Feature: A Year in Development - Renegade Kid
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
A Q & A with Jools Watsham on 2013
In the second of our "Year in Development" mini-series, we sit down for a Q & A with Jools Watsham, co-founder and main spokesman for Renegade Kid. We already reported on confirmation of Mutant Mudds Deluxe content as a free update on 3DS, and below is the full manuscript that focuses on the studio's year, from expanding to other systems, a continuing commitment to Nintendo and an explanation of the challenges releasing all titles in Europe, as well as North America.
Nintendo Life: First up, has 2013 been as frantic as 2012? Can you maybe kick us off with a quick summary of how many projects you've been balancing?
Jools Watsham: I need to look at our website to see which games came out this year!
It has been a very busy year for us, for sure.
NL: It looks like Mutant Mudds Deluxe, ATV Wild Wild 3D and lots of multi-platform ports! Plus new projects, of course.
JW: We kicked it off with ATV Wild Ride 3D, and then later released Mutant Mudds Deluxe for Wii U. Then we also got greenlit on Steam, which required us to turn our attention to that version, as well as the PS3 / PS Vita version of Mutant Mudds Deluxe which released this week. And, of course Treasurenauts was happening in there somewhere too - not to mention Cult County and an unannounced game. Phew. So, yeah - a busy year.
We like to stay busy. Apparently!
NL: To start with the Nintendo-based projects, were they relatively simple (new version of a DS game and an expanded 3DS port), or were they perhaps more of a challenge than we may appreciate?
JW: ATV Wild Ride 3D was redone completely from the ground up. So, not really a port in the traditional sense. It is the same game as the DS version, of course, but the driving physics and a lot of the engine work was created to support the game. Not to mention the online multiplayer. It took a lot longer than we originally expected to complete.
Moving Mutant Mudds Deluxe over to the Wii U was a relatively simple and fast process, thanks to Matthew Gambrell's huge brain. I had to get back into the Muddy mode in order to create the 20 new ghost levels, which was a lot of fun.
NL: As you mentioned earlier you did move onto Sony platforms and PC this year. Was 2013 a year for expanding the Renegade Kid brand and awareness, perhaps, with Mutant Mudds at the forefront?
JW: Yes, it was exactly that. Now that we're travelling down the independent path, and not relying on funds from publishers, we need to try and earn as much revenue as possible from our games in order to continue making original games. Mutant Mudds was our first self-published game, and it has been received so much better than we could have ever imagined. So, it made sense to port our début effort over to multiple platforms first to get those channels open.
We need to try and earn as much revenue as possible from our games in order to continue making original games.
NL: How big is your team, and has it been a resource challenge to work on projects across platforms, while jumping through different hoops to publish in different marketplaces?
JW: Our team is tiny. We have two main programmers: Bob Ives and Matthew Gambrell. Bob primarily handles our 3D games (Dementium, Moon, ATV Wild Ride, etc.), while Matthew focuses primarily on our 2D games (Mutant Mudds, Bomb Monkey, Treasurenauts, etc.). And then there's Gregg Hargrove, RK's art director, who handles the 3D artwork and myself who handles game design and 2D artwork. Troupe Gammage is our wizard musician who created the music for Mutant Mudds, Bomb Monkey and Treasurenauts. Back in the DS days, I created the title tune and few others for Dementium while my friend, Gareth Vilday, created the rest for Dementium as well as all the music for Moon.
We also hire contractors to help out with art, audio, and such where needed, which we have done for various assets in our 3D games.
So, yes, it has been very challenging moving from just focusing on the Nintendo DS to multiple platforms.
NL: Are you happy that moving to self-publishing was the right move, however?
JW: Absolutely. I love the fact that we're now in control of our games. It is no more or less stressful than working with publishers, doing work-for-hire gigs. So, we might as well have more fun making our own games.
Using someone else's money is always added stress. And sometimes an unwanted source of creative input.
NL: Though I know figures are locked behind NDAs, have the new platforms delivered the success RK needs, in business terms?
JW: No, not yet.
The 3DS is still the most successful for us in terms of self-publishing. And, Mutant Mudds specifically.
NL: That leads to the next point, ultimately. Are Nintendo platforms valuable to you and the team financially, as well as the very obvious personal sentiment for the systems?
JW: Yes, Nintendo platforms will always be important and valuable to us. Our games are very much "Nintendo Style" games. Nintendo is a huge inspiration to me in terms of game design and philosophy. When we released Mutant Mudds, we did not expect anything in return. We created it simply because we loved the 3DS and wanted to release a platformer on it.
I think the audience is a great match for the types of games we create.
NL: Are you and the team excited about the progress so far on Treasurenauts, perhaps even nervous about its release next year?
JW: Yes, I am very excited about Treasurenauts. It covers many different personal development goals for me, and continues to surprise me in terms of where progress in development takes us. It is a very inspirational game for me, one that has a lot to offer in terms of personal satisfaction. I am always nervous about the release of our games. How players and press respond to our games is important to me.
NL: I have to ask, will it be making its way to Europe in good time? For those that don't know, can you explain the challenges that have held back some games from Europe?
JW: I sincerely hope so.
Being such a small team, we have little time to handle non-game development tasks, such as age rating companies. The ESRB in the US has made this process amazingly quick, simple, and free. I got the ESRB rating for Mutant Mudds Deluxe in 10 mins - no exaggeration.
There are multiple age rating companies in Europe and Australia/New Zealand: PEGI, USK, and COB. Each company requires a substantial payment to review your game, an online questionnaire, and a DVD sent to them with gameplay footage for them to review. This may not sound like much, but it is for us when we need to focus on the development of our games and not dancing with the age rating companies. The ESRB have made this much more difficult for us to swallow, due to how easy it is with them in contrast. The European age ratings companies are slow bureaucratic dinosaurs. If we had a mature game on our hands, I would understand more, but I don't think a kid-friendly game like Mutant Mudds, ATV Wild Ride, or Bomb Monkey should not have to jump through so many hoops.
NL: Crikey, that all sounds a bit much!
JW: However, I should add that we are going to slip around this with an update of Mutant Mudds on the 3DS next year. In Europe as well as North America.
EXCLUSIVE: We're going to bring the 'Deluxe' content to the 3DS version, as a free update in 2014.
NL: That's fantastic! I imagine that'll cause plenty of delight!
How would you rate 2013 as a whole for RK? Has it been successful, and has it been a demanding 12 months for the team in terms of workload?
JW: Yes, I think it has been a very successful year for us. We have managed to branch out to many more platforms, and as such, reached new players. It has been a lot of hard work, but not really any more than past years. We're always working hard on new stuff.
We love to do what we do, so it doesn't usually feel like work.
NL: So is 2014 the year of new games, ultimately?
JW: Yes, we'll have at least 2 or 3 new games released in 2014, which we're very excited about.
I'm sure we can get Mutant Mudds on a few more devices too. Perhaps your calculator?
NL: Is it on phones?
JW: Yes, it is on iPhone. We have not moved it over to Android yet. One day perhaps.
NL: Do you have an end of year 2013 message for our readers, perhaps?
JW: Having goals is good for everyone. Make plans for big things in 2014, and they might happen. Make no plans for 2014, and nothing will happen. Also, grab Mutant Mudds on 3DS now while it is 50% off because 20 new levels will be coming to it in 2014 absolutely FREE!
Also, something new we started this year was having our own booth at PAX East in Boston. That was a new milestone for us. We plan to continue this, and have already signed up for PAX East 2014. It is an amazing way to meet players and other developers. It is a great time. Hopefully, someone from NL will be there!
NL: We'll try! Can I check whether the 3DS Mutant Mudds update has a target release window, or would you rather just say 2014?
JW: We're hoping it will be Q1 2014 - closer to Easter / Spring time.
We'd like to thank Jools Watsham for his time.