The year was 2004, and the day was the 25th of December, Christmas day and the day Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure, released in Japan. Fast forward to 2007, Gurumin was released in Asia once more, this time on the PSP. Then 8 years on, it’s 2015 and Gurumin finally came to Steam, but now it’s 2016 and thanks to Mastiff Games, it’s coming to the Nintendo 3DS and it releases in North America on the 13th of October and a lot of us can’t wait!
So naturally, being so it is a game that has a lot of us excited, it’s only natural to want to know more about it, so I got in touch with the guys over at Mastiff and sent over another a huge list of questions (ours and our readers) and in return, they sent back a huge list of answers. Get ready to learn more about Gurumin 3D because Bill Swartz, the President and CEO of Mastiff Games, was very informative with his answers and we have them all right here:
Difference between Developer and Publisher:
Miketendo64: “Now Mastiff Games is both a publisher, and a developer, so for those of us who don’t know, what specifically is the difference between the two classifications and just exactly what is it a games publisher does?
Bill Swartz: “Think of Mastiff as being like a small movie studio. When it wants to do a movie it may write a script or have one written (both happen) and then it goes out and hires actors, crew, editors and so on for the project, rents any equipment it needs but doesn’t happen to have, shoulders the cost (and risk) of making the film, releases it into the world and hopes for enough profit so it can make more films. And sometimes it also buys already done movies from other studios and distributes them.
Gurumin is an interesting example of the line between Publisher and Developer. Gurumin was not Developed by Mastiff – it came from the genius that is Nihon Falcom. However, we did the development of the 3DS game, and the original localization. For the 3DS version we spent literally fifteen hundred hours of internal time working on the port, and managed contracted people and teams that spent many more thousands of hours on programming and testing.
A pure Publisher, would only be about releasing content. That would mean buying a completed product from another studio, building inventory (if a physical product,) advertising/promotions, selling the product, taking the payments risk (lots of stores are happy to not pay their bills) and providing user support. We do all that of course, but we also get elbows deep in development, not just hiring (on a contract basis) people and time, but internally writing scenarios, writing dialogue, designing levels and (for localized products) doing and editing translations.
A pure Developer would not get involved in any of the Publisher functions and would only develop games.”
Miketendo64: “Thank you for the explanation Bill.”
Bringing Gurumin to Steam:
Miketendo64: “Mastiff Games were responsible for bringing a classic game that was exclusive to Japan to the West. What has been the hardest part of the entire process?”
Bill Swartz: “Hardest part of Gurumin for Steam? Altogether it was a very smooth project, though getting through Steam Greenlight took many months more than anticipated.”
Bringing Gurumin to the 3DS:
Miketendo64: “And since we mentioned being Gurumin to Steam, a feat that amazed fans with what you were able to pull off, let’s talk about Gurumin 3D. how does the Steam version compare to the 3DS one you’re bringing out?”
Bill Swartz: “Gurumin was originally a PC game. Releasing it on Steam took some work since we needed to update the game for modern versions of windows, and add Trading Cards and other Steam specific functionality. But all-in-all I suppose you can think of it as altering a suit and Gurumin on 3DS required reweaving the fabric of the suit. Because memory and processor cycles on a PC are basically infinite (of course not literally, but PCs are fast and have a ton of memory) there was no need for Gurumin to be computationally efficient. That was fine, and allowed the developers to focus on producing a fun and attractive game. However, the 3DS has limited memory and only has so much processing power, but double the processing challenge if you are going to take advantage of 3D. If you are displaying in 3D, and to release a 2D game on 3DS is a bit of a waste in our eyes, you need to essentially draw on two screens at once, one for each eye. That means if you want your game running in 30FPS your program needs to do the same work that on a PC would be required for a 60FPS game. The programming team had to spend a tremendous amount of time finding ways to improve drawing efficiency so images could be produced at the necessary speed with enough processor cycles left over to allow the controls to feel fast and responsive. It was a huge, huge pain. The upside though was I did learn how to say “frustum culling” (a series of techniques to stop the program from drawing objects that aren’t in the area of view) in Japanese. It’s Shisuidai Karingu or, if you are just talking about detection of objects in the field of view, Shisuidai Hantei. Glad I could share, I feel better now.
Another issue was controls. When I got started in the industry people use say “The U/I is the game.” I don’t think that’s entirely right, and the phrase isn’t heard much anymore, but there is some truth to it. Making a game built for a mouse and keyboard feel good with 3DS controls took a lot of time, a lot of thought, and a lot of trial and error.
For all those challenges I’m very proud to say we got to the finish line with a game that users will love, one that lives up to the potential of Gurumin.”
Miketendo64: “I’ve only seen footage of others playing it, but the game does indeed look pretty incredible!”
Talking Version Differences (The 3DS and the New 3DS):
LockeNLoad: “Well since we spoke about some of the difficulties you faced, what about version differences. Is there any difference between playing Gurumin 3D on a Nintendo 3DS and a New Nintendo 3DS?”
Bill Swartz: “Same game, running at the same speed. The new 3DS has a C-stick which we support for camera control, though without it players can control the camera the old fashion way, with the shoulder buttons.”
A Retail Release could Happen (if there’s Enough Fan Demand):
BrentSlaysZombies: “Will there be a retail version of the game some time down the line, or just a digital title purchasable from the eShop?”
Bill Swartz: “Right now we have no plans for a retail version but if there was enough interest we’d love, love, love, love to do one.”
Gurumin was Never considered for the Wii U:
Miketendo64: “After releasing on Steam, was Gurumin ever considered for the Wii U. or solely for the 3DS?”
Bill Swartz: “No, only for the 3DS.”
Why Mastiff Games Never released a Game on the Wii U:
Miketendo64: “And on the subject of the Wii U, I can’t help but notice you haven’t released a single game on Nintendo’s recent home console. Is there a particular reason for this, or have you simply not had the chance?”
Bill Swartz: “Bit of both. Love the Wii U, but we only have a few chips to spend, and we need to be very careful with how we do it.”
Miketendo64: “I see.”
Mastiff Games publishing/developing titles for the NX could Happen:
Miketendo64: “Well, with the exception of the Wii U and the 2DS, you’ve pretty much had a game playable on each of Nintendo’s available home and handheld consoles since the GBA. Can we expect to see your relationship with Nintendo continue and see Mastiff publish a game for the Nintendo NX sometime in the near future?”
Bill Swartz: “I would sure hope so!!!!”
Miketendo64: “Me too!!!”
Miketendo64: “When developing Gurumin, how much time would you say you personally played the game during its development and do you still play it now after it released on Steam?”
Bill Swartz: “Gosh that’s a hard one. Through development I played it a lot, but frequently the same stages again and again as we tried different technical solutions. Without counting demos, over all version of the game, has to be 50-100 hours. Mika Hayashi, who produced the game at Mastiff, I’m sure put in literally five times that, and some testers nearly as much.”
“I feel blessed to have been part of Gurumin:”
Miketendo64: “With quite an extensive library of games behind you, what do you make of Gurumin and how do you feel about it?”
Bill Swartz: “It’s a wonderful game, Nihon Falcom was a joy to work with, I’m proud of what we’ve done with localization and port development. The Steam version went smoothly, the 3DS version was technically very, very challenging. All in all, I’d have to say I feel blessed to have been part of Gurumin.”
Miketendo64: “Let’s do a little roleplay. You’re you and I’m someone who has never played Gurumin 3D or heard anything about it. (Shame I know, but go with it.) How would you describe Gurumin 3D to me to make me want go out and play it as soon as it releases?”
Bill Swartz: “I’d quote the journalist who described the game to me as “Mario with short range projectile weapons mixed in with Zelda” and then take my 3DS out of my bag and invite you to play a level or two…or perhaps the entire game, but that could take anywhere from 30-35 hours to complete.”
Miketendo64: “You had me sold the second you said Zelda!”
PAX West Reaction:
Miketendo64: “You recently attended Nindies Night and PAX West last month. How did you find the event and gamer’s reaction to the Gurumin 3D demo?”
Bill Swartz: “It was awesome! It was my first PAX and seeing such a crowd of people who loved games was really good.
Gurumin was extremely well received. I personally demonstrated the game (getting people started and handing them a 3DS for a 10 minute trial play session) 100-150 times and got nothing but over-the-top positive feedback. OK, two exceptions – one young lady was annoyed at the long line to play, though she loved the game, and a guy who said it was “not his thing.” That was it for negative, or even non-positive, feedback.
Miketendo64: “It doesn’t get better than that!”
“Our Hero may be cute, but she’s no Hello Kitty:”
Miketendo64: “Lastly, is there anything about Gurumin 3D that fans don’t know, but you feel they should?”
Bill Swartz: “Let me hit you with two things: First… is origin of the name. We actually wrote up a news blog post about it on our site:”
“Second, would be a general comment to people thinking about the game: don’t be too deceived by the cuteness. Yes, our hero is a cute anime-themed girl, and her weapon is of all things a drill, but I promise she has far more in common with Lara Croft than Hello Kitty.”
Miketendo64: “Now that sounds promising indeed!”
Thanks to Bill, we got to learn a little more about Gurumin3D’s thought and development process, and gained a little insight into the company that’s bringing it to the 3DS, so thank you Bill! And because that’s enough from me, I’m going to pass the baton back to Bill, who has a message for the fans:
“We want to hear from you! Are there any games you are dying to play but just haven’t been able to come out? Tell us about them! And of course, thank you all for the support! We cannot wait for everyone to play Gurumin 3D when it is released on the Nintendo eShop on October 13. And those who purchase Gurumin 3D between October 13th through to Halloween on October 31st will receive the ‘Gurumin Part Time Theme’ that they can use to spruce up the home screen of their 3DS.”
This post was written by Solid Jack