Of MouseBots and Men – MouseBot Interview with Matt Small

Feb 14, 2018

Vector Unit is one of mobile gaming’s most seasoned developers, bursting forth with a cavalcade of epic racing titles. Today, we sit down with Vector’s CEO Matt Small to talk about their most recent hit, MouseBot!

Check out our review of MouseBot here!

Appolicious: Vector Unit is known for racing titles, and while that inspiration is evident in its design, MouseBot also features a fair bit of 3D platforming. What inspired this shift in direction?

Matt Small: We’ve been doing racing games for almost 10 years at this point, and we wanted a little break.  We knew we wanted to stick to our strengths and keep it “vehicle”-based, but we wanted to try our hands at a platformer and so the idea of a robotic mouse grew out of that.

Appolicious: How did your team go about crafting the hybrid controls so players could zip and hop through every level unscathed?

MS: It took a lot of experimentation.  Originally we had a lot more controls for the mouse, but we decided it was too complicated for a mobile game so we kept stripping it back until it felt deep enough to be interesting, but simple enough to pick up quickly.

Appolicious: What would you say were guiding principles when crafting MouseBot’s charmingly cartoonish aesthetic?

MS: I’m glad you liked it!  We wanted to go for something colorful and simple.  It was important to keep the shapes and colors distinct so players could really focus on the traps and anticipate the setups.  We deliberately kept the backgrounds very simple so the traps would stand out.  We also wanted it to be kind of “gorey” with the mouse getting destroyed over and over again, but we also wanted it to feel cute.

Appolicious: How do you tune the balance between free to play and premium versions of a game?

MS: There isn’t really a “pay wall” in the free to play version [of MouseBot], but the game does get very hard and you lose a lot of lives.  So we just wanted to make the “premium” version less painful and give players infinite chances to play the level over and over again.  The premium version also gets rid of ads, because once you pay, why would you want to see ads??

Appolicious: What traps took the most tinkering to get -just- right?

MS: Even though they’re the simplest, the lasers actually went through a lot of iterations.  In the beginning they were animated, and they would cycle back and forth across the track.  After a while we realized that was just too difficult, and so we switched them over to stationary.  The water setups took a lot of fiddling too, we played a lot with the wave animations and the types of traps that would work well in the water.

Appolicious: What advantages and challenges has your team found in maintaining the Vector Engine? Evidence of your work is clear – MouseBot has a lot of activity on screen for a mobile game, and it all runs blisteringly fast regardless – but creating your own engine isn’t an easy task.

MS: We’ve been iterating on the engine for a long time, and by this time we have a pretty good idea of what works well with it.  We deliberately kept the art style pretty simple with MouseBot because we wanted to keep up a really high framerate, even on older devices.  But it’s always difficulty coming up with a good-looking, modern art style that looks great on the newest phones but still runs well on older hardware.

Appolicious: What element are you most proud of, with MouseBot?

MS: I think we came up with a ton of variety and a lot of content for such a small game.  We build this entire level editing system out of reusable parts, and the whole thing snaps together in this really easy way, so we were able to crank out about 75 levels in a very short period of time.  And even within that, I think each level maintains its own personality.

Appolicious: After racing on land, sea, and within the confines of Cat-astraphobic science labs, what’s next for Vector Unit?

MS: Right now we’re hard at work on Beach Buggy Racing 2.  We’re going to be announcing more about it soon, so stay tuned!

The app was not found in the store. 🙁
Developer: Vector Unit
Price: Free+
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Elijah Beahm

Elijah is a man who can't stop talking about games, geeky things, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, horrible puns. He's been working as a game journalist for several years now, and in addition to Appolicious, His other work can be found at GameCritics.com, I Need Diverse Games, and The Unabridged Gamer on YouTube. When not reviewing games, you'll probably find him ranting on Twitter, writing, or replaying Dead Space 2 for the zillionth time.

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