Massive Black interview from making art to making games

GR: Are you still working out the story? Who is Mothhead?

CH: Well, he's just a moth, right? But he's more than that. When we spec'ed this out, we probably have 20-30 levels. We have a story from start to finish. And I can't divulge what the story is but you find out at the very last level. So you find out who this is, and there's a story and it's cool and it may not be what you expect, but in the end you're like, “I should've known”.

Mothhead's more about traversing underneath somebody's back yard and frogs are your mortal enemies or a kitten wants to eat you because you're a moth flapping around – anything. Even me, whenever I see a moth, I just want to grab it and throw it away from me! (laughs) It's something that lends itself to many different environments, and many different types of puzzles and it's something I've found that kids just love to pieces. I mean, they absolutely love it to death. I don't know though if that's the demographic. I mean, I like it.

GR: Well that's the question you know marketing people are going to ask – who is the audience for this game?

CH: Well if I have to say, I'd say the younger crowd, like, pre-teen. Like maybe 5 to 12.

GR: And you think Mothhead's anatomy will be an issue for parents?

CH: Probably an issue with parents, but you know what? If parents want to teach their kids about sexuality, what better way? Anyway, my five year old niece never even noticed. She calls the game “Mothfly” and she sees ladybugs, she sees glow worms, she sees butterflies, dragonflies, all these things that she loves, the big man waving at her. He's her friend automatically.

GR: So she didn't notice Mothhead's anatomical correctness and didn't get a creepy vibe?

CH: No! It's so strange. All the feedback we've gotten from adults is “creepy vibe, creepy vibe” but the couple kids who've seen it and played it absolutely love it. My niece's friends call her and ask “can we come over and play Mothfly?” So who knows? It's the craziest thing. So if this thing with a huge phallic penis bone becomes like, a stuffed pillow on kids' beds I will crack up so hard.

Anyway, the whole point of this whole thing is just to tell people “Look, we know that we're making a videogame, we know that we're making something where you sit in front of your computer and look at a screen but it's supposed to teach you that you need to unplug and get out of that room. You need to go outside. Kids don't go outside anymore. I feel it's our responsibility to tell them, “you need to go outside.” Maybe they won't see that message in our game but maybe they will. I guarantee you if they're in a place that has a jungle and they see one of the insects they saw (in the game), they're gonna be like “ladybug, dragonfly”.

GR: In collaborating with Unity, are they helping you with the tech side of things?

CH: Yes.

GR: They're doing strictly mechanical things, like hooking things up? Are you designing the experiential side of the game yourselves?

CH: We designed everything ourselves. We never thought we were level designers, we always thought we would need a level designer but we could never afford to hire someone just to do level design. Plus, we play games all the time. The guys at work are really cued in to pop culture, they really know what kids like, teenagers, young adults.

GR: You talk like you're 90.

CH: Hey, I got the salt and pepper going on here. (laughs) We put Massive Black together when I was 30 so I wasn't like, a spring chicken by any means.

Above: Concept art for Dragon Age Origins

GR: What are the objectives of a character like Mothhead? Is the game more about discovery and exploration and doing things in any order?

CH: It's probably going to be pretty linear. You have to meet certain people at certain times and stuff like that.

GR: So will the game be PC only as a free-to-play downloadable?

CH: Mac and PC and we are going to strive very hard to put it on iPad.

GR: Are you hoping from this you might get some credibility as a game developer?

CH: We just want to be able to finance it somehow. We don't care about being rich. We just want to pay the bills, I want to pay my guys, we just want to survive modestly and do what we love to do. That's why I say, if you don't like the game, that's cool. It's not about that. It's about us showing you that if you want to do something that you don't think is possible, you can.

GR: Well thanks Chris for meeting with us today. Good luck with Mothhead.

CH: No problem. Thanks!