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Deborah Mars, Senior Producer at SCEA Santa Monica, has revealed some new details about the new PixelJunk Monsters Encore expansion pack which is coming in May 2008.

Some highlights includes: 1 new island (Toki Island), 15 new levels, 5 new music tracks from Otograph, Ice Tower is now a stock item and a reduced gem cost to buy the Tesla Tower.

To quote: Of course we're huge fans of all things Monsters, and totally biased about spreading the PixelJunk gospel but first, here's a quick overview of some of the highlights in PixelJunk Monsters Encore:

* 1 new island, Toki Island
* 15 new levels
* 5 new music tracks from Otograph
* Ice Tower is now a stock item
* Reduced gem cost to buy the Tesla Tower
* Releasing in May 2008

We had loads of questions for Dylan and team, so we're splitting this interview into two parts. Featured below are my top five burning questions for Dylan, and be sure to check back next week when SCE Associate Producer Matt Morton delivers the goods on the remaining five.

1. (Deb) How did you decide on the name for the expansion pack? Personally, you know we liked "PixelJunk Monsters: The Lost Island" or "PixelJunk Monsters: The Others"...we're huge fans of the TV show Lost over here.

(Dylan) Heh heh. Yes I particularly liked "The Others" as I am a fan of Lost too...and am even signed up for that theories forum, 49153...whatever it's called. However, we needed a name that could be understood in Japan as well, as we don't like having a different title here, and Encore is understood by the Japanese (although it is pronounced "ahnkowlu").

Also, we wanted the name to reflect the fact that the reason we made this pack is because of the huge response we got from fans of the original, so Encore seemed particularly appropriate as it is what you shout at the end of a good concert etc, when you want just that *little bit more*.

2. (Deb) We get some fan mail here (thanks QA!), but we're sure you get tons more. Can you spill the beans on what has been your most crazed fan mail to date? Anything PixelJunk juicy?

(Dylan) We've been getting a lot of fan mail every week. The bulk tends to arrive just after the weekend so I presume everybody is playing it non-stop during the weekend and they get back to work on Monday/Tuesday etc., feel the itch to play again but can't, and then look up our mail address on the net. We haven't had any crazy e-mails, but we've had lots of people suggest ideas for a sequel which is really cool.

Also, we had a couple of mails about plasma tv burn-in, and rest-assured if we had known people would be playing this game the no. of hours people seem to be playing it then we would have discovered this problem. Therefore Encore and all future PixelJunk games will have an anti-burn option in the menu so as to prevent the PixelJunk logo being forever scarred into your TVs!

We get loads of mails from couples who are enjoying PixelJunk Monsters together. It's surprising how RTS-like games (usually associated with war and destruction) appeal to both male and female alike, perhaps they even appeal more to women?

3. (Deb) Are the rumors true about your need to make this expansion pack? Was your marriage really in jeopardy if you didn't turn around a quick XP?

(Dylan) Haha, no, not at all...but my wife simply loved the game so much she would badger me every day for more levels, so in the end I caved in. Of course, we were also getting mails every day from people asking for more so we simply decided to listen to everyone!

4. (Deb) What is your favorite map in PJM Encore & why?

(Dylan) Racer Gardens, because the rough layout is based on a track in PixelJunk Racers and it is a really tough map to beat, but really enjoyable once you learn the patterns. (Hint: The big guys always cross the bridges!)

The secret for the all-clear is rather superb, too, but of course we want the first real player to get there to spill the beans on that one.

5. (Deb) What was the inspiration for the unique and charming art style?

(Dylan) Well, our lead designer on the project, Andy Palmer, came up with some weird red riding hood style pics of a forest with a little girl in a hood and wolves in a kind of Sabre Wulf looking game (Sabre Wulf is an old game Rare made for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 in Britain back in the 80s), but it also had hints of the SNES version of Zelda. Let's ask Andy himself.

(Andy) Originally we were just throwing around game ideas on the company BBS. I was making concept images to illustrate how the games might look and as Dylan mentioned, one of the images I made was of a simple multiplayer game inspired by Red Riding Hood, which was set in a forest. When it was later decided that we were going to be making a tower defense game, Dylan said he liked the style of the forest image and from then it became the basis for the rest of the game's look.

Initially I didn't really want to go in that direction because I didn't really have any character design or 2D game experience, but Dylan encouraged me to stick with it and I'm glad I did. Not only did the game end up looking good, but I was also able to use a graphics tablet instead of a mouse for several months, which helped my arms recover from RSI :)

(Dylan) So I suppose those two games were subtle inspirations for the style, but then Andy took it all and slowly transformed it into the whole southern tropical island WikiTiki type thing and we ran with it. The monsters have all been animated by those weird witch-masks they are wearing, but underneath those masks they are probably all friendly folk you would invite around for tea.

(Deb) Very cool, and we should mention that Andy created some really amazing new themes, wallpapers and avatars so keep your eyes open on the PS Store for these very soon.

We're going a bit long here so we'll pick this back up again next week for the continuation of our interview. Five more questions and answers, plus a few more details about the expansion that you simply won't want to miss.

PixelJunk Monsters Encore: 15 new levels coming in May


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