If you're looking for intellectually stimulating games that combine strong storytelling elements with clever puzzles, cool graphics and unexpected surprises...then look no further than MadPea's creations in Second Life. This immersive gaming environment is the result of MadPea Productions, a global collaboration between Kiana Writer, Colin Nilsson, SweetDevil Magic and Madcow Cosmos. Together, they've created several of the most challenging and fun games inside Second Life including Devil's Labyrinth, The Kaaos Effect and Reaction.
We recently spoke with MadPea's founder and director Kiana Writer about the projects. To see a walk-through of the island, watch the video below.
We've also included the full text of the interview below.
DG: MadPea's presence in Second Life includes several original, story-driven games. Tell us a bit about the creative process behind your work.
KW: It all starts from a tiny idea that usually just grows into being an amazing experience. We create the storyline first and plan the puzzles. We don’t try to import any existing games into SL, instead we create new original adventures that work on the platform. After the initial plan is ready we begin the building process followed by texturing. Scripting and sounds come next and then all kinds of after effects to make sure the game experience is smooth. We always betatest before opening a new game.
We have been creating games for two years now and it all began with a small hunt. You can see a lot of improvement and new features in our newer games, each big game is always more complex than the previous one. It will be really exciting to release our new games in the next couple of months and truly surprise people again to show what is actually possible to do inside Second Life.
DG: There are several people on the MadPea development team. Are you all located in the same area and, if not, has the distance been a problem in collaborating on each project?
KW: I think we are a good example of how Second Life truly brings like-minded people together. We met each other in-world and saw the possibility to work together efficiently. We live all around the globe and are on very different timezones. The distance hasn’t been hindering us at all, we have a few hours daily together to go through the progress of the projects. Here we can create together and share our work in an easy way.
DG: One of your most popular attractions is The Devil's Labyrinth, an elaborate maze inside Second Life. How did you come up with the HUD design, which is a lot more intricate than most?
KW: The HUD design was based around the logo for the game itself. The shape of the HUD is actually the Greek symbol for the labyrinth, which stands for an elaborate structure built to hold in the forces of evil. Combining that shape with the different symbols that you collect throughout the maze was the main design concept. The four items you have to find in Path 1 of the Devil’s Labyrinth are also Greek symbols that have a background storyline behind their use and intertwined with the story of the individual demons you will battle in later paths. We wanted to try to make a role playing HUD that offered the players an easy to use interface. We tried to use symbols for each of the buttons on the HUD to make the players understand right off the bat what they are used for but at the same time leave some mystery to be found out as you go. The use of magical items and other objects found throughout your journey helps you complete different tasks necessary to complete the path.
For the more experienced roleplayers the use of both mana, health and gold in the gameplay allows an instant familiarity of the goals of the game.
The center devil’s head button serves as a multipurpose button allowing you to revive your character and return to your last save point or even allows you to return to the sim from anywhere in SL through the use of the map features. You can return back to the game from wherever you left off in your game progress depending on your last save point.
In our next version of the Devil’s Labyrinth we are incorporating the players’ ability to upgrade items, purchase new items through the gold and or our MadPoints system and the ability to customize their characters.
DG: One unique feature we've noticed is the loading screen that appears when traveling between areas. How did that come about?
KW: The screen was originally created for The Kaaos Effect to ‘hide’ things... Not so many people realize that in Kaaos the player doesn’t actually move after the initial pull by the HUD. The whole game is played on holodecks and once a puzzle has been successfully completed, the HUD effect covers your whole screen to hide the fact that the whole room is pulled apart underneath your feet and a new one is rezzed immediately.
DG: Another innovation that we noticed was present in your puzzle game The KAAOS Effect. In this time travel adventure, the design enabled participants to share hints as they traveled from room to room -- yet, each person's journey is routed in a "sharded" or independent path so that they don't actually encounter other players directly. Can you explain a bit about this design approach?
KW: Because Kaaos is played on holodecks, the game is meant to be a solo-experience. Only one player can interact with one holodeck at a time. This was the best solution to keep people from disturbing each other’s game experience. We created armbands for sim-wide communication, so that all the players could still chat with each other, even while they were playing different parts of the game.
DG: The level of detail in many of your games is impressive. Are there any cheat codes or "Easter eggs" that we should keep an eye out for?
KW: Play the game to find out.. You should always pay attention to the smallest of details, we like to add hints to those.. In Kaaos for example, there is an underlying story behind the main one that you get if you find some extra items in the rooms. Also, as a bonus you get so see something hilarious in the end after finding all the clocks. Make sure always to click and try out different things in the games, you never know what happens!
DG: Rumor has it that you are working on a couple of new projects. One that is referenced on your blog is the VMD - Learning Medicine in Virtual Worlds. What can you tell us about that?
KW: VMD will truly show what is possible to do in SL. We have created a breath-taking experience that is also educational together with a real life surgeon Cha Klaar. In the game the player becomes a doctor of the future and will cure patients from inside of their bodies. The game making project has been long, since it’s by far the most complicated thing we have ever designed. You will be shrunk down with your ship to enter the body in the funniest ways and see the most bizarre things. One of the greatest things about this game is that you will learn medicine in a fun way. The game will be playable in six different languages. Coming soon!
DG: Some of your newer work merges educational elements into the gaming, such as Reaction and Notes from the Voyage. Why go this direction?
KW: At first we used to do very dark games and mysteries and people seemed to think we were only enjoying one style. We definitely don’t want to be categorized, since we are interested in all kinds of genres. We believe Second Life is a great environment for learning and when Sigma-Aldrich approached us about Reaction, it was great fun to create something that had an educational value and yet still being exciting, interactive and immersive.
DG: Are there any game ideas you considered but abandoned, and why?
KW: Let’s just say that we have several stories written for adventures that are just waiting to get built one day. I think our main disappointment was with Within 2, we had an amazing build ready, story and puzzles all planned. In the sequel to a popular Secret organization where the players became assassins, they were actually supposed to hunt down extremely intelligent aliens to create a virus. The aliens were the main part of the game and were designed by a big real life company who sadly left Second Life and we never had a chance to release the game. Hopefully one day we can do that still.
DG: What's next for MadPea Productions?
KW: Make sure to come back and check on us, we are currently working on four big projects at the same time and once those are released within the next couple of months, all the anxious waiting will certainly be rewarded!