Early this year Renegade Kid began to build hype for an FPS release on the 3DS eShop, and after some teasing revealed Moon Chronicles. It's an intriguing prospect for the portable, as it'll be the first notable FPS and, more notably, the first episodic release on the platform. An idea that's become more relevant on most other platforms finally makes its way to Nintendo hardware, so no doubt its level of success will be watched by other developers.
The first "season" of the game will be a re-master of the original Moon on DS, while season two will feature all new content in 2015. We caught up with Renegade Kid's Jools Watsham to learn more about the upcoming series, and to get some updates on the developer's other projects.
NL: Before we talk about Moon Chronicles directly, we'd like to touch on the anticipation you were able to build with some simple tweets and teases. How important a marketing tool are social networks such as Twitter to spread the word and build some hype?
JW: The importance of being 'social' seems to be becoming increasingly more significant. Twitter and Facebook, as well as the many other social outlets, all continue to gain more popularity and larger audiences. It is a wonderful way for us to connect and communicate with people who are interested in our games, and it also offers people an opportunity to contact us directly. Those few teasing tweets played a huge part in building anticipation for the reveal of Moon Chronicles - something that would have been much more complex to orchestrate without Twitter.
NL: It strikes us that while the consumer base may be comparatively smaller, there's significant loyalty and engagement with gamers that enjoy download-only games. Do you agree with this, and is that engagement rewarding, a source of pressure, a combination of both?
JW: I view the Nintendo 3DS eShop audience as players who want great games. Their loyalty might also be with certain companies or genres, but at the end of the day I believe it is good quality games that they want the most. Renegade Kid is one of the few developers dedicated to producing games that are tailored to the eShop audience. Our goal is always to make a great game, and whether we accomplish that is in the eyes of the player. I definitely feel the loyalty and expectation of the players, and even though that does add pressure, it is a healthy pressure to have. If we accomplish our goal and deliver a game that players enjoy, it is extremely rewarding and motivates us to work harder and smarter.
NL: Were you pleased with the reaction once Moon Chronicles was revealed?
JW: Yes, I am very pleased with the reaction to the reveal of Moon Chronicles. The ratio of players who are excited versus those who are not is overwhelming on the positive side. There will always be some players who are not interested in what we create, and that is OK. But, the positive reaction to the reveal of Moon Chronicles exceeded my expectations.
NL: Can you tell us more about when the idea for this release and its structure came together? Has this been a short or long development project?
JW: We have wanted to bring Moon Chronicles to the 3DS for a very long time, but our early proposal attempts - in early 2012 - didn't convince the previous publisher to go for it. Our hands were tied. So, we waited. The publishing rights reverted to Renegade Kid in January 2014. We started the development of Moon Chronicles for the 3DS in May, 2013. It was a big decision for us, as we had a lot on our plate at the time. The development of Moon Chronicles required us to develop a brand new 3D engine in order for the game to run at 60 frames per second with the enhanced visual fidelity offered by the 3DS hardware. It has been a big focus for us and required significant attention, especially in the technical and art departments. I am thrilled that is has all come together so well.
NL: Do you consider it a gamble to bring this episodic and seasonal structure to the 3DS eShop?
JW: Yes, it is very much a gamble due to the fact that episodic content is not only new-ish to the gaming world, but will be the first of its kind on the 3DS. It is a model that we're excited about, and can only hope other players are excited by its potential as well.
NL: You've spoken about two seasons so far — first of all, are you confident that the first season (a remake of Moon) will be attractive to both newcomers and those that played the original?
Our goal is to continue the story of Major Kane for as long as players are interested and enjoying it. Moon Chronicles is our dark Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica.
JW: Players who are familiar with the original will naturally be mostly interested in the new content that will come in season 2. But, I think the visual upgrade the 3DS version offers will also be appealing to many that have already experienced the game on DS. Newcomers to Moon Chronicles will have a wealth of new and exciting content to look forward to with the story, gameplay, and the first true first-person shooter in the 3DS.
NL: If both seasons go well, would you happily continue for a number of years with the Moon universe, or are you settled on two seasons?
JW: Our goal is to continue the story of Major Kane for as long as players are interested and enjoying it. Moon Chronicles is our dark Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. The potential of where we can take the story is limitless, and I hope we are able to continue producing new content for Moon Chronicles for many seasons to come.
NL: One thing we're unsure of is the release schedule for season one. Assuming it starts in March / April as planned, how long will it take for all four parts to be released?
JW: The rough schedule is a new episode each quarter, this year. Even if that doesn't happen as perfectly as that, all four episodes of season 1 will be released before Christmas 2014.
NL: Do you have other franchises that you're considering for this seasonal approach?
JW: Cult County adopts the same model.
NL: To focus on Gameplay, does this support Circle Pad Pro, stylus aiming and any other alternatives?
JW: Yes, yes, and yes. We believe that it is very important to offer as many control configurations as possible. Both right-handed and left-handed players will be able to choose stylus, Circle Pad Pro, or face buttons/Circle Pad to move or aim. In total, there will be approximately six control configurations to choose from.
NL: Which, in your personal view, is the best control scheme for this game?
JW: Stylus, hands down. The aiming control it offers is simply wonderful.
NL: Can you summarise the core enhancements of this 3DS version?
- High-detailed geometry models for player (weapons, buggy, etc.), enemies, and key environment elements.
- Real-time specular lighting on environments and entities (player, enemies, etc.)
- Full-screen anti-aliasing (with 3D off).
- Shadow maps, Texture filtering, and Mipmaps.
- Circle Pad Pro support.
NL Will there be any StreetPass, SpotPass, online or Miiverse features included?
NL: As a studio you have a lot happening in the first half of the year with Moon Chronicles and Treasurenauts, do you expect more games to hit the Wii U and 3DS eShop stores this calendar year?
JW: I think Moon Chronicles and Treasurenauts will be the only games that are released this year, with the potential of a new game at the end of the year - but it will more-than-likely slide into early 2015.
NL: Can you outline what other projects are still on the way?
JW: Mutant Mudds 2 and Cult County will be big focuses for us once we're finished with Moon Chronicles and Treasurenauts.
NL: How is Cult County progressing?
JW: It is progressing well. We are developing the story and art style. It has been slowed down a bit due to our focus on Moon Chronicles, but it is very much an important game to us.
NL: We feel the need to ask in light of recent comments from you and Nicalis, are you optimistic that Moon Chronicles and Treasurenauts will arrive promptly in Europe, alongside North American releases?
JW: Due to the requirements of PEGI, USK, and OFLC, it is unfortunately a fact that any future releases from us in Europe will be delayed after the North American release because they require a final game build before evaluating a game, and a review time of 10 days, whereas the ESRB does not.
NL: Do you have a final message for our readers about Moon Chronicles, and why they should be excited about its arrival and episodic approach?
JW: Moon Chronicles offers a gripping story-driven adventure with silky-smooth controls, so if this is something you're interested in, I think you'll like what the game has to offer. And, if you do like it, there will be a lot more to come in the future.
We'd like to thanks Jools Watsham for his time.