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Meet the Dev team behind Coffin Dodgers

While we have been working on Coffin Dodgers for the last 18 months or so we are constantly being asked questions about the game and the development process – so we thought we’d put together a little Q&A session with the dev team to give you a bit of an insight into some of the team behind Coffin Dodgers.

Director  & Studio Founder:  Jonathan Holmes

Snr Coder: Carl Peters

Snr Technical Artist:  Geoff Nolan

UI & UE Designer:  Kevin Campbell

1. How would you best describe Coffin Dodgers as a game?

Jon:  Well I’d best sum it up as dark comedic battle kart racer featuring old people on pimped up mobility scooters racing the Grim Reaper for their souls around a 3D open world.

2. Obviously you will be compared to games likes Mario Kart. How do you feel about that and what are the differences between the games?

Jon: I think its only natural to be compared to other kart racing games like Mario Kart but there are some big fundamental differences. We wanted to create a game for a slightly older target audience. People who watch things like Family Guy, The Simpsons or South Park on TV.  The game takes place in an 3D open world, which is huge and split into different areas rather than separate tracks so you do get a feeling of an early GTA or granny simulation game as some people have said. Also, we have designed the game with player-to-player/hand-to-hand combat so you can whack and knock opponents from their scooters, which is absolutely hilarious to see. As the characters have rag doll physics you can have epic crashes and even run over people – so it definitely has a dark comedic edge. We have also developed a garage in the game in which you can go and pimp up your scooter, change the physics and modify the look of your little battle kart.

3. The story is fairly unique as well. Where did the idea for coffin dodgers come from?

Jon: It’s a bit of a long story but I was travelling on a boat in Laos for a few days back in 2013. I was actually on it with lots of old retirees and not the youthful backpackers I expected. But it was a hilarious trip and I made loads of great friends. It got me thinking about growing older and whether we like it or not, we are all being chased by the Grim Reaper. However, everyone can be young at heart and as we get older we all want to have fun and live our lives to the max. So I came up with the idea for a Grim Reaper character, a kind of comedic, bumbling and clumsy villain – always making mistakes and failing to capture souls.  This is where the original idea came from and it sort of snowballed from there. We wanted to it to be very Pixar’s Up meets Wacky Races. As with everything we create, it has to have an interesting story and strong characters. The goal we set ourselves is that everything we make must work as, not just a game but potentially also an animated TV series or range of Vinyl Toys.

4.Was it always designed with Steam in mind?

Kevin: Coffin Dodgers was designed to be taken cross-platform and so we created a low-poly, fun and colourful art style that could work on mobile but would also appeal to the PC & console market. When we took the game to Steam Greenlight the community absolutely loved the look of the game and so we stuck with it – knowing that the dark sense of humour of the game would appeal to the slightly older Steam audience. From all the feedback we have received so far it is the response to the artwork, story and black comedy that has been overwhelmingly positive.

5. How did you find Early Access. In the end and are you pleased to finally launch in full?

Kevin: Early Access is a great platform for any game in development, it allows the dev team to put an alpha version to the gaming community and get feedback. We were really excited to get the Steam community involved in the development process and the response has been fantastic. The game has received a 90% positive approval rating so far and the range of suggestions for game features, modes, weapons amongst others has been incredible. I’m very excited about full launch and can’t wait to see the response.

6. Where did the inspiration for the art style come from?

Jon: A lot of people in the UK know us fir the work we did on the Lloyds TSB advertising campaign for 7 years.  You could say this is our house style, although we wanted the game to feel a bit more American and we used Pixar’s Up as a reference. The art assets are all low poly, so we can use them in a variety of things from Rag Doll crashes through to animated cut scenes. We really wanted into to feel like an animation or an evolution of something like Family Guy.

7. You used Unity 4.6 in the project, what was it like to use?

Carl: It’s really easy to prototype ideas up quickly in Unity and see how things play straight away. Getting things polished up to a decent quality is a lot harder than working with your own engine, but the community is excellent and the asset store is a big help.

Geoff: Every Unity update was a gamble for us! As new updates always threw up issues! Objects would move, lighting would change and so on. Light mapping was always a painful process, each scene bake would usually total 40 minuets and if you made a mistake or the lighting wasn’t right, you would have to start again!

8. The project has taken 18 months. What were the biggest challenges?

Carl: Trying to make a new early access build every week while maintaining quality and responding to user feedback was tough. This project also had loads of technical challenges to overcome such as its open world layout (I’m surprised the game ran at all in the early days), don’t even get me started on people wanting all sorts of exotic joy pads supporting when unity is useless at pad support out of the box.

Geoff: Light mapping was one of the biggest challenges as with such a large scene bake times could total 40 minuets.

Kevin: As the UI & UI designer the biggest challenge for me was adapting the look and feel of the menus into something that would appeal to the Steam audience. The previous UI looked great but was very much designed for a mobile version in both look and application and so we wanted it to feel a bit more grown up and of course it had to be adapted for keyboard and gamepad users. The dark comedy of the game gave plenty of scope to play with and allowed me to explore a more gothic feel with elements of Steampunk thrown in for good measure.

9. The animated cut scenes in the end throw up a few interesting plots and stories. Was this always planned?

Geoff: It wasn’t planned but the characters and the story are so interesting that the longer we worked on the game the more ideas we had about where the story would go next – what would happen if the old people won and perhaps more interestingly, what would happen if the Grim Reaper was victorious and took over the town? We soon realised there were a multitude of different story lines to explore and so we decided to create an ending (or two) that would throw open a few possible directions we could take the title in the future.

10. What your favorite aspect of the game?

Carl: I like the sheep abducting UFO the best. I wanted to use a green lens flare on the sheep to show it had been probed, but decided not to on grounds of taste.

Geoff: The general racing is a lot of fun but there are also lots of little surprises in the game too. You’ll have to play the game to find out what they are though…

Kev: My favourite aspect of the game has to be the hand-to-hand combat. It brings a completely new dimension to the game and distinguishes it from the other big kart racers in the market. The battles at the start of the race to get in to the lead are total mayhem but brilliant at the same time.

11. If you had to recommend to someone to play one level what would it be?

Carl: My experimental Beetlejuice level was the best because it completely wrecks your head – unfortunately it didn’t make the cut!

Geoff: Any of the farm levels, as there is always something interesting going on with the space craft and the sheep.

Kev: My favourite track is actually the first race, maybe that is because I’ve played it so much and have become a bit of an expert. I still hold the fastest lap time in the Time Trial and I predict it is a record that will stand for a long time!

12. Where do you see the game going in the near future?

Jon: For us we hope the next stop will be Console. We’ve started talking to the guys at Microsoft and busy trying to raise the finance to do a port of the game. We feel that that console will be a natural progression as a lot of our early design focused on the ability to take the game to other including mobile. I’m sure people will see it on mobile eventually but it will be a slightly scaled down version, maybe a year or so away but never say never. Other things we are presently looking at are Coffin Dodgers Vinyl Toys and even potential animation shorts.

13. How does this project fit in with the bigger picture at is Milky Tea? Do you have another projects your working on?

Jon: Yeah we have a few ideas up our sleeve. Coffin Dodgers was a big project and the plan is to develop a new IP a year for the next 4 years, eventually building up a multiplatform portfolio of 5-6 games.  We are currently looking at a few new crazy ideas already but I can’t reveal anything just yet.  As an indie we are doing everything on a shoestring and boot strapping our developments by doing work for hire projects – so we are keen to talk to publishers and investors to help make our goal of becoming an entertainment company a reality.

Thanks for reading, if you’d like to find out more about Coffin Dodgers please check out the links below:

Steam Store: http://store.steampowered.com/app/320540/

Coffin Dodgers Website: http://coffindodgersgame.com

Press Kit: http://coffindodgersgame.com/press/