Later on this year, Raw Fury are bringing Kingdom and GoNNER to the Nintendo Switch and if you have been following our site, you’ll know we’ve already posted Part 1 of our interview with Raw Fury’s Gordon Van Dyke and now the time has come to post Part 2:
*All questions, answers and responses come from the second half hour of our hour+ long Skype interview.
Suitable for Switch and a Whole lot More:
Miketendo64: Now, the two games that you have coming to the Switch (GoNNER & Kingdom), could not be any different from each other. What made you think that the Switch would be a suitable platform these games and not Kathy Rain?
Gordon Van Dyke: (Laughs) It was Nintendo, they knew what they were making before we did and they saw that these games had potential. The credit really goes to Nintendo, Nintendo Europe & Nintendo America. They were early to approach us. We did have some kind of indication that they was some form of interest all the way back in May at the second Nordic Game Convention that I had a meeting with them again. I would say it’s them, it wasn’t us. When we got more details, it became more apparent what they were doing. I have a fascination with technology and gadgets and am very easily convinced. I am an early adopter for technology and I saw it as this super complement.
In my opinion and my speculation, I have pre ordered one (Nintendo Switch) as a developer, you don’t get any benefits, like free retail kits, I have to order one just like everybody else but I do think it could be a tablet alternative and a massive one in a big way. I think about my daughter who is five turning six soon, and when she is really starting to want to play games that are beyond just an iPad, I would get her a switch before I would get her an iPad because I am sure it will have the basic apps like YouTube that kids do but will also have games that are of a higher quality level and not just apps that are free to play that your kids are going to come up to you and say “How do I get out of this?”
We went to the Nintendo Europe meeting for a briefing on the Switch and we could hold it and touch it in our hands and there was the parental app that will allow you to have easier management or lazy parenting if you are relying on the app to turn off the device when you haven’t developed a relationship with your child to ask them to stop and they will but that’s a whole different discussion. It’s the fact that they considered that because for some parents its hard, some kids are different and it doesn’t matter who the parents are. For some kids it is hard to let go so it is great that they (Nintendo) are supporting that.
Miketendo64: It is indeed. I can see the benefits of Nintendo with the Parental App because when I worked as a waiter in a hotel, I see a lot of different people coming in every single day and it is incredible when you see these little tots and these kids can be 12-16 months old and they have mum or dad’s smartphone in front of them with YouTube on because it is the only way the parents can get them to eat because they have to be watching something. Sometimes it is even a cartoon of a character eating something, and it’s like “If they see the cartoon cat eat something, they’ll eat something too.” I guess this is where technology has taking us now. In a way I guess I can see where parental control is going because when parents take the phone away from their child, the child goes into a massive hissy fit and they are screaming and throwing things around and you are like “Oh my god! Just give them the goddamn phone back.
Gordon Van Dyke: Manipulation by embarrassment.
Miketendo64: Yes, so Nintendo adding parental control is taking that responsibility away from Mum and dad and saying “The Nintendo console thinks it’s a good time to put us down now. Maybe you should go outside and play for a little while.”
Gordon Van Dyke: Exactly. It gives more tools to the parent to help them be a better parent and regulate these things in a more healthy and mutually beneficial way. I was really happy to hear about that and that they are even thinking about parental control and that it is a super healthy attitude to take. Typically, the mentality of game companies, especially the bigger ones is “How can we kids play longer?” They are not taking into account the social aspect that we in the gaming industry should take more seriously. We should be doing more besides putting in parental controls that no one uses anyways.
It’s our responsibility as Developers and hardware manufacturers to do on a moral level and a socially moral level as well. I know that it sounds really boring but it’s true. If you look on news columns like GBC and they are talking about deep levels of psychological manipulation. Some companies hire specialists in psychology to use techniques, especially in Free-to play games to take advantage of our behavioural patterns that’s ingrained in us back to the cave man level, this crude clicking and reward systems and techniques that are used in gambling, specifically in slot machines to manipulate people into giving you a boatload of money. Now that’s another deep philosophical discussion on morality.
Back to the original question, the majority of the credit goes to Nintendo for approaching us before they had announced the Switch and willing to bring us aboard, a group that really isn’t that big, we just can’t thank them enough. It is a huge honour that they cared that much and a lot of it all boils down to quality.
We actually had a discussion the other day in a big group call and we have this huge list of games that we are trying to go through and we have this thing where everyone has to say yes because if someone doesn’t believe in the game, as we are a small company, we only choose a small number of games. We don’t just sign a bunch of games and hope one of them sticks. We sign only the games we really care about and believe in and also believe in the developer. We put a lot of effort into those titles and so we think to ourselves “Does this game have the potential to be a 90+ rated game on Steam?” It kind of started our benchmark to think could the game have that kind of rating? So it is always about quality, it ties into that which is really the reason why Nintendo gave us this opportunity because they have seen our portfolio. I haven’t looked recently but GoNNER was given 85 by Metacritic, Kingdom: New Lands was released on Xbox but then updated on PC and that got a rating of like 90 Metacritic. Kathy Rain was 80 Metacritic. So we have this long standing history of quality which is why we appealed to Nintendo, because we did ask “Why Us?”
Miketendo64: Because of the quality and compassion you have for videogames.
Gordon Van Dyke: Yeah, the consistency of quality. They know if they give us the opportunity to publish games for them, what we bring to them will be of a high quality level. To them it wasn’t about “Is this going to be big seller?” that isn’t what they cared about, it’s about the quality. They said to us that we could publish the game on the Switch and that is something you can’t just buy, especially for a small company, the opportunity to release on a bigger platform, it was an opportunity that we jumped on full force.
Miketendo64: I don’t blame you, to be honest. Any opportunity is a good one.
NES, Zelda and Axiom Verge:
Miketendo64: So to steer the conversation in another direction what was your first console?
Gordon Van Dyke: My first console was the NES, so that dream scenario as a kid that we all had. I saved up my allowance and Christmas money to and my brother and I went halves to buy a Nintendo back in the late 80’s, it was a huge deal. The games console cost was like $80 dollars.
Miketendo64: I know and now, they are still around $80 with inflation if not more. I also have a NES Console and I had one when I was much much younger. My mum bought it for me when I must have been about 2 or 3 years old. That has long since gone through several changes of home, moving from one place to another as the years go by. The other day I found one and I thought to myself “You know what? I’m gonna have it just for Nostalgia’s sake.” But as for a developer it must be a really big moment to grow up with Nintendo and playing their games and now all of a sudden, now that you’re an adult, they have actually approached YOU to put games on their console?
Gordon Van Dyke: Well yeah, you feel like you are on cloud 9 for a moment and then you have to ground yourself because it is a business and you have to deliver for them and step up to the plate. You then start to get nervous and feel like “Woah! Now I really have to deliver.” And so we our game coming to the Switch, we really want it to live up to the quality level that people have come to expect from games on Nintendo. It’s hard to match games from Nintendo like the new Zelda game, I am so fricking “My God!!!” I played it at E3 so I have a little head start on others.
Miketendo64: I am so jealous, I have not played it yet at all. Unfortunately it didn’t come to Spain which is where we are based. Not even the Nintendo Switch event came to Spain (at the time of this interview) like it did to Germany, UK, France and because of other commitments, I can’t just hop on a plane and go there. I do on the other hand have it pre-ordered and of course, Europe being Europe. Nintendo America, they always seem to get the greatest stuff. The Master edition just looks awesome along with the collector’s coin. Now the European edition doesn’t come with the coin unfortunately or the Switch carry case which I am really, really jealous of because they were the two things that I really, really wanted, we still get the sword though.
Gordon Van Dyke: I actually have the coin.
Miketendo64: I know because you went to E3 and played the demo. (Laughs)
Gordon Van Dyke: (Laughs)
Miketendo64: I am well jealous about that.
Gordon Van Dyke: It is a treasured little thing of mine. I heard that you can sell them for quite a bit on Ebay but I didn’t do it.
Miketendo64: No! Don’t! It has too much emotional value.
Gordon Van Dyke: Yeah, I mean, I played the original Zelda when it first released on the gold cartridge. Those games shave a deep value, I hope that we do get a proper new Metroid game though. I am more of a fan of the old platformer styles, Axiom Verge was an incredible game.
Miketendo64: That was a good game. Thomas Happ has created a really, really great game. It is just a shame that when the game created, the developer asked Nintendo if they could put a Samus Aran costume into the game, the power suit but Nintendo wouldn’t let them because they said it would be too familiar or something along those lines. That would have been such a nice touch to the game as well because Axiom Verge was a love letter to Nintendo anyway and it would have been the big wet kiss at the bottom of it.
Gordon Van Dyke: Hyperlight Drifter is a big favourite of mine which draws massive inspiration from the top-down versions of Zelda.
GDC Plans and GoNNER as a Flagship Title for Switch:
Miketendo64: So with GDC coming up, and your confirmed presence at the event, can you talk about the line-up games you will have playable there? Are they playable on the Switch or will it still be Steam based?
Gordon Van Dyke: That’s a good question, we are just getting our dev kits so we are not 100% sure but we are planning to get GoNNER at GDC and a yet unannounced game. (Now revealed as Dandara) Kingdom won’t be there as a lot of people have already seen it and it won’t be amazing for people to see Kingdom on Switch yet but we are bringing it to mobile at the end of this month and it is the full version of the game so it is not dumbed down in any way to work on mobile though it does require quite a beefy device. It is more for newer hardware which is the only downside but it is the full experience with touch so we’ll be able to Kingdom on touch and we will try to add a ‘cool’ feature which we won’t tell you what it is officially but you can probably read between the lines. If everything goes as planned which it usually doesn’t but we hope to get all three games out on the Switch in 2017.
Miketendo64: That would be really great. That will be good because as we all know, that even though the Switch has a better Launch year line-up than the Wii U, it is pretty bare bones so if you can get as many games out on the console to really help make it a success.
Gordon Van Dyke: I didn’t notice but did they (Nintendo) say FIFA was a launch title though?
Miketendo64: I think it comes out around summertime or Fall of this year so still within the “Launch Year Period.”
Gordon Van Dyke: I was gonna say because, aside from Zelda, for me because of what I am interested in, there were no risky titles in there which is fine. Things always happen in development so there could be titles that are very compelling but it harder to get games that push boundaries a bit more so early on new hardware. From understanding on the development side, I bet you, I don’t know this because I have no information but my gut tells me that there are more games that they just couldn’t get out on time and so it is good that they held back. So my guess is that we will some pretty compelling stuff between Launch until Summer.
Development tools are difficult and if I understood correctly, not all the connections are in place yet for Unity as well which is good for us because we are looking to start the first title to release in Summer. We can’t commit to that because we haven’t started the technical work aspect to it so it could still change but that is our goal, to try and have something ready for summer and then throughout the rest of the year.
Miketendo64: Fingers crossed for that because like you said before, you have only just got the dev kit or it hasn’t come to you yet?
Gordon Van Dyke: We’ve ordered them but need the confirmation.
Miketendo64: So until then it is basically in the air as to when GoNNER, Kingdom and the unannounced title (Now officially revealed as Dandara) can come to 2017.
Gordon Van Dyke: Well yeah but Summer feels realistic. You never want to commit this early when you haven’t had time to work with the hardware, you haven’t had time to see what elements of Unity still need to be polished out. Were there functionalities taken out that we were dependent on? Games like Kingdom are pretty basic, there are no substantial leaderboards or thing like that but we want to add a cool feature to make the game interesting. So when people are like “If I already own it on the Xbox and PC, why would I want to own it on the Switch? What’s the upside for me?” and what we normally do is roll the features down so maybe there won’t be an upside but there maybe it could be compelling if people get a Switch and use it as their main gaming device, maybe Kingdom is a game that they want to take with them as well. We want to make it interesting and want to try and do something for that. With that in mind, we are likely to lead with GoNNER.
Miketendo64: So GoNNER is your main flagship on the Switch so to speak? To see how far it goes on the Switch?
Gordon Van Dyke: Right, it’s our flagship game for Switch, definitely. It was the game that Nintendo was most interested in, especially because it hasn’t released on any console before so this Switch will be the first console that GoNNER releases on. It is an interesting thing for them to have.
Miketendo64: It’s an advantage.
Gordon Van Dyke: Kingdom is not as interesting to people now which is why we want to do a refresh now in some way which is exactly what we did when it came out on Xbox. We went from Kingdom to Kingdom: New Lands and rolled the update for free for all the PC users. Sometimes it is hard to support that on development and distribution environments but we will always try and do that for everyone who owns our games and update it, we want to give it to them for free. Hopefully they will tell a friend and the friend will buy the game. We want to bank on people who feel we are an honest and fair company and when you buy our game, you are treated with respect and we never dip into your pockets in a way that isn’t deserved.
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Going to be honest with you, this is not everything as there is still even more content to be covered as far as our interview with Raw Fury goes, and as much as we would have liked to have covered the entire interview in two interviews, it just didn’t work out. So what this means is while this has been Part 2, to see what else Gordon had to say, you’ll have to come back and check out Part 3. Only you won’t have to wait as long as you did for this instalment, as we’ll be posting Part 3 tomorrow and we talk retail, amiibo and a little bit more!