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Interview With David Stiner, Sucker Punch
Conducted by Jared Via E-Mail

THE COMPANY

Jared: Can you tell me a little bit about how Sucker Punch got started?

David Stiner: Sucker Punch opened its doors in October of 1997. Our focus from the beginning was an N64 title, and our first three months were spent prototyping the engine used for Rocket. We demonstrated that prototype to Nintendo in February 1998, which was when we were admitted to the Authorized Developers Program.

Jared: Can you give me some general information about your company (where you're located, # of employees, etc.)?

DS: Sucker Punch is a 15 person company located in Bellevue, WA. Just 5 minutes from NOA corporate headquarters!

Jared: How did you come up with the name "Sucker Punch"?

DS: We wanted a distinctive, catchy and fun name. Sucker Punch had been kicked around as a code-name for one of our developers projects a few years ago, and he suggested it. After double checking that www.suckerpunch.com was still available, we we had our name!

Jared: If you have one, what would you consider your "company motto"?

DS: Create original, high quality, character based games.

Jared: What was your motivation in developing your first game for the Nintendo 64, instead of the Playstation or Dreamcast?

DS: PSX was out of the question immediately because the CPU wasn't powerful enough to run our Fun Physics engine. The Dreamcast wasn't a solid choice either because at that time nobody knew how well it was going to do -- as compared to N64 which had already been out for some time.

ROCKET: ROBOT ON WHEELS

Jared: Can you give me a general description of the gameplay in Rocket: Robot on Wheels?

DS: It's a classic action-platform game in the tradition of Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. We've mixed in a unique blend of vehicles to ride in, like the hot-dog shaped "DuneDog", and a reasonable dose of problems for the player to solve, becuase we didn't want to make a game which was exclusively a button masher.

Jared: How long was Rocket: Robot On Wheels in development?

DS: We started with a small team about 2 years ago. The full team was staffed up around October of last year, and it took us about a year longer to complete it.

Jared: Rocket is certainly an unique game; what would you say some of the influences on the design team were?

DS: As you can surely tell from the gameplay, Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, as well as other similar games like Croc, had influences. We also talked a lot about games like Lemmings, Day of the Tentacle, and Crash Bandicoot as titles which had elements we really enjoyed.

Jared: What part of the game was the hardest to develop?

DS: Rocket himself was a big part of our work. Getting his controls tight, getting all his moves in place, tuning things like the freeze move. There's just a lot to do for the main guy -- and really you can't afford to make any mistakes in this area.

Jared: The physics engine is universally regarded as being fantastic. How did you guys acheive this level of control and immersion?

DS: Thanks! We are really pleased with how much we were able to bring to the N64 with the current engine. Certainly the engineering of the engine was a key part to making the game feel right. Secondary to that was the Tractor Beam on Rocket -- which opened up a lot of opportunities and at the same time made things simpler.

Jared: How many hours of gameplay will the typical gamer find in Rocket: Robot on Wheels?

DS: We expected about 30 hours of gameplay for an average gamer, but our final round of beta testers found that number to be enough to get to the FIRST ending, but not enough to get to the SECOND ending (grin).

Jared: Why should a platform fan pick Rocket: Robot on Wheels over other big N64 platform games this holiday season like Donkey Kong 64 and Rayman 2?

DS: Don't get me wrong -- we love Rayman 2 (another Ubisoft property!) and expect DK64 to be good as well. But we think Rocket offers the most NEW ideas -- building your own roller coaster, freezing your way across a pool of water, a secret 'food fright' level full of monsters and marshmallows, and a ton more surprises. All that with the Fun Physics engine underneath -- you may find other platform games a bit flat!

SUCKER PUNCH'S FUTURE

Jared: How were your relations with Rocket publisher Ubi Soft? Will they be publishing future Sucker Punch titles?

DS: We've enjoyed working with Ubisoft on Rocket. We are in discussions with them about future titles right now!

Jared: Rocket: Robot on Wheels is certainly a promising first game. What's next up for Sucker Punch?

DS: We're already hard at work on the designs and the next generation of our engine... You can expect something special from us!

Jared: What are your thoughts on the upcoming gaming systems (Dolphin, PS2, X-Box), as well as Sega's Dreamcast?

DS: We are excited about all of these platforms--we feel like we are in a great position to exploit the added graphics and CPU power which these systems will offer. At present we don't have specific plans on any particular system, but stay tuned.

Jared:  Finally, what platforms are you currently considering development for in the "next-generation"?

DS: Sort of a repeat of above, we are excited about all the next generation systems and expect to have narrowed our focus in a few months!

We'd like to thank David Stiner for his time.  For more information on Rocket: Robot on Wheels check out www.playrocket.com, and also check out NGF's review.

 




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