A while back, we were lucky enough to be able to conduct an interview with Marshmallow Duel's original creators. Shy fellows, they prefer to only be known by their internet handles 'Nigel' and 'Llewelyn'.
After many months of being lost at the bottoms of inboxes and generally forgotten about, we now present the unabriged interview to you.
The Interview - Part 1
How does it feel to have such a cult following of your game after all these years?
Nigel: Feels good. Llewelyn: Pretty cool. But at the same time, not surprising, since we've been following it's progress all along. MDuel grew along with the Internet and we saw early on how far it could spread with just a few uploads here and there. Many of the early registered users came from overseas (Scandinavia, Europe, Israel, etc.) and we were able to track it's growth a bit by reading the fan mail and looking at the number of downloads it was getting at places like download.com and aol.com. I think at one point something like 120,000 Malaysians had downloaded the game according to download.com or something crazy like that.
Where would you like to see Marshmallow Duel go in the future?
Nigel: I always wanted to see it develop into a crazy internet game that people could join in for a couple games whenever they had nothing better to do and the boss wasn't looking. Llewelyn: Well, there have been a lot of great user suggestions over the years that I would like to see implemented and several of the ones we've thought about for version 3.0 would be fun to see too...larger and more varied boards (maybe user created ones like Lode Runner) with other things besides poles to climb, new items, better tracking of statistics, better leveling up features, some computer controlled elements, maybe a co-op variant...all sorts of things might make for interesting variations. The trouble is of course, avoiding all of the problems that plague so many "updated classics"...I mean, 3-D Pacman? 3-D Pitfall? c'mon. Those games sucked. If you put in too many new features and fancy graphics etc., you risk screwing up what made the game work in the first place...so it's a tricky balancing act.
What is it about the original that you feel has made it such a classic?
Nigel: Llewelyn and I have been trying to figure out what makes some games fun and others not since we were in grade school. I remember distinctly one summer spending hours inventing a complex chip and dice game -- was it Post Apocalyptic Rock Fight? -- and scrapping it suddenly when we had the simultaneous realization that the Fun Factor was entirely missing. I think what makes MDuel fun is that it is simple, quick, requires minimal investment, but still provides a nice way to get competitive with a friend, talk trash, and gloat. Plus, its silly, which never hurts. Llewelyn: Well, making it two-player, despite the limitations imposed by the one screen/one keyboard/two sets of hands problems really was important. I used to think that we'd need to have a computer controlled opponent to make the game work but really, I'm glad I got overruled on that one. For starters, the programming would have been much more complicated. So as ever, rule number 1 is keep it simple! The other bits that I think add to the classic game feel are: pure luck with the timing (DOS-based games were still quite popular and it was easy to break into the scene and catch people's attention if you had a decent idea or two), the rudimentary graphics are actually almost an asset I think, and the fact that the game clearly doesn't take itself seriously but yet retains its own sense of style with the slightly understated and silly British names and funny looking characters and moves etc. But in the end, it's something of a classic mainly because it's actually fun to play. This is something that a lot of games forget. Even today, there's no escaping the fact that all the fancy graphics and sounds in the world can't overcome lousy gameplay.
Does your love for gaming continue through to today?
Nigel: Always love games, though play fewer computer ones. The ones we do still play are invariably multiplayer, require a short attention span, and makes us laugh. Most are improved by moderate alcohol consumption. Llewelyn: Hell yeah. Games are great...too bad there's so little time.
What are some of your favourite games?
Nigel: Right now, we play some Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. In the past, had a lot of fun with some older games like Streetfighter, Bionic Commando. It all began with Tunnels of Doom for the TI-99-4/A. Llewelyn: Computer games? Let's see, in addition to the ones Nige mentioned, and staying strictly (very?) old school as it were: the Infocom text adventure games (Planetfall in particular), the aforementioned Lode Runner (1984)...Enchanted Scepters (1984), and Dark Castle (1986) all have certain fun elements in them that helped spark Marshmallow Duel... As far as non-computer games go, the biggest influence on MDuel are definitely the games by Thom Wham (http://www.tomwham.com/twg&b.html). Some of the names in MDuel came from his Elefant Hunt board game I think, which first appeared in Dragon Magazine #88. Another game which helped inspire MDuel is Avalon Hill's "KingMaker" game which is a wargame based on the English Civil War. From there you get such great names as Beaufort, Percy, and Mowbray.