Super III Interview: Phil Fish, Teleportation & Release Date

We talked to Super 91 Studios about their upcoming indie platformer Super III!

Super III hit Kickstarter last week and we were impressed by the first trailer, which showed off the platformer’s roots — a mix of Super Meat Boy, Super Mario 64, and other assorted puzzle platformers tied up in a postapocalyptic cosmic bow. 

I spoke to Director Zack Bell and Producer Alejandro Hitti at Super 91 Studios about Fez creator Phil Fish, Super III‘s amazing score, teleportation, the correct pronounciation of the title, and much more:

Super III stars an alien who is on a mission to save survivors of a war that wiped out 90% of all inhabitable worlds. Tell us more about this alien character: why has he set out on this mission? What was his role in the war? Why is he saving Phil Fish….?

A: We wanted a simple “Rescue the kidnapped princess” type of story. Basically, after the first encounter between humans and the alien race III belongs two, a war broke out. Humans lost the “Galactic War,” but most inhabitable planets were reduced to rubble. III wasn’t in favor of the war and is now on a mission to rescue stranded survivors. Phil, contrary to popular belief, is also a human, so III rescues him as part of his mission.

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Z: Yeah, III is just a good dude. He likes saving the day because he was never popular in high school. Most people don’t know this, but III owns two copies of Fez (Damn Humble Bundle).

Is, uh, Phil Fish involved with the production of your game? Haha! Or is this more of a tribute thing?

A: We were just testing the feature where every time you rescue a survivor a random name shows up as the person rescued. Anyone who backs our game with $100 or more gets to put their name in this list of names. We thought about using John Blow, Tommy [Refenes] and Ed [McMillen], Derek Yu, but in the end, Phil seemed like it would be the funniest choice, as it always generates debate.

Z: Phil quit the games industry. Twice.

The music used in the trailer actually reminds me a bit of Fez‘s soundtrack. But the wonderful Joel Corelitz (The Unfinished Swan) is working on the score for Super III, right? I’ve noticed, especially in indie games, that gameplay mechanics and music really mold together to create unique experiences. Can you speak to this process?

A: Yes, we are very happy to have a composer as talented as Joel in our project. He first contacted us when we were working on FROG SORD, but we already had a composer by then. Once we moved onto this project, I contacted him again and he was very excited to be on board. About the process itself, I’ll let Zack answer that question, as he is the one with the most music background and is the one that talked to Joel about the music direction.

Z: Joel has been super easy to work with. I am a musician myself and it seemed as if we both had similar visions in regards to the sound and mood of SUPER III. Seriously though, we literally Skyped for an hour.

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You mentioned Super Mario 64 as an influence on the mission system and other sites have noticed similarities to Super Meat Boy. Two things that popularized these two games were that they were BIG and difficult. Just how big is Super III? How difficult? Will people throw controllers in frustration? Or is it more friendly towards casual gamers?

A: As of now, we are planning for 30-40 levels spread across 5 worlds. Each level will have anywhere from 2 to 6 missions. Our end goal is to make the player collect 150 batteries. The game started out as a super hard platformer where anything would kill you in one hit. Now, you start out with three lives and you can get health upgrades to increase that number. This makes the game and levels more adventure-like and less bite-sized, like SMB. Don’t get me wrong though, the game is still VERY hard.

Z: The game will be as large as I can physically handle. Tommy [Refenes] has nightmares about opening the SMB project file and I assume that such feelings are common. As for difficulty, it’ll start out simpler and eventually progress to that “strangle your friends and damage furniture” difficulty.

You stress three big abilities in your game: run, jump, and wall-jump. But you also throw teleportation in there. What unique scenarios have you created in the game that showcase the teleportation ability?

A: Teleportation is III’s main ability. It works like a double jump (press A again mid-air and it will teleport to the nearest surface in the direction you are facing). It is obviously a mechanic used to move around, but it is also used for combat, as it can kill or stun enemies. We also have special blocks that interact with teleport in diferent ways. For example, breakable blocks will, well, break when you teleport through them. Ghost blocks, on the other hand, will let you walljump off of them, but if you teleport, you’ll go through them without breaking them.


Aliens. It seems like the universe of Super III is full of life. Can you tell us about the different species in the game? Are there factions that want different things in the aftermath of the war? Does Super III have any allies?

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A: The SUPER III universe is composed of two sentient races: Humans and III’s blue alien race. Within the blue alien race, the majority of them are in favor of the war and want to see the humans destroyed, but there are a few, like III, who want to protect them. The universe is also inhabited by wild-life, usually hostile towards III, that roam the remains of the planets.

Z: Nobody likes III. He’s a nerd.

You mention secret missions in each level. How many of these are you sprinkling into the game?

A: Quite a few actually, around 40. We want players to explore, experiment, and try new things. Some of these secrets may be in the overworld map, not inside levels. Sometimes you can teleport through an edge of a screen, but if you just walk towards it, you’ll appear in a secret room where you can get a battery, health upgrade or teleport upgrade.

Z: A lot? I’m not quite sure, but I’m feeling like roughly 1/4 to 1/3 of the batteries in the game WILL NOT be displayed openly on the mission prompts.

Super III is currently in early alpha stage. What are the challenges of getting your game greenlit on Steam? Has it been a positive experience so far?

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A: Greenlight has been amazing so far! In only 2 days we got to 25% on our way to the top 100! It’s still early in the third day and we are already at 30%, so we are very happy about that. Also, looking at the comment section is very rewarding, as a lot of people are praising the game and it really is encouraging seeing people enjoy your work. This is what we do, we are part of an entertainment industry and we want to see happy people having fun with our product. Getting into Steam Greenlight itself is actually very easy and fast. We were expecting a bunch of extra steps once we finished adding content to our page and clicked that “Publish” button, but no. It instantly published the game, as advertised.

Z: Greenlight has been our simplest “campaign.” It practically runs itself due to being a simple vote y/n system that allows the trailer to shine.

Do you have an estimated release date for a beta or full release of the game?

A: Currently, we are working on an ALPHA build that will be available around the mid-point of our Kickstarter campaign. This is intented for Press and backers that are in the $60 tier or above. We will update this build once again at the end of October, using the version we will submit to IGF (Independent Games Festival). After that, we will release a new build for our BETA backers ($32/$40 tier or above), which will arrive in December. Next is Early-Access. If we are Greenlit, anyone will be able to get the game as early-access from the store around February. Finally, we expect to release the game in April/May, around the time GDC (Game Developers Conference) and IGF are held in San Francisco.

Z: Beta in December-ish for backers/press. Early Access will be available via Steam (if greenlit) a few months later.

What other games have influenced Super III during production? What were your favorite platformers growing up?

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A: As for the controls and flow of the game, Super Meat Boy has definitely influenced us. We aim to create controls that feel as tight and responsive as those pulled off by Team Meat. We mentioned Super Mario 64 because it’s an easy reference to the mission system with an overworld and levels inside, but you can also argue that it’s similar to Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo Kazooie as well. I played a ton of Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES) while growing up. One of my current favorite platformers has to be Rogue Legacy, to be honest. I played A LOT of it and it was amazing getting to know the team earlier this year at GDC.

Z: The Afterworld Chronicle, our student game (freshmen game), while attending DigiPen Institute of Technology.

Is there anything else you want to tell us about Super III?

A: SUPER III isn’t pronounced “Super Three”. In fact, it’s supposed to be “Super Three I’s.” Get it?

Z: [It’s] *SUPER III.

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