DrinkBox Studios Severed Interview – Post Launch Support, Vita Strengths, and VR

DrinkBox Studios, probably most well known for Guacamelee!, released their long awaited Vita exclusive, Severed, this week. So far the game is receiving critical acclaim from many outlets including ourselves, and although I didn’t do a formal review of it myself, I have to say that it’s one of the titles that best implements the Vita’s unique features to its complete benefit, subsequently making it one of the best games on the platform. 

Amid the chaos of release day earlier this week, we caught up with Chris McQuinn from DrinkBox to ask him a few questions about Severed, Vita owners, and the future of DrinkBox games. 

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PSLS: In one word, describe the PlayStation Vita audience.

Chris McQuinn: Hardcore.

PSLS: What are the Vita’s greatest strengths from a developer’s perspective?

Chris: The combination of dual thumbsticks, d-pad, and face buttons on a handheld is really nice since you have so many options to work with. In addition, the device is powerful enough that we rarely have much in the way of performance problems – then again we’re not making complicated 3D scenes – but still.

PSLS: Have you considered bringing additional content to Severed post launch?

Chris: We chat about that idea and for us it’s usually about what makes sense – some games are more of a natural fit for DLC then others. There is no need to try and force DLC when it doesn’t make the play experience better.

PSLS: Do you plan on bringing the game to consoles, tablets or smartphones?

Chris: Again – this will probably depend on initial reception of the game where we’ll see if there is a demand for it.

PSLS: What has Sony’s support been like during the development process?

Chris: Great! Truth be told they let us go about our merry way. That said, they’re always pumped to chat with us and are really encouraging when it comes to telling people about Severed.

PSLS: At any point did you regret developing exclusively for Vita, and was there ever a moment you just thought of moving on to the next thing?

Chris: No, not for the Vita specifically. As a developer there are moments where you get a little lost in the trees, and say to yourself “Oh no, this idea is terrible, what have I done”, but then over time the game starts to come together.

PSLS: Severed has quite a dark narrative, with some shocking visuals despite its bright art style. What inspired such a dark direction?

Chris: Guacamelee! (our previous game) was pretty goofy and lighthearted, so there was a natural inclination at the studio to try something different. Exploring different directions teaches you a lot more about making games.

PSLS: It feels like Severed centers around coping with loss, and that there are much deeper meanings behind the title than just using your finger to slash at monsters. Without getting too spoilery for those who haven’t finished it, what do you hope players get from Severed by the time the credits roll?

Chris: We hope they get a great experience 🙂 While there is an underlying theme of loss in Severed (good eye), it is left fairly open ended to allow people to draw their own conclusions. For us it feels more natural to not bang players over the head with a “this is how you should feel,” but rather to let them draw their own meaning.

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PSLS: The backtracking of Severed lends itself to comparisons to classics like Castlevania Symphony of the Night. Did games like this inspire the exploration, hidden secrets and map completion objectives?

Chris: Well, if you’ve played Guacamelee! then you know that we love backtracking. Games like CSofN and others demonstrate how to make backtracking fun – so it’s natural to be inspired by these type of games.

PSLS: Did you initially set out with a female protagonist in mind or did that develop later?

Chris: There was no agenda here – simply that was the character proposed from our Concept Lead. We didn’t really think much about it to be honest.

PSLS: Despite not having much to say, the main protagonist of Severed, Sasha, is quite strong. What led to the decision for her actions to speak louder than words?

Chris: A whole host of reasons – some being artistic, others being practical. Juan from Guacamelee! also wasn’t much of a talker. We enjoy having players fill in the dialogue for the protagonist themselves – this feels like a better fit for our games.

PSLS: I’ve been browsing the DrinkBox blog and noticed that you’ve taken quite a liking to VR. DrinkBox has a tendency to take advantage of the unique features of Sony platforms as more than just a gimmicky add on to games. That being said, one could draw some obvious conclusions…

Chris: Personally speaking I love VR and believe the technology is here to stay in the games sphere. I’m not sure if we’ll be looking at working with VR or not. We have a few other projects on the back burner so we might focus on those for the near future and maybe, just maybe get a few VR kits for the studio.

PSLS: Seriously though, what’s everyone at DrinkBox up to now that Severed is (quite literally) finally in consumers’ hands?

Chris: Figuring out what’s next because we’re not entirely ourselves! There will be post launch support for Severed – so the work there never really “stops”, but in the meantime we’re looking at some games that have been sitting on the shelf. Hopefully we’ll have more to say later this year. Right now we just need to take a deep breathe.

We want to thank Chris McQuinn for taking a moment to answer our questions and congratulate him and the entire DrinkBox team on the release of Severed. You can follow Chris on Twitter @kulz and DrinkBox @DrinkBoxStudios to keep up to do date on their future games.

Do you have anybody in the industry that you’d like to hear from? Let us know in the comments below or email me directly [email protected] with your requests and questions you want answered.