Interview with Rive writer Niels ’t Hooft

December 11, 2017 7:50 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Hello! I’m jmac and this is my first article! I originally did the interview for another site but I’m bringing here so all can enjoy! Thanks for reading!


First of all, how did you come up with the concept of Rive?

At Two Tribes, we always wanted to make a 2D shooter. When the Nintendo DS came along, we tinkered with a prototype for an on-rails 3D shooter with a time-traveling story. Somehow these two ideas blended together when we started RIVE. The world and characters came from the desire to do something both dark and serious, as well as fun and over-the-top. We decided that the world RIVE takes place in is completely serious and real, it’s just that the characters are nuts.

How did overall development go?

It took way longer than planned! I think at first we wanted to do it in 9 months. But then we had to downsize the company after Toki Tori 2+ didn’t do as well as it should have. So we continued with a tiny team, which made development a bit slower, but also made it less expensive to keep going. When we decided that RIVE would be our last game[1] (so we didn’t have to start a new project while finishing the last), this made it even easier to go on improving the game for probably way too long. We always remained enthusiastic about the game though, and ended up with something splendid!

The gameplay is something new we’ve never seen in a game (while feeling somewhat familiar) how did you get the idea?

Good question! It was clear really early on that RIVE would be a platformer combined with twin-stick shooting. There are a few other games that do this, but not too many, and to be honest, I don’t know where the idea came from exactly. The hacking mechanism was added later, as we were trying to find a cherry to put on top of an already solid foundation. Like most game development, it was a very organic process.

Every Indie game company always brings their own touch to each game they make, what would you say is yours?

I think that over the last few games or so, we developed a really slick and polished style at Two Tribes, where both the graphics and gameplay are extremely smooth. We have a tendency towards elegance too: everything is as simple as it can be (but never too simple), and design elements are always communicated clearly. As we’re such a small company, you can trace this back directly to the developers: it’s just Martijn’s, Collin’s, Meinte’s and my own style. You can even see the fingerprints of some of the company’s earlier employees in the game, as they worked on the engine or the very first prototype, or helped finishing up parts of it.


Why is the Switch port “ the definitive version”?

It’s the Ultimate Edition both in the sense that this version of RIVE can hardly be improved upon, and that it’s probably the last major version of the game we’ll make. We also just wanted to make clear that the Switch version got a lot of love from us. It’s not just a plain port, we really looked for ways to make the game better on Switch. Besides a completely new mode (the 2P Copilot Mode, where you control the spider tank together), we added really good HD Rumble support and made our own in-game Achievements implementation. And that’s on top of all the little tweaks that make RIVE: Ultimate Edition the fastest, smoothest version on any platform.

Is the Switch, like Nintendo said, an easy platform to develop for? How does porting a game to Switch go, is it long, hard and requires some changes?

We created our own engine for Toki Tori 2 and RIVE, so it was a lot of work to get it running, with which our friends at Engine Software helped a ton. Luckily Nintendo’s game is really improving, so that helped. The development environment and hardware for the Switch are both much better than they were for Wii U. The Wii U had both modern parts (GPU) and older parts (CPU), while Switch only has modern standardized parts.


Are you Nintendo fans yourself?

For sure! And we have a long history with Nintendo, starting with our very first game being released on Game Boy Color back in 2001. That was the first version of Toki Tori! And our rebirth as an independent developer started with the remake of Toki Tori as a download game on the original Wii. We originally planned to release RIVE on Wii U, but that didn’t work out. So we’re super excited that we’ve been able to release RIVE: Ultimate Edition on Switch.

How did you first come into contact with Nintendo about porting the game? How did it feel? Were they supportive?

We’ve been in touch with Nintendo for years, and they’ve always been very supportive of our games and game development. As said, we’re super happy that RIVE is finally out on a Nintendo platform!


Finally, what’s your favorite aspect of Rive?

Personally, I love that this is a truly skill-based game. If you get good at RIVE, you’ll be jumping over your enemies, shooting in circles, launching special attack salvos like there’s no tomorrow. It almost becomes a choreography – a dance of destruction – and it feels super rewarding when you pull it off. Oh, and as I’m the writer of the game, I should say that I love that we were able to give the game some rather sharp writing and quirky humor. It’s really unique in that sense! And funny!

Big thanks to Niels ’t Hooft for the interview!


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