Alex, from Gaijin Games, talks about developing games for the Wii
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Interviewer: I’m here at Casual Connect and with me today is a special guest. How about your introduce yourself?
Alex: Hi, I’m Alex Neuse. I’m from Gaijin Games. I’m the CEO and designer.
Interviewer: What’s the studio about and why was it formed? How did it get started?
Alex: Two other guys and I, basically, started Gaijin Games because we wanted to realize our own creative visions. We were kind of tired of working for “the man” and making somebody else’s ideas. So, we had a lot of ideas of our own that we wanted to really rock out and see if we could make it in the marketplace. So, that’s why we started Gaijin Games. I think that answers your question.
Interviewer: Why did you decide to do Wii games as compared to a whole bunch of other platforms that are out there, iPhone stuff like that, that are just easier to get into and cheaper to get into?
Alex: Sure. Now easier, of course, that’s up for debate. We came from a background of knowing the Nintendo platforms. We came from a lot of DS experience, a lot of Game Cube experience, so the Wii was a natural progression for us.
I think that the biggest factor was the control scheme. The first game featured Bit.Trip Beat. You tilt the Wii remote forward and backward and it just feels absolutely natural. For us, none of the other platforms, iPhone, Xbox, PS3, none of those could really give us that precision that we were looking for and the Wii really delivered that.
The scope of the game that we wanted to make, a retro revival kind of experimental, exciting action game worked on the Wii just as well as it would have worked on the other platforms, but the control scheme was far superior on the Wii.
Interviewer: So, you decided to do the Wii. Can you talk about the development process? What were some of the challenges, and how did you keep this thing going when you didn’t have a game released?
Alex: Well, actually, we decided to work with a publisher, and I think that a lot of independent studios have a lot of struggles or a lot of issues with: do we sell fun? Do we work with a publisher? How do we sell fun if we sell fun because I think a lot of people think that’s the optimal way to go and, maybe, it is but for us what worked best was to partner with somebody who could help us fund the cost of development and develop this dream that we had.
We found a publishing partner that was very excited about our idea, and we sort of embarked on this journey together. From that point, we really just rocked it in terms of like, we’re going to make this game for the Wii and it’s going to be awesome and you’re with us and we’re with you, and we’re in it together. And they did, and it just came together.
Interviewer: How long did it take to develop the game? What were the challenges of developing for the Wii?
Alex: Well, the challenges that we had were not too big to overcome because, like I said, we had some Nintendo experience, a lot of Nintendo experience. So, that was a low barrier to entry for us, for our team, for our specific people.
I’m sorry, the second part of that question was?
Interviewer: Yeah, just challenges, game play challenges, and time frame.
Alex: So, the time frame for us was four months of development time.
Alex: It was very, very quick but, like I said, we had a lot of experience with Nintendo platforms so that worked out well for us. I think that if independent developers are in a situation where they know a platform, they are going to find that their partners, like publishers or-I don’t know-any partners that they have will be more willing to go with them if the developer really feels at home on the platform that they are working on which we did.
So, it really just flowed very, very easily and four months of development time for Bit.Trip Beat just was natural. It worked out well.
Interviewer: Once you released that, did you work on another game? What happened and how did you promote it and stuff like that?
Alex: Absolutely. We worked on our sequel which is Bit.Trip Core which just came out-I don’t know-two weeks ago, and I think it’s a very fun game. It builds upon the first game on a lot of levels: attack, story, design, but we decided to change it up a little bit because consumers, they don’t want the same thing over and over again even though a lot of people think they do.
We changed it up and gave them a whole new game play scenario, and so it’s a different game play control scheme and all that. I think that time will tell that it’s an interesting continuance of the franchise, and we’re going to continue to do that.
Interviewer: What’s the core game play mechanic around the franchise or the different games?
Alex: Well, the core game play mechanic will change every single game. In the first game it was more classic analog. You’re tilting the Wii remote. In the second game it was digital. You are doing the D-pad and the buttons, and the third game which isn’t out yet and I won’t divulge, but it’s an extension.
In terms of furthering the franchise and the story, that is all congruent. It all flows together.
Interviewer: So, how did you decide that you were going to make a franchise when you first started, and how did you come up with this story line to extend throughout the different franchises? Did you do that initially beforehand, or are you just developing the story as you’re doing the different titles?
Alex: Actually, we came up with the concept for the entire thing early on, like before we started the first one. That concept still holds true, but the specifics of which we tweak with every project moving forward, but the core design idea and ideals were born at the very, very beginning.
Interviewer: Can you summarize this story then, the story theme, of what the game is?
Alex: I can do a little bit, but I don’t want to give too much away because here’s the deal. I really like it when art is created and it’s open for interpretation. So, our games are definitely, definitely open for interpretation, but the core idea is that you are following the progress or the story arc of our character, Commander Video, who is going on this quest… I don’t know if it’s a quest, but it’s an experience that this character is having.
In the first game you have the first part of his experience, in the second game the second part, and in the last four games because there are six in the series, you’ll experience his entire story arc and come to a conclusion by then.
Interviewer: Great. Were there any other challenges with this story? Did you have to test the story on other people as you developed it?
Alex: We didn’t really have to test out the story to see if it would really vibe with a lot of people because and I’m trying not to give too much away, because it’s kind of an age old story. I think I’ll leave it at that. I think it is going to work in the long-term.
Interviewer: Were there any other surprises as you developed for the Wii and throughout this whole journey as you started on your own things? What are things you would recommend or suggest to indie game developers who want to pursue the path that you have taken?
Alex: I think that what I would suggest or recommend to other indie developers is get your game out there, whatever it takes. Work with a publisher. Work by yourself if you can self-publish. Do absolutely whatever it takes to get your game into people’s living rooms.
Now, I’ll tell you this is our experience, and it has worked for us. And it continues to work for us. It won’t be everyone’s experience, but the thing that I think is most important is that people realize their creative dreams and their creative visions. If you’re trying too hard to hold onto an ideal, you might lose that creative vision, or you might lose the opportunity to get it out to the people.
So, be willing to compromise. Be willing to get your game out there and just do it. You know, do and accomplish. Then, do and accomplish and get better and better at that. That’s, I think, what is the most important thing.
Interviewer: Are you going to develop for any other platforms in the future?
Alex: We would absolutely love to develop for other platforms in the future. Now, first of all, we really enjoy WiiWare and the Wii and what it offers us, but we are definitely considering the 360, the PS3 and, you know, I don’t know if we’ll go there. I don’t know if we won’t. Only time will tell.
Interviewer: Where can people find out more about your games, maybe, even pick them up?
Alex: Sure. You can go to gaijingames.com and sort of follow our blog. We try to have some fun with our blog, and you can go to the games portion of our website. But then, really it’s the WiiWare store, so fire up your Wiis. You know those things are connected to the Internet and go to the WiiShop channel and browse for Bit.Trip Beat and Bit.Trip Core and you’ll see some of the games.
The next game in the series is out soon, so just explore a little bit and you’ll enjoy it.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.