Interview: 5th Cell - Scribblenauts Unlimited
Posted by Mike Mason
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?