Chair Entertainment Group Interview

Recently, Ichabod13 had a chance to interview Donald Mustard, Creative Director at Chair Entertainment Group, and discuss Undertow and future projects.

Your team has experience on making a console title, what differences go into making a game for the XBL Arcade?

Not as many as you would think, because an arcade game still has to go through the same rigorous testing and certification process as a full consol title; and since Undertow has so many different features from its multiplayer to its co-op, there is just a lot of work that goes into finishing a game.

The one huge difference was the memory constraint. Cramming the entire game into 50 megabytes required us to completely rethink our process of developing a game. It required us to boil the game down to its core essence of fun. It left no room for fluff, no room for feature creep, and it forced us to justify the existence of every single asset in the game. This provided an awesome laser focus for us. That being said, we saw no reason why the small file size and small price of an XBLA game meant that we had to scrimp on features or gameplay, so we just found a way to get it all in there.
Another difference is the development time. Undertow was created in under one year, as opposed to much longer for a full console game.

Is anyone from Chair Entertainment afraid of water?

No. But now that we know what’s really going on down there, maybe we should be…

Sixteen players over the Arcade is a first for the 360, what challenges did you face making this a reality?

The biggest challenge was getting rid of lag and making the very fast combat super smooth. This took many, many months of testing and reworking, testing and reworking to get right – but we were not willing to compromise the gameplay so we just kept pushing until we thought it was really fun.

What is it like working so close with family members on projects?

I think it’s great. We have a very small, very tight knit team here at Chair, and we have all been working together for a long time, so in some ways we are all family here. And like all families, we definitely have our moments where we passionately disagree with each other. But also like a family, we have a bond that lets us always move forward strong and unified. I have never worked with a group of people that shared such a singularity of vision and purpose, and its awesome. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Who owns the best and worst gaming setup at Chair?

We’ve all got pretty nice setups, but I’d have to say it’s our CEO, Ryan. He just recently got the gaming bug and went out and bought all of the systems. He’s got an awesome 120 inch projector and a super sweet sound system. He’s really been putting it to use and I think he’s probably played more games in the past few weeks than any of us…and we play a lot!

Has the Xbox 360 allowed you do things that were just not possible on previous consoles?

Absolutely! The only reason we were able to have all of the rays of light streaming through the water, caustic lighting playing off everything, dynamic shadows everywhere, cool water shaders, tons of bubble and explosion particles, etc. is because of the power of the Xbox 360.

Has your team considered making future games for the XBLA or the 360 console?

We loved the process of creating Undertow for LIVE Arcade, and we have already begun development on another downloadable title. More about that one later….

Is there a favorite console, PC, or board game that Chair Entertainment likes to bust out and play together?

Our all time favorite game to play together is definitely Counter Strike. We have logged way too many hours together over the years. We are pretty big fans of all great multiplayer games, but for some reason we just keep coming back to good old Counter Strike – we just love the strategic, round based gameplay that really rewards skill and tactical thinking. On a straight game play level, we’ve also really been liking Call of Duty 4, Halo 3, and Mass Effect.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us…

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