Ian Stocker Talks of Goats, Mice and Love. Okay, Maybe Not Love.

Ian Stocker, the sole employee of Magical Time Bean (Soulcaster, Soulcaster II), has been diligently working on a new game for a while now. And indeed, it’s looking to be a great puzzle-platformer. However, not content with a mere exclusive video preview, I’ve also managed to corner and brow-beat him into an interview. Read on to learn more about the upcoming Xbox Live indie game, Escape Goat.

NOTE: There wasn’t actually any cornering, nor brow-beating. Ian was nice enough to provide the clip and his time of his own free will and I greatly appreciate it.

FI- What got you into/interested in making games?

MTB- There was a Commodore 64 game called “Adventure Construction Set” that I played endlessly as a kid.  You could use it to make simple RPG’s, and even allowed graphics editing–really primitive 4-color tiles. This was probably the beginning of it all.

FI- How long have you been making games for?

MTB- I first started professionally around 2002, though I had lots of amateur project experience before that.  The bulk of my resume is as a composer and sound designer for handheld games, and this indie thing is a new chapter for me.

FI – How would you describe Escape Goat as a game?

MTB – It’s a puzzle platformer.  You use the environment and your mouse friend to solve puzzles.  What makes this game special is the physics and world plasticity.  A room can take on a few different shapes as walls move and blocks are rearranged.  Some of the levels are like being trapped in machinery.

FI – Soulcaster is a great series. Was there anything you learned from making those games that helped you with Escape Goat?

MTB – Actually, I learned more making this game than in the other two games. Soulcaster came very naturally because I have a lot of history with tower defense and dungeon crawling RPG’s.  Puzzle platformers, on the other hand, are not something I have a lot of experience with.  The best lesson I took from my first games was to try to prototype as early as possible.  Focus on the core mechanics like running and jumping, and get this just right before going much further.  Leave level design until last, until after your mechanics are nailed down. And finally, make twice as many levels as you’ll need, so you can throw out the worst ones.

FI – I love the retro-inspired artwork and music. Was that all done in-house?

MTB – Yeah, I’m still a one-man operation.  Retro graphics are great because they don’t take too long for me to make.  And retro music is something I’ve always loved.

FI – About how many levels are you expecting to have in the finished version?

MTB – I think the current build has 50-60 rooms in it, so it should be around that number.

FI – I also noticed there’s going to be a level editor. Will user-created levels be share-able over Live?

MTB – Not in the release version.  In the interest of just getting this game live, as a fun single-player experience with a “for fun” level editor built in, I’ve gotta hold off on any online features.  Post-launch, I’ll be looking into this, and if it’s doable I might be able to patch that in.  I can’t really promise it just yet though.

FI – Okay, I have to know, what’s up with the mouse?

MTB – The mouse serves as a sidekick to the goat, and can be sent into parts of the room the goat can’t reach.  He’s a lot smaller so he can slip into tiny crawlspaces, or underneath saw blades.  His wall crawling ability also lets him reach high places to flip switches, distract Reapers, and stuff like that.  As you can see in the video, you can get a temporary powerup to swap places with him on the screen, which is used to overcome various obstacles.  I think this is a somewhat new mechanic, and I can’t think of another game that does something quite like this.

FI – Was there anything you’d hoped to do in Escape Goat (i.e. gameplay features or something) that you just couldn’t manage to implement? And if so, sequel perhaps?

MTB – Absolutely, there were lots of features I had to cut in order to release the game sometime this year.  A couple months back, I had enough features for two games at least, and it was turning into a Frankenstein project without clear direction.  If you look at the early prototype videos on YouTube, you can see that it started with an exploration mechanic, moving laterally within a larger map.  I decided to save exploration for another day and focus on the puzzles for this title.  The good news is that with the engine I built, it opens up possibilities for lots of other games.

FI – When would you estimate Escape Goat will be available?

MTB – My current goal is to have it out in the first half of October.  It’s very, very close to being finished, but it has to be tortured a bit to make sure it can’t crash.  I’m also testing it a bit more to make sure the difficulty curve is right where I want it.

FI – I hate to ask, but you KNOW there are going to be people who think this is important: How much will it cost?

MTB – It will be 240 Microsoft points.

FI – Any other projects you have in the works or in mind that you’ll be jumping on once Escape Goat releases?

MTB – Always!  The next thing is to get Soulcaster I & II working on PC. After that, there’s Soulcaster III, perhaps a level pack for Escape Goat, and I’ve always got some random ideas that need prototyping.

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One response to “Ian Stocker Talks of Goats, Mice and Love. Okay, Maybe Not Love.

  1. Pingback: Progress | MagicalTimeBean

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