Lab Zero Games is known in the fighting game community for their fighter Skullgirls, but for the last four years, the team has been working on a new IP known as Indivisible. The game is a blend of RPG and platforming mechanics told through eyes of a young fighter named Ajna. Her journey will have her meet other characters and travel to unique environments as she learns more about herself and the world around her.
During PAX West, we had the opportunity to sit down with creative director Mariel Cartwright to discuss Ajna’s journey from crowdfunding to release. If you’d like to see gameplay, please check out our preview from the event.
Azario Lopez: Since indivisible first launched on Indiegogo four years ago, how do you feel it has changed over the years?
Mariel Cartwright: When we started the Indiegogo, we had received the funding from 505 Games to put together a prototype, which was released with the campaign to show people that we have this idea and we can make this work. Over the course of these past four years, the game has become so much bigger than we intended.
However, we set out with an ambitious goal. We wanted to make a several hour RPG with a team of ten people at the time, which has grown to 16. We knew this was going to be a big task from the start, but over the years the project has grown with new levels and a bazillion characters. I feel that we put time into our level design, which is complex in many different ways.
AL: Indivisible can be considered as multiple genres, but there seems to be a mix of platforming and turn-based RPG systems here. Was it tough to find a balance?
MC: I think we definitely had to experiment to find that balance. Early on, we received feedback that it just felt two separate games, which made you want to play one game and not the other. It took experimenting to figure out the timing as much as possible to make it feel like one cohesive game, which I feel like we nailed now. But early on, we had testers say things like, “I like the platforming, I just want that.” However, I think the balance really works now.
AL: So, it was mentioned that there could be a potential multiplayer mode in the works, is there any other news on this?
MC: So our designer, Mike Z, threw that together in a night just to see if he could, but it wasn’t something that we officially committed to. It was more of him creating new things. However, this feature does require a lot of testing, and we have to make sure that it’s compatible with every version of the game. I don’t believe we are going to ship with that feature, but who’s to say that it won’t be included down the line.
AL: How does it feel to be this close to the release date finally?
MC: I’m so ready for the game to be out. It’s been a long time for us, and we’ve all worked so hard for it to have a finish line and to have people finally see and experience what we have created.
AL: Is there something that maybe marketing materials look past that you think should be highlighted more on?
MC: I would say the story because I think in all of our demos and public blog posts about the game, we haven’t really gone into too much detail about the story. We put a lot of time into developing Ajna as a character who’s funny, weird, a little dumb sometimes laugh she’s flawed, but I think people will see the love that went into creating her and perhaps relate to her as they experience her adventure.
AL: Since the crowdfunding, do you think players still enjoy turn-based RPGs the same way they might have four years ago?
MC: I think it depends on what kind of player you are. There have always been traditional RPGs, but I think we have seen more. There was definitely a lull for a while. I personally got really into playing Xenoblade on the Wii, putting over 100 hours into that, which kind of woke me up to realize that RPGs are a thing again. I don’t personally feel that in the past four years the landscape for the genre has changed terribly, which is good for us.
AL: Have you encountered anything during development that set you back, but the team overcame that you can remember?
MC: There are a lot of different things, but one was a lot of planning from the beginning didn’t really stick. This was because we didn’t really have a team of tools. We had all these plans, but no way to execute them, which resulted in a waste of time. We also had to go through a couple of iterations of all the level design in the game and the story. You can keep working at stuff like that, but if it doesn’t stick, it needs to be changed. None of it was wasted work though because it was going towards the final product, but it took more exploring. I would say that held us up for a little bit.
AL: Do you think Lab Zero Games would ever return to crowdfunding for a future title?
MC: I don’t want to say that we won’t because I’m always open to the idea, but we’d like to explore more traditional publisher/developer relationship first. Crowdfunding is a whole other beast, and I think that the point we are at now, the games we want to make might cost too much for crowdfunding. Maybe if we are doing a smaller project, we’ll think about it, but we do want to expand our team and grow the projects we make. These budgets might be out the realm of crowdfunding.
AL: Would you like to see Ajna in collaboration with another IP?
MC: Oh, I wonder…put her in Smash! I think she would be an excellent fit for any kind of fighting game. Our game features guest characters like Shantae, Shovel Knight, Calibretto (Battle Chasers); basically, we have a lot. So we’d love to see Ajna is other titles.
AL: Lab Zero Games has Skullgirls updates and Indivisible’s launch on the horizon, but in terms of what’s to come can fans expect a tease of any other projects?
MC: Nothing specific, we are currently in the process of pitching and developing new ideas for new IPs, but nothing that we can comment on now.
AL: Is there anything you’d like to say our readers?
MC: Please play our game. We worked on it, and there’s so much passion in this game. We’re happy that everyone can finally experience it.
Indivisible is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC-via Steam on October 8, with a physical retail release for console on October 11.
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