I know I say every week that this is my favorite interview, but THIS IS MY FAVORITE INTERVIEW. I had the pleasure of speaking with Szymon Krukowski, head of PR for SUPERHOT Team. I’m gonna warn you all ahead of time: we had way too much fun with this interview. We might become best friends. I’ve actually talked to him a bit since the interview about different things, and I would love to have him back on for another interview sometime next year. We’ll see if our schedules work out, but I know that if you guys love this and let them know on Twitter, we’ll do it again soon. So let’s dive into this week’s edition of Behind the Mask! But first, as always:
This is me.
This is Szymon.
This is a GIF of a super hot….dog…
Alright Szymon, we start every interview with the same question: how did you get into video games as a hobby? First console/game?
I started out playing on PC 386. No CD-ROM, 4MB powerhouse. One of the first games I remember playing was Civilization. Funny thing I didn’t speak English so I guessed through the game.
Really? Where are you from? How old were you when you did that?
I’ve kinda learned by heart what will happen if I do stuff. When you are a kid you don’t know that stuff can be hard you just try. I was 8-9 ish but I milked the shit out of civ. I loved that game. Also, I’m from Poland, Lodz like most of the SUPERHOT team.
Haha, I was an Oregon Trail guy myself when I played PC games. My parents thought they were “educational” and all they taught me is that people used to drown their cattle. Ok so around what time did you make the decision to become a game developer? Was it your first career choice?
Nope. Initially, I started out as a graphic artist. I’ve worked in random companies until I started working in my first game dev studio as a 2D artist.
Ok, so what types of games were you doing the art for? Did you get any input?
CEO of that place didn’t know anything about making games. He wanted to finish one game per month with 4-5 people.
Oh god…Sounds like work environments at the big studios today.
He wanted to make a quick buck. Yeah, I was basically designing those games without knowing that there is such a thing as a game designer. But during that time I started to take part in game jams and those blew me away. I’m a huge fan and proponent of those to this day.
So did you jam as an artist paired with other devs, or had you picked up some skills at the first studio?
Yeah as an artist than artist/game designer. And yeah, in the end, I learned a bit in the first studio during game jams. I’ve learned a lot more and started to do some freelance art for games specifically while I was doing that. My friend contacted me that he needs some help with booth for SUPERHOT. I knew the game from prototype and I liked the guys so I agreed.
Ah, gotcha. So you weren’t the one who came up with the original idea for SUPERHOT?
Nope, I joined during beta stage. The initial idea came from Piotr Iwanicki our game director and heart and soul of the company. He played a game about a cat that was crossing a street and everything moved when he did. It’s an old flash game.
So like frogger but slowed down. Side note, can you believe how many people nowadays don’t know what Frogger is? That’s fucking bananas to me.
Well, it’s an old market/industry…
I mean that’s true but I just can’t remember a time when people didn’t know what one of the most classic games of all time was.
People don’t know the first Fallout.
Yea I know. I honestly didn’t until I looked it up in high school.
I’ve also played it in high school but by the average player age standards, I’m an old fart. So SUPERHOT…
Haha yes, let’s get back on track.
The first prototype was created during a 7-day FPS game jam (we love game jams in our city). It was improvised around Piotr’s idea that time moves only when the player moves, but it’s an FPS. Guys had to iterate fast so they didn’t want to be fancy with graphics. Piotr wanted something simple and easy to read. Red is bad, black you use, white is background noise.
Ahhh this guy is a genius.
He is haha. I’m his groupie.
What about the overall art style? Did you guys always want to use polygons?
The final art style came with Marcin Surma who later joined the team. Previously, it was kinda just red people. Halfway through someone tried even people with red masks.
Ok, gotcha. Let’s talk about a few other things. The DOS menu. Who’s idea was that and when did that come into play? And who came up with that incredible story?
The DOS menu was Marcin and Piotr, maybe with more on Marcin’s side. He is a huge fan of old computers. He also took part in the early demo scene. I can’t really say that the story came from one person. Sure it came from Piotr’s head but when he makes stuff he talks a lot with people. He is sort of jamming. You know when you tell someone an idea and then it resonates with him so much that another person will add his idea on top? That is kinda like the story was born. It’s an amalgam of movies, books and personal inspirations. There are parts of Videodrome movie in it, but also The Matrix and overall “culture” of internet chat.
I love it all. I mean no spoilers to anyone reading this, but it’s the most innovative shooter I’ve seen in years.
Well said. We should use that.
Haha ok, so the game was released in 2016, and was available for VR shortly after correct?
What challenges did you guys face transitioning the game from console/PC to VR? I feel like VR was just starting to gain some ground at that point but it was still very raw and rough around the edges. Not your game, but VR games in general.
We did it kinda fast so a lot of people still think it was a port. Oh, we didn’t know shit about VR. No one in the world did. If they told you otherwise they usually lied.
Haha, thank god someone admits it. But, to be honest, SUPERHOT is so minimalist and so perfect for VR that it makes sense to port it.
Our community told us that many times. It’s cool when this suggestion comes from players.
I don’t own a VR setup but what were some of the big differences between that early port and the newly reworked one?
It was easier to work on that [the early port]. The biggest problem was movement. From the start, we knew we didn’t want any teleportation or button-based movement.
Yep agreed. Would feel clunky.
Not only was it not immersive, some people had locomotion sickness (that’s how you call it?). But we didn’t have Oculus Quest back then, so we couldn’t allow for free movement. Hence pyramids and different approaches for level design. We encourage the player to stay in one place so action had to come to him. He had to be put directly into it rather than search for enemies through levels. So pyramids were “portals” for the lack of better word. VR is just a different animal. Basic stuff like which button should I press to shoot or jump is not defined by industry standards.
Yea so I want to ask you some more questions on VR as a whole before we go into rapid-fire to wrap this all up. First, which system do you prefer for both development and personal use? Is one better to write for while one is better to play on?
Nowadays, Oculus definitely. Oculus Quest is just awesome; it’s easy to use and show other people. It’s not intimidating with all the cables and it’s not hardware heavy.
How far do you see VR going in the near future? How far away are we from true triple-A titles being worth playing on VR? Like when with the experience in VR be better than the console experience? That’ll be the time I pick up a VR system.
No one really knows and again if they are sure they lying.
I guess we’re just waiting on a genius to push that technology forward again haha.
We still don’t have “typical” VR games that would be a standard so that after them something big and groundbreaking could come. A lot of developers still make pc/console games but on VR. Only a handful of studios are thinking about how to use VR with it’s potential, how to make UI that is immersive, how to make controls that you don’t have to explain and are natural, etc.
Like Beat Saber?
Like Beat Saber, yes.
That’s one of the only games I see that makes sense in VR.
Moss is doing great as well. VR is becoming easier to use for casual players.
Ok, last question that maybe you could answer: are you guys working on a new IP or sequel to SUPERHOT? Are we going to be seeing something new from your team and the brain of Piotr sometime soon? Because I can’t wait for that day haha.
Haha. Dude what can I tell you hmm…we are wrapping up SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete at this moment. Most of the studio is working on their side projects. Some of those are really advanced and Piotr is doing his crazy voodoo magic in VR but no one really knows, including us, when and what will come of it. Honestly, if I showed you anything right now it wouldn’t help much because it’s mostly prototypes of features and ideas.
So it would be fair to say that Piotr is very interested in pushing the limits of innovating VR in his next game? And when will Mind Control Delete be completed for consoles?
We plan to release it on consoles shortly after we come out of early access on Steam. They do have different times of certification so it’s hard to give you a date. Then we port it to Tesla cars, smart fridge and playdate.
Hahaha yessssss. Can’t wait to play while I get my ice water. You think Elon Musk actually plays games in his Tesla?
Time moves only when you look for ham lol. He seems to be a cool dude. I think he plays games and drives cars in space at the same time.
Like I can’t imagine anyone trying to play Cuphead in their Tesla. That game is difficult enough on console lol.
Dude right? Like it’s so mean. It looks great. Then you play it and it kicks you in the nuts and laughs at you.
Oh, I have a blog of my top rage moments. I’ll send it to you after this. It was absolutely brutal haha. I beat it though. Better feeling than sex. Not really but you get what I mean haha.
I can’t imagine finishing that game. You have some drive.
Oh, I think I’m an in-the-closet masochist that still hasn’t learned it yet. Lol but I’ve taken enough of your time. Ready to wrap this up with rapid-fire?
Favorite game of all time?
Shogun Total War.
Favorite game this year?
Hades? Indie? Literally never heard of it.
How dare you. It’s from Supergiant Games. Sits on early access. I’m a filthy casual recently so it fits me nicely.
Oh, fine fuck you. Guess I’m gonna have to contact them and try to get an interview. I’ll show you…
Haha I love those guys.
Most overrated game of all time?
Fallout 3. No 4, not 3 hahaha.
I was about to say what is wrong with you. I mean Fallout 3 is slightly overrated to me, but yea 4 was trash. How about most underrated game of all time (other than SUPERHOT)?
Maybe not trash but ehh, they hurt my feelings. Hmmm, Doki Doki Literature Club maybe? I know a lot of people that played it but I live in a game dev bubble.
Oh, I’m with you. That game is kinda boring but it pays off really well.
That game surprised me and did all kinds of things that I didn’t expect, but you have to be patient with it.
See I feel like we have similar taste in games. Except you like RTS games and I’d rather put my dick in a blender than play an RTS game lol. Game you refuse to play for whatever reason?
I played a lot of them when I was a kid. No, I play games that usually kids play. Haha [I refuse to play] Fortnite.
I just don’t like the shooting.
YEP. KEEP GOING.
It’s bad, it doesn’t FEEL right and it has too much noise.
Apex did a good job with the shooting. Feeling is a weird thing with games. Similar to hitting and reactions to hit in fighting games.
I’ve been screaming it from the rooftops for the last 6 months and people are too fucking dumb to understand.
Well, people are allowed to have an opinion.
Oh everyone’s entitled to an opinion, even if they’re FUCKING WRONG. Haha, how about something no one knows about SUPERHOT or Superhot Studios? It can be a funny prank or joke you played on each other. People love those. Or like “we once had an all-out nerf war that no one recovered from”.
We have regular Nerf wars haha. I own a Nerf bow. But every time I go on vacation something bad happens to my desk.
Hahahaha like what?
Recently, they took all parts from my computer and put it into early 2000 PC, stole my monitors, and left me with a huge CRT monitor.
Hahahaha oh my god that is incredible.
No, that’s mean.
Yea you should be glad I don’t work there then cause that would be me all the time haha.
Haha they are just punishing me for drawing dicks. Sometimes I draw dicks in their notebooks and add quotes from Marcus Aurelius. It’s funny to me. Only to me, I guess.
Haha ok last question: who came up with the “SUPER. HOT.” that plays at the end of each level? And did they also come up with the title/big giant letter that prompts you to do things?
That was Piotr. It became his internal chant.
But why SUPERHOT? Why was that specifically chosen? Does he walk around and when he likes something say “dude that’s super hot”? Or some chick walks by and “dude that girl, she’s super hot” lol?
He didn’t want to have a cheesy title like “darkness of the system from the computer”. So it’s just sUPERHOT. There was no meeting with the marketing department. No research. It made enough sense because it didn’t.
Alright well, I guess geniuses just have perfect thoughts all the time then haha.
People always look for sense and patterns. Haha maybe.
Thanks for your time man! Look forward to speaking with you again in the future! Until then good luck with your work!
I hope you guys enjoyed that as much as I enjoyed interviewing Szymon. If you want more, you can follow the SUPERHOT team on Twitter here.
One of my goals with this column has always been to showcase the people behind the games (hence the “Behind the Mask” title). And I think this year’s interviews as a whole have proven that; from the first interview with newbie developer Igor, to the CEO of Clever Endevour Games, to the power couple that is The Game Bakers. These are funny, creative, and passionate people that love what they do and have fun doing it. I have only one more edition of Behind the Mask this year coming out next week before I do my end of the year awards and take the last week of the month off, but stay tuned! I’ve already got some great things lined up for next year and believe me, you’re going to love it.