VGB Feature: Scribblenauts Unlimited Q&A with 5TH Cell Producer Brittany Aubert

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Over-sized pencil and magical notepad in hand, 5TH Cell’s red rooster hatted hero, Maxwell, is bringing the imaginative “Write Anything, Solve Everything” emergent gameplay of Scribblenauts to Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U, and Steam this holiday season. That’s three new platforms, all at the same time. Yep, our little Maxwell sure is growing up fast!

With Scribblenauts Unlimited getting ready to make Nintendo Wii U launch day on November 18th, 5TH Cell Producer Brittany Aubert took time out to tell us more about some of Maxwell’s new toys and word skills.

VGBlogger: Previous Scribblenauts have been released one platform at a time, however with Unlimited you’re releasing on 3DS, Wii U, and PC. How challenging has it been to develop on three systems at the same time, especially ones that have such unique hardware characteristics to work around?

Brittany Aubert: It’s definitely been a new challenge! The 3DS, PC, and Wii U are all very different hardware, so there are a lot of surprises we had to deal with when getting systems to work on all platforms. From a design perspective, we lucked out.

Both the 3DS and the Wii U have touch screens, which Scribblenauts has always taken advantage of. PC feels very natural with a physical keyboard. They each have unique challenges, but all in all, I don’t think we could have picked better systems to develop for.

VGB: How large has the dictionary grown to in Unlimited? Do you have any favorite words/objects in particular new to this edition that weren’t possible in the others?

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BA: We always add more words every game, based on feedback from the fans and new discovered words. We added a couple more internet memes like ‘nyan cat’ and the ‘wacky waving inflatable flailing arm tube man.’ We also updated objects from previous games for this installment. Using the ‘time machine’ now gives the game a film-grain look and Maxwell gets outfitted with a top hat and moustache. Playing the ‘arcade machine’ turns on 8-bit mode.

There are other little things like this hidden throughout the game, but it wouldn’t be as much fun if we told you all of them!

VGB: Now that Unlimited is evolving into an open overworld-type environment, how does that impact the puzzle/level design compared to what fans have grown accustomed to from past installments? Are the puzzles more integrated with the world at large or are they still more self-contained in format?

BA: Having the open style of gameplay allows us to bring the freedom that players have grown to love about playing on the title screen into the actual game. At any time, you can start spawning objects and watching them interact. At the same time, simply wandering around the level will present puzzles to the player. We brought the puzzles to the playground and the playground to the puzzles.

It’s also great to break out of the formula of going into a menu, selecting a level, going back to the menu, etc. We still keep things contained per level, so that players can understand what goals need to be achieved before unlocking the next area.

VGB: One of Unlimited’s other main feature additions is the Object Editor. What options will users have available to them when editing objects?

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BA: You can change the size of the object, size of specific limbs, the object’s color, you can apply materials, and you can create stamps from other objects and apply those to your custom object.

Beyond just the visual changes, we allow players to do whatever our developers can do internally by changing properties and scripting. You can change how your object sounds, how other objects react to it, whether it’s a hat, a container, its weight. Is it a car? How many wheels does it have? What kind of wheels? How fast is it? Can it breathe fire? The scripting allows players to customize how their object behaves. If you want your object to spawn on fire, apply adjectives to nearby objects, or explode when it comes in contact with something, you can do it. The possibilities are endless.

VGB: Is the editor available to pop open at any time during gameplay or is it a separate mode?

BA: You can open the editor at any time in normal gameplay.

VGB: How are created objects stored and how do players go about carrying them into the game world?

BA: Once saved, any custom object is immediately added to your dictionary. When you’re in game, you can open up your notepad, enter the name of your object and start playing with it.

VGB: What systems will be in place for sharing created objects online?

BA: On the Wii U, players can upload objects by visiting Punctuation Plaza, a hub where you can search for other objects. Every player has a store in the plaza and you upload objects through your Nintendo account name. There you can upload and download objects, rate objects, rate specific user’s stores, and flag inappropriate objects. On PC, we utilize the Steam Workshop for sharing, so everything is viewable to all Steam users.

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VGB: As a developer, what is your early take on the Wii U GamePad’s potential for truly innovative game design opportunities? And how does Scribblenauts Unlimited take advantage of this new tech?

BA: It’s very exciting to be working on new hardware! Scribblenauts Unlimited works wonderfully with the Wii U GamePad. We allow players to intuitively move with control sticks and interact with buttons, but take full advantage of the touch screen with our notepad, as that’s how players enter words in our game.

The GamePad will require developers to think differently about how gamers approach a controller. There are still control sticks and bumpers that we’ve grown used to, but I’m excited to see how games incorporate the touch screen in fun ways.

VGB: Will all three versions feature the exact same puzzles or will there be any original challenges, modes, unlockables or other features tailored to each system?

BA: The Object Editor (and object sharing) is a feature only found on Wii U and PC. We also have a drop-in drop-out multiplayer mode that is exclusive to the Wii U.

VGB: With the recently announced Nintendo crossover characters, is there a requirement a player must meet to unlock them first? Or will players be able to type ‘Mario’ or ‘Link’ and have those heroes pop into the world from the very beginning?

BA: Once you’re in normal gameplay, players can start typing ‘Mario’ and ‘Link’ and summon them and objects from their game worlds at any time.

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Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!