Mekazoo interview - Mark Naborczyk - Good Mood Creators
Mekazoo is a 2D platformer set in a 3D world which has been inspired by some legendary games from the 90s, but which offers a unique spin on the genre. You take control of a pair of animals, each with unique abilities. Only by making use of each animal's skill will you be able to navigate treacherous levels filled with spikes and enemies, whilst blasting through the environment at breakneck pace. The amount of polish evident in Mekazoo is testament to the high regard in which Good Mood Creators hold their influences, and we sat down with the product manager Mark Naborczyk at EGX 2016 to chat about its development.
The Digital Fix: Tell us about the influences for Mekazoo. There’s clearly a lot of 16-bit love here!
Mark Naborczyk: A lot of it! Pretty much everyone on our team grew up playing those 90s platformers. So the main influences are Sonic, Donkey Kong Country, Rayman - and a bit of Mega Man, in terms of defeating a boss and taking its power. We basically set out to create the platformer we always wished we had growing up. For example, the energy orbs are like the rings in Sonic. It’s a two-hit kill system - if you get hit, you need to collect ten to fifteen orbs in order to boost your shield again.
TDF: Given the pace at which you’re hurtling through the levels, would you describe Mekazoo as a speedrun platformer?
MN: Oh yes. Once you get the rhythm and flow of the game, you’ll get through the levels incredibly fast.
TDF: How many levels will be in the finished game?
MN: There are five different worlds, and each world consists of three main levels, a boss level, and a few challenge levels. So you’re looking at around thirty to thirty-five levels altogether.
TDF: Any achievements you can share with us?
MN: Sure! There will be speedruns, collecting all of the orbs and killing all of the enemies in a level - there’s a lot of variety. You’ll obtain medals which unlock gates throughout the game to open up further levels. There are also gems you can collect in each level which can be used in the in-game store, to change your skin and costume, and similar aesthetic things.
TDF: How will the co-op work?
MN: In local co-op, one person would control, for example, the frog. The other person might control the armadillo and you can grab control from each other at any point to change the character to the one you’re in charge of. You can either work in the purest definition of co-operation, or just piss each other off a lot! Depending on who you’re playing with, it could be fun, frustrating, or both. There’s a lot of yelling and screaming in the office when we play, but once you get the hang of it, it’s immensely satisfying to see two people click.
TDF: You’ve avoided crowdfunding for the game – was this a deliberate decision?
MN: We’re all internal investors - we wanted to create Mekazoo at our own pace and not feel rushed or pressured by anybody but ourselves in the office. So we had enough funds to carry on and complete this without the need for external funding.
TDF: Good Mood Creators is a close-knit dev team, and you’ve known each other for years. Does that bring any challenges to the development process?
MN: We all met at college, in the videogame design school in Washington. Mekazoo started off as a small class project, and after we graduated we decided to form our own company and start creating it. It’s been in development for about four years now. In terms of challenges, sometimes we need to bring in a number of playtesters and beta testers which has helped us a lot. Seeing the game through different eyes means there are different perceptions to what we’ve been living under for the past four years. We’re also a very vocal company in the office - we live in a small converted apartment with tables just stretched out around it. We work very closely, there’s a lot of bickering and the occasional scream - ultimately, it all helps the process!
TDF: You’re releasing on Wii U towards the end of its lifecycle – any plans to bring it to the NX?
MN: We’re releasing on PS4, Steam and Xbox (and other online platforms) simultaneously, but Nintendo is slightly different. We’re going to launch the Wii U version around Q1 next year which is later than we originally wanted, but certification issues and other roadblocks with the other platforms meant that we had to push back a bit. We do hope to release on NX at some point, but the delay to the Wii U means we will have to wait and see.
TDF: Do you have any DLC planned, and is this going to be free or chargeable? Can you provide any details?
MN: We do - it’ll be released throughout the year in 2017, but we haven’t figured out the details yet. There’ll be extra levels, some more animals and possibly some themed DLC packs - for example, for Halloween - but we haven’t decided if these will be chargeable yet. There are currently five animals: wallaby, armadillo, frog, panda, pelican - and we hope to add more.
TDF: So, one final, important question: is there a release date?
MN: We were aiming to launch a little earlier, but we’re hoping to have Mekazoo out by the end of October, possibly the start of November.
Mekazoo will be launched Q4 2016 on PS4, PC and Xbox, with the Wii U version scheduled for Q1 2017. Be sure to check out our upcoming review on The Digital Fix!