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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
An interview with Arthur 'Mr. Podunkian' Lee, developer of The Underside.

Hi Arthur, let's begin with an introduction of yourself.

Okay, I'm a college student. I use pretty much entirely Multimedia Fusion and GraphicsGale for most my games, but recently I've gotten into some sound design with old toys and homemade electronics. And I made Punishment 1, 2, and Flywrench. But before that I made Wally, Bool, and Booloid.

I'm just kidding, let me get serious here.

Hi, I'm Arthur "Mr. Podunkian" Lee, I'm a college student and I guess I've been making video games for 13 years now, and that's more than half of my entire life, which makes me either an expert in making video games or a big fat nerd.

Are you trying to interview me so you can ask me to show you a picture of a project I'm working on because if you are lemme tell you, you're going to find yourself in a world of disappointment!

You caught me red-handed. Actually, I'm just trying to make sure that The Underside isn't abandoned.

What games have you made so far? I mean, just name the games that you want people to Google for. I know about your past projects, but unfortunately some people think you've only done The Underside. Oh wait, can I use the words 'Cave Story rip-off' excessively in this interview? Or just sparingly?

Yes, preface every question with it!

Haha... can I end each question with the same words as well?

I'm trying to think of what I've made that's still online, but there's really nothing that I've done that's still online.

Metal Gear Santa, The Serious Sam spoof...

Well, I think my first big project was a game called Super Fun Dungeon Run, which featured a little fellow running through and an endless dungeon full of traps. Since then I've made Operation: Human Shield 2 (and I guess by extension, Operation: Sitting Duck 1), Circy 1-3, Novabrain's Grand Adventure, Merry Gear Solid, Serious-Sam-I-Am, and I guess this little game called The Underside.

In which year do you think you will finish development on The Underside? Will there be another demo before that?

See, I used to tell people that The Underside would be finished sometime between Team Fortress 2 and Duke Nukem: Forever, and now that Team Fortress 2 has been released I'm basically in deep trouble. I really have no idea when it'll be done, there's still a whole lot of the game I've gotta do. As for another demo, I've been thinking about it, but I'm sort of against putting out too much media, because it's kind of like vanilla ice cream. If you have vanilla ice cream every once in awhile, it's basically a no-pants party in your mouth. But if you have vanilla ice cream too often, you're going to get sick of it. The same thing applies to other flavors of ice cream too. My game is ice cream.

Okay, how much of it is done?

I just finished the second "boss", but I use the term really loosely, because he doesn't really fight back at all. It's kind of hard to explain, but he's actually an inside-joke/cameo sort of a thing.

What do you think of Pixel's comment about The Underside?

I was really surprised and flattered -- I had no idea he'd played, much less heard about my game. Though I'm worried a bit that he had to give up in the beginning because the game was too hard. And this is the fellow who made the 'Hell' level. I've created a monster.

Is Derek Yu still one of your favorite indie game developers after the recent debacle? Since you've mentioned his name in a list somewhere...

I'll answer your question with a question of my own: Remember that one time. That one time you put a link to my forums on that one post with a picture of Buddy murdering some puppies. Remember how you removed that link? Remember how you thought no one noticed? Well guess what, buddy. Someone did.

That's not really a question though.

But yeah, Derek Yu is still one of my favorite indie developers. I felt that the post I made was long overdue, but he apologized, and I still think his artwork is amazing, so it doesn't really affect my opinion of him.

Have you tried out the Aquaria demo yet?

I bought it the HOUR it came out. I threw money in his general direction. Thirty digital cyberbucks.

Your opinions about Aquaria then. Or what you've played of it so far.

I figured it would be my way of burying the hatchet. To pay him. I paid him as a way of saying "sorry." It's the best, most sincere sort of a "sorry."

Well, if you want me to be COMPLETELY HONEST,...

Yes, complete honesty please. I mean, he has your money anyway. He probably could care less about what you say.

Hrrmmmm, I was a little bit underwhelmed. You have to realize I grew up basically idolizing Derek Yu's pixel art style, starting with the original Trigger Happy, which I found on some AOL boards (heh, heh, AOL) a long long time ago, and I can't help but feel that the skeletal animation system they've got in the game makes the game look a little stiff and lifeless compared to his other stuff.

And the whole "gesture-based-everything-can-be-controlled-with-a-mouse" seems more like an unnecessary gimmick than anything that really contributes to the overall experience. But besides that I'm enjoying the atmosphere and story.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a long interview.

END TRANSMISSION. Haha, dats all i gosta say.

Really... I was hoping for more.

Hahaha. Basically those are my only gripes. The skeletal animation system is really really underwhelming. And the controls are affffffffffff

I think I should leave it at that, I don't want people thinking I'm an asshole.

Haha, okay. Well I'm sure you can't change the minds of those who already think you are.

I've played just past the first boss, so my opinion on the game might be a little biased.

Do you plan on joining IGF with The Underside anytime in the near future? Derek Yu and Joakim Sandberg (who is also in your list of favorite indie developers) have already gone down that route... and did you ever consider joining this year?

It's something I want to do in the future, but probably not with The Underside. The IGF is always full of really unique and interesting games, and well, let's just say I don't think it's the right place for a game as traditional as The Underside.

What do you think of Noitu Love 2? It's basically a 2D platformer, and since it made it into the IGF finals, I'm confident that The Underside has a good chance of doing the same.

I think Noitu Love has a unique control scheme, and an interesting art style, which sort of puts it past "just another 2D platformer." The Underside is not so much a reinvention of anything as it is just the synthesis of a lot of good ideas. It's like a casserole of video games. It's also ice cream. I've got food on my mind.

How much did you receive in donations so far? Messhof only got $25...

Only $25? Son, you could practically buy a copy of Aquaria with that kind of money.

Well, Messhof's mom only gave him $20 to buy Aquaria, but Derek increased the price to $30. BUMMER.

Actually, I think I've gotten $25 in donations too. Maybe $25 is some sort of a lucky number.

Who donated, by the way? you should ask them for more money...

Give me more money.

...since you have their email address and stuff. Are you going to make a small game this Christmas?

I was planning on it but then I realized I have too many unfinished projects going on.

Such as? surely you mean, 'the project'...

This one's never going to be finished. I'm also working on a fake Spectrum game called "Let's Get Willy" with a good fellow named Duncan 'LikeRock' Roberts and a game involving a clock. A time travelling clock. It travels through time. I can't tell you what the clock is called but I can tell you that it starts with a Z and it rhymes with Zybourne, and that the clock is called the Zybourne clock.

Any hints?

Yeah, it's called 'the Zybourne Clock'.


What I was gonna say about The Underside was that it's been tough working on it because my musician hasn't been doing any work for me lately, so I've been having to write my own music which as you're well aware by now can be kind of disasterous (route 66, the cacophony that is the main theme, etc.). It's because I just punch my keyboard and hope that pleasant sounds come out.

Worked for Messhof.

I think the hardest part about writing The Underside is that I'm really trying to go for a kid-friendly, RATED E FOR EVERYONE script, which means I can't be too dirty with it. But at the same time it really helps the script as a whole because it lets me tackle sort of awful subject matter with a happy, ironic tone. Like a man who's face is too wide and has been stuck in his house for years.

Okay we all know your favorite indie games of all time (Cave Story is definitely not in that list), but have you played anything recently that you felt was spectacular?

Flywrench probably. It's really simple, short, but not too short, and really funny in a dry sort of a way too. There's this other game called 'Pasi the Pumpkin Worm', but I don't think anyone has the depth of mind required to fully appreciate it.

Is there anything you want to say or repeat to the people who said The Underside is a Cave Story rip-off?

Basically that I love them, that I care for them. That I hope they never change. I wish for their very best, and that they succeed in every aspect of their lives.

No, I mean, really....



Anonymous cactus said at 12/12/2007 05:17:00 AM:  
I read most of them, which is more than I can say for the game descriptions usually posted (where I mostly glance at screenshots until I find something that catches the eye). I like both, though. A mix would be great, I think :)
Anonymous Praadur said at 12/12/2007 05:20:00 AM:  
I think it's interesting insight into any given developer, myself. So I really hope you don't stop them, as some of them can be really interesting, and on times, even funny.

And after all that's happened, I also have to say that I'm really impressed with how Arthur approached this interview. Kudos to him.

Pasi the pumpkin worm though, eh? That game carries a most riveting tale, spanning through the myriad planes of human sanity, potential, and self-realisation, all leading to the tragic understanding that many of us may never poke our heads out of the dirt and find that one pumpkin. A true work of art.

Well, alright... maybe it doesn't exist. But it should.
Anonymous Mark-P said at 12/12/2007 05:44:00 AM:  
I really like them and I read them all. :D
Anonymous Phlogiston said at 12/12/2007 05:55:00 AM:  
I quite enjoyed this interview, and I read and enjoy the others as well. Give a shout out if you want to interview any of the PerfectRun guys, although we've been quiet for a little while, now. Stuff in the works, though.
Anonymous BenH said at 12/12/2007 06:33:00 AM:  
I enjoy reading the interviews, so it would be a shame for them to end.
Anonymous Devlin said at 12/12/2007 09:29:00 AM:  

plus, I'd like to see these comments from pixel too(translated, natch).
Blogger Tim said at 12/12/2007 09:36:00 AM:  
posted by Shih Tzu on Nov 27, 2007 12:06 pm:

For what it's worth, someone brought up The Underside on Pixel's web BBS and I pointed him to some videos. He writes, "Ah, I know this game. I tried it out once before, but it was difficult and I had to give up right near the beginning. I checked out the trailers. It's fun to spot the similarities."

I do kind of wish everyone could have that attitude.
Blogger ultim8p00 said at 12/12/2007 09:59:00 AM:  
Hahahaha, I love the sarcasm at the end.
Anonymous mr. podunkian said at 12/12/2007 12:56:00 PM:  
pasi the pumpkin worm:


not for the faint of heart
Blogger oranda said at 12/12/2007 02:46:00 PM:  
Kudos man, that interview was handled with all kinds of aplomb. A very enjoyable read ^^. And those comments by pixel should help with the criers of "copycat" a bit!

Maybe I'm missing something, but I can't get past the cloud in pasi. So far all I have figured out how to do is double jump and throw some sort of giant square thingy around, but as far as I can tell there is no way to control it, it just flies right of the end of the screen.

Are there any directions for this game? I didn't see any directions on the site, there are none in the zip file, and there are none (that are easily seen) in game.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/12/2007 02:50:00 PM:  
Like his game Arthur seems to be a twunt.
Anonymous Kon-Tiki said at 12/12/2007 03:44:00 PM:  
Double jump? Let me boot it up again, maybe now I can get past the first 2 steps :P
Anonymous Kon-Tiki said at 12/12/2007 03:49:00 PM:  
Yup, stuck at the cloud too now. Once you figure the double jump out, the rest is too easy.
Blogger oranda said at 12/12/2007 05:00:00 PM:  
Aye, it was pretty easy. I still want to kill that cloud, though, or whatever you do to pass it. It really irks me that all that stands between me and pumpkin-worm assisted domination is a simple lack of documentation :).
Anonymous Doomy said at 12/12/2007 05:04:00 PM:  
Loved the interview. I'm so glad that the people ragging on him haven't killed his hopes and dreams for the game. This interview was handled spectacularly and I'm glad he did it.
Anonymous mr. podunkian said at 12/12/2007 05:21:00 PM:  
the trick to the cloud is that you have to hold both the left and right keys at the same time.

now that i've spoiled it, no one will ever enjoy it as well as tehy could have
Anonymous Choja said at 12/12/2007 05:35:00 PM:  
Ahaha, Podunkian, you really did well for the Underside and I'd love to play it when you do get it completed. I support you!~

Also, I really have to blame you for making me cough trying to laugh when you made that ffffffff statement. :(
Anonymous Kairos said at 12/12/2007 05:58:00 PM:  
Loved the interview. Keep it up, both of you :P
Blogger oranda said at 12/12/2007 06:21:00 PM:  
Er, spoiled it? I must be old, I just don't find randomly hitting keys until I find the right combination to do something quite "fun" anymore.

Although when I was young and not yet able to read, that was all I had... Of course, the NES only had 8 buttons, so it was a little easier back then :).
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/12/2007 08:50:00 PM:  
Route 66's music was "disasterous"? I thought it was awesome. Probably one of my favourite songs in the demo.
Anonymous dustin said at 12/12/2007 09:34:00 PM:  
passi was dead and buried, why in god's name have you dug it back up? WHY?
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/13/2007 10:05:00 AM:  
From what I heard Dustin is Podunkins bum chum or poodle.

Watch him get angry when pod is insulted but his friends don't care about him when he gets insulted.
Anonymous mr. podunkian said at 12/13/2007 11:14:00 AM:  
HRMMMMM yes this is certainly a case of "dustin to the rescue!" i mean watch all the terrible mr. podunkian lambasting that's been going on in this post, i was so mortified with how i was being treated that i pressed a little button my wristwatch that shone the duncan signal in the night sky, and dustin came swooping down to to save me fromffffffffff

~*It was then that our plucky hero, Anonymous had learned the meaning of "Friendship", and the sorts of things "Friends" will sometimes do on their own volition.*~
Blogger oranda said at 12/13/2007 12:34:00 PM:  

YES! The world bows before the unstoppable might of Pasi the Pumpkin Worm!
Anonymous mr. podunkian said at 12/13/2007 12:41:00 PM:  
i meant dustin heh heh ffff
Blogger Vincent said at 12/13/2007 12:54:00 PM:  
i appreciate that you made a button to shorten the interviews for those of us who don't want to scroll down past a huge block of text...thanks
Blogger Nathan said at 12/13/2007 01:24:00 PM:  
Love these interviews.
Anonymous Troy RULES said at 12/13/2007 02:31:00 PM:  
I've been dying to have Pixel give his thoughts on Underside. I'm really glad he had a positive look on it.
Blogger jw said at 12/14/2007 01:09:00 AM:  
Where can I find this comment by Pixel?
Blogger Jean-Sebastien said at 12/14/2007 01:06:00 PM:  
Dunno why, but I like this Arthur guy! Awsome interview, and Tim, continue making them, as long as you don't post them all on the main page (that "read more" button is cool with me though)