Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso
 
Interview with Steve Ince  
by Danyboy & Trudysgarden
November 14, 2006

The Story: 

A hugely fun arcade adventure, based upon the online comic strip, Mr. Smoozles, it boasts a cast of 50 characters spread through 60 exciting and varied locations and has an original soundtrack by talented young composer, Josh Winiberg. With an addictive mix of gameplay and humour, this game is a delight for gamers of all ages and tastes. 

The Goragons have invaded the Earth, zapped Mr. Smoozles with their mind ray and are trying to distort the whole fabric of reality.  Play as Ed as he strives to avoid the attacking Mr. Smoozles, dodges many other dangers, solves numerous puzzles and interacts with a host of enchanting characters 

Can Ed stop the Goragons' plans, save his friends, restore Mr. Smoozles' mind and return the world to normal at the same time as ensuring his valuable collection of Geeks Monthly comes to no harm?  Only with your help he can! 

Introduction: 

Juniper Games was founded by Steve Ince, a writer, designer and artist with nearly fourteen years of game development experience. 

Having worked on a number of quality, ground-breaking titles (Beneath a Steel Sky, the Broken Sword trilogy, In Cold Blood, among others), Steve uses every bit of his extensive knowledge and experience in the creation and development of first class games.  His work as writer and lead designer on Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon earned nominations for the IGDA Excellence in Writing Award and for three BAFTA awards.  It was awarded Game of the Year in the UK national newspaper, The Independent. 

C - I've played the demo and really had a blast with it.  It's definitely something different. I keep trying to categorize it somehow - platform, arcade, puzzle, adventure - but it has elements of all of these.  If you had to lump it into a genre where would you put it? 

From shortly after I started developing the game (about a year ago) Iíve thought of it as an arcade adventure, with the emphasis being on adventure. 

C - What audience did you intend to aim it at?  Has it slipped over the edge and reached any player groups that you didn't expect? 

I know that a lot of adventure players also play other genres, so I was aiming at those who were willing to play an adventure that looked to try something a little different.  I was surprised to find that a number of people that donít normally play adventures (particularly women) have played the game and loved it, wanting to know when Iíll create more.  I was also particularly pleased that the guys over at Game Tunnel liked the game as theyíre not specifically adventure gamers. 

D- Many adventure gamers might think that the game isn't among the ones they would like to play, what can you say that will make them change their minds? 

If you want a game thatís fun, but which also is much deeper than you might at first think, then you should really give this game a go.  If youíre worried about the keyboard interface, Iíve specifically put in difficulty levels to help you with this. 

D- I read very little about the story, can you give us some details? 

The story was initially going to be much more superficial than it ended up being.  Ed and his friends are attacked by the Goragons, who are looking to establish their base on Earth to conquer the galaxy.  Mr. Smoozles is sent crazy by the Goragonsí mind ray and most of the others are captured.  Itís down to Ed to free everyone, return Mr. Smoozlesí mind back to normal and to stop the Goragons.  But all is not as straightforward as it seems and there are a number of sub-plots that add to the richness of whatís going on. 

The story and gameplay have been designed and developed together so they intertwine with one another very strongly. 

D- Who is Ed? 

Ed is a blue cat and a friend of Mr. Smoozles, though you wouldnít think so the way that Mr. Smoozles is trying to kill him.  Heís a bit of a geek (in a nice way, of course) and even subscribes to Geeks Monthly. 

D- Who are the other characters that we will encounter during our journey? 

Watford, a monkey with a large inheritance.  Pepper, another cat, whose love of shopping knows no bounds. Finny, a dog who is in love with Mr. Smoozles, even though he cannot stand her. 

Grik and Zoran, two aliens and representatives of the Galactic Council.  Ethel and her friends, a number of sheep. 

Shaun the angler, who appears to have the patience of a saint. 
 
Various Goragons, who donít seem to have any names.  Magenta, a goth panda who sings in the Corset Makers Working Menís Club (Affiliated). 

And plenty more who add to the richness of the game. 


D- In the game, will we have funny situations to deal with? 

The whole game is a funny situation.  There are plenty of instances of humorous dialogue and crazy situations that resolve themselves in a funny way. 

D- Are the puzzles similar to the ones we're usually able to see in an adventure game?  What kind of puzzles are they? 

There are dialogue puzzles, inventory puzzles and the kind where a character will only divulge information when you obtain something for them.  There are also puzzles that involve collecting items until you have the correct amount to allow you to do something with a piece of equipment. 

C - The puzzles in the demo are fun.  They were hard enough to make me think but still good for a 'duh' moment and ultimate success.  Huzzah for that!  Are the rest of the puzzles consistent with that trend? 

Yes, definitely, though the complexity increases, not in the sense of each individual puzzle, but the way they are combined.  The real strength is in how Iíve layered the puzzles and intertwined them with one another to give more depth. 

D- What about the music?  What should we expect to hear? 

The music is superb.  It was all composed by Josh Winiberg whoís only nineteen, but is already a superb talent.  The music varies from quite grand pieces to silly and fun tunes, from ones that have an almost orchestral feel to those that have a lounge jazz or ragtime sound to them. 

D- Will the action sequences be difficult to deal with for someone who's playing that kind of game for the first time? 

No, because such a player can put the game on easy and it is very forgiving.  Even though you still feel under pressure, itís relatively easy to keep out of the way of Mr. Smoozlesí gun.  Many locations exist, too, in which Mr. Smoozles makes no appearance to give a variety of pace and to offer places where the player has the time to stop and think if necessary. 

D- How are we going to be able to control the character? Will we be able to play with a gamepad? 

The game is controlled through the keyboard.  There is no specific gamepad support, but itís possible with some gamepads to map the keyboard controls to the gamepad buttons through Windows XP.  The gamepad then effectively becomes a cut down version of the keyboard. 

C - How big was the team that worked on Mr. Smoozles and how long did it take to complete? 

Basically, I did the writing, design, art and implementation and Josh did the music.  Tony Warriner, a colleague and friend from my time at Revolution, helped me with a few little things, such as the installer.  I was also very fortunate to have found an excellent group of testers who not only found a lot of bugs, but also gave me some excellent feedback. 

C - What was the toughest hurdle in the development and production of the game? 

The biggest hurdle has been getting people to buy it.  This is partly down to the long loading time of the game, which has been the cause of a number of complaints. 

D - Will you eventually make Mr. Smoozles available for Mac computers? 

Unfortunately, thatís not an option. 

D- What do you hope the reaction of the player will be after finishing the game? 

I hope that theyíll feel that it was a fun game to play.  Many of the people who have finished it have told me that they loved it, so I must have done something right. 

C - How are Ed and Mr. Smoozles handling their new celebrity status?  Is there any chance for me to get Ed's autograph? 

Heís started charging.  Iíve suggested that he be reasonable and do it for free but he says he needs the money to buy all the new consoles that are coming out.  I told you he was a geek. 

D- The game has been available for a while now, are you happy with the feedback you are receiving? 

More than happy.  Not only have individuals let me know how much theyíve enjoyed it, but the reviews have been better than I could have hoped for. 

C - Should we look forward to any further games with this crew?  Maybe a spinoff game?  Maybe give one of the character actors a chance at fame? 

Not in the near future. Iím too busy with other projects at the moment. 

D- Can we expect another adventure game from you in the near future? 

Iím currently writing and designing a point-and-click adventure for another company, which is going very well. 

C - Where can we order the game and how much does it cost?  Do we need a broadband connection to get the game or is the dialup download reasonable?  What OS are supported? 

You can order the game through my website Juniper Games, through the 720 Games website, or through Manifesto Games.  It costs 19.99 USD - 16.99 Euro - 11.49 GBP.  Only Windows 2000/ME/XP are supported. 

Official Website:
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso 

Thank you Steve for the time you took to answer our questions about your game Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso. Good luck with the game. 

Daniel (aka danyboy) & Carolyn (aka trudysgarden)

A special thank you to Carolyn who helped me a lot, her knowledge of the genre was really appreciated. Thanks to a friend of mine and all of the Mystery Manor team.

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