Note: This interview was conducted during Tokyo Game Show 2017 and is split into two parts. We discuss making games for the Switch, and Rain Games’ upcoming project!
Thomas refers to Thomas Tyssøy from Rain Games.
Peter refers to Peter Wingaard Meldahl from Rain Games.
Special thanks to Bri Bri from Japanese Nintendo who helped with transcribing.
Rain Games (Thomas)
PushDustIn: This is PushDustIn, Tris, Brando, and Thomas from Rain Games. Thank you so much for joining us for this interview. So the first question is, you are bringing two games to the Switch so far (Teslagrad and World to the West). How has it been developing for the Switch so far?
Thomas: It’s been a dream, I’m used to developing for the Wii U so this is a completely different ballpark. Much easier, I honestly love it. Anything I try just runs on it unless I try to break it purposefully [laughs].
PushDustIn: Do you know how to break it so far?!
Thomas: I know a few tricks so you can do it! We did have an error earlier, we’re not done porting World to the West yet, it’s in for approval right now. World to the West had a fun bug where it wouldn’t stop creating saves so that’s a bad idea, you should only create as many saves as you need!
PushDustIn: What is the most appealing feature of the Switch?
Thomas: I wanna say the portability, just the fact that I can bring it along. I brought my own personal Switch along on the plane and that was amazing. It was like a ten-hour plane trip didn’t matter even.
PushDustIn: You’re based in Norway, is that correct?
Thomas: Yes, Norway. We came by the way of Copenhagen.
PushDustIn: Is this your first time in Japan?
Thomas: Yes, it’s amazing. We went to Akihabara and I love it!
Brando: What has your experience been with the Tokyo Game Show so far?
Rain Games: It’s been amazing so far, this is the first proper day so there are more people today then we were prepared for but we’re here with Flyhigh Works and they’re handling it perfectly.
PushDustIn: So Flyhigh Works are helping with the Japanese release of the game?
Thomas: They’re translating it, we actually met the translator yesterday and she’s amazing. She loves the game and she has the same sense of humor as our writer so that meshes really well.
PushDustIn: An ideal combination to capture the original meaning…
Thomas: Especially with our game, it’s pretty text-heavy with a lot of weird jokes so we needed someone who actually knows what they’re doing and she’s really good.
PushDustIn: So can you quickly tell me the main appeal of your games?
Thomas: Well the main appeal of Teslagrad is that it’s a 2D physics platformer- type game where you’re probably going to die a bunch but you respawn pretty much immediately and really close by. It’s difficult but it’s not too difficult. There’s puzzle elements and action elements that are brought together pretty well. We also do voiceless storytelling in that game. The only text is the text on the menu, the rest is just stuff that happens in games so you’ll notice in the background and we tried to tell a story like that. So translating it was like 20 words or something.
The other one is World to the West which is a top-down action-adventure story game with four different characters with different sorts of abilities and you need to use all of them for the game. There are certain sections you can choose but they’re all required. We went a little too far in the other direction compared to Teslagrad so we have a lot of story. A bunch of it isn’t necessarily mandatory but we have people just taking in all the text and still enjoying the game. The gameplay is fun, the story’s fun, we hired an actual writer to tell the story so it actually makes sense for once [laughs] so that’s basically the appeal of World to the West: it’s story-driven, multi-character Zelda-type gameplay, like old Zeldas but with our own weird mechanics. If you’ve been somewhere with that character you can always teleport back to that area really fast.
Brando: I started playing the World to the West demo yesterday, just the intro part and I didn’t get really far, I was playing as the first girl with the lightning…
Thomas: She’s actually related to the main character from the previous game. We’re trying to build some continuity in the world.
Brando: I did get that kind of Zelda sort-of vibe with the top down look and the block-pushing at the beginning. She had the attack and also the dash ability. I thought at first that the attack was sort of slow but I then realized I can cancel that with the dash. It really opened up from there. Was that intentional? What were your aims for the gameplay?
Thomas: Well, I want to say we wanted to make it flow so Teslagrad has good flow. When you know how to play it, you just glide through all the levels, it’s amazing. So we kinda wanted that but we also wanted more puzzle elements in it. You don’t really see it in this one, with the character you tried but one of the other ones called Teri controls animals so you control animals to solve puzzles and also to ride on them like the big ones – you just get on them and ride away! It’s actually different as she can do that. The small child, he’s just a child with basically a shovel so he just has to avoid everything so he’s that kinda gameplay. The big guy, he fights things. That’s basically his character and his gameplay, he fights stuff. He has more of a fighter-type gameplay.
PushDustIn: Speaking of the port process though, has there been any improvements in the Switch version?
Thomas: In the Switch version of World to the West? That’s actually hard to say. I’m actually doing the final stretch of the porting for the Switch version. I’d for Switch – that has Rumble. We had so much fun with that actually with the right and left Joy-Con. I’m not sure we’re going to do anything more special. On the Wii U, you always had to use the screen but here it needs to work with and without touchscreen so more convenient stuff probably. We put in all the improvements from the previous version.
PushDustIn: Do you have the next project lined up?
Thomas: Yes, we actually do! If I’d have brought my laptop I would have actually shown you a basic video but it’s, I’m trying to figure out what I’ve basically made public about it. It’s going to be set in the same world, it’s going to be more of a re-playable game with shorter sessions. The gameplay is hard to describe, I wouldn’t say event-focused. We should get Peter to describe it as he knows the best. I haven’t jumped over to that as I’m still porting all the other ones. We port for everything.
PushDustIn: What platforms are you targeting?
Thomas: With the new one? It’s going to be the big consoles at least and PC. PC, Mac, Linux, XBox 1, PS4 and Switch of-course. We’ll have to see about the new versions on the other consoles. I guess supporting them is pretty easy, they should work just out of the box on those consoles. If you had any graphical extras? Our games aren’t graphically intensive anyways maybe we’ll do some overlays or something, more anti-aliasing, that’s about it I think. But yeah, all the main consoles, PC, Mac, Linux, I don’t know about any others. I can’t confirm at the moment.
PushDustIn: What does it mean to be indie?
Thomas: What it means to be indie. Well, for me it means being able to travel here with a small publisher because we are here in Japan with a publisher and just sort of hanging out. But it also means, I want to say community, we’ve been building a community in Bergen in Norway of indie developers. We don’t really have any big support so we have to support each other. I want to say that’s indie for me, community; we have regular gatherings, small conventions in towns.
Rain Games (Peter)
PushDustIn: This is PushDustIn, Tris, Brando and Peter. Thank you so much for joining us for this interview. So we were talking a little bit about your future projects so can you introduce it a little to us.
Peter: Oh you mean World to the West or future projects.
Brando: Future projects!
Peter: So we’re working a third project in the same gaming world as Teslagrad and World to the West, it’s called Mesmer and it’s all about revolution. It’s a very different game from what we’ve previously done but we always change game genres a little bit, we keep the story around, the world around, a lot of the art, aesthetics and the characters that people already know, but this time we want to a little more of, I guess you can say inspired by the survival genre. It’s not a survival game but it has some of those mechanics.
PushDustIn: So will there be crafting?
Peter: Not really, no. Imagine you were playing the last ten days of a city and it is becoming increasingly more hostile and a revolution starts. You are one of the revolutionary leaders, you play this in real-time walking around the streets and you need to get the right kind of support from the right kind of important people in the city, to control the police and all the resources. You also have to gather support in the populace and to not get caught by the King’s secret police, the official police that are roaming the streets, and keep it all under check. It’s going to explode at some point and you want your political ideology to be the one to win true. Like for example, you can play as the democrats trying to make democracy out of everything, or people trying to make some kind of oligarchy, more cash-influenced kind of things or thieves who want the survival of the fittest and the right of the strong to be the new rule of the city or people who just want a new, a different king who they know better.
PushDustIn: So you kind of choose your own faction at the beginning?
Peter: Yeah, they’re very different sort of basic resources, what sort of people in the city like them to begin with, how much money they can easily get their hands on, and other sorts of supporting characters that like them more than another. I guess each faction can run the same kind of strategy but they have an advantage if they play the hand that they’re dealt from the beginning.
PushDustIn: And will we see any of the characters from the older games come back?
Peter: Oh yeah definitely, so this is the nation that Teri from World to the West is originally from so she will definitely be in there. In addition to that, I know that Clonington is to make an appearance. He is the strong man from World to the West and a somewhat ignorant buffoon who travels to the world’s adventures. He won’t be directly playable but you can use him as a part of your flock as an easily used pawn.
PushDustIn: And it’s also coming out to the Switch?
Peter: We are targeting the Switch right away, it’s going to be one of the first platforms.
PushDustIn: What kind of unique features of the Switch will this game feature?
Peter: So right away when we knew we wanted to do more multiplayer things, so this is a game where we knew we wanted to use the multiplayer features a little bit more than in the past. We always wanted to play against each other but Switch makes us want to do cooperative with two people on the same faction so you can play this on single-player, multiplayer and co-op multiplayer I guess.
PushDustIn: And I guess the art style will be 2D?
Peter: No, no, no, we have a little different art style because we’ve been working on this since working on World to the West but it’s 3D art style we’re using and upgrading everything graphics-wise from World to the West as well. It’s a playful cartoony style still and the same sort of stuff that we always do, it’s just that we’re getting better ourselves using the tools available and the tools themselves are becoming better so we are using that to its full potential as well.
PushDustIn: So Teslagrad will be coming out to the Nintendo Switch very soon as well, it’s in the final testing phase now?
Peter: Yeah, yeah yeah, I believe that one and a half months is a good aim for both our current titles (Teslagrad and World to the West). We don’t know exactly as there’s a lot of games going through lot-check right now.
PushDustIn: And World to the West is still being localized into Japanese?
Peter: Yeah, it’s localized into most languages already but Japanese is in the middle of the process but I also believe we can get that into order shortly, perhaps a week more for the text and that leads nicely into our developments.
PushDustIn: Will it be released worldwide simultaneously?
Peter: Probably, the plan is to release worldwide simultaneously but if something gets delayed then it might drop out from simultaneous worldwide release.
Brando: How has it been working with Flyhigh Works as a publisher?
Peter: Oh yeah, they’ve been great actually. We’ve had some previous experience in Japan as well. It’s a strange story, we started with CyberFront who went bankrupt shortly after they signed us, and we moved that game onto Square-Enix with Teslagrad for PlayStation consoles. They still have that there. Square-Enix closed their indie department. They still have that game but they’re not taking on any new Western Indies. We looked for other partners and Flyhigh definitely stands out from the rest. The company has been able to localize a lot of good Western titles and get continuously good ratings and many local purchases so if you look at the top lists, then almost every Western game that has been brought over in the past couple of months has been Flyhigh and is doing really well. So you see it here as well, they have a very good presence at the Tokyo Game Show and working with them on the translation has also been great. It’s clear that they love the games that they’re doing and it’s clear they want the characters to come through the same way in the game.
PushDustIn: Is there any changes you’ve had to make for the Japanese versions?
Peter: Nothing drastic. Mostly the same as us localizing for other areas. The Japanese localisations are always a little bit more than the European ones but they’re usually easier to do than the Chinese who have a lot of specific demands and lots of specific laws you have to follow.
PushDustIn: So that kind of localization process, has that influenced how you’re going to make your next game?
Peter: Well, we’re always thinking about these things in advance. In this case we did Teslagrad first and we already localised that into Japanese so we knew how to make a good system for that; we have a translation system built in so it’s very easy for anyone that works with our tools to make a fluent translation and see right away how that looks in the game. It’s not completely disconnected in the way that many systems are. So we just built that into Teslagrad from the start and that made a lot of stuff easier and also means people didn’t have to come back to us with that many questions during the process doing porting and make sure that the text sticks and stuff like that. Often context can be very hard to understand because if you don’t see any line of dialogue in the game that can be drastically different and some games also have some problem with which character is saying this: is it an old grandmother or is it a boxer, is it a baby and it will matter a lot how you translate it especially into Japanese I guess as there is so many specific ways in which you can talk about yourself and others.
PushDustIn: So what does it mean to be indie for you?
Peter: Well it means not to be supported by a large publisher, we self- publish in most places. In Europe, we do everything except boxed copies. Boxed copies are Soedesco and this is a small market. For example, with Teslagrad we self- published 1.6 million copies across all the platforms in the Western market ourselves, Soedesco did 60,000 which is a lot less but we love to have physical copies in the stores. But we do see that actually drives sales as it’s a good way to show off the product to people that wouldn’t have seen it otherwise because not everybody is good at reading online coverage. I guess especially children and adults, they don’t look at any online coverage ever so stores are the only kind of way to reach them. The games should be appropriate for all ages in a sense that it is fun no matter what kind of age category you fall into, you can have a little bit of darkness, it should never feel childish but it can be playful in that way you can make it for a lot of audiences. It is harder to marker for the younger audience and physical copies help us out a lot. For us being indie means we do the core of the publishing ourselves, otherwise, we have to look at a lot of the areas that we don’t understand at all. Working with Flyhigh in Japan is great because although we might be very familiar with a lot of Western media and Western ways of publishing, publishing in Asia in general and also in Japan are beyond our expertise and we need a little more help than what we need at home.
PushDustIn: Any final words?
Peter: Please try and check us out when we release later this year on the Switch!
Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)