Lab Zero Developer Interview

Published On July 24, 2018 | By Justin Ortiz-Burrow | Features, News

I recently had the pleasure of having a short chat with Lab Zero Games, the team behind the lovely Skullgirls and the highly anticipated Indivisible. Here’s what they had to say.

Console Monster: You’re based in Los Angeles, correct? How would you describe the company, and has your location influenced your games in any way?

Lab Zero: Lab Zero is an indie studio started by the core team behind Skullgirls. We employ nineteen people full time, and have a strong art focus because of our 2D animation expertise.

Just being around Los Angeles’ creative industries has definitely influenced the game. For example, Titmouse, one of our animation partners on Indivisible’s animated opening, is practically down the street from us.

That, and the wide variety of food.

CM: Your upcoming release, ‘Indivisible‘, is a platformer RPG, quite the change from your previous release ‘Skullgirls‘. Can you tell us a little more about the title?

LZ: Indivisible began as a pitch for another publisher, who asked for something “like Child of Light.” We looked at that game and realized it was essentially a platformer with an RPG battle system, which reminded us of one of our favorite PSone games, Valkyrie Profile.

Valkyrie Profile had a fighting-game-like combat system and, having just finished making Skullgirls, we felt that battle style was a good fit for the team.

And the game kind of grew from there. As we started thinking about the story and its themes, the game developed from a platformer into more of a Metroidvania.

CM: The game seems to be heavily inspired by Southeast Asian mythology; why did you choose that setting and what would some highlights of these inspirations be?

LZ: Alex Ahad, our lead concept artist, is Southeast Asian and led the push in that direction. He loved seeing the various mythological depictions in his travels to Myanmar and the Philippines, and wanted to do something like that in a game because there’s a lot of awesome monsters and lore that have mostly been ignored in today’s media.

So not only did it provide fertile ground for new ideas, but we also felt it would help the game stand out.

CM: Has the team drawn inspirations from any other sources? Film, books, etc.

LZ: Aside from the travel inspirations I mentioned before, as any Skullgirls player knows, video games and anime are probably our biggest inspirations, and that’s reflected in our work. In Skullgirls there were a lot of visual references to certain characters, poses and attacks.

That’s true for Indivisible, too. A lot of Ajna’s abilities are inspired by classics like the Megaman X series, Ducktales and Super Metroid.

We’re also big fans of the work of Studio TRIGGER, who we had the honor of collaborating with on our animated opening.

CM: One of the major appeals of Skullgirls, to me at least, was the fantastic animation and hand-drawn artwork. Can we expect the same level of detail with Indivisible?

LZ: Absolutely.

While Lab Zero is of course known for its 2D animation, ultimately we’re about characters, and getting that character to come out in the animations is something we put a lot of effort into.

CM: With the huge crowdfunding success, the game will be hitting nearly every platform, correct? What are some of the difficulties and/or benefits of working with different hardware?

LZ: When we initially funded the game, it was for PS4, Xbox One and Steam Windows, Mac, and Linux. But 505 Games greenlit a port for the Nintendo Switch in 2017, so we’re working on that as well. So, yeah, pretty much everything at this point.

As for difficulties, the real challenge for us is that we have our own internally developed engine, and that means we have to spend time porting and testing everything on each platform. It’s a big investment for a small studio like ours, but we think it’s worth it because we want our fans to be able to play our games on the platform of their choice.

CM: What are some of the current favorite games of you and the team?

LZ: We’ve got a pretty wide range of games being played right now!

Most recently I’ve been playing Hollow Knight and Octopath Traveler on the Switch.

Mike has been checking out Amanita Designs’ Chuchel and Botanicula, along with Wario Ware Twisted.

Mariel and Chris have been playing Nier: Automata.

Alex has been playing Monster Hunter World and Splatoon 2.

Jon’s been playing SOLDAM and Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight.

Earl’s been playing Far Cry 5, A Way Out, Rocket League, and Overcooked.

Brian’s currently working through the Yakuza series and getting good at Beat Saber.

In the office, some members of the team have also been playing Dragon Ball Fighter Z, while others are getting ready for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with the Wii U version.

CM: In terms of RPG and platformer titles in general, which would be the overall team favorite and why?

LZ: As you can see, our team has really diverse gaming tastes, so it’s pretty much impossible to narrow this down to a select few titles.

I realize that’s probably not the most satisfying answer, but it’s actually great for development because it means that the game is constantly being evaluated from a wide variety of different perspectives.

CM: What does the future hold for yourself and your team?

LZ: More games! My job is to keep this awesome and talented team employed, so we’ve already started looking for our next project.

 

I’d like to thank Lab Zero for taking the time to chat with me and give us a bit more insight into the development of Indivisible. It looks to be something special! You can find out more about the upcoming title over on the official website.

About The Author

Introduced to video games when he was only five, after dying somewhere around four thousand times while playing Star Tropics, he never looked back. Some of his favorites range from titles like Shenmue and Metal Gear Solid 3 to Half-Life 2, Manhunt, and the Dark Souls series. Justin has a passion for vinyl records, and loves to collect video game memorabilia. If he had one wish, it would be to travel back to 1984 Miami.