Last week I got the chance to sit down and pick the brains of the lads at Grandé Games, the German developement studio behind the upcoming motion/controller hybrid game Commander Cherry’s Puzzled Journey for the PS4 and Xbox One. It was a sunny Friday afternoon here in Germany, so naturally the beer flowed freely – though I was strictly on the ol’ Schwipp Scwapp. (For those wondering, it’s basically cola and orange fizzy pop.)
We talked beer, Germany, German people and how the French are quite rude. We even managed to speak about the game, too… It’s an entertaining read, so sit yourself back, relax (not too much, danger is everywhere!) and enjoy the first installment of this two-part interview with André Noller and Georg Graf.
Correction: It may end up being a three-parter. Trilogy style, ya dig?
TGC: Oh, you’re drinking beer… How very German
Andre: Haha! Yes, there is a German saying: “Ein bier vor vier” which means drink one beer before 4 o’clock. So it’s past 4 o’clock so we can drink beer now.
TGC: I didn’t know that… Well, I’ve learned one new thing already. Thanks for that!
GG: Haha, you’re welcome!
TGC: So… which one of you is Georg? Am I saying it right?
Andre: Yeah, we say Georg (pronounced gee-oorg) but George sounds a little bit smoother than Georg.
TGC: Yeah, I don’t want to insult you by pronouncing the name terribly so I think we’ll stick with George. Just for today.
A round of hearty laughter and beer swigging from the lads.
TGC: And… that would make the other chap Andre.
GG: Yes, yes
TGC: Ok, so where’s Commander Cherry?
Andre: He’s not here, he’s on a spaceship. So he’s approaching Earth because the game is releasing [Editor: We’re actually not allowed to disclose this information due to an agreement between the developers and the platform holders. Sorry!]
Andre: And yeah, he couldn’t be here today, so yes, Commander Cherry told us to do the dirty work for him. Again…
TGC: Is he a real hard-arse? Does he crack the whip and make you really work hard?
Andre: Yes. Well, what do you think it’s like having an alien boss? He has no laws to abide to, he has no human laws!
TGC: It’s a bit like me having a German boss, then?
Andre: Haha! Is it so hard having a German boss?
TGC: Yeah, it’s a lot different to the UK, I can tell you that much.
GG: Really? In what way?
TGC: It’s just different. In the UK I could get away with quite a lot of stuff in work. I could slack off, turn up late and maybe even leave a couple of hours early and nobody would notice because I was rubbish at my job anyway.
More laughing and beer swigging…
TGC: Here, I step out for ten minutes and it’s like “Where is he? Where is Chris? Find that lazy bastard!
George: There’s one thing you must know – Germans don’t hate anyone else more than other Germans and so they are monitoring you all the time. They always feel bad when you are a little bit better off than they are, so yeah, it’s terrible.
Andre: In the neighbourhood where my cousin lives, he built a car port and it was 20cm too high, so some of the neighbours called the police to complain so they would check it! It’s so crazy!
TGC: Oh my word.
Andre: But not all Germans are like that. It’s just the older ones over 50 years of age, but the younger Germans are more relaxed nowadays.
TGC: Oh yeah, I know. I do find that when I speak English in the street and there are old people nearby, they look really scared as if I’ve come to Germany to finish what my grandfather started and I’m like “No, that’s over now, I love Germany, I love you. Why won’t you love me back?!”
The lads break out into hysterical laughter.
George: Yes, the older people are very insecure. But not as insecure as the French…
TGC: Oh, don’t tell me about the bloody French… French people just don’t like to speak English – even if they know the language, they like to pretend that they don’t.
Andre: Exactly! We were at the race track in LeMont last year for the Moto GP race and we tried to speak English with the French people there on the camping site, um, yeah, and they refused to talk English with us. Even though we didn’t know French, they still talked to us in French, but a few French people were quite relaxed and were talking English. But… yeah, the other ones didn’t care and they just talked French – it was strange.
Andre: Haha! Yes, European spirit!
TGC: Right. Well then. We should probably talk about the game a little bit? Shall we talk about the game for a few minutes? We probably should, yeah?
GG: Of course.
TGC: So, I came across Commander Cherry on Twitter. It was the first I’d heard of it and I got a strange tweet…
The lads giggle like school children after hearing this.
TGC: He’s very active on Twitter, I’ve noticed. Very, very active.
Andre: He’s a hard-working alien. He’s very hard-working and he’s very keen on acquiring new cadets to accompany him on his adventure.
TGC: So… He’s the ideal immigrant, then? Hard working, doesn’t take from the government – Angela Merkel would be happy.
Andre: Haha, yes! He’s really learning human habits fast. He comes from a very smart race.
TGC: Well he’s definitely learnt Twitter faster than I have, so I’m impressed.
George: Haha, yes, it seems so.
TGC: I tried to send a private message once – it didn’t go well and my mother was not all too pleased.
Collective laughter and beer sipping.
TGC: Moving on from my social media faux-pas… I’ve seen some gameplay footage of the game and it’s definitely an interesting concept. Could you explain it for our readers?
Andre: You can explain the game in one sentence: You take a photo of your body that you can walk on. That’s the main thing you do in the game. You pose with your body and you control Commander Cherry with your controller and you can walk over your photo. It’s a platformer of your body that you can walk on.
It’s very accurate, too. You can put up your hand and your feet and you can shoot Commander Cherry’s laser through your body to make a path, something you have to do in the later levels of the game as you’ll have to think “where should I laser through to be able to collect all of the golden orbs.”
George: It’s like a photoshop in a game. If you have a big belly, you can take your picture and then shoot away the fat!
Andre: Ha! Yes, it is a different experience depending on your body type.
TGC: Cool. So skinnier people may have a harder time than say, someone who likes to eat a lot of Bratwurst?
George: Haha, yeah, maybe. On the other hand they could be more flexible…
TGC: Good point. So how accurate is the motion tracking?
George: So that is something we can say for sure as we played a lot of Kinect games and PlayStation camera games. We don’t use skeleton, so it’s very accurate – what you see is what you get, which means the pose you are doing and when you hit the button to take the photo – that is how it is. There are no gestures in the game.
TGC: That’s cool. So it’s very, very accurate and would it be safe to say that you could use… your tongue for Commander Cherry?
George: Actually, you really can do this. If you go close to the camera then you can do that.
Andre: It would look strange, but it would work!
TGC: Now this does beg the question – because I am a very childish person – if you can use your tongue, could you use another part of your body which could stick out?
Andre: Yes, you could use your dick if you wanted to!
At this point we all started laughing for a good thirty seconds before remembering that we are all adults…
Andre: Commander Cherry told us that a lot of humans have actually asked him about that, so we had to explain to Cherry what a penis is. We told him that human players may want to use their genitalia in the game and he said “Why?” So we explained that we are humans and that’s the way we think!
By now I was buckled over in stupendous laughter.
Andre: One person on Twitter said “so I can actually use a photo of my penis in the game? You guys should earn millions!”
TGC: Haha! Well I’m just glad I’m not the first person to think about it… So it is possible to use your… your penis – as you quite nicely put it.
Andre: If you really want to do that…
TGC: So if the game excites you enough to make your penis, you know, a viable option – why not, eh?
More howls of laughter erupt from Andre and Georg with a little bit of beer coming out of their mouths.
TGC: Well I’ll be giving that a go.
Andre: We don’t stop players from doing this. We have no algorithms to detect if you are naked or not, so this is a great idea! Maybe you could do this on Twitch…
TGC: I think Twitch would have a small problem with that…
Andre: I think so, too… But maybe another platform’s stream would not be that strict?
TGC: Well, I’ll happily sacrifice a PlayStation Network/Xbox Live account to test the limits of what’s possible. For the players and all that… I’ll get back to you and see how it goes.
George: I’ll remember that!
TGC: So, moving away from penises… What else can you tell us about the game? How did the idea of it come around? Were you sat around drinking beer in the afternoon? Did you get drunk and a cherry fell on your head?
Andre: No, no. It took us about half a year to create this idea. We had a scholarship and we had different ideas about camera games and we weren’t quite satisfied and so we had some approaches where you could build structures using your body and it was boring with no real gameplay.
TGC: Sounds… fun.
Andre: Yeah, so one day we had the idea where the structures looked strange but it could be cool if you had an avatar in the game to traverse these structures – that was the birth of Commander Cherry. It was after a creative block where we were very frustrated with trying different concepts and then one day we had this idea so we tried it just for fun, then we had an explosion of ideas! So that was the birth of the game.
George: We started on the PlayStation 4 and we had never made any video games before, so we had no background.
TGC: This is your first attempt at a game?
TGC: And you’ve gone for a motion game?
TGC: You brave bastards.
Andre: Haha! Yes! We kind of slipped into this. We came together experimenting with ideas and this is what came out of it. Before this, we had never made any games before.
Andre: I actually had a talk on the Stuttgart University of Media where I studied and talked about the story of how we managed to acquire the PlayStation 4 dev kit. It was a really crazy story. We tried to apply at the start of our scholarship. We tried to apply on Xbox, but it was too late for us to join the Xbox 360 but the Xbox One program wasn’t yet setup, so we tried a lot of different things to apply for PlayStation 4. We couldn’t actually get our form up on the official PlayStation site so tweeted Shahid Khan and sent him a link to a .zip file and this was the way we became a part of the PlayStation.
George: Yeah, it took us a long time to create a prototype and to make videos ourselves about us, how we are making the game and a lot of other stuff just to get into the program.
Andre: Yes, that was for the PlayStation 4. We did a pitching package demoing a prototype and made a team video and stuff and that’s how we applied on PlayStation 4. That was our first foot in the door of video game developement back in August 2013. So it’s been over two years now that we’ve worked on the game.
TGC: I assume, when you did your pitch to Sony and Microsoft, you mentioned being able to use your penis as part of the game?
GG: Haha, no, no!
TGC: What?! Guys, you messed up! If you mentioned that on the first day then they would have thrown money at you to make the game!
George: It was our secret!
TGC: Ah well, maybe next time…
Andre: It’s not an integral part of Commander Cherry.
TGC: Of course not, it’s a bonus feature. Well, for men anyway. The feminists may have an issue with it, you know, as they can’t participate because they don’t have the same tools as us lads. We men really will get more pleasure out of this game.
George: They can use their breasts! That could be an advantage!
TGC: Hmm, yes, that’s a good point. But some men also have boobs, so it’s still not quite equal.
Andre: Haha, man boobs! Yes, that again does make it unfair.
TGC: Ah well… Anyway, boobs and man-boobs aside, it sounds like it was quite the challenge to get the game made for the PS4 and Xbox One? Were the people in charge like “yes, we want this!” Or was it a bit harder to convince people it was a game worth making?
Andre: Like I said, we had never done this before and we didn’t come with our hands empty with nothing to show. We had a pitching package and videos showing off a prototype running on PC. I think, besides Just Dance, we were the only people making a PlayStation camera game. There is no other game, well, there’s PlayRoom and Just Dance and that’s it. So back then there was the hype when Sony told the world they were indie-friendly so we approached them and said that we are indie developers and that we had a prototype video and we were the only people making a game for the PS4 camera, so maybe this was our entry ticket into the whole PlayStation 4 developement.
We also sent a lot of demos to Sony and they gave us positive feedback, so they’re very aware of the game.
George: They know that we are releasing soon?
George actually looked a little worried at this point.
Andre: Yes, it’s coming soon, they know it’s coming soon.
[Georg and Andre asked us not to announce the release date just yet, so we won’t be giving the date. However, it’s already known that the game will be releasing by the end of August.]
TGC: Don’t worry, we won’t be spoiling the release date. We don’t want Commander Cherry to come to The Games Cabin HQ and kick our heads in.
Andre gets up and walks over to the other side of the room to replenish the now empty beer bottles.
TGC: Has Andre been summoned by Commander Cherry? Oh, nope, he’s just getting another beer. Classy man!
George: Yeah, we’re having some alcohol so we’re relaxed for the interview, plus it’s Friday. We’ve also worked so hard to get the game done, it’s been really hard. Like I said before, we’ve never made a video game before nor have we ever worked for a game company before. So yeah…
TGC: Is it just the two of you who’ve made the game?
TGC: Wow. Two people. That’s impressive.
GG: Thank you very much!
TGC: It takes three people to get me dressed in the morning, so the fact that you two guys have made a game – well done!
Georg and Andrea laugh hysterically. Who says that Germans don’t understand humour?
That’s the first part of our lengthy interview. Believe it or not, but it actually takes a hell of a long time to transcribe these things – even more so when you’ve got a controller in your hands and you’re using your feet to type.
Check back in the coming days for the second part of the interview where the lads discuss the issues of using Unity for the PS4 and Xbox One and narrowly avoid being assassinated by Microsoft and Sony for spilling secrets on the technology in the Kinect and PS4 camera.