Mushroom 11 interview with Untame Art Director Julia Keren-Detar

Mushroom 11 logo

The other day we told you about Mushroom 11, the upcoming independent title set in a mysterious, post-apocalyptic world. Gameplay focuses on moving a shape-shifting blob through various obstacles. For more on this unusual title, we checked in with develop Untame’s art director Julia Keren-Detar.

TVGB: Mushroom 11 seems to be an unusual game. One of the reasons for that is the game’s title. Where does it come from and does it have anything to do with the gameplay?

JKD: We named the original game’s Game Jam prototype Mushroom 11 and stuck with it since. As soon as the gameplay started emerging, this amorphous creature started assuming fungus-like features, and the name was born. That in turn helped create the entire story behind the game, as well as the visuals. As for the 11 – that is an inside detail that we’re not ready to reveal yet :)

What is the inspiration behind the game’s unique platformer/puzzle design? Are there any specific games that inspired it?

The game came out of the Global Game Jam 2012. The theme of the jam was Ouroboros, or a snake eating its tail. The game mechanics came rather quickly, although the first prototype was basically just moving this fungal beast from one side of the screen to the other through very basic platformer obstacles. The different characteristics that are unique to these mechanics have taken form much later, and new challenges are still discovered as we speak.

The ambient music attached to Mushroom 11 can make for a calming experience, but can this game be challenging as well? How steep is the learning curve for such an unconventional game?

The game gets pretty challenging in the later levels and players use what they’ve learned in the first level to solve puzzles. There is more emphasis on shaping the mushroom and using its weight and momentum to move objects and move over obstacles. The first level of the game is basically our tutorial. We teach the basics of how to move the mushroom so players can master that before moving on to harder challenges. As for the pacing vs. ambience, I think that in general the game doesn’t intend to pressure you, at least until you hit a certain challenge. In fact, this mechanic lets you simply play with the blob in a toy-like, almost meditative, fashion.

A post-apocalyptic setting is getting to be fairly typical for videogames these days. How did the Untame decide on such a setting and was it a challenge for the art team to set Mushroom 11 apart from other titles with a similar background?

Post-apocalypse has indeed become a cliche lately. There are a bit too many games that are too human-centric and display how the world was destroyed, and only a few individuals are left to fight against the remaining zombies or aliens.

We are telling a story that is all about the destruction and rebirth. It is not even about what comes after. Definitely not about the prevailing humanity. We can sometimes have this self-centered view that life stops after us, but most logically, nature will take over without us and we will become forgotten by whatever creatures inhabit the world thereafter. All this is very vaguely hinted in the game’s art. We did try to tell the story of what came before the destruction. I think our artist, Simon Kono, did a great job using everyday items to bring out the mundane in this landscape that really triggers these types of questions. The art style is also soft and colorful at times, leaning it to be a bit more approachable and exploratory than other games.

What’s the most exciting thing about the game that you can reveal to us that isn’t part of the teaser trailer?

It’s a tough balance trying to capture the interest of viewers without spoiling their experience, especially with many challenges of logical nature. My favorite parts are the water puddles, and of course, the roller-coaster in level 6, but we don’t want to reveal too much about it :)

Thanks for your time, Julia!

Mushroom 11 is developed by Untame and is due for an early 2015 release. Check out the trailer for the game, and head over to Mushroom11.com if you’d like to preorder for PC, Mac, or Linux.

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