• MLP Season 7 in Spring!: NYCC Interview with Puzzle Party Devs

    One of the best parts of heading to big conventions like New York Comic Con, is that occasionally the opportunity arises to conduct an interview with one of the companies that's there to advertise their products. Like the one that popped up to interview Mandy Paez, Brand Marketing Associate at Backflip Studios. Which as you might be able to tell from the header above, is the game company that's developing the game My Little Pony: Puzzle Party!

    Now to answer the obvious question of why they were present at NYCC? Or more specifically Hasbro's press event before the convention? We'll there's a very good reason for that.

    The game's World Wide Release date is this Thursday. October 13th, 2016.

    Thanks to the efforts of The Slorg, we already have an in depth review of the game. And after the break you'll be able to find what went into the development of the game, the future of the game, an approximate time frame for Season 7's premiere, and wait… what?

    That's right folks, we got an approximate time frame for the premiere of Season 7. It's in a time frame that fits in quite well with the logic that WeAreBorg figured out back for the premiere of season 6.

    Check it out below!

    Mandy Paez: My Little Pony: Puzzle Party, published by Backflip Studios is being developed by Backflip Studios. For us we're just, I guess for me I'm super exciting because now we get to say it's actually launching versus coming soon. Coming out next week on October 13th for both iOS and Google Play.

    It's so exciting when you're not saying coming soon anymore.

    The Illustrious Q : Yes especially since now you can say, "It's coming out next week, it's coming out next week!"

    MP: If you're on Google Play there is a pre-register opportunity. It will give you a heads up once you can actually download the game. That's already live.

    The game is a match 3/block puzzle adventure. The game's going to launch with 143 levels that are going to comprise season one of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. You'll find a lot of little fun Easter eggs within the game. The maps and the backgrounds are interactive, and as you play through the game, you're going to find a lot of key adventures that happen in the first season! You meet or see all of the Mane Six become friends.

    Then, for you at least, you can kind of go in some of the different things that'll actually—

    TIQ: *looking at the demo * There's the Town Hall, the Everfree Forest ...

    MP: Yeah the Town Hall is one of my favorites because I think it's cool and you also have ...

    TIQ: …a certain someone here who a lot of people are going to flip about when they see.

    MP: There's a lot of audio the fans will recognize from the music in the game to actual clips from the show. A lot of the official voice actresses and voice actors got together and did a recording in Vancouver for the game. So definitely play with your sound on. You'll get fun enjoyment from when they're chatting or you hear things that you would definitely be used to hearing them say.

    Besides just having the fun interactive map, you'll progress through and see a lot of things that everybody will recognize from Season 1. As you progress, you'll obviously be introduced to all of the Mane Six, and they'll also bring something of their own to the gameplay based on their personality and things that are really iconic to each of them. Those are abilities that will help you when you actually get into later stages of the game.

    The power ups are going to be things that anybody will recognize from having seen the show. Like a Bubbling Cauldron, or something that Fluttershy might have tried to keep and it didn't quite go as well as she had expected.

    For us, our goal was to make sure that this wasn't going to just be some game that we splashed My Little Pony on top of. We really wanted the game to look and feel authentic so that people who are fans of My Little Pony could come in, enjoy it, and feel like this is an extension of their experience with the land and with these characters.

    As we said we're launching next week, and we have a lot planned. Our goal is to be in sync with Season 7 when it comes out in the spring, so we're going to be putting out a lot of content and updates that are going to introduce each of the subsequent seasons between now and then. Pulling on key adventures that really reflect not just the themes of the season, but the characters, locations, and other things that are really key to My Little Pony and the show. All leading up, of course, to the movie next year. *laughs*

    TIQ: Well let's see how fast you're going to be able to get those updates coming out to be able to catch up!

    MP: Fingers crossed, but the schedule looks pretty good. Of course execution is part of it. That's our end goal is that we'll be in line.

    TIQ: Well, just remember you only have a year to get all that done. *laughs*

    MP: I know, so little time, so much to do! *laughs*

    Hopefully everybody will be just as excited every time there's new adventures to play through. For me, I'd re-watch season 1 and then play the game. It was really fun to kind of go down memory lane and be like, "Yeah I totally remember that happening," and like, "Yeah that did too!" Seeing those kind of moments from the show that stuck out and appeared in the game really made it feel nostalgic. I really recognized and felt in tune with everything that was happening.

    TIQ: How did you end up getting the license to start working on the game?

    MP: Backflip Studios is actually majority owned by Hasbro.

    TIQ: Oh that makes it easy. *laughs*

    MP: Yeah, they bought some stock a couple years ago and as a result we get to do really fun things with some of the Hasbro properties. My Little Pony was one of the ones that we were like, "We really want to do something here." There was a lot that went into meeting with the team at Hasbro. Really getting a full introduction to everything that it means to be involved with My Little Pony. We have to make sure that anything we want to create would not just be in line with it, but feel like adventure and something that everybody else could enjoy as well.

    TIQ: When would you say development actually started?

    MP: Oh man. It's been well over a year. I'm going to be that super-flaky person that doesn't have an exact answer, so I'm going, "Man when did it start?"

    TIQ: It's kind of like “It wasn't there one day, and then all of a sudden it was.”

    MP: Yeah! It was just like something we're like, "Oh yeah, that game that we're making, that is in soft launch now.” Now that we're ready to actually put out in the world, it sort of sneaks up on you. For a long time anytime we mention the game we'd be like, "It's coming soon, it's coming soon." Now we're like, "Dude, it's here!"

    It kind of went from “sort of existing” to an actual living breathing thing going out into the world. We're super excited but also terrified because we want everybody to like it as much as we do, but we’re also are like, "Please, please like our game!"

    TIQ: When the game was in soft launch, were you expecting it to get the immediate notice that it got or were you still kind of hoping that it was going to be quiet while you were still working on the bugs?

    MP: It's kind of funny. It's one of those things that you sort of expect the moment you put it out into the world. No matter where it is, it's out there and there's nothing you can do to stop people from finding it. There's always that little bit of you're hoping it stays quiet—not because you don't want people to know—because it's going out into a test market. We're really letting somebody besides us play the game and hopefully find things that are issues so that we can have them fix well before everybody gets their hands on it.

    It's that kind of mix. We want people talking about the game, but we also don't want them getting this almost incomplete view while we're working out some technical kinks. We're not going to find everything on our own. Somebody's going to do something that's atypical from what we thought was going to happen, and they're going to find a bug that we never would have imagined being there. We want to get that fixed.

    TIQ: Then Hasbro mentioned that they were making a new My Little Pony game at the toy fair and it took all of five minutes of Google searching for a certain reporter on Equestria Daily to go, "Oh that's the game they're talking about."

    MP: Yeah, pretty much.

    TIQ: You mention that there are going to be abilities for each of the Mane 6 Characters in the game.

    MP: Yes.

    TIQ: Since the whole concept of Friendship is Magic is that you have different people working together to solve friendship problems, do those abilities combine?

    MP: They don't right now. It's kind of the separate take on the friendship that everybody uses their own thing that helps to accomplish an end goal. Right now, the abilities kind of makes it, "I need to get XYZ done on the board. I know that this pony has an ability that will help me accomplish that." Everybody has their own unique ability to contribute. I think that's a really interesting idea that we could explore. How could they subsequently have their abilities work together.

    TIQ: Is Backflip Studios stationed here in New York or is it ...

    MP: No, Backflip Studios is based in Boulder, Colorado.

    TIQ: Oh!

    MP: I'm on a field trip right now! *laughs*

    TIQ: Boulder, Colorado to New York City! *laughs*

    MP: Little bitty, couple of timezone differences, a few thousand miles ... What's that when there's something fun going on?

    TIQ: Crazy!

    MP: Oh! I can jump in a couple of other little things. We do have daily rewards. You have abilities you get to spend and once a day you can spin a wheel to determine what you will get. Either some currency in the game, some power ups, or additional use of the Mane Six's abilities.

    Little things to just kind of help you along the way. Or if you're like me I stockpile. Like, "I will keep these forever!" Then I'll hit a really hard level and I'm like, "I will use everything here!"

    TIQ: Even though we're stubborn and we don't want to use anything.

    MP: Pretty much.

    Obviously as you're progressing we're going to introduce different elements into the game to up the difficulty a little bit. We want to make sure that as you learn and make progress that you're still being challenged. Trying to think a little more to solve that puzzle. “How do I make this happen? How do I reach the end goal?” You'll have objectives that aren't just tied to clearing everything or necessarily hitting a score threshold.

    Makes you actually think a little bit about it. We hope you still have fun while you're doing so.

    Then once you beat all 143 levels of this first part of the game at least, you'll unlock Discord Infinite Mode. Which as the name suggests will feature Discord and will be an infinite mode. Your goal is to progress as far as you possibly can before you lose. Hopefully you’ll keeping though.

    It will be a combination of random boards with random objectives. It's never the same thing that you're going to be trying to do. At the same time you're going to have Discord throwing a wrench into the levels and trying to make things difficult for you.

    TIQ: As the lord of chaos should do.

    MP: Right! That might seem a bit familiar. You might think that this makes sense. It's one of those that as you progress you're going to unlock more levels and more adventures. Everything that you've unlocked at that point you can go back to.

    Right now I'm trying to three star everything because I just barely scraped through on a couple of levels. It gives you something to change it up and really add a little bit more to do something different, but still feels fulfilling.

    I feel like I've accomplished something when I beat a level that Discord's trying to stop me at. "Why are you so difficult and cause so much chaos for me? Yes! Accomplishment. I have progressed."

    TIQ: Yes! I beat John de Lancie! *laughs*

    MP: Be happy when you can. Accept your accomplishments where you can.

    TIQ: What was it like getting the original voice actresses in the game?

    MP: Unfortunately I didn't get to go to the studio recordings. Wasn't there, I didn't get to have that fun, but I think it was exciting because it adds this layer of authenticity of somebody's experience.

    We're really trying to this be an extension of My Little Pony. So it doesn't just exist off in the nether and you play it on occasion. It adds that extra bit of validity so that it’s like, “Hey this is every bit as much My Little Pony as watching the show. It might be a different form. It might be a different way to interact with it, but it is legit.” That was a very exciting part, at least for me.

    There's always that level of is this really going to be, whatever it may be, true to what I expect of something that we love. Being able to work so closely with Hasbro and the My Little Pony team to make sure that this felt real, and allowed us to bring in all of the original voice cast. That just adds the levels where you're like, "Okay we're actually making something that we can be proud of, and that hopefully anybody who plays it will be excited to have and proud that they played as well."

    TIQ: In addition to the main core cast of Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain and Cathy Wesluck, there have been some notable guests stars who have recurring roles in the series. Assuming that the game ends up extremely profitable after it launches, could we possibly see some of those recurring voice actors show up in the game?

    MP: You might. That's something we're constantly looking at. There are those characters who might not be the Mane Six, but they tie something in and bring something more. Especially when they're re-occurring through the stories and the adventures.

    They’re these people that you're like, "Yeah that's one of my favorites." Usually someone’s favorite is from the Mane Six, but there are still other members of the cast. And it's great when one of them shows up.

    There's a lot of opportunity for that to happen as we continue. We have our growing list—that we all argue about if we could pick in order who we would add in. We definitely want to do our best to work them in. With that said, we also want it to be something that is meaningful. We want to bring them in a way that you can engage with and interact that fits the set up structure of the game. We don't want to just say, "Hey by the way this person's here and they just kind of pop up in the background one time and that's it." We want it to be meaningful when we do bring any of them in.

    We have a whole list of like, "Here's the favorites. Here's a couple that we know are fan favorites. Or they're our favorites that appear multiple times throughout the series that we really would love to bring in. So what's the best way to make that happen?” Those conversations area already in the works.

    TIQ: Nice. My Little Pony here also has a whole bunch of expanded media out there from the books and the comics. Stuff that didn't necessarily show up in the show proper. Would it be possible to see some of that material make it into the game?

    MP: I don't want to say never, because you never know what might happen. At the same time we really wanted to tie in directly to the show. The entire context of the game for now is based strictly on the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I think there's always the possibility of there could be things that, without a doubt, could really work. But that's also something that falls into licensing agreements. Not everything is a free-for-all… unfortunately. For now it'll be show-based, but I think there's always potential in the future for that to change.

    TIQ: This is the first My Little Pony game that Backflip Studios has produced. Could you possibly see more coming out in the future?

    MP: I think it's possible. We're, relatively speaking, not a very large corporate studio. Our goal is to put out something of high quality and support it for as long as we basically can. That's not to say that there will never make another one. There's a lot of opportunity in the My Little Pony brand for stuff to happen, but our entire focus right now is really getting Puzzle Part out there and hoping that it succeeds as we're hoping it does, and that people enjoy it as much as we do when we're sitting in the office.

    I'm the one that goes into meetings like, "Guys I'm stuck on level 93. What's the best way to progress past this one?"

    TIQ: Hopefully you'll be able to get Andrea Libman to do some voice acting to help promote the game as Pinkie Pie.

    MP: Fingers crossed. We have a lot that we'd love to do with the entire cast. You might occasionally see things pop up, but at the same time ... They came in and did the voice acting for us, recorded some lines so hopefully that gives them a little bit of incentive to be like, "Hey by the way, that game you did lines for is coming out."

    TIQ: It would be hilarious if you managed to do get DHX to do a quick little original animation for it.

    MP: There's a lot of really fun things that we'd like to do. Unfortunately sometimes when we have time and bandwidth to make it happen ...

    TIQ: Yes, time, bandwidth, and that all-important green stuff.

    MP: There's all kinds of fun ideas that are floating around.

    TIQ: We've got the locations of Canterlot, Sweet Apple Acres, Cloudsdale, Central Park, Sugar Cube Corner, Carousel Boutique "Where everything is unique, chic, and magnifique!", Town Hall, and the Everfree Forest. Lots of interesting places here. Including a place here called Chaosville at the end.

    MP: I wonder what might be there.

    TIQ: Yes I wonder what, and more specifically who, might be there.

    Ah, ballerina buffalo. Okay that works *laughs*.

    MP: They just wonder by like ballerinas do. Doing their thing.

    TIQ: All right. *notices final level is unlocked*

    MP: Do it. Do it. Do it!

    TIQ: All right, let's take a look. See how this level goes. *plays demo*

    MP: Well done! I won't lie, there's a lot of fun power ups with each of the Mane Six. Like Pinkie Pie's Party Pen.

    TIQ: Oh, Pinkie Pie's Party Pen. That sounds like rip-roaring good time.

    MP: We're working on it.

    TIQ: All right. Thank you! It was fun. I'm looking forward to it coming out!