Beats The Game: An Interview with the Creators of 140
GF: Tell me about the name. Is it a reference to beats-per-minute?
JS: It is beats-per-minute. It’s a matter of me setting the value in my audio software to 140 and C-Minor, and everything just goes together.
JC: It’s been nice — we have sketches for the different loops, or the different levels, and we can mix and match them as much as we want because everything is the same tempo.
GF: How did you pick C-Minor?
JS: It’s my favorite! I play the piano, and somehow you get into one particular key that you use the most.
GF: How did you settle on 140bpm?
JS: Lately I’ve been inspired by dubstep, and that kind of thing, and it’s all 140, right now.
JC: We started at 120.
GF: A lot of electronic music is at 120, right?
JS: Yeah, it’s the default setting in Able Sound.
JC: About the name — it came fairly recently. We’ve been working on the game for two years, and we had all kinds of joke names at the beginning. When we came up with 140, we settled on it very quickly. For me, it was important that it was not a name that was something you could start putting meaning into. It was abstract.
GF: Do you think people will start to try to read meaning into the game, despite the fact that it is so abstract?
JC: I hope so.
JS: For a while we had an idea, for a little guy, and he was like hacking terminals.
JC: For a year, it was Mega Man.
JS: Yeah, it was very much Mega Man. It became so abstract that all of that is just in my mind, now. It’s still there, though.
GF: I liked the way the character changes shape, depending on what you’re doing. How did that come about?
JC: That was from the graphics guy, it was actually his very first idea. It was what made us settle on the concept. It seemed like a very unique take on it. He thinks in a very special way in terms of how he makes graphics; it’s all basic forms, like squares, inverse pyramids, these kinds of shapes. He uses all kinds of tricks. When the character changes shape, when he goes from a square to a circle, it’s actually a cylinder seen from the side that’s a perfect square, and I just flip it 90 degrees, and that makes a nice warp from the square to the circle.
JS: Because the camera is completely isometric, you cannot tell whether it’s a square or a cylinder.
JC: But it’s 3-D objects rotating.
GF: Did you meet the graphic designer at university? (Carlsen and Schmid met at university)
JC: We met through a friend who thought he might be interested in the game, another friend who found the game really cool and all that.
JS: It’s basically just a hobby project, but now that it’s started to catch people’s attention, with an IGF nomination and all that. It’s completely developed in the weekends and in our spare time. It’s a small game, but if you stay on it for long enough, you can actually make it.
JC: The game idea came — I just started working on stuff. I had all kinds of ideas, and then suddenly it’s this very pure rhythm platform idea, and I just removed everything else.
GF: I’d imagine that experience of developing any game gets into your head, gets into your dreams when you’re staring at it for hours and hours. Working on this game particularly, must be kind of uncanny after a while. Are you seeing shapes and colors all the time?
JC: I think I forget how weird the game might look to someone who’s never looked at it before, because for me…
JS: Our concept was actually closer to this than most games are. You [Jeppe] worked with a square dude, and these flat-shaded things. This look is similar to the way you [Jeppe] think about the game. I think game designers think about games in terms of simple shapes that interact in complex ways.
GF: Do you think it’s fair to say that because of success of indie hobby projects, gamers like me who are not game designers are able to play games that are closer to the way that game designers think about games?
JS: I think so.
JC: The tools are getting so accessible. I’m a programmer, I’m educated as a programmer, I started doing design work for Playdead when I was done with university. But the fact that I can sit down and make a game, entirely on my own from a technical point of view … the tools are getting so much better that the designer can work with one programmer, or just do it himself. There are lots of games that are done by one man.
GF: We’ve been in a situation in the past in which there’s a designer working on a game, and he thinks about it one way, and then there are all these things coming between him and how he’s thinking and then the end result of the game….
JS: There’s no one to tell you to put something in. We can just say “No, we don’t want that.”
JC: The way I make games, I don’t use documents, I don’t make any kind of plans. I sit with it, and work with it. Maybe I have an idea, I write it down, next time I work with the game, I implement it. But it never works out the way I have it in my head.
JS: Playing it seems to be the way you figure out whether you like it or not.
JC: Playing it and of course watching other people play it.