Q&A With Claymatic Games & Anthony Flack

For the first developer Q&A session of 2020, I conducted this interview on the back of my most recent review I did and a subsequent discovery. The game Platypus was a title developed back in the early 2000s by Idigicon and lead designer Anthony Flack. Making use of claymation-inspired visuals, it was a very enjoyable and challenging side-scrolling shooter that at first seemed like a very unassuming title, but when I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. A sequel followed as well as a number of different ports on updated hardware including a subsequent Steam release:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/307340/Platypus/

https://store.steampowered.com/app/319180/Platypus_II/

However, I then discovered that Anthony, along with a new team of developers under the name Claymatic Games, were hard at work on a new game called Clodhoppers. A spiritual successor to a game Anthony had previously been working on called Cletus Clay, Clodhoppers perpetuates the same quirky claymation-style visuals whilst taking on the form of a brawler game, with an eccentric and unconventional cast of characters whilst also including shooting mechanics. After I found out about this game, I got in touch with Anthony at Claymatic Games and sent a few questions about the game and it’s development, as well as about highlights of his long and varied career within the gaming industry. These were his and Claymatic’s answers:

What were the influences behind Clodhoppers? 

Back in the early 2000s we worked on a game called Cletus Clay which ultimately was never released due to complications caused by the GFC and recession. Clodhoppers is an evolution of our unrealised ideas for that game, but it’s really taken on a life of its own now that the multiplayer element has come to the fore and the community are getting involved. User feedback is one of our biggest influences. I guess the way-back original inspiration for the game lies somewhere between a classic run-and-gun arcade game and a Far Side cartoon. The very first iteration of the game was something I wrote on the Amstrad CPC (8 bit home computer from the 1980s) so the roots go pretty far back! 

What has the developmental process been like? 

I’m very fortunate to be working with an excellent team on this – Stu Yarham (coding) and Mal Reed (art) are doing all the hard work. The game has come together very quickly. It’s been great (for me). 

What attracted you to using claymation in the first place? Were there many stop-motion or claymation films or shows you watched growing up? 

Oh yes, I used to watch The Trap Door every Saturday morning. But I started using clay when I was in film school and it was really for convenience. I had been animating with drawings, but it was very slow with the technology of the day (I was drawing on paper and scanning in each drawing on a flatbed scanner) and I got sick of having to redraw the background again and again for all the various camera angles.I found that I could get a good-looking end result more quickly using stop-motion. I started out shooting on film but moved on to digital as soon as the technology was available. Then in the late 1990s/early 2000s as I started to get back into making video games, I thought it made good sense to make sprites with clay as we were transitioning into 16 and 24 bit colour. These days it’s more of a perverse choice than a practical one. 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

We’re aiming for early next year. Of course, since we are doing our development in public people can play the unfinished product right now. 

What has been the most exciting aspect of Clodhoppers’ development? 

Definitely the fact that we are letting the public play the game as we make it. Too often game development can feel like you are stuck in a dungeon as you work on your game. And then if the game doesn’t get released, as happened to us, you can wonder where your life went. It’s nice to have people engaging with the work we are doing and giving us feedback. It’s a real boost. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of Clodhoppers’ development? 

This is probably a question for Stu but getting online multiplayer stuff to work is always a tricky business. Trying to find an elegant way to represent 2d gameplay using 3d geometry is harder than it looks, too. [Stu says: The hardest things from a code POV mentioned are definitely the top of my list.] We also spent a fair bit of time experimenting with different ways of turning clay models into 3d models. I did a lot of photogrammetry experiments before we switched to using a structured light scanner with a turntable. The game uses a combination of both techniques. 

How well has the game been received so far? 

People always laugh and I love to see that. Video games are a great medium for silly slapstick humour and this is a very silly game. 

Would you say the development of Clodhoppers has been anywhere near as arduous as the development of Platypus was? 

Platypus was really a very straightforward game to make, but it was just me on my own doing everything. Although Clodhoppers is a far more complex game, it’s being made by a team of people who actually know what they’re doing, so that makes a big difference. But on the other hand, if you include the two versions of Cletus Clay which we worked on for several years before Clodhoppers… four years on my own for the first PC version, then a couple of years in a team on the Xbox 360 game… that was the arduous part! I would say that this iteration of Clodhoppers has been – for me at least – the easiest game to work on, and Platypus the second easiest, and everything else has been pretty tough. 

 

How exhilarating an experience has it been to attend expos and see people enjoying Clodhoppers? 

We should ask Mal and Stu (I haven’t been to any of the Clodhoppers ones, once again Mal and Stu have been the heroes). How exhilarating has it been guys? [Stu: Seeing people laugh and return to the booth for one more game (or in some cases a 5th or 6th time) makes it all worthwhile.] 

You also worked on Eufloria as well, but how many times have you thought of making an RPG using claymation? 

I’ve kicked around a few RPG concepts over the years. One thing I’ve learned is that RPGs in general are a tremendous amount of work to test and balance. They are very big and they have a lot of variables. I would approach any future RPG projects with caution. 

What do you think would be next for Claymatic after Clodhoppers? Have any further ideas for games been either suggested or worked on? 

We bought back the rights to Platypus last year so we are going to be doing a small project with that. We aren’t working on anything beyond Clodhoppers at the moment but of course we have ideas. I could pitch ideas all day! But it pays not to get too far ahead of yourself. 

What platforms are you looking to bring Clodhoppers to? 

PC/Mac and current consoles are the target. 

How proud are you that both Platypus and Platypus II have continued to remain relevant so many years after its release with the sheer amount of ports there have been? 

It’s amazing that Platypus ever got anywhere. It was never supposed to. All I set out to do was make a game that a kid wouldn’t feel ripped off if they spent five bucks on it. I wasn’t getting paid enough to do a good job but I didn’t want to do a terrible job. I think I probably over-delivered. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this? 

Best advice is always to jump in and start making games. Find some way to get your ideas up on the screen and do it. Even if your protagonist is a rectangle. I would suggest you don’t try to make anything big or epic as a first project. You’ll never finish it, it will take forever and probably be bad anyway. So put your grand ideas to one side and start with small ideas. The smaller the better, so you can try out lots of them. 

 

Do you have anything else to add? 

Thanks to anybody who took the time to read this far. If you want to know more, come and check out our work at claymatic.games, join our Discord server and let us know what you think.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank both Anthony and the guys at Claymatic Games for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing so many awesome details with me about Clodhoppers. If anyone is interested in following the development of the game, you can check out their official website at:

https://claymatic.games/

And you can also follow their social media links and Discord feed via the links below:

Discord – https://discordapp.com/channels/334342069755576322/599203200758710273

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ClaymaticGames/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ClaymaticGames

Twitch – https://www.twitch.tv/claymaticgames

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0zGPX7v2yOpQ9DZcbfTh8g

You can also download a demo of the game from their official website, which I highly recommend to get the best idea of where development is at the moment. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed putting it together and I wish Claymatic Games and Anthony the best of luck with Clodhoppers and I’m very much looking forward to playing the final game, as I’m sure you guys are too.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer88

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