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An Interview with Mountain Machine Games' Nick Lambert

I wonder what it felt like to be a Boston Celtics fan before they climbed the mountain seventeen times? I imagine it’d be vindicating knowing you had been there since day dot. Since the successes of games like Minecraft, Limbo and Braid, the surge in numbers of indie developers has been so great it’d be a Herculean task to keep track of them all.

But there’s one that managed to catch my eye.

One evening, after registering my disgust on my Twitter account over Black Flag, the latest whoring out of the Assassin’s Creed brand, I stumbled across an innocent looking page on Bandcamp. All that was featured were two bittersweet instrumentals, available for a buck-a-piece, set to feature in an upcoming game titled Elliot and the Beyond.

I sat confused, knowing I’d never heard of this game or its developers. It’s probably for good reason; they’ve not got a lot under their belt, aside from a photo manipulation app, available now on iOS, sweetly labeled Glitch Lab. I then began wondering whether or not this could be the indie game we’re in need of this year, and I hope that it can be.

Naturally, I reached out to the guys behind it all and they were kind enough to spare a minute so I could bend their ear and unravel the mystery of Elliot.

Could you please state your name and what your role is at Mountain Machine Games?

My name is Nick Lambert and I work on story, sound, music and I dabble a bit in the public relations stuff, too.

I’ve scoured the world wide web in the hopes of finding anything about Elliot and the Beyond, but I’ve had no luck. What, if anything, can you tell me about the game? I’m a sucker for narrative. Tell me I’m in for a treat.

Well, you are in for a treat. It is heavily story driven and the story unfolds in a fun, creative way that we are all quite excited about. As for details, I can’t give you too much info. Secrets, secrets.

How long have you all been working on Elliot?

We have been working on the idea of Elliot and the Beyond for several months, but we finally got our custom tools in our engine built just about two or three months ago. The first few months were mostly making sure our story worked and was something worth telling.

Note – 30/03/2012: The first trailer was just released and so we’ve dropped it in below!

The little bit of concept art that is already on show for Elliot looks a lot to me like a sepia-toned Limbo, which was a monster success back when it came out. Have you guys drawn inspiration from other indie developers? Or are the early conceptual pictures a little misleading perhaps?

We love Limbo. And those who haven’t gotten a chance to play it, should. However, other than some of the basic “side scroller” gameplay elements that are in Limbo, we are doing something drastically different. That being said, though, there are lots of games that we love, and it would be impossible to not be influenced here and there with stuff that we enjoy so much.

I stumbled upon Mountain Machine Games due to the tentative soundtrack of a couple beautiful, heartfelt tracks – “Mother’s Theme” especially made my chest ache – written by yourself and a guy who I revere as one of the more underrated composers of my generation, Jessy Ribordy. All being Oregonians, what’s it mean to have a guy like him on board?

I’ve known Jessy for a few years now, and it has been great to have his ideas and talent in the process of making the music and story for this game. We started working together just over a year ago and we’ve found our styles work well together. The give and take as we write tracks has been fun, especially since we have such different processes to writing music. Having him on board as a Mountain Machine ‘scientist’ is very valuable.

Any inkling on when we might get a more substantial look at Elliot? A trailer, perhaps?

Soon my friend, soon. We have a trailer coming out in the near future that we’re very excited to show everyone. It’s all in-game and it’s, in my opinion, amazing.

Your other product, Glitch Lab, is presently only available for iOS. Are you planning a simultaneous release for both iOS and Android for Elliot, or will it be staggered?

Yeah, Glitch Lab is only on iOS at the moment, but we’re hoping to release a version on Android soon. As for Elliot and the Beyond, we are planning a simultaneous release on as many mobile platforms as possible.

Should Elliot be a runaway hit and the interest snowballs, might there be hope for a console port or are you guys comfortable in the mobile phone market?

We would love to be on as many platforms as possible. Hopefully things will move in a direction that we are able to do that.

And finally, when can we hope to see Elliot released?

The goal is end of summer 2013 for Elliot and the Beyond, Episode 1.

Thanks for your time, Nick.

So as you can see, the team at Mountain Machine Games are keeping their cards held very close to their chest. But nevertheless, I’ll keep those beautiful tracks on loop as I file Elliot and the Beyond away as a must watch for independent gaming this year.

In the meantime, you can always refer to The Machine De Ella Project by Falling Up—in particular “Hours”—to see what Jessy Ribordy brings to the table as both a composer and fiction writer. It’s a magnificently written audiobook and conceptual rock record that follow the same plot.

Be sure to keep an eye on on Mountain Machine’s official website for more information on Elliot and the Beyond!

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