Interview With Lab Rats Studio

Tell us about some of the weapons Sid and the player will have to work with. Would you describe the game’s enemies as humanoid for the most part, or is there anything especially exotic waiting around a dark corner or two?

Sid Tripp is a badass government agent who will start out wielding more traditional firepower like a Colt 1911 pistol, an M4 assault rifle, and frag grenades. Over the course of the game the players will unlock upgrades with their scores, which translate to in-game currency. These include a pump-action shotgun, an Uzi, and our personal favorite: a grenade launcher attachment for your M4. You will also be able to upgrade Sid Tripp’s health, accuracy, adrenaline timers, etc.

In the first episode, Sid will encounter a variety of robotic soldiers that have been engineered by the “Brain,” a technologically enhanced super villain whose suit gives him levitation, telekinetic, and laser powers that he is using for evil. You will encounter foot soldiers, levitating drones, and hulking rocket-enhanced enemies throughout the first episode, which will also feature your first encounter with the “Brain” himself. We have a few tricks up our sleeves for future episodes, with the story allowing us to dive into some more exotic characters and enemies moving forward.

What does “adrenaline mode” do exactly, and how is it triggered in-game?

“Adrenaline Mode” is a feature we have added to M.U.S.E. that is similar to a “rage” mode in other games, where Sid literally shoots himself in the leg with a shot of adrenaline and goes into a state of heightened awareness and power. First off, adrenaline is gained by dispatching enemies or destroying environment objects in-game. When your adrenaline meter is full and begins to flash, you can enter adrenaline mode, which will slowly regenerate the player’s health, puts an outline on enemies and destructible objects to make them easier to see, bursts the player into slow motion after kills and destruction so they can plan their next move, and puts a bloom effect on screen.

While in adrenaline mode, you can extend the timer by continuing to kill enemies and destroy objects. The longer you do so, the more points you rack up because when you run out of adrenaline, your score chain is multiplied by the amount of time you were in adrenaline mode. Adrenaline mode is both an emergency lifeline for those who are about to die and need that extra boost, and a high-scoring method for the elite player who is trying to top their friends’ high scores.

Now that you’re nearing release, what’s your beta testing strategy been like? Did you gather local Durham residents for some face-to-face QA testing first, or have you been conducting the effort entirely online with TestFlight, etc.?

So far, we have been bringing in testers in multiple sessions for face-to-face testing and QA in our office in the American Underground. We have gained valuable feedback and bug finding through this process. We have also taken M.U.S.E. to a couple of local community colleges that have videogame development programs, like Wake Technical Community College and Durham Technical Community College, for testing by game design students. We have previously reached out to some other companies in the area, such as editors from The Escapist magazine down the hall and even the EVP of Red Storm Entertainment. We may open testing to a few more individuals remotely in the not too distant future.

And finally, we recently learned that you picked up a publisher, Ayopa Games! Just how important is it for an indie studio to seek one out, and do you think it’s something every indie dev should consider if they want to hit it big on the App Store?

Lab Rats Studio recently signed on with Ayopa Games, a new innovative mobile games publisher based in San Francisco, to help promote M.U.S.E. to an App Store hit. I think it depends on the company and game for whether or not every independent game developer should seek out a publisher. Clearly Ayopa Games has some strong chops because the first two titles they released were both featured on the App Store — one of which (W.E.L.D.E.R.) was featured as the prestigious “Game of the Week.” We feel that as a start-up with not much of a name for ourselves in the industry yet, having a publisher with proven connections and knowledge would give us a better shot at a feature on the App Store.

Big thanks to the Lab Rats Studio team for taking some time out of their busy development schedule to chat with us about M.U.S.E.! We’ll have updated video in an iFriday Roundup when the first official gameplay footage is released; embedded above is some hands-on play of a development build by TheCabster42 on YouTube. Also keep an eye on Lab Rats Studio’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter account for all the latest.