Developer Interview: Clever Beans on ‘When Vikings Attack’
After playing When Vikings Attack for so long my Vita battery died, I decided to find out more about this game I love. So with the power of PS Nation behind me, I contacted Clever Beans the genius who made When Vikings Attack and asked them to answer a few questions.
PS Nation: I would just like to start off this interview by asking you to introduce yourselves and tell us, who came up with the name Clever Beans?
Martin: Clever Beans was set up by me, Martin Turton, and fellow programmer Andrew Newton. We came up with the Vikings concept, then put together a team made up of four or five other developers who we had worked with in the past. Andrew is away on a well-earned holiday at the moment, so I’ll be answering your questions.
To be honest, I can’t remember who came up with the name… I think coming up with a company name that hadn’t already been used was actually harder than coming up with the game! It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a bit nonsensical really. Who ever heard of clever beans? It’s just silly and fun.
PSN: You have both been credited with working on some big name games in the past before starting Clever Beans. Which was your favorite?
Martin: Personally, I think Vikings was the most enjoyable so far, despite all the long hours and hard work, because we had invested more of ourselves into it, I suppose. It’s the first game that we had designed, programmed, and produced, by ourselves. Wipeout Pure (PSP) was also pretty enjoyable to work on, for me, in an entirely different way – it was just a very easy project to work on, and it also turned out pretty well and was well received.
PSN: What made you want to stop working for the “big studio” developers?
Martin: We had both spent a few years working at a medium sized studio (owned by a big publisher) that hadn’t released a game in about three years. Project after project was cancelled due to management decisions taken on another continent. Also, we found the idea of doing shorter, smaller projects more interesting. So that’s why we left to set up Clever Beans.
PSN: I love When Vikings Attack and think it’s a very fun and entertaining experience. It’s unlike anything I’ve played before, how did you come up with it?
Martin: Thanks! The game started out as a “100 person beat-em-up”. In an early version, you could punch and use a sort of baseball bat. But we do strive to do something a bit different, and that’s why we keep iterating on a design, focusing on the bits that seem to be good fun, even if they seem strange initially. In this case, throwing stuff, flattening enemies, and catching, seemed to be good fun; the “mob” element emerged out of our attempts to bring some AI control to your companions. The story “skin” of Vikings came much later.
PSN: I think I prefer the Vita version, was it planned from the beginning to be on Vita & PS3 and how hard was it to make it for the handheld system?
Martin: We didn’t plan this to start with because the Vita wasn’t even available when we were coming up with the game idea. But when we spoke to Sony about getting them to publish the game on PS3, they suggested that this game would be great on their new handheld console as well. Once we got hold of one and had a play with it, we had to agree with them!
It wasn’t that difficult; this wasn’t a port, it was written from scratch for both platforms at the same time, so we didn’t run into too many technical difficulties.
PSN: Playing most games using the same user ID (one on PS3, the other on Vita) is a pain and normally almost impossible. But in When Vikings Attack it so easy to connect to both the PS3 and Vita games. Was that hard to get right?
Martin: To be honest this wasn’t that difficult. The PSN servers don’t let you play PS3 vs PS3 using the same user ID (for obvious reasons), but they do relax this restriction for Vita/PS3 cross-buy games. The most difficult part was getting things like matching and invites to work across the two systems.
PSN: The game looks brilliant on both systems and I love the art style. Who’s idea was that?
Martin: This was the work of the very talented Colin Fawcett. We needed to come up with something that would work on both a big and a small screen. We think he did a great job.
PSN: I enjoy the small Public Announcement videos in the game, who came up with those?
Martin: These were inspired by a series of British cold-war public information films from the 70s, called Protect and Survive. They were never actually shown on TV but you can find them on YouTube. They’re pretty terrifying but strangely compelling to watch. We just replaced the threat of nuclear war with one of idiotic Vikings.
PSN: You have a new DLC pack out called When Vikings Relax (£3.19/€3.99/$3.99) in the PlayStation Store, what’s in that?
Martin: When we were making the original game, there were loads of ideas for multiplayer “Vs” arenas that just didn’t fit in, so we decided to build these into some DLC. The idea is that the war is over, and the Vikings are just kicking back and relaxing… the arenas are set in areas like a crazy golf course, a go-kart track, a giant pinball table, a collapsing chess-board… pretty bonkers stuff, with lots of new features like warp gates, trap doors, and so on. There are 10 of these new arenas, plus a “solo survival” mode to be played alone… beat this and you can unlock 10 new “ultimate warrior” costumes. There are also some new trophies in there.
PSN: Any ideas of new game or maybe a sequel, When Martians Attack!*?
*You can have that name & idea if I can get a mention in the credits. lol
Martin: We’re putting together some ideas for our next game at the moment. It’s early days so we can’t say a lot about it at the moment, I’m afraid.
PSN: What games have you been playing lately?
Martin: While we were making Vikings we were working so hard that we didn’t really have a lot of time to get into any big console games. We’ve probably been dipping more into some smaller indie games – things like Thirty Flights of Loving, Proteus, Super Hexagon. Not PlayStation I know, but there’s a lot of innovation in PC indie games, and we try to bring a bit of this back to the console world. I would say that with Vikings we were probably much more influenced by old multiplayer arcade/console games than by anything from the last five or ten years, though.
PSN: Any Easter eggs hidden in the game?
Martin: There’s a few little personal things that still raise a smile in the office – stuff on signposts, that sort of thing. Nothing that would make that much sense to anyone else.
PSN: Now I have some awesome PS Nation community questions:
Carlo Romanillos from our facebook group asks: Do they know if this would ever be part of the In Game Content for PS+?
Martin: It’s a good question, but a pretty boring answer I’m afraid; this is entirely up to Sony. There are no plans for this at the moment, as far as we know.
Keith Patrick Dunn also from our facebook group asks two questions: How about a creation tool to make our own levels so we can throw some truly weird things!
Martin: That would be great, I love the idea of level creation tools to get the community involved and seeing what crazy stuff they build. It’s probably not going to happen with Vikings, I’m afraid, but maybe we will do a game like this one day!
& question two from Keith is: Or maybe build a level based on, for instance, I Love Lucy classic episodes! Or Doctor Who! Or Red Dwarf!!! *brain has exploded*
Martin: That’s an absolutely bonkers suggestion. I think maybe we should give this guy a job!
Pete Atkinson who’s twitter name is @acho13 asks: Any chance of some of the characters having a Nottingham accent “eh up me duck” in upcoming DLC?
Martin: Ha, we don’t normally do requests but if we do another update, it might happen. The original game contained various British dialects including male and female versions of geordie, cockney, scot, scouse, yorkshireman, and “posh” – we also had some brummies but I’m not sure if they made it in or not in the end – all provided by our talented VO artists, Matt and Gemma. One review from South American said that the language was all “nonsense talk” – I don’t think they understood a word of it. The game is now out in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, South America, and most of Europe, so it’s nice that there are some local British dialects out there, even if nobody can make head nor tail of them!
PSN: Thank you for your time and I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys do next. Don’t forget to check out the review for When Vikings attack available on the PlayStation Network for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.
Martin: Thanks to you and your readers and listeners at PSNation, and your support!