Kim Swift Quantum Conundrum Interview
While at PAX East, I got some face time with the very charming and creative, Kim Swift of Air Tight Games where we talked about the upcoming title: Quantum Conundrum. Kim is famous for her work on Left 4 Dead as well as being the Co-creator of Portal.
Lawrence Young: Well,
Kim Swift: Well? oh!
Kim: Hi, I’m Kim Swift, I am the Creative Director for Quantum Conundrum
Lawrence: Ok, that works!
[we both laugh]
Kim: I don’t know [chuckles]
Lawrence: Ok, so what inspired the game [Quantum Conundrum]?
Kim: I mean, there was no general inspiration. I kinda had the idea one day, pitched it to my team at Air Tight and we had a couple of other pitches we were thinking over, we voted and that was the one that came on top. It wasn’t very interesting
Lawrence: I don’t know? When I first saw it, I’m sure you have played Garry’s Mod…
Lawrence: It kinda reminded me of the physics mod, I know it wasn’t part of the full game, so I didn’t know if you ever messed around with that or not.
Kim: I’ve played around with Garry’s mod but I didn’t get to physics mod stuff.
Lawrence: It was just a thought, any rate… So you do a lot of puzzle type games, but they are different types of puzzle games
Kim: By a lot there is two, and the other two were zombie games
Lawrence: There was Narbacular Drop, right?
Kim: Narbacular Drop? I don’t know if you could count student projects.
Lawrence: [shrug] I played it
Kim: But yeah, you know, I like puzzle games. I want to play them, and they are fun and they are super fun to make. So I want to make more of them.
Lawrence: With Portal and Quantum Conundrum, there is a little more of an action focus which is real interesting.
Kim: It goes back and forth. There is definitely action elements. There is that dichotomy between having players pause for a second and really poking through something and being more cerebral and then going back and forth to a more action oriented platforming game. It makes for a good pacing, you bring the heart rate up the dial it down a little to think.
Lawrence: What goes into making the puzzles initially?
Kim: Well, first its components, So in our case we have the dimensions being different tools. Then we have gameplay elements as well that depending on what dimensions you’re in, react in different ways. Once you have your initial base set of stuff you are working with, going in and being like, “OK well, I don’t have a puzzle yet that uses reverse gravity and fluffy dimensions, let’s come up with one” and see what gameplay objects that work best with it. Then kinda piece it together, and all while also going through the process of teaching the player and what dimensions are and what gameplay objects are and reinforce that as well. It is actually from a high level fairly…
Lawrence: Compelling behavior
Lawrence: Gravity goes up and you can make things go further, now do it again without being told.
Lawrence: So what other types of games are you looking at diving into? You mentioned you made a couple of zombie games as well.
Kim: I worked on Left 4 Dead 1 and 2
Lawrence: I didn’t realize you worked on those too.
Kim: Yeah I did, I was a designer and environment artist.
Lawrence: oh, I liked the environment art in that game.
Kim: As far as different genres, I haven’t really thought about it. We are just got through the game, so I am kinda waiting for now. I kinda want to take a breath, simmer down, go on vacation.
Lawrence: That sounds like a good idea, I did notice… humor, did you do the writing on that?
Kim: Yep, I was the main writer for our game, i wrote over 800 lines for this title, It’s hard work, people are like “Oh writing a game is easy” no… it is not easy
Lawrence: So wait a minute, you have done environment art, In what way do you do the environment art?
Kim: You know, dressing up levels, texture art, lighting, pretty much the only thing I haven’t done is animation
Lawrence: You don’t really hear that often
Kim: I have ADD
Lawrence: You usually hear people like “I am a texture artist, I make textures I bring my camera and I snap pictures, make them seamless and put them in the game with a normal map”
Kim: I think especially when I have a creative director leadership role for the game, I feel it is my duty to know as much of how to make a game as possible because it will help you make the best decisions and help you balance out the team. When you are in charge you owe that to your team
Lawrence: You just don’t hear about a lot of jack of all trades in this industry. It like I’m a writer, I’m an animator, I’m a 3D modeler.
Kim: To be fair, I just love video games so the more aspects that I can learn about how to make a better video game… It’s great
Lawrence: To that last point, I hate rigging for animation
Kim: I have never really tried it, I’ve done a little bit of it but not anything… It is just something i really want to learn. I know how to model a little bit
Lawrence: What do you use for modeling, maya, max?
Lawrence: I am a Max guy myself
Kim: The company standard to use Maya
Lawrence: Is there anything that you what to… yes
[Interruption, I think it had something to do with a sandwich.. its all kinda muffled and drowned out by laughing]
PR guy: could you oh
Lawrence: I’m just going to be transcribe this, so it’s cool
Kim: no worries
Lawrence: I’m going to transcribe that part too
Kim: And use it? [laughing]
Lawrence: Oh you better believe it, people are going to be like “Why am I reading this?”
Lawrence: Is there anything you want to talk about the game, yourself?
Kim: Lets see, Oh! if you do buy the game.
Lawrence: I will…
Kim: When you go to the menu screen, If you notice on the top right hand corner of the menu there will be a button that says “Do a Thing.” Now, it won’t unlock for you right away, but I would compel to you figure out how to unlock that button.. because Do a Thing is awesome!
Lawrence: Do a Thing?
Kim: Do a Thing. So that’s all I’m going to say, leave a little mystery
Lawrence: I like that
Kim: Track that sucker down
Lawrence: Do a Thing.. ok
Lawrence: Well, I look forward to the game, Summertime I imagine,
Kim: Yeah, It will be on XBLA, PSN and Steam, downloadable title, on Summer 2012
Lawrence: About how long is it?
Kim: The game last 6 to 12 hours depending on your prowess, we have seen people run through it in like six and most people are in around 10 hours.
Lawrence: I’m sure when it comes out there will be some guy who will say “I’m going to power through this guy in 45 min”
Kim: There are always a Speed runners, we already have some pretty ridiculous speed runs internally
Lawrence: So, it sound of it about the same length as portal 1. why not a full release
Kim: Portal 1 was only in the 4 to 6 hours, this is a much bigger game.
Lawrence: That kinda only furthers my question, why not a full release
Kim: I don’t know, Downloadable is where it is at. From a developer standpoint it’s less risk and money. So to get a box title on a shelf requires a ridiculous amount of money.
Kim: Yea, to be able to make up the money that is invested initially in the title, is hard
Lawrence: So it’s safe to say you are probably going to stick with downloadable then
Kim: Who knows what the future holds, but for this game it was the right way to go we are testing something new to see if people dig it and it’s the easiest way to get it to our audience
Lawrence: I can definitely see that, It was good talking to you.
Kim: Yeah, not a problem
Release Date: Summer 2012