Series Spotlight: Grave Mania
In this week’s Series Spotlight, we take a look at the Grave Mania game series from Anino Games. I was able to sit down with Team Loca, the group responsible for Grave Mania’s development. The second game in the series, Grave Mania: Pandemic Pandemonium, was just released earlier this week so remember to check it out here once you are done reading this interview!
How did you come up with the Grave Mania game series?
Oh my, where to start? It will take an entire blog post just to tell the whole story, but we’ll give it a shot anyway.
The idea for Grave Mania started as a funerary time-management joke dubbed Funeraria Loca. The genre is full to the brim with service and kitchen-oriented TM games, and we were thinking about odd jobs that would fit with the play style of the TM games. We realized the opportunity to introduce a theme from way out of the left field – we wanted something funny, something edgy, and something other TM developers would not even consider doing – so we took the chance and went ahead with the concept.
It’s supposed to be just a joke – well, the kind of joke that really went out of hand. For better or worse, the zombie-funeral theme immediately stood out from the TM crowd, and we’re very happy with the outcome.
Please introduce your development team.
For Grave Mania: Pandemic Pandemonium, the development team includes a trio of loco designers, Dino, Jay, and Aldrich; our all-female team of artists, Dani, Fe, and Ellie; and two tough-as-nails programmers, Carl and Bear. Helping us finish the job are our producers, Bea and Monica, and testers Jamie, Trish, Tristan, and Marlon.
How do you get inspiration for a game?
We get inspiration basically from everywhere. Everything from visiting different museums, parks, libraries, and toy stores to interacting with friends and colleagues, have really become viable sources of ideas for a new game. Also, watching different types of movies and TV shows, listening to lots of music, reading books and comics expanded our pool of knowledge.
With Grave Mania, its timing and conceptualization was perfect. It was right around Halloween 2010, so we used the zombies, vampires, and other creatures of the night that were decorations everywhere as inspiration. It was also the time when Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare was popular around the office. During the course of its development, movies like Night of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and Rango also gave us ideas about zombie behavior. Spending a lot of time watching TV, especially Nickelodeon, gave our artists references on cartoon character design and slapstick animation.
What are the biggest technical challenges when you develop a game?
One of the biggest technical challenges was to make the game system as flexible as possible. This meant giving the game designers the ability to assign zombies and stations anywhere. With the current system, designers could actually make 5 different layouts per town/city.
Another challenge was that we started the Grave Mania 2 system from scratch. Little was reused from the Grave Mania 1 system. This allowed us better optimization from the start and gave more space for flexibility and improvements.
What does your development team do that’s different?
Since the idea behind Grave Mania started as a joke, the development team started throwing jokes upon jokes and by the time the game was about to be developed, we had a lot of funny ideas that we could use to make the game as fun as possible.
If you could remove one cliché from the Video Game industry, what would it be?
It’s probably the belief that casual games only appeal to women and children. With Grave Mania, we proved that as long as the game is fun to play, it will appeal to a wide demographic.
What do you find is the best approach for starting a new project?
For the sequel, the first thing we did was assess the previous game’s strengths and weaknesses. We also went through a lot of player feedback and identified areas in need of improvement. After that, the designers made a list of what they wanted to do for the next game. Mechanics that worked before were improved, and those that didn’t were replaced or axed.
As for the story, we decided that this time Grave Mania has to go global, and our heroes Bonnie and Johnny are now jumping from one country to another as they track down the source of the zombie pandemic. This influenced many of our gameplay elements since everything we put in the game had to fit on a global scale. One example of story and gameplay working together is *SPOILER ALERT* the introduction of the Grave Maniac. This zombie hand puppet thing keeps chasing Bonnie and Johnny in the story, so we added an entirely new mini-game to make the chase scenes more interactive and fun!
What do fans of the Grave Mania series have to look forward to in Grave Mania: Pandemic Pandemonium?
Those who played Grave Mania: Undead Fever would surely be surprised with the changes and additions we have included in Pandemic Pandemonium. The game still sticks to its zombie funeral time-management formula, but everything is more fun, exciting, and the story will surely put you on the edge of your seat.