Fact: The Nintendo Switch is an indie powerhouse and with more and more publishers and developers getting the chance to bring their games to Switch, this month we caught up with DANGEN Entertainment to talk about Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight and more.
Catch our full interview with Dan Stern here:
In typical interview fashion, would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your involvement with Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight?
Dan Stern: I’m Dan Stern, one of two Producers at DANGEN Entertainment. I’ve been doing this job for about five years. My primary role is finding new projects for DANGEN to publish and then working with developers to help them in pretty much any way they could need in order to make, release and promote their games. For Momodora: RUtM I oversaw the Switch porting and release.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight:
Miketendo64: For our readers who have yet to experience Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, or know a single thing about it, what is Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight and how does it play?
Dan Stern: You wouldn’t be wrong to call Momodora: RUtM a metroidvania. The gameplay is 2D action and you’re exploring a map of various locales, unlocking paths by picking up keys and new abilities. But the influences are a lot closer to Cave Story and Dark Souls than Castlevania or Metroid (if you’re a big Pixel fan you can probably feel the Cave Story influence in the jump). As you make your way through the map you fight bosses and uncover snippets of story that, when pieced together, give you a broad picture of what’s transpiring.
Story-wise, Momodora: RUtM is a prequel to three other Momodora games. It takes place 400 years before Momodora 1. The setup is that Kaho, the player character, is from Lun, a village that’s been cursed. She comes to this kingdom called Karst hoping to meet with the Queen and get help in dispelling the curse. When she gets to Karst though, the whole kingdom is in decline and things are worse than they were even at home. And like a good priestess, she starts saving people by slaying evil with her magic, indestructible and razor-sharp…maple leaf.
The Brilliant rdein!:
Miketendo64: Being the publisher behind Momodora, what first attracted you to the game and developer Bombservice?
Dan Stern: Funny thing is that years ago I looked at Momodora 3 and was like wow! that looks dope! I showed my work friends and they were told me, “yeah that’s rdein’s game. It’s awesome.” At the time I had no idea rdein was even making a sequel.
When I got a chance to play an early build I was just astounded by how good it looked and felt to play. rdein was very humble. Seemed like he was very critical of unfinished art in the game, but it was great then and clear that it would be amazing when he finished. To date, he’s the only developer I’ve ever worked with who finished the game sooner than he originally said he would haha.
Switch continues to prove itself as the Console that keeps on Giving:
Miketendo64: Now that Momodora is available now on Switch, how have you found the game’s reception? Has it performed as you hoped?
Dan Stern: It’s been great so far. Switch is a wonderful console for a game like this. I love that everyone seems to be appreciating it as much as I do what a good fit Momodora is for Switch. The game’s performing really well despite the crowded marketplace that all of the game industry has become, which is refreshing for a port of a game that’s almost three years old at this point.
The goal was to provide a faithful Momodora experience to people who want to play on what’s become the favored indie platform for many people–and to introduce new players to the game at the same time. So far that’s working out and of course, it does help that Momodora: RUtM was featured on AGDQ the day before our release.
Behind the Looking Glass:
Miketendo64: You handled the Switch port, marketing and publishing for Momodora. Any chance you can elaborate on those acts so as to give our readers a better idea of the process?
Dan Stern: That’s a huge question, but I’ll take a stab at it haha. Porting can be very tricky. Momodora: RUtM was originally made an engine called Game Maker (version 1.4). To port to Switch a module was required, but was only available for version 2.0. This meant upgrading to 2.0, and starting porting from there. That basically doubled the work involved because any random thing could potentially break in the code during the upgrade and then the port proper. We fixed everything and then started over again fixing everything on Switch. It meant a lot of testing because we need it to play and perform exactly like the PC version does, which is extra tricky for a game with very precise gameplay running at 60FPS. You really feel any drop in framerate.
Publishing requires a deal with Nintendo that allows us to release on their platform. You’ve got to run through their own checks of the game to make sure it’s compliant with their rules, error messages, and quality assurance, etc. By the time we’d gotten to submitting we had a build that was very close to what we needed, but it’s easy to hit snags with some games that can delay things.
To be honest, promotion is tough for a port of an older game. We knew our audience would be Nintendo fans though and focused on reaching out to folks like Miketendo64 who have a lot of Nintendo fans in their readership. It’s worked out great because Nintendo fans really care about getting great games on their favorite system. I also keep an eye on Twitter filters for the game in English and Japanese which helps me reach out to people writing about the game or making videos etc. I’m really active on Twitter too. Since I love the game and have been through it a bunch of times I’m not shy about popping into folks’ mentions and talking with them about it. I love that the fans are so friendly and open to chatting with some excited rando about how awesome it is.
More from Bombservice:
Miketendo64: Momodora isn’t the only game from Bombservice you’re publishing as you’re also releasing Minoria. What can you tell us about it?
Dan Stern: Minoria will be familiar to fans of the Momodora series. It has a lot in common as far as design and gameplay go. But every game that Bombservice makes is always a big step forward for them as a developer. Each one is more complex and has them learning a great deal, improving on what they’ve done in the past. It has more emphasis on story–full cutscenes and significantly more dialogue to flesh out the world, plot and characters. It’s a somber story and will hit a lot of thematic notes that have been touched upon in previous games, but not yet fully explored.
Minoria can be Expected sometime in 2019:
Miketendo64: While it might be too soon to say, do you have a rough idea as to when Minoria will release?
Dan Stern: 2019 is about the best I can say right now, haha. The game is coming along and gets better all the time, but there’s still a fair bit to be done. Bombservice really wants it to shine as a beautifully polished experience. They’re doing a lot of new stuff with the visuals that no one else has done in this genre, but innovation and polish do take time.
Localizing CrossCode for Japan:
Miketendo64: To talk about another game you’re involved with, you’re responsible for the localisation for the Japanese release of CrossCode. Just how involved is the localisation process? Any chance of a step-by-step process?
Dan Stern: Very involved! We actually localized CrossCode during early access which complicates things a LOT. But we found it worth doing because it got the game to Japanese players at a stage where they can be a part of the Early Access which isn’t something they often get to do.
A typical process looks something like this: 1) The team gets familiar with the game by playing a ton of it. Especially the localization manager (my business partner, Dan Luffey), the translator(s) and proofreader(s). They’ve got to know the game well to understand context, tone, story, themes, characters, prose and a whole lot more besides. 2) The text is translated in documents. Ideally by as few people as possible to keep a consistent tone/style. For big games, this can be hard so we might split up the text by types. We did this for CrossCode because it’s a huge game. System text was handled by one person and dialogue by another, but they proofread each other’s work. 3) Proofreading is always done by someone other than the writer. It’s good having a clever intermediary like Dan Luffey managing this because you can run into disagreements between writer and proofreader on how things should be expressed. 4) The text has to be implemented into the game. Depending on how text is handled by the code this can be very easy (adding text into an excel sheet or maybe swapping a file out) or it can be really hard, requiring it to be input by hand. 5) PLAY TEST. Every bit of text in the game has to be seen to know that it’s displaying correctly. Almost anything can happen to text when it’s put into a game, but especially Japanese. Characters can fail to display, they could run out of the text boxes, get cut off, etc. The only way to reliably know that reading it is a good experience is for an actual human to check it in game. 6) We repeat steps 4 & 5 as many times as it takes for the game to look like it was originally made in Japanese. There’s nothing glamorous about these stages of localization, but it’s necessary to make sure the player experience is as great as the game is.
Porting to Switch:
Miketendo64: As a publisher bringing games to Nintendo’s hybrid console, how are you finding the porting process compared to other platforms?
Dan Stern: It’s nothing surprising for games made in engines supported by the console. One of our games, Brave Earth: Prologue, is made in Construct Classic, however. Porting that one will be a major challenge and could even mean rebuilding the game in a totally new engine. Or some kind of code magic that would run the game through an interpreter that would spit out a build compatible with Switch. The ease of porting a game depends a lot on the tools used to build it and whether or not they’re supported by the target platform. Switch is still fairly new so porting can be a little more complex, but it’s getting easier all the time as new tools are released.
Words of Advice:
Miketendo64: For any devs who read this, who are looking for someone to help publish their game, what advice would you give them, so as to better present themselves and their games, to help them get more notice?
Dan Stern: The video games business is a more competitive industry than ever. I think it’s incredibly important to make a game inspired by what you love and understand deeply. It’s how most creative people do their best work (as opposed to making something just because you see an opening for it in the marketplace). Exhaust the potential of your concept and stop. Brevity is a beautiful thing in art and polish, polish, polish. The quality bar is extremely high in the indie space these days so a unique idea isn’t enough by itself for a commercial endeavor.
Something I don’t see said often is that there isn’t anything wrong with making games that are not a commercial product. Not every game has to be sold. Just as with other art forms, there are a lot of skills to be learned and experience to be gained in practicing the craft. If you make something and it’s fun that’s a success in its own right. Use the experience to work on something that can make for a commercial product. But when it’s time to make a game that will be sold, don’t neglect the added baggage that comes with a commercial endeavor. Communicating what is fun/different about your game is vital to its financial success. Ideally, this should be inherent to the game design itself. Ryan Clark’s comments on the subject are enlightening and this article is a bible I live by in publishing.
I recommend against letting ideals hinder your marketing efforts. Marketing doesn’t have to be evil haha, and shouldn’t be. Find a fun way to communicate why your work is rad and let people get hyped. It should be a damn good time.
Miketendo64: Established since 2017, there can be no denying these are not just interesting times for DANGEN Entertainment, but for everyone in the industry. How are you finding this Game & Go era and the plethora of fabulous indies and AAA titles that have come with it?
Dan Stern: There are more games coming out now than ever before. I like that with Switch not only do you have a system that feels really good for indie-sized games, but that also has lower hardware specs that mesh well with non-AAA games. Indies do have to compete with AAA games for player/media attention and anything that facilitates great indie games getting noticed is welcome.
A Message for the Fans:
Miketendo64: Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to those who are keenly interested in yourself and the games DANGEN Entertainment are involved with?
Dan Stern: To players: play a lot of games and learn from each. Leave reviews where you can. Tell devs if their game left a powerful impression on you. Champion their causes. Try to understand the challenges they face–whether they’re technical or harsh financial realities of the industry. Game development can be a thankless job and making enough money to keep doing it isn’t easy. There’s not a dev out there, no matter how successful, whose day wouldn’t be made by even just hearing you loved their game.
As far as DANGEN goes, follow us on Twitter if you want to know about our games. They’re all Very Good(™). Join our Discord to hang out and participate in demos/contests. And if you’re a dev who needs a hand with development, porting, messaging, promotion, localization, or any of the other stuff that comes with publishing, don’t be shy about reaching out to me or firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be thrilled to chat with you about your work.
Cheers for “stopping by” Dan, we hope Devil Engine has as successful of a launch as Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight did!
This post was written by Solid Jack