Super Motherload is a 1 to 4-player couch co-op digging adventure akin to the classic Dig-Dug set on Mars developed by XGen Studios. We had a chat with them about the studio, the development and their new PS4 title! The game is released in North America right now (get it here) and will also be among the launch titles when the PlayStation 4 launches in Europe.
For PlayStation fans around the globe that might not be familiar with XGen Studios, can you tell us about your studio and what you’ve been working on previous to Super Motherload and how big your team is?
First of all, thanks for getting in touch — I’d be happy to shed what light I can on our past. Super Motherload has been our primary focus for the last 4 years, but prior to that we were heavily focused on WiiWare. In May of 2008, we launched Defend Your Castle for WiiWare and it ended up outselling Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles & Dr. Mario for the first 3 weeks, occupying the #1 chart position in the store. We were blown away; our team size is around 7 these days, and closer to 5 back then.
Super Motherload is a self published title, can you talk a bit about how you went about funding the project and when it comes to the PlayStation platforms, did you receive any help from Sony?
We’re entirely self-funded; I actually started the studio on a tiny credit card loan in 2003. We’ve been very lucky in that past successes have always funded our next endeavor, which has enabled us to turn down a number of VC & acquisition offers.
The story behind Super Motherload, written by Kurtis Wiebe from Image Comics, sounds very intriguing! Where is the game set and is finding the “Motherload” the motivation as a player working for Solarus Corporation?
The story is really fantastic; I’ll try to expand on that without providing any spoilers. Super Motherload is set on Mars in an alternate universe in the 1980’s, where Soviets & Americans work together to mine the red planet, filling the massive needs of industry back on Earth. It’s a tale of entrepreneurship, greed, and exploitation.
The near future.
The Solarus Corporation discovered an infinite source of rare and precious minerals
deep in the red crust. Resources that will end the energy crisis on Earth and fuel the
deep space expeditions planned as population swells beyond capacity.
Constructing magnificent surface bases, Solarus’ early mining endeavors resulted in
returns of wealth beyond measure. Delving deeper they installed new facilities and
recruited more adventurous technicians and operators seeking to expand their empire.
Then, one day, Mars went silent.
Cut off from their people, Solarus sent new recruits to continue operations and
restore communications. You are such a recruit and with Mars growing closer by
the hour, you sense that all is not right on the Red Planet.
Can you uncover the mysteries of Mars or will her secrets be your undoing?
Good luck, employee 1001.
The game will feature cross-buy on PS3 and PS4, will it also have cross-saves so you can take your progress across platforms?
Are there any other modes in the game apart from the main story mode?
The game features Normal & Hardcore modes, as well as a New Game + style save system with a design that encourage multiple play-throughs. Hardcore mode is pretty difficult even for the development team.
The game’s soundtrack is made by Eric Cheng and it sounds really great (get a taste of it here), can you talk about how that cooperation started and also what it was like working with Russian voice over actors.
Sure. Eric and I have been working together since 2009 or so — he actually did sound & music for a few of our past games — but this is the first time we’ve worked with voice actors or put such extensive effort into a soundtrack. The characters in the game were all voiced by local actors, none of who are Eastern European. I’m really happy with the end result, but I’ll leave it to you to decide whether they’re convincing or hilarious.
Can you tell us about the second-screen experience on the PS Vita? What will you be able to do with it and when can we expect it to be released?
The second-screen experience is designed for up to 4 Co-Pilots to step into the cockpit and assist their DualShock 4 counter-parts in achieving optimal efficiency. Co-Pilots can craft bombs, smelt alloys, repair damage, allocate power & save pilots from death in event of an emergency. We’re excited about the potential for the Co-Pilot application to allow a total of 8 people to play at once; it should arrive for Vita early next year.
Super Motherload will feature 4 player couch co-op. Was online co-op ever considered and might it be implemented in a future patch?
We’ve had a few requests, but have no concrete plans at this time.
Can you customize or upgrade your drilling pod, your main mode of transportation in the game?
Absolutely! This is what Super Motherload is all about; collecting ever-more valuable minerals to upgrade and enhance your digging machine. Initial characters have a total of 55 upgrades, while unlockable characters have more. There are a number of Special Abilities to purchase as well, with random availability.
For somebody who have played countless hours of Digger growing up, this game seems to scratch that very itch. What are some inspirational sources that came up when you first prototyped the original PC game back in 2004?
I’ve never played Digger, but I will admit that I wasted a lot of my childhood on Dig-Dug. I don’t want to over-emphasize the similarities, though; it really ends with digging. There influence of horror sci-fi and B-movies is hard to miss, and the addition of an economy, re-enforcing feedback loop and RPG-style mechanics is influenced by any number of incredible games past.
Did you play test the game and if so what were some of the things you learned during this process?
We did pretty extensive play-testing. It allowed us to hone the mechanics & game balance and just generally make the game more fun. One example is re-spawning; we noted that players would lose interest and walk away from the game if they had to wait for other players to return to base to respawn; we changed it to a 5-second cooldown.
Have you developed a propitiatory engine for Super Motherload or are you using a third party game engine? Can you elaborate on some of the pros and cons with this decision?
We’re using Sony’s PhyreEngine (which is the same engine used by Journey). One advantages is that it’s free, while the primary disadvantage is that it’s not as feature-rich as something like Unreal. Sony’s PhyreEngine team has proven quite responsive to any questions and demonstrated a pretty keen interest in getting us what we need.
For everybody who wants to stay updated with XGen Studios and Super Motherload where can they find you?