Interview: Tomorrow Corporation - Little Inferno
Posted by Jon Wahlgren
Burning down the house
Tomorrow Corporation is hoping to light up Wii U when their debut title Little Inferno hits this winter. We caught up with the men behind the mayhem to get the low-down on their debut title, life as an indie and the existential terrors of Starbucks.
Nintendo Life: Please introduce yourselves and explain what your general role at Tomorrow Corporation entails.
Kyle Gray: Tomorrow Corporation was founded by Allan Blomquist, Kyle Gabler, and myself. Kyle Gabler is the tastemaker, which means he’s in charge of the character of the game — art, music, design, etc. I’m the taskmaster, so I handle the scheduling bits and crack the whip occasionally and then help with animations, art, and design. Allan does all the real work, like programming, and somehow makes everything work.
NL: When we last spoke, the three of you were new hires at mega-conglomerate Tomorrow Corporation. How's life in the big leagues been treating you?
Kyle Gabler: Even though we're now a staggeringly vast company of three guys, we like to think we've retained that authentic indie feel. But watch out, Zynga! Your crops wither...tomorrow!
NL: Gray, your last project, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, was with major publisher EA, also known as the Worst Company in America. How has the switch over to indie development been for you?
Gray: Terrifying! I thought pitching a brand new game at EA was difficult, but this is much harder. At Tomorrow Corporation, we’ve had to do everything from scratch — forming the company, building the engine, making a totally new game concept. Where before I had this massive infrastructure to help deal with legal issues, marketing, or business bits, now we have to handle them all ourselves. The freedom is amazing, but there are many more issues to deal with beyond making the game.
NL: Little Inferno has been burning down in R&D for a while now, and what little we've seen so far has been, well, little. What can you tell us about it? What's the story/gameplay like?
Gabler: Little Inferno is a nice introspective game about setting everything on fire and playing with it as it burns. A perfect colourful toybox for pyromaniacs! But if it were that simple, we wouldn't be making it. Something else is burning...
NL: Something nefarious seems to be happening to the outside world in Little Inferno. What has gone sideways?
Gabler: Little Inferno is a game that takes place almost entirely in front of a nice warm fireplace, but just outside, up up up the chimney, it's been snowing for as long as anyone can remember. And it's getting colder. Tomorrow Corporation PR will not let us spoil what's going on (because they probably don't know), but the answer is probably not what you think, and it has nothing to do with global climate change.
NL: How close is the game in its current state to the one you originally set out to do? In what ways has it changed, if at all?
Gray: The current version of Little Inferno is very similar to its original concept. What you won’t see is the mountain of rejected ideas we’ve been building behind Tomorrow Corporation HQ. What was supposed to be a tiny, perfect, experimental game became bigger and bigger and bigger. Once it got larger than was healthy, we went the opposite route and cut away anything that wasn’t perfect, ending up with a solid, refined version of where we started.
NL: Are you planning any features exclusive to Wii U?
Gray: We’re tinkering with some features, but one thing we know for certain is that it will be the only version to exclusively have a Wii U logo.
NL: Are there any multiplayer or community features planned?
Gabler: We're planning to offer local cooperative multiplayer, like World of Goo. Fire is more fun with friends, kids!
NL: Do you have any interest in developing for 3DS?
Gray: It seems like it could be a good fit, but we won’t know until we have some time to tinker with it.
NL: Little Inferno seems to share the environmental dystopia theme of World of Goo, not to mention a similar art style. Is there any connection between the two games?
Gabler: A common theme players might notice is much more internal — it's that feeling of being a tiny little thing who is curious about, but totally disconnected from a larger world.
I felt that way while working inside of a large company — a tiny little intern inside a beast, with no way to know where it's going, or what it wants, and no way to affect it. But then, I also feel the same way ordering coffee at Starbucks. Or talking to strangers. Or like my cats, who are entirely unaware they live in a state called California, in a country that was formed a few hundred years ago because they didn't like tea or something, on a planet that's totally awesome when described by David Attenborough, flinging around a solar system in some version of a universe that will probably get invaded by bug creatures from a parallel universe any day now.
Trying to understand that enormous world from a tiny perspective deep on the inside, has always been a lingering theme in most stuff I'm involved in. Especially World of Goo and Little Inferno.
NL: Mobile gaming has become absolutely massive since Tomorrow Corporation was founded. How do these new platforms fit into your overall corporate strategy? Has your experience with mobile versions of World of Goo influenced you in any particular direction?
Dandy Wheeler, PR Dept: It's super important that things be accomplished on-the-go these days! Sitting still and feeling introspective is a huge waste of time, best left in the 90s. Games are best played while walking to the subway, grabbing a skinny mocha latte to go, before popping in some dental whitening strips that dissolve in 30-minutes or less so you can really maximize your unique mobile lifestyle!
We also allow you to replace all art in the game with all your favorite social pictures of your fav friends, and replace the music with any of the hottest Top 20 Music Trax to really showcase your unique personality! Tweet me! (smiles)
NL: Speaking of World of Goo, it's been a while since we heard anything from 2DBOY. Is the band still together?
Gabler: Yep, we just posted about the relationship between Tomorrow Corporation and our past work here. But the short answer is, the indie game scene is fluid and loosey goosey. We frequently work on multiple projects and with multiple teams. One secret thing 2DBOY is working on is bringing World of Goo to Casio watches.
NL: Are you hoping to launch alongside the Wii U?
Gray: We’re planning on releasing Wii U, Windows, Mac and Linux versions when the Wii U launches.
NL: How hands-on has Nintendo been, considering the Wii U hardware is as of yet unreleased?
Gray: Nintendo has been very supportive, but have kept their little white Mario gloves from getting covered in soot.
NL: What do you see Nintendo doing to attract more independent developers?
Gray: If the Wii U is half as unique as the Wii we’ll see a number of independent developers flocking to Nintendo. A lot of gamers continue to give them flack, but they’ve been pushing gaming in new directions. On the business side, Nintendo of America has been an amazing partner to work with; they’re supportive without burying you under mountains of paperwork.
Thanks to Tomorrow Corporation for its time.