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Conversing about Collidalot with Grunka Munka


Jack Gardner

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It can be easy to lose sight of the smaller indie titles with all of the high-profile games releasing as we near the holiday season, but one in particular stands out following its release last Friday: Collidalot. 

 

Collidalot is a fast-paced hover car combat game with a heavy emphasis on local multiplayer for up to four people. Players attempt to ram one another off the map or into hazards like spike traps. These vehicles receive a speed boost by riding rails with even higher speeds gained by riding rails painted their particular color. Each vehicle comes with its own special move to help give it the edge needed to pull out a victory. 

 

Also, it has a jammin' techno soundtrack that you can listen to for free on the company's SoundCloud page

 

The story of Seattle-based Grunka Munka Games begins with most of the team still in college where they worked together on a project called "The Enragement Ring." Even in an unpolished state, it gained attention from professors and it wound up making a circuit around the Seattle game dev scene where it won the Audience Choice award at both Seattle Indie Game Competition and Intel Game Developer Showcase among several other nominations and distinctions. All of that buzz landed the team at Grunka Munka on Nintendo's radar and after years of work, Collidalot has finally released!

 

I had the opportunity to ask Andrew Ward, the CEO of Grunka Munka Games, some questions about Collidalot and he was gracious enough to provide some insightful looks into the world of scrappy game dev and shipping a studio's first game.

 

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What were some of the ideas for games that got bounced around before landing on what would become Collidalot?

 

Originally, the game was intended to be giant spaceships slamming into other ships and knocking them out of the “sumo ring” arena to destroy them. We also wanted the game to be a local multiplayer game. Beyond that, everything we implemented was in an effort to achieve those intentions. We found that it is really boring to fly giant, slow spaceships at each other, especially if there are no projectile weapons, which we didn’t want. We thought that might be better if the ships were small and fast, so we tried it. It was better, but it was so easy to fly out of the map into the emptiness of space. Then we thought about how to add a better sense of control, so we ended up adding energy rails to grind on. This essentially created the first iteration of Collidalot.

 

At what moment did you feel like Collidalot had enough potential to build a gaming studio around it?  

 

People seemed to love the first version of the game even though the controls were terrible and the game was slapped together so loosely that it would be a stretch to even call it a demo. It also had a terrible name, “The Enragement Ring”. It was fun though, and definitely unique. That gave us a lot of initial momentum.

 

Most of us were still in school at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Seattle, but the excitement around early versions of the game during class got the attention of the staff. The most notable staff member to take note was Peter Huff. He handled most of the event coordination for the school and invited us to join iFEST 2017. Things moved quickly from there. People were asking us if the game was out because they enjoyed it so much at iFEST, even though we didn’t have any menus in the game yet. Someone responsible for helping run another local gaming event, Power of Play, approached us at iFEST and asked us to show the game off there the very next weekend. We went to Power of Play because it was a great opportunity, but we had no idea what to expect. While there, a representative from Nintendo approached us asking if we would be interested in bringing the game to the Wii U.

 

Remember, the game had no menus, little content, and was barely a working prototype. We were still students with more than a year left until graduation. This was the turning point for us. We took this positive momentum and ran with it. No matter how hard it got, we pushed through because we knew this game and this team was on the right track for success and we didn’t want to squander such an opportunity.

 

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There aren’t any guns in the game – how did that decision get made and what does that absence of guns bring to Collidalot?

 

The game was supposed to be all about slamming spaceships into each other originally, although that eventually changed to slamming jet-powered hover cars into each other. If you give players guns, that opens up the option to avoid other players and to shoot at them from a distance instead, bypassing our original vision. For this reason, you could say it was initially a design choice to get people to play the game [as it was intended]. We wanted people to be in each other’s face in game and out of game since it was a local multiplayer game, and you don’t really feel that intense connection if you can play without ever going near each other.

 

Later, we realized that having no guns is kind of a big deal for many kids and families - a large portion of our target audience. We want everyone to experience our games and that design decision makes it easier for many families to feel comfortable with Collidalot.

 

What were some of the inspirations for the mechanics behind Collidalot?

 

Inspirations for Collidalot come from every corner of the universe. Warhammer 40K was the biggest one in terms of the concept for the game. Towerfall Ascension is one of our favorite local multiplayer games, so we tried to sneak many of their brilliant design choices into Collidalot in subtle ways. Smash Bros, Splatoon, Mad Max, Tony Hawk, Extreme-G, Kinetica, Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer, and a ton of other sources outside of video games served as inspiration to us.

 

Collidalot seems to have racked up a large number of awards since it began making the indie game circuit – which one has meant the most to the team?

 

The Seattle Indie Game Competition’s People Choice Award 2017 (received at Power of Play 2017), is the award that means the most to us. It was our first major award. It was also the first award we worked towards months before receiving, and it felt incredible to earn it. Receiving that award was not just about us, either. It was about showing the people who have given us so much amazing support that we were not going to let them down; we were going to push ourselves to succeed.

 

Collidalot is Grunka Munka’s first project, what are the biggest learning experiences you’ve had trying to ship this game?

 

There have been so many and they are unique to each person on the team. We had to learn everything from scratch, like how to use the Unity game engine and how to make a game in general. Things that seem simple, like making a player select UI, were difficult because we hadn’t done it before. Most things took research and several iterations, so they took a while. We also had to learn how to form and run a company on top of it all, which added even more chaos into the mix. Then there were things like attending conferences to demo the game, joining competitions, and figuring out how to market the game so people would simply know it exists. Being a game developer is a learning experience that never ends.

 

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The Grunka Munka team participates in Extra Life – how did that begin? Why is it important to you all?

 

One of our team members previously interned, and later worked, in the medical field before, during, and after undergrad. He’s always had a tremendous level of respect for the entire industry. That’s where it began. Since we work within a few blocks of Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH), he quickly started reaching out to SCH and Extra Life about how we can get involved and help. After he joined the team, we started chatting about what we can do to help out and contribute. We all have been gamers since we were young and remember specific games that we loved both then and now. We know that hospitalized kids and their families could always use more reasons to smile and we simply couldn’t stop thinking about how to help. This drove us to get more involved with the Extra Life Seattle Guild, who immediately amplified our ability to spread some gaming happiness with SCH and beyond. We are proud to be a part of the Extra Life Seattle Guild and are incredibly excited for the work we are doing with them right now and will continue to do.

 

What message did you want to send with Collidalot? What do you want people walking away from a session with it to be thinking about?

 

I think everyone on the team has something different they want to say through the games we make. We all agree that moments in life are more special when you can share them with others. Collidalot aims to bring people together so that they can make and share those moments. We also want to show that there are still many amazing, unique things games can do that have never been done and that they are worth making.

 

What sorts of projects is Grunka Munka interested in making in the future?

 

Our goal is to create original ideas and new types of gameplay. Having just launched Collidalot, we are prototyping new ideas and deciding on our next project now. We are definitely interested in expanding concepts from Collidalot beyond its 2d/3d layout. We also have a number of completely different ideas for games we would like to work on. Our main focus will be to create something new and push ourselves creatively.

 

Why do you believe Collidalot should succeed? What’s your best elevator pitch to someone who’s undecided?  

 

Because Collidalot is a unique take on the 4-player brawler. There are a lot of games available nowadays and it’s always exciting when there is something new and different to experience. We appreciate when people are a bit confused, yet excited by novel, unique games. Games should incite this and we feel we have captured that feeling. We pitch the game as “Collidalot is Jet-powered destruction derby crossed with high-speed rail grinding”. Basically, think Smash Bros. in jet cars.

 

 

Collidalot is available now on Nintendo Switch.

 

Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!


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