Quantum Conundrum interview: a question of scope

Quantum Conundrum has a release date, and producer Greg Poulos is ready to talk about finishing Airtight Games' latest project.

Now that Quantum Conundrum has a firm release date (June 22nd for Steam), developer Airtight Games is taking some time at this year's E3 to sit back and watch people get their hands on the final version. But producer Greg Poulos took some time to talk with us about finishing Quantum Conundrum, the importance of scope, and what he's hoping fan reaction will be.

Quantum Conundrum is just about here, obviously. Do you have any thoughts as you approach the game's final stretch?

We're just really excited to get it out there, since we are just a week or so away, so there's not much we can do now, you know, to change it. We're looking forward to seeing how the public receives it, and hopefully it'll be received well.

Over the course of development a lot of games change in major ways. Is there anything about the way Quantum Conundrum has turned out that surprises you, or that caught you off guard given the original goals for the game?

One of the surprising things is that it hasn't changed that much. I've been in the games industry for 15 years, and this is one that was pretty singular in its vision from the start. And it took a couple of quirky little sidetracks but all of those sort of added on to what the core mechanic was. Right from the start, it was about shifting dimensions, and Fluffy was even kind of the example dimension that we had prototyped first. It's in the end game, so it was pretty focused and stayed true to its vision.

What's been the biggest obstacle to completion? Has there been any one thing in particular that's been a challenge to getting Quantum finished?

Making sure we didn't do too much. We got excited about all the possibilities we came up with, and all the combinations we came up with for the dimensions, and we had to scale it back a little bit and take a couple of gameplay objects we just didn't have time to teach properly. It just got a little overcomplicated and overwhelming. So the biggest challenge was really throttling ourselves and not throwing too much into the game, and overwhelming the player.

Now that the game is basically done, is there a sort of repository of things you wish you could have done and didn't have time for?

That's always the case, and as you're going along you discover new things that open up whole new paths of gameplay, but we wouldn't have enough to time to go back and retrofit that. Towards the end of the game, the art guys had a nice polish phase and were able to go back and redo the first wing that they had done. But over the course of the game you learn so much about making puzzles that by the time you get to the end, we wish we could go back with everything we know.

One of the problems that many smaller or indie-oriented games has is the idea of maintaining a proper sense of scope given time and budget. Is there a trick to keeping a certain scope to ship on time?

We started with a smaller scope and built up because we had so many puzzles we were excited about that we sort of jammed them in. And since the team was excited about the project, they were willing to put in the extra time to finish the levels we made so that we could give as much of an experience as possible. When you're approaching any game, you want to make sure you change the scope if you need to. If it came down to it, we could have cut a couple of levels, but you want to make sure you don't cut out so many you ruin the continuity of the story, or that you lose stuff that you're teaching.

When do you start thinking about what comes next or where you go afterwards as a team?

We have a lot of ideas. We're at the tail end, and submitting to certification, and we've talked about where we might want to go next. As soon as Quantum Conundrum hits the public and we see how the public reacts, we'll see what they react well to and what they don't, and we'll start discussing more seriously. Hopefully this is establishing something. The team loved working on Quantum Conundrum, and it's my favorite project that I've ever worked on, so I'm certainly looking forward to more, if we have the opportunity.

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