The Design Behind Cletus Clay
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Interviewer: I’m at the Game Developers Conference at the IGF Main Competition and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Alex: Hi, I’m Alex Amsel. I work with Anthony Flack on Cletus Clay and I’m doing a lot of programming.
Interviewer: What’s Cletus Clay about?
Alex: Cletus Clay is really about this little bitty hick character who has his little farm and his lovely animals Then, these evil aliens come and try to take over his animals away for reasons that you don’t yet know. So, really what you’re trying to do, besides it being a border game, you’re just trying to defend your farm and work on the farm at the same time as getting rid of the pesky aliens.
Interviewer: And it was nominated for something at the competition? What was it, and why do you think it was nominated for that?
Alex: It was nominated for access and visual art support. The entire game is made from clay characters, so all of the character’s animation is in stop frame technique as well as some grommets. I know the backgrounds are also made from clay. Even though most of the people that come up don’t believe it, we actually made everything in clay. We even brought some of the characters with us.
Interviewer: Are you done then with all the art work for the game because it seems like it’s pretty complete right now?
Alex: We’ve done all of the core part for the game, but there’s going to be lots of little polishing and a few extra animations to do, but the main construct now is really launching the game in the next few months, a lot of refinements that we’ve got to do and that kind of thing.
Interviewer: What’s the technology behind the game itself? What kind of engine are you using to display all of this stuff?
Alex: We’ve been asked that a lot, and it’s a difficult answer. We have some friends of ours who have some simple cross platforms for PC and Xbox because this is going to a Live Arcade game. Basically, we did a little deal with them which allowed us access to their engine and their source code and then we customized the hell out of it.
Cletus is a two and a half figure, so everything’s got its different layers so some of the background kind of gives him a 3D shape. So, we have a lot of issues towards making the game play really nice. We’d like it to look like a 3D game but made to play. We’re still with the original play photos and a few screenshots.
The nice thing we’re really proud of is all the shadows. It’s taken so much effort to get the shadows on there and still have the game feeling easy to play and thankfully everyone has seemed to appreciate that.
Interviewer: This game has been in development for a long time, it seems, and I know a lot of people are aware of it. Do you guys have a development blog where you keep track of things or a forum to kind of keep the community going as they wait for the game?
Alex: Yeah, the game’s been in development for a little while. I think maybe we could tune it forever. It’s our running joke. We’re going to try and come out before George’s game, but we don’t know yet. We’ll beat that. We’re confident. Our team has been working on it since 2003 in some form, and I’ve been working with them for maybe two years but really we’ve been doing the code for about a year.
Yeah, we’ve just set up the Cletus Clay website, just a simple site for now. That way we’ll just be uploading pictures and stuff of what we’re doing. And we have a blog where we write about other clay games and what we think of the indie scene generally as well as the game itself.
We also have forums. The best thing is the Twitter thing.When one of us work on it, we use Twitter. We just say exactly what we’re doing at the time. It’s a very honest account, so we’ve had several people come up to us this week.
Tuesday morning or Wednesday morning at half past 2 A.M. I was cruising the streets of San Francisco looking for free Wi-Fi after our roots blew up because I knew we were late with the source code I knew I needed to fix things, and then the source code didn’t work. I’m hanging around a street corner in the middle of the night. At seven o’clock in the morning I was hiding behind someone’s carriage using my Wi-Fi just to make sure we had a demo in time. If you read twitter, then you’ll find out the real dirty secrets.
Interviewer: What is your twitter account?
Alex: The twitter account is just cletusclay, all one word, and cletusclay.com. You can go there and find all of the Websites out.
Interviewer: If an indie wants to do clay in their games, how would they go about doing that or is that even feasible or is it…
Alex: Actually, clay is really an exciting substance to work with. I’m not just saying that as someone who is an artist in any way but it’s kind of fun just playing around with it. There’s a lot of difficulty to be working with clay. The nice thing is though, basically, you make a physical model. You take a photo. You click it in Photoshop and you stick it in your game just like you would a 2D splice. So, if you can work with 2D splice, then you can work with clay as long as you have someone to do some modeling for you.
There are lots of other difficulties, particularly how to get the lighting correct when you’re taking the photos. You have to get the lighting correct. I totally recommend doing it, even for like a little indie game or a student game. Doing anything big with clay is very difficult as we have experienced.
Doing anything with characters is especially difficult which is why [?] before he wrote. He had done the Bob the Barbarian originally which is a character-based game, and he wants to do something that was a bit easier. So if you know anyone who likes to work with clay or has any questions, like Anthony and I and Sarah and the other guys are more than happy to answer any questions on the forum. We’ll help anyone with any game to make it play, anyone doing anything so…
We might also especially [?] because we’re still a little way from completion. We’d like to see if we can get some fun out within the game so people who are clay modelers and who want to play within the game they should just keep their eyes open. So, we’ll say something about that shortly, another competition.
Interviewer: So, you will have a competition pretty soon so that people listening to this who want to get into the clay and experience it and maybe have one of their models in the game.
Alex: If we can find the right things to do, we’ll definitely put some of it in the game. I can’t say more than that. I just wanted to talk about that. We’d really like to get other people involved with the clay experience because everyone likes playing with plasticene. It’s my job description, player with plasticene.
Interviewer: Awesome. When you guys expect to release the game?
Alex: When we’re finished.
Interviewer: That’s what you guys have been saying for so long but I tried. OK, cool. Thank you very much.