Studio Fizbin Talk Say No! More, Positivity & One Pesky Houseplant

The developers offer insight into their denial simulator.

Say No! More
Say No! More

Say No! More is a unique game with a powerful concept. The ability to say “no” when you need to is never undervalued in this game, so you’ll never want to stop. Cultured Vultures caught up with the team at Studio Fizbin behind this wacky title to ask a few questions and get some insight into the nitty-gritty of the game. What we learned were some great stories, a ton of passion and a team proud to tell a story that reflects their personalities and the surprisingly great feeling a good “no” can give you.

Say No! More features some fantastic laugh-out-loud moments and some epically delivered denials. What was the inspiration behind Say No! More and how much of it is wish fulfilment based on real events?
Marius Winter, Game Director: It may shock you, but I personally had nice internships in the past. So nobody stole my lunchboxes or anything. But there are moments in the game where characters share their fear of dancing in front of others, or saying No to a friend who invented them to a party, even though they’d rather stay home… We all can relate to that, so in a way, every introvert in the game is based on real events.

Brenden Gibbons, Writer: Real talk, the games industry is one that can prey off the excitement of the people working in it. I’ve met some real trash bosses and as an ex-union organiser in this industry, I’ve met people who’ve lived through horror stories. Companies withholding pay for months, ‘voluntary’ but actually compulsory 60+ hours work weeks, quality assurance testers on zero-hour contracts being quietly removed from the company by just not being given any shifts, burnouts that lead to never working in the industry ever again. Since the game is set in a workplace, I tried to channel both the mundane annoyances and also some real grievances about the rotting relationship between Work and the Self that our capitalistic society takes for granted.

The on-rails gameplay keeps the pace grounded and gives the game a cinematic quality that puts the comedy front-and-center. How did you arrive at this gameplay style? Was it the original idea from day one?
Marius: We love making games that focus on social interactions. Around summer 2017 we prototyped a simplified dialogue game, where you could only say “Yes.” “No.” “Maybe.” “Huh, interesting, what do you think?”. The player moved on their own at that time already, simply because we wanted to focus on the social interactions with other characters.

We quickly realized that saying “No!” is much more fun. So much more fun! Wouldn’t it be funny if that is all you can do in the game? That would be wild, but also much more interesting than working on balancing the positive and the negative. Let’s dive full into No!-mode and discover the rest of the game from there!

The automatic on-rails movement stayed. Showing the prototype around and talking with others there never was the need to add free movement. It would only make the gameplay more complicated and fiddly, so we left it out.

Nick Maierhöfer, Art Direction and Lead Game Designer: Additionally, the on-rails gameplay really complemented our aim to create an over-the-top arcade-like experience. A big inspiration were Japanese games like Muscle March.

The genderless character creator is filled with fantastic customization options. What were your inspirations for the customization options and character designs?
Nick: For the character designs, the overall style is obviously influenced by games of the PS1 & N64 console generation, especially Mega Man Legends. The combination of clean pixel-art and strong low-poly shapes feels retro, but also timeless & so aesthetically pleasing! It was also a time-saving decision, as making a huge amount of models, textures and character parts was very possible, compared to modern AAA production workflows. As for the customization options, this was really a no-brainer, as we really couldn’t care less about gender “exclusive” customization.

Brenden: I think we just wanted it to be accessible for everyone? If you push me, then I’d say that the ‘inspiration’ for having a genderless character creator is just… the team. In the old office, the bathrooms had a nail polish station for anyone’s use and speaking personally, I’m pretty queer. Besides, it’s literally more work to create a gendered character creator – at the very least, it means you’d need to make more content, since much of it is exclusive and what is this work for? To enforce nonsensical patriarchal cis-het standards? No thanks! Folks can wear whatever they want and be whoever they wanna be.

Volker Biallowons, Game Designer: What Brenden says! The team itself is the biggest inspiration. I joined the team in the middle of the project and instantly felt like I was always part of it just because of the open mindset and positive energy everybody sends out!

What is the aspect of the game that the team is most proud of?
Marius: I am most grateful for the tools that our dev team, lead by Kathrin Radtke, made, which allowed us to implement ideas, jokes and cinematic moments very easily. We always wanted the time between idea and implementation to be as short as possible, and those tools did a great job. Oh, and the soundtrack that Julie Buchanan made, is so good, I listened to it a ton in our polishing phase.

Brenden: I’m really happy that it seems to be resonating with people in so many different ways. People seem to like the art style, the gameplay and the story/message behind it. I’m really proud of everyone’s hard work on it. Specifically as the game writer, it’s always really hard to know whether your work translates from all the intense work writing lines in a spreadsheet to when it’s actually in game, so I’m happy to know that it is actually funny. If it’s not funny for you, though, don’t tell me – you’re too late. I can’t change it now and you’re better off replaying something else you think is funny.

Nick: I’m really proud that we succeeded in bringing the different aspects of the game together without the game just being a fun & lighthearted gimmick. All elements together created a really special world.

Volker: I love that there’s sooo much of the personality of every team member in it! I think you can really tell that everyone was super passionate about the project and added their personal note to it. It wasn’t just A game we happened to make but OUR game! I think that’s something we can be really proud of!

The premise of Say No! More is a unique one. Was it hard to pitch to publishers?
Marius: A few publishers worried that the mechanic is a gag that loses its energy quickly, and I don’t blame them! At first glance it looks like a short game jam game. However, most were completely on board with pushing unconventional games into the spotlight, and the best pitches were the ones where we talked more about our relationships with the word “No”, rather than talking about the game itself.

Nick: I was genuinely surprised how the game was nearly pitching itself on its own, like this game just had to be done, considering the vast, yet undiscovered sea of possibilities about dealing with saying “No” in games.

What were some of the biggest challenges while creating the game? Any crazy development stories?
Marius: To me the biggest challenge was to lock down the script in order to start voice recording. Writing jokes was always very spontaneous and improvised, so we added and changed laugh-out-loud moments a lot. That and writing the final speech in the game’s climax was nerve-wracking the closer we got to our deadline! So, finally having to set everything in stone and letting go was a hard step to make, but the moment I sat in the recording studio and heard the first lines spoken by our voice actors was so joyful and fulfilling.

Brenden: Striking the tone between something so absurd, funny and emotional that strikes deep at the heart of the issue in both personal and professional contexts was quite hard. It helps a lot that we’re all really earnest in our work and with each other and what we wanted to bring into the game.

Volker: THE HOUSEPLANT OF DESTRUCTION! One day we started to get weird crashes and nobody knew where they came from. We didn’t even know where to search first because they appeared to be totally random. A few days later we found the problem: An import setting on one of the houseplant assets made the game crash every time that asset was visible to the camera! Another small challenge was that, in order to save time, we had to improvise some assets by using existing stuff for unintended purposes. For example, I used said houseplant as a button in one level! But even though it’s a challenging limitation it was also a lot of fun! I’m really curious to see the reactions to some of the funny ideas that are only in the game because of this asset manipulation.

Nick: Creating the “No”-Encounter system was surprisingly complex: The timing and combination of all possible actions of the player had to be considered. Breaking it all down to a really convincing behaviour for all of the NPCs took longer than anticipated.

The game is very accessible and can be easily played by everyone and has a great theme. Who do you hope plays this game? Is it dedicated to anyone?
Marius: There was a time during early prototyping where we feared the game wasn’t “gamey” enough. Should it become a rhythm game, or a puzzle game? An endless-runner? Games are supposed to be “challenging”, right? So all these worries floated in our heads. But then we showed our prototype, which gameplay-wise is very close to the final product, at talk&play in Berlin, and experienced bliss.

Everyone who played had a great time, and that’s a good quality, but the best part was our conversations after they played. Our chats quickly went away from the game, and became more about everyone’s own relationship with the word “No”. We shared our stories and motivated each other to say “No!” more. A friend of mine messaged me the next day, proudly announcing that she said “No” twice already in one day! So we said “No!” to making it more “gamey”, and focused on the message, the story, and making the game accessible to everyone.

Brenden: I don’t have specific hopes for who plays the game, other than as many people as possible, but I do have the hope that the game impacts whoever is playing. That by the end of it, this fable makes you think about your relationship with your work, with your own strength to change the world for the better wherever you may be in power structure and how to harness self-care and solidarity. If this game made you feel and made you think, then I’ve done my job right.

Volker: I don’t hope for a specific group of people to play this but I hope whoever plays the game has as much fun as we had making it and maybe take something from it for everyday life! :)

Nick: I truly hope that Say No! More will not only be seen as a small game, but a great experience everyone can enjoy!

What’s next for the game? Any add-ons planned for more gut-busting rejections post-release?
Marius: We have some ideas, but will wait and see how the world reacts to the game first.

What does the future hold for Studio Fizbin? Any exciting game projects you can share with us?
Marius: Yeah! Pretty soon you will be able to enjoy our transformational journey in a faltering world, Minute of Islands, and later this year our narrative adventure Lost at Sea comes out. Our studio was quite busy for a while, so we can’t wait to finally show you our games this year.

Brenden: I also co-wrote Minute of Islands and I hope that it also makes you feel & think things too!

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