Death Squared Interview With Ashley Ringrose

Hello everyone!

1Print Games co-founder Iggy recently spoke to SMG Studio founder Ashley Ringrose about the wonderful party game Death Squared. In this special interview, Ash discusses about the origins of Death Squared, things you may not know about the game, and its future!

1Print Games: First, let’s talk about the origins of Death Squared. How was the game conceptualized by the team at SMG Studio?

Ash: Pat from our team made it initially as part of a Game Jam with the theme “What happens next?”  some of the levels from that 48hr prototype even made it into the final game!  We saw the potential in the game, and a quite simple production requirements (ie the scope wasn’t HUGE for art, so decided to make it a full title.

1Print Games: How did you come up with Death Squared’s name? Were there any other names considered for the game?

Ash: It was the name Pat came up with after a game jam and I thought it was fun / punny. In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best name as “death” in the title has a lot of negative connotations and our game is actually quite family friendly.   That’s why I like the Japanese name that the Japanese publisher came up with RORORORO (ロロロロ) it works on so many levels. If I could go back I would have called it that from the start worldwide.

1Print Games: Many players find Death Squared to be a challenging co-op puzzle game, because all you need is one player to make a mistake and everyone fails. During the game’s development, when the developers were testing out the stages, were there any funny or intense moments that happened? 

Ash: The best part of the development was testing at shows like PAX. We were able to go hands on with lots of people and test firsthand how intuitive the game was. We even tested at these events with 1 player blind-folded so their 2nd player would have to direct them to finish. We offered people $100 if they could do this and ended up giving away a few hundred each day!   We also did some make < 7 YO kids cry as they failed levels at these events with their patient parents as co-op partners.   But that kids playing with parents playing with grandparents was something we pushed with this game as it’s one of the few games out there that doesn’t rely on fast reflexes and can be played TOGETHER instead of Vs.

Oh and while testing at events we did have two bothers who were in the army together and they were really good at it. They communicated well.

And on a really positive note we did have someone who works at a hospital / school for kids that have trouble communicating. And they use this game to “open them up” and after a few levels they don’t realise they are talking to their fellow players.  That was a really cool by product of the games design. The fact we facilitated communication with players and broke down their social fears.

1Print Games: Now let’s talk about the bots. Do they have any personalities, ambitions, hobbies, etc? Please share with us secrets that we don’t know about them!

Ash: They do have names now thanks to Tag Mods who built us physical versions of the Red, Blue and Green bots for events.

Barry (Blue), Steve (Red) and Franke (green)

Images courtesy of Tag Mods

But I think bots haven’t been programmed with personalities but (spoiler!) by the end of the game if you get the “Happy” ending maybe they will find the time to do so.

1Print Games: Were there any cut features that didn’t make it to the game?

Ash: We trialed a lot of options with the VO to make it much more reactive to what was going on but it become too “noisy” so we ended up somewhere in the middle.

And there’s still a lot of “mechanics” we never implemented as wanted to keep the mechanics we had smaller/tighter.

1Print Games: The story behind Death Squared is narrated by David, an employee of Omnicorp, and Omnicorp A.I. Iris. I felt the voice dialogue was a charming aspect of the game. How did the idea came about?

Ash: It was inspired by Thomas Was Alone. I remember playing that on the plan, silent, initially and was like “mmmm I don’t get the hype on this” and then popped headphones on and was “Ahhhh I get it! Lovely!”   Also The Stanley Parable was a huge influence again in terms of having the story expand the game through the narration.   And myself as Studio Head, I also wanted to add some “stamp” to the game so pushed for the story to play a big part and worked on it with Jonathan Valenzuela the writer.

1Print Games: When we were creating the Death Squared physical release, SMG Studio made special artwork featuring David’s desk. Are there any special things you’d like to point out from David’s desk?

Ash: Oh there’s a LOT of in story jokes there and we wanted it to be a kind of “spot the reference” puzzle; everything from the training manual, Dave’s fake Canadian girlfriend, popular album covers “bot style”, the fact he seems to have the worst office due to all the boxes, the little love post it for IRIS, the red stapler is from Office Space or the blue button Dave has to press half way through the game. You can also see the Rice Pirate mug which is Mick Lauer’s logo and he did all the voices in the game (Dave and IRIS!). He’s actually done the voices for all of SMG’s games and even worked with us before we started SMG.  This is also part of the running “Shared Universe” joke as Smooth Moves from Moving Out evolved into Omnicorp in Death Squared and the bots they were training turned into military bots which let to Omnicorp in OTTTD (our first game). So it’s ALL connected!! 😊

1Print Games: Will we ever see a sequel to Death Squared someday?

Ash: Maybe! We’d love to however Pat, who was the creator, has been busy on our other titles for the last few years. He has plenty of ideas though.  As a multi-title studio it’s tough to balance all the opportunities we have.

1Print Games:: Last but not least – any words to share with the readers?

Ash: Thanks for the attention about our games it does make a difference. Word of mouth is the best marketing for indie game devs so tell your friends and family to check out our games.

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Thank you for reading our Death Squared interview! If you haven’t got the Death Squared Limited Edition yet… don’t wait too long! (stock running low!)

Visit the Death Squared Limited Edition product page here.