as a new Game Boy experience. You might expect it to be a lot like Zelda, but it hits you with elements of Metroid. It has a retro feel, but features gameplay ideas that have come in the decades since Game Boy was available in stores (things like reducing backtracking and a Souls-like health potion system.) It’s a mix of old and new that I hope people enjoy.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were some of the advantages of developing on the Game Boy?
Totten: For sure the biggest was scope. I’ve had the concept for Kudzu on my mind for over 10 years, but to do it as a full modern indie game would be a massive project. GB Studio (the engine that I’m building it in) forces you into some pretty heavy design constraints that focus your production in really greate ways. Once I figured out that I could get the basic ideas working on the console, those constraints really streamlined the process. That I couldn’t make any one single feature too big gave me the time and bandwidth to make lots of features.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Super nerdy question- is/will the game be compatible on the GBA, Game Boy Color; Game Boy Player or Super Game Boy?
Totten: Of course! As a real Game Boy game, it will be compatible with everything you can play physical Game Boy cartridges on. I’ve tested it on all of these myself on my original hardware!
Old School Gamer Magazine: Were you a Game Boy fan as a kid? How has the system influenced you?
Totten: Absolutely – from the time that my parents surprised me with a Game Boy before we took a long road trip when I was about 7 or so. It’s definitely one of the consoles that my friends and I played the most growing up well into the early 2000’s, and it was a mainstay at all my family’s gatherings.
With regards to influence, a lot of those early games had to do more with less, and you see designers like Takashi Tezuka (Director of Link’s Awakening) taking mechanics and seeing how much they could squeeze out of them, how many versions of a puzzle or challenge they could get. I think this is a good game design skill overall (you see it in a lot of modern games too), so it’s something that I try to do in all of my games.
Old School Gamer Magazine: You teach game design- what part of this game are you most proud of?
Totten: In terms of teaching – I’m really excited to bring something to market that I can point at and tell my students, “See? You can do this too. It doesn’t have to be a big 3D AAA-looking thing. Having your name on a game doesn’t only mean working at a big studio.” Don’t get me wrong – we have students who get “the big job” out of school in our program and there are lots of amazing 3D indie games, but the industry has a hard time sustaining graduates from all the game design schools out there. Showing students that there are other equally valid pathways in the games field is super important.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this Kickstarter special?
Totten: I’ve been told I write really good Kickstarter updates that people actually like reading 😛
Seriously though, I think a lot of Kickstarter content is just updates on the campaign, and we certainly do that so you know we’re on top of things, but I’ve already prepped some more general development articles on how the game was made, the inspirations, and the story behind it (hint: it involves IKEA lunch with my wife and my worst design presentation ever – you’ll have to head to the campaign update section to read more!)
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite reward on the KS?
Totten: I mean…I have to say that the game is right – it’s the thing I most directly worked on! Beyond that, I’m blown away with some of the stuff that the folks at Mega Cat Studios put together – one of the rewards is a real machete! That’s just super cool and amazing to me.
Another highlight though is definitely the “have a goat named after you” reward. In the game there are 20 goats hidden throughout the level that belong to a llama named Tina. Goats are known to be excellent at clearing kudzu, so I thought that having a collection quest with them would be fun – the more goats there are, the more they can clear out Tina’s field. There are items under there that Tina lets you keep that can really power the player character up – so it’s very much worth the player’s time. Also, you can pet the goats when they return to Tina!
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Totten: Game development is a long and arduous process, so it’s extremely humbling to have this game in full production and see the positive reactions that it’s gotten. I’m hoping that the game gives folks something to enjoy, brings back some memories, and hopefully makes new ones!