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Interview: 5th Cell - Scribblenauts Unlimited

Posted by Mike Mason

Word up

If adorable lexical puzzle games are up your street, you're bound to have heard of Scribblenauts, the series that lets you generate any item into the world by simply entering its name. The series has been around for a while on Nintendo DS, plus iOS, but it'll be hitting a home console for the first time when Scribblenauts Unlimited is released on Wii U.

It's scheduled to satisfy wordy folk on the new machine's launch day, and a 3DS version is also in the pipeline for those that want to keep scribbling away on a handheld system. We caught up with 5th Cell producer Brittany Aubert to chat about how Scribblenauts Unlimited expands the series, including the introduction of narrative, the switch to larger worlds and its advanced object creation.

Nintendo Life: Hi Brittany! Please could you introduce yourself and give us a bit of background on Scribblenauts for the uninitiated?

Brittany Aubert: My name is Brittany Aubert and I’m the producer on Scribblenauts Unlimited. Scribblenauts is a game where anything you think of, you can make. Using the keypad, players can start entering nouns like ‘dog’ or ‘dragon’ or ‘dialysis machine’. In Super Scribblenauts, we added adjectives so players could make a ‘giant friendly polka-dotted pregnant dragon’. In Scribblenauts Unlimited we’ve added an Object Editor that allows you to make any object your imagination can think of and then share it with your friends.

NL: The world of Scribblenauts has grown, so there are now larger maps with multiple objectives as well as the smaller puzzles found in the previous games. How does that work, and what was the reasoning behind that addition?

BA: One of the things that players have loved about Scribblenauts is the ability to play the game right on the title screen. You can start spawning objects and watching their interactions. We took this concept and made it the entire game, so at any moment you start creating whatever you want. We’ve sprinkled objectives throughout the world, so as you explore you start solving puzzles without ever diving into a level select menu.

NL: What challenges did you face with bigger worlds, and how did you approach Scribblenauts Unlimited differently as a result?

BA: We wanted each world and level to have a very organic feel. We ended up hand drawing all of our environments to give them as much life and personality as possible. Doing this meant that we wouldn’t be able to provide a level editor (as we have in previous games) because a level editor would require putting together different pieces. We opted to go for a bigger, fuller world, supplemented by the Object Editor, so players could go crazy with their imagination.

NL: This time you'll be going into Maxwell's backstory, including how he got his notebook. Can you tell us a little bit about that? What made you decide that now was the time to expand Maxwell's narrative?

BA: We’ve always wanted to focus on the objects and puzzle mechanics, but fans have frequently asked us, “Who is Maxwell?” and, “Why does he collect starites?” We go into those details, including how he got the magical notebook he uses to create any object. We also introduce Maxwell’s twin sister Lily, his brothers, and their parents Edgar and Julie.

NL: What role do Maxwell's siblings have to play?

BA: Throughout the game, you’ll discover Maxwell’s 40 brothers. Helping them and collecting their starite shard will unlock them as playable avatars.

NL: Given that each sibling has his or her own magical item, are there plans to expand the Scribblenauts universe into new games with different mechanics?

BA: We’re always open to bigger and better, but we’ll have to wait and see.

NL: There's co-operative multiplayer in the Wii U version, so extra players can grab Wii Remotes and control any object on screen. How does that work?

BA: Our multiplayer mode is called Sidekick Mode. At any time, up to three more players can connect their Wii Remotes and inhabit objects that player one creates. You then control that object and have all the abilities that object would have.

NL: Will there be any online co-operative elements so players with a GamePad each can work together over the internet?

BA: There won’t be any co-op modes online, but players will be able to share the objects they’ve created in the Object Editor with each other over the internet.

NL: Will object sharing be via the Miiverse on Wii U?

BA: We will have object sharing on the Wii U, but the details are still being finalised.

NL: Are there co-operative aspects to the 3DS version too?

BA: The 3DS version is only the single player experience. We’ve focused on the Wii U for our multiplayer mode because the TV allows more players to get in on the action.

NL: Is there any connectivity between the 3DS and Wii U versions?

BA: Unfortunately there is no cross platform play.

NL: The object creator has been expanded. What's new and what's improved?

BA: Players can now apply adjectives on the fly instead of only when the object is spawned. If you already made an object but now you want to make it colossal, just tap on the object, select ‘add adjective’ and type it in. We’ve also added a word suggestor. Type in 'dog' and tap the suggestion button and you’ll see different types of dogs.

NL: How many things can be stuck together in a custom object, and how far can a single item go? Could you stick together a dozen elements to create a Swiss army knife-style item suitable for multiple situations, for example?

BA: Sure! You can attach lots of different object stamps to give your army knife a custom look, paint it, and then actually apply AI to make it attack things on its own.

NL: How many personalised items can be stored?

BA: A player can store over 900 custom objects created by themselves or other players.

NL: How about sharing on 3DS; is there StreetPass or QR code integration?

BA: The 3DS will have StreetPass. Players will be able to share their puzzle solutions with each other.

NL: What's the strangest thing you've seen created so far?

BA: One of our designers made a truck that was made out of monster parts that could fly in the air and shoot exploding snakes.

NL: How have you found working with Wii U? What are your general impressions of its capabilities and features?

BA: It’s a powerful console and we’re really happy with what we’ve been able to do. The GamePad makes this game possible, since typing is such a large mechanic. And due to the robustness of the system, we were able to remove the item thermometer — if you remember that from the last two games — so now you can spawn as many objects as you want. We’re happy to finally be bringing Scribblenauts to a home console and living rooms everywhere.

NL: On a different note, is there any chance of Xbox Live Arcade's Hybrid coming to the Wii U eShop?

BA: We’ll have to see what the demand is like!

NL: Drawn to Life and Lock's Quest also originated as DS titles like Scribblenauts; are there any thoughts on bringing either of those series to Wii U or 3DS, or is that up to THQ?

BA: THQ was the publisher on those titles, so they would definitely need to be involved. We’ve got lots of people internally that would love to work on those IPs again, though.

NL: Is there anything else you'd like to say about Scribblenauts Unlimited?

BA: We’re really excited to be bringing Scribblenauts to new players and new platforms. The Object Editor is a really expansive tool and we’re looking forward to seeing all the crazy things people create.

Thanks to Brittany for taking the time to speak to us. Are you looking forward to Scribblenauts Unlimited, and if so will you be picking it up on Wii U or 3DS? What's the first thing you'd like to make with the new object creator?

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User Comments (29)



MrWalkieTalkie said:

I wonder if there will be special little easter eggs, like typing in Mario or Kirby will actually get you those characters. If not Ill probably try to make them with the object creator. Either way cant wait for this game!



Neonridr said:

NL: What's the strangest thing you've seen created so far?
BA: One of our designers made a truck that was made out of monster parts that could fly in the air and shoot exploding snakes.

Come on, how awesome is that. This game sounds like ridiculous fun!



animalzer0 said:

I remember when I first got Scribblenauts, me and my brother fell IN LOVE! Then Super Scribblenauts fell from Heaven, and we still enjoy picking it up EVEN TODAY. My brother and I are super excited for Unlimited! I don't care if it's only the 3rd installment in the series when I say: Scribblenauts is one of MY FAVORITE FRANCHISES OF ALL TIME.



Sjoerd said:

I only tried the first one, it grasped me at first, but halfway it got a bit repetitive. This looks very good though. Could be worth a shot. I really realy like the artstyle!



TornadoX7 said:

I really want this game this is one of my first games for Wii U. I dont mean to sound obsessed but i actually have all of their scribblenauts so far....i think this game would be really fun.Im disappointed though that they took away level editor i loved that feature



KiwiPanda said:

This, as some people have said, is looking great. The thing is, if they expand so much, what material will they leave for the next version? Who knows. I guess it doesn't matter as long as we get out Scribblenauts Unlimited as good as it sounds!



k8sMum said:

i liked the first scribblenauts but was soon disappointed in it. never got around to playing the 2nd. this 3rd incarnation is intriguing, tho: may have to get it for the 3DS XL...should be fun.



Prof_Clayton said:

This looks awesome, possibly me 2nd Wii U purchase after nsmbu!
I'd create a flying baseball bat, with the legs of a bear and arns of a gorilla. And it would throw exploding oranges at enemies!!!



Dodger said:

Scribblenauts was the first video game I ever owned. I got my DSi when I was 12 and a copy of Scribblenauts. I still play Super Scribblenauts a lot (ever tried a resurrecting, exploding grenade? Frame rate drop of awesomeness) and Unlimited was one of the best announcements at E3. I doubt I'll be getting the Wii U for a couple years (when I'll be in college) but I'll make sure to pick this up whenever I do have a Wii U. Might get the 3DS version.



Aqueous said:

I'll be getting the 3DS one but they took away my power to make super evil levels in terms of difficultly and wait while some one takes an hour trying to solve every level I built



Grodus said:

@BobBillyBoo 42 kids. Maxwell, Lily, and brothers #1-40. wow.

I'm making a flying elven chair that shoots octopi with machine guns that attack by themselves, and the octopi shoot ink that confuses enemies. Now THAT would scare ME. It'll be called: "The Ultimate Weapon." Wreaking havoc on my Wii U, one Mii scared and confused at a time.



DraculaX said:

I really wanted to get this game for the 3DS but since it doesn't come with the object editor, I will have to go with the PC version.



Late said:

My most anticipated game along with Nintendo Land. Original Scribblenauts had a nice idea but was too limited so I got bored quickly. Super Scribblenauts is a lot better and sometimes I just mess around on title screen instead of going through levels. Scribblenauts Unlimited looks like it's going to be really awesome.

No object limit meter, I can put more adjectives on things so there's no need to make another object with one more adjective, object creator looks wonderful and I'm sure I'll spend hours doing some weird objects (and all 649 Pokémon, just kidding, I'll do some but not all). And that was just a scratch on the surface. There's a lot of potential in this game and I hope it'll sell well.



Geonjaha said:

Scribblenauts - the game series built on the flaw of giving everything to a player, removing all challenge and sense of achievement, and having unlimited power as something you dont earn, but something that you're given and quickly inevitably grow tired of.

At least having reasonable limits would mean there's some challenge and fun to the game, but no enemy is a threat when you can spawn in God, no platforming is difficult when you can spawn in a jetpack, and once you get a cthulhu, every other item in existence is boring.



Vincent294 said:

@Geonjaha Cthulus! Zinc beryllium silicate was some odd item I got, and it was like a tranquilizer in the game. Other odd items include:

  • angry gun
  • bouncing trampolines (try lots of them nearby each other)
  • angry deadly car, etc.


Jukilum said:

@Geonjaha Your argument is true to a certain point, but when you play a level again after you first beat it (at least in the first two games, I don't know how it'll be on Unlimited,) you have to beat it three times in a row with every object you used the first time being banned from the second and third times and everything you used the second time is also banned in the third.



Link-Rogers said:

kitty says, " It looks fine, but if played the franchises before and part of it is really easter eggs. In scribblenauts 2, type chocolate brown pickle and it looks like a poo. " also cthulhu...just typed a random word then it corrected me. i saw cthulhu and i clicked it. it was a weird mythical creature...make it gold or invincible. when you fight something invincible, its like pausing your game but it makes noise.

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