First interview in a series where we go behind the scenes of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, but for game developer Press Play it also came knocking at a time when there wasn’t really time to engage or nurture it. The studio had just released Max and the Magic Marker on Nintendo Wii, and in order to keep the studio afloat and be able to do any future projects, they went ahead and started porting the game for Windows Phone, iOS devices and Sonys PSN service.
“It was a frustrating time”, recalls Game Director Mikkel Thorsted. “Not because we were doing bad or halfheartedly ports of our debut game, but because we kept getting all these ideas for a new project while not having time to do anything about it. It was an itch we couldn’t really scratch”, he says.
Luckily, working on ports wasn’t so much a curse as a genuine revelation for the studio. Redoing puzzles, rethinking concepts and working with touch and joypad controls gave the team valuable information about what worked and what certainly didn’t. As Max and the Magic Marker was launched on Microsofts Windows Phone and later iOS devices the idea for a different and more streamlined Max-experience was given the time and space to blossom at the small studio in Copenhagen.
Pinning down the style and tone of the game came relatively easy for the team. Instead of listening to feedback from focus groups or trying to create something that would sit well with would-be publishers and investors, they rummaged through treasured childhood memories and personal experiences.
Famous Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren and her 1973 children’s book, The Brothers Lionheart, was a team favorite. The unusually dark themes of loss, courage and hope instantly strung a chord with the team and the fact that Game Designer, Mikkel Thorsted, Lead Designer, Mikkel Pedersen and Lead Artist, Lasse Outzen all have brothers somehow unconsciously found its way into the DNA of what would later become Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.
“We knew we would like to do something based on the theme of family”, explains Mikkel Thorsted. “About sometimes wishing your brother or sister would just go away, only to miss them when they do and ultimately be willing to go through fire and water in order to get them back.”
Being a huge fan of early to mid eighties movies, Chris Columbus’ beautiful coming of age adventure, The Goonies, was another big influence on the team. The kids that set out to save not only their houses in the Goon Docks but also their friendship had a lot of impact on the story, puzzles and atmosphere of Max – and it made perfect sense since the team had already decided on doing a game for all ages instead of targeting the traditional Xbox Live Arcade audience.
Choosing to go with a game that could be enjoyed by players of all ages also meant streamlining the often very free and cerebral puzzles from Max and the Magic Marker. The team didn’t want to do a complete rollback on all the ideas gained by working on the game but saw an opportunity to make the puzzles in Max: The Curse of Brotherhood less opaque and more about knowing Max’ powers and abilities.
“By taming the powers and keeping the puzzles less cluttered, we’ve managed to make a game that’s both fun and challenging without the need to dump down on the content,” remarks Studio Director Rune Dittmer. “And I think the new Max is a better game for it, a more refined experience with a game mechanic I have yet to experience in any other game.”