Developer Interview: Richard Perrin Talks About Journal and Nintendo's Approach to Indies
Posted by Rory Cocker
"Nintendo are leagues ahead of where they’ve been in the past"
We recently caught up with Richard Perrin - the creator of Kairo and the white chamber - at the Rezzed PC and Indie Games Show at the NEC in Birmingham to find out what's happening with his latest creation, Journal. Richard is currently focusing on the Windows version of the game, but hopes to release on Wii U at some point in the future.
Nintendo Life: Could you just talk us through what the game's about?
Richard Perrin: Okay, so Journal is an adventure game where, rather than focusing on puzzles, I’m trying to focus on character interaction, dialogue and narrative choices. So, it’s a game where you just play through the life of a young girl and try to deal with childhood issues like lying to friends, cheating on tests – things that don’t seem a big deal when you’re an adult, but when you’re a kid, those matter a lot, and so the game is about making choices about how you deal with those and how the consequences of that affects your relationship with the characters in the game.
NL: Are there any other particular indie games that you’re taking inspiration from at all? Or is this kind of your vision?
RP: I’ve been working on this for a long time, but the thing that has emboldened me the most wasn’t really even an indie game; it was seeing the success of The Walking Dead [from Telltale Games] last year. The Walking Dead still had a lot of puzzles in it over the course of the episodes, and they realised that players were reacting most to the difficult choices they had to make and the character interaction, and you could see that they were focusing more on that. It made me realise that the things about this game that I wasn’t sure about – you never really had puzzles that worked in it – made me realise that it’s worth trying to do these kind of games where you’re not relying on typical gameplay mechanics if they don’t fit the experience that you’re trying to make.
Nintendo have been a lot more open with indies than they necessarily have historically, and I think that’s a great sign of this generation where even the big companies are looking more to indies.
NL: So, obviously, we’re at Rezzed, and the big focus is indie games and mainly PC launches, but we’re interested in Nintendo platforms. You signaled an intent to work with Nintendo and get this game up and running on the Wii U. Is that correct?
RP: Yeah, because Nintendo have been a lot more open with indies than they necessarily have historically, and I think that’s a great sign of this generation where even the big companies are looking more to indies, and so I met up with the Nintendo guys at PAX and GDC earlier this year, and now they’ve already sent me out a devkit and the equipment needed to take a game like this and get it onto their platform.
I’ve already managed to get rough bits and pieces working, and the hope is that this will eventually come out on Wii U later in the year. Obviously, Nintendo still have an approval process, so I can’t guarantee it, but I don’t see that there’d be any problems.
NL: So what do you make of publishers like Nintendo opening the gates to indie devs? Do you think that’s a good thing for the industry as a whole?
RP: Yeah. The thing is, I have to be realistic; we’re not selling Mario numbers or anything like that, but I think having diversity on all of the platforms is good for everyone. The thing is, the industry’s fighting for more respect right now; it’s fighting to show that it’s not just for kids who want to play zombie games, and one of the ways to do that is to have a diverse range of games - even if they’re for filling certain niches - but having games that are for adults as well as kids I think is good not only for the whole industry, but for each of these platforms to show that they cover that kind of thing. I’m glad that companies like Nintendo are embracing that.
NL: Does other publishers closing their gates to indie developers seem a bit short-sighted to you?
RP: It does. I’m not naming names – especially because those particular people have tried it on the previous generation, and maybe they felt it didn’t make the money for them - but it feels like not embracing indies alienates customers, because there are a lot of customers now that, even if they do play the big games, want to try indie games as well, and in saying “Oh, this platform won’t have any of those,” I think that is very short-sighted. I don’t think there’s any benefit to them in locking out smaller developers. I don’t see why they would forgo that.
NL: So, you’ve never been published on consoles before. What do you think of Nintendo’s process?
RP: There are ups and downs. Maybe Nintendo are a slightly more manual process than other companies; there are a lot of emails back and forth. I mean, setting up the devkit wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but the thing is, I’m not really complaining about that; you’re talking about some minor technicalities and it not being the easiest, smoothest process in the world. You know, I’m a developer; the fact that I have to do a few extra days’ work to get things working isn’t something I’m going to lose sleep over.
Mostly, I’m happy that they’ve opened up. I think these companies are big and slow to change, and Nintendo are so many leagues ahead of where they’ve been in the past that…as I say, I’m trying to justify the fact that their process is very much ‘email lots of people, spend a lot of time getting things on the devkit that don’t seem to make sense working’, but eventually it all comes together, and where I’m at right now, everything’s working nicely.
NL: Okay, Richard, thanks very much for speaking to us today. When can we expect to see Journal?
RP: So, it’ll be out hopefully later this year. I’m not putting a release date on it; I don’t need that hassle. But yeah, 2013.
We'd like to thank Richard Perrin for his time, and you can also check out the video interview below.