If you haven't played Little Inferno on your iPad or your Wii U yet, it probably isn't what you're expecting. Made by the Tomorrow Corporation, a collaboration between Kyle Gabler, Allan Blomquist and Kyle Gray the game is essentially a virtual fireplace in which the the player is invited to burn a selection of items. It's arson as a hobby with a sideline in satire, and not what you'd expect to find on the Wii U store.
Gabler and Gray spoke to GamesIndustry International about the game, why they chose Wii U as a leading platform, the birth of the Tomorrow Corporation, and flaming faeces.
Q: What's the stupidest thing you've read about the game?
Kyle Gabler:We've built a game with a cat that shoots flaming poo all over the screen, accompanied by dramatic music and a heartwarming message about the value of your time. It's impossible to write about this game in a way that DOESN'T sound stupid.
"There's something nice about controlling fire with your fingertips - it feels like it's tapping into some primitive caveman desire"
Q: How many gamers were you expecting to get the joke?
Kyle Gabler:Little Inferno tries very hard to make you think it's a silly little game about setting things on fire and shopping. But I think most players quickly pick up that maybe there's something else smouldering in there. It's an intentionally tiny premise with a very slow burn, hopefully with a welcome payoff.
Q: Which came first, the satire or the game design?
Kyle Gabler:Like most indie game developers, we're fairly neurotic people. Our heads constantly swirl with anxieties and unusual perceptions of basic things in the world, which ensures we're only ever about 20 per cent capable people. So, whether it's Little Inferno, or a game about de-petaling roses, or a game about double jumping to avoid spikes, the very same messages and satire and half-formed thoughts would have embedded themselves in the game in some form or another.
Q: Why did you go for the platforms you did?
Kyle Gray:We tend to develop the game idea first and then try and figure out what platforms it works on the best. As soon as we had a working version of Little Inferno we knew it was going to be a great fit for a pointer or touch based device. When Nintendo announced the Wii U, everything just fell into place.
An iPad version also seemed like a great idea. There's something nice about controlling fire with your fingertips - it feels like it's tapping into some primitive caveman desire. Like shopping.
Q: Was there ever a worry that a game about BURNING EVERYTHING might not get approved by someone like Nintendo?
Kyle Gabler:We talked to Dan Adelman at Nintendo very early on about this strange game, and he was (surprisingly) supportive from the beginning.
Q: Is this a game you could have found an audience for before digital publishing?
Kyle Gray:There's pretty much no good way to pitch a game about burning stuff - especially a strange one like Little Inferno. Without digital distribution it would be a very, very hard game to release.
"There's pretty much no good way to pitch a game about burning stuff"
Q: How did Tomorrow Corporation get together?
Kyle Gray:The three of us actually all met and worked together in grad school. Since this was before digital distribution had taken off, we decided to get jobs in the "real" industry at EA. Kyle and Allan ended up at EA Redwood Shores, while I started off at EA Tiburon. But after a while, we got restless and wanted to make our own mark on the industry. Kyle left to create World of Goo with 2D BOY cohort Ron Carmel and eventually Allan, while I pitched Hatsworth internally at EA. After both games finished, the Allan, Kyle, and I got back in touch and started Tomorrow Corporation.
Q: What are you planning next?
Kyle Gray:We're currently working on the Mac and Linux ports of Little Inferno. Fans have also been asking for an Android version, so we're investigating whether or not that's something we can support. After that we'll start work on something new - it'll be hard to create another game that matches the strangeness of Little Inferno, but we're all excited to try it.