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Interview: Goodbye Galaxy Games on Entering the World of Publishing and Opening Up 3DS Development With Gomba

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Outlines Gomba details and release plans

When it comes to Nintendo's portable download platforms, we think it's fair to say that they've been the home of a number of intriguing, unique titles from a broad spectrum of developers. Unlike the emergence of the Wii U store's expanding library courtesy of its support for off-the-shelf dev tools like Unity, both the DSi and 3DS are standalone systems with little support for such tool-sets. In other words, if you want to release a game on the 3DS eShop, you'll need a decent knowledge of coding and development languages.

As such, we're not seen a groundswell of smart device and console ports — for better and worse — on the portable; instead there's a dedicated band of developers and publishers that return time and time again. One of these is Goodbye Galaxy Games, which has taken pride in producing imaginative, clever titles on Nintendo's portable hardware — stand-out examples include Ace Mathician on DSiWare and Tappingo on the 3DS eShop.

Hugo Smits, the man behind the studio, is clearly driven by a passion for Nintendo; he's remained committed to Nintendo's portable hardware. He's taking that commitment further with his upcoming 3DS development tool-set, Gomba, which will aim to help small developers bring their content to the 3DS. On top of this, Smits recently announced that Goodbye Galaxy Games will now self-publish on 3DS, while unveiling Tappingo 2 shortly after.

We caught up with Hugo Smits to learn more about the potentially ground-breaking Gomba platform, the move into self-publishing and the reasoning behind the studio's loyalty to Nintendo hardware.


First of all, can you introduce yourself and give us a brief history of Goodbye Galaxy Games, for those unfamiliar?

After working for many big and small videogame studios since I was fifteen, I started Goodbye Galaxy Games back in 2009 to create a Voxel engine for Nintendo DS. The demo to showcase the Voxel engine’s capabilities was a lot of fun.. so much fun that I decided to turn it into a full game.

This eventually became Flipper for DSiWare (which won a Dutch game award in 2010), which paved the way for me as a indie developer on Nintendo DS.

After that I created Ace Mathician (which became Game Of The Year here on NL!) and Color Commando. Most recently I made the innovative new puzzle game Tappingo for Nintendo 3DS eShop.

As a developer you've focused on DSiWare and recently the 3DS eShop, so what keeps drawing you back to Nintendo's portable hardware?

It’s hard to explain. Nintendo handhelds just have a certain quirkiness and coolness over them. After a night of hacking back in the mid '90s I finally got my homebrew game to run on the classic Game Boy, I will never forget when my game booted up. I knew right then, that was it, this is what I’m going to do with my life!

I think from a developer point of view, Nintendo always makes a very streamlined product aimed at fun with cheap hardware. This worked really well for them since the Game Boy all the way to the Nintendo DS. Working with the limits of such a design and the innovation (be it the dual screen, touch screen or 3D effect) is really inspirational.

My creativity really thrives on those limits. I find it really awesome to come up with new stuff that uses the hardware in innovating ways, within the boundaries of the system.

Before we move onto your potential publishing activities, can you tell us more about your 3DS development tool-set, Gomba?

Gomba is a rapid prototyping tool for the Nintendo 3DS. It basically allows you to create a prototype really fast and easy on your PC and then run it on your Nintendo 3DS. No devkit needed, just a plain retail Nintendo 3DS!

Over the years I get approached by a lot of indie developers who want to make games for Nintendo 3DS. You really need to be very technical to create games on Nintendo 3DS. You also need expensive devkits. This tool takes those problems away.

Hopefully indies will be able to build prototypes of their ideas and show those to publishers and secure a deal to build the full game.

We understand this utilizes an easy-to-use tile-based toolset, but does it assist with exporting to a 3DS? How complicated is the process from creating the game on a PC to then uploading and testing on the 3DS hardware?

That’s the best part, ultimately, that you don’t need a 3DS dev kit. You don’t need to be a licensed developer. All you need is the editor tool for PC (which will be free) and a very cheap downloadable app from the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

You can export your PC project through QR codes or simply use a SD card. You don’t need to change anything. Just hit ‘export’ in the PC tool and you are good to go! It’s really painless!

So Gomba will be rather like a dual release then, with the free PC tool being for development and the paid app on the 3DS running these creations on the hardware? If so, will it have tools built in to share games online or be reliant on QR codes to be exchanged on the web?

I’m hoping to get the complete Gomba tool working in HTML5 or Flash this summer. Games and projects can be shared on that website as well.

The paid eShop app will not have these options, simply because it will create a lotcheck nightmare for me.

I think from a developer point of view, Nintendo always makes a very streamlined product aimed at fun with cheap hardware.

Do you have a target window and price in mind?

I’m hoping to release the PC tool in the summer as a HTML5 or Flash web-app (so everybody with a browser should be able to use it).

I want to use the feedback from users to make the tool better before I release the eShop app. So that will come later. Depending on other projects in development, probably end 2014 or early 2015.

The paid eShop app will probably cost around 2 bucks. I want to keep it as accessible as possible, and at the same time not make too much loss on it (I still need to do lot check, pay some things like age-rating,etc).

Just recently you've confirmed that you're now a licensed publisher with Nintendo. At what point did you begin the process to be accredited?

[I always wanted to be a publisher as well. But having worked for other major studios in the past, I knew the trap holes of game development pretty well.

I knew that producing a game that was good enough to pass the strict Nintendo lotcheck was a big enough challenging on its own. So having a partner that handled all the paperwork and age-rating stuff so I could fully concentrate on development was great!

But I always kept a eye on the publishing side of things. I always looked over the paperwork and I did all the PR stuff myself.

Can you outline what prompted you to make this move into self-publishing?

Now that I’m technically good enough to produce stable games (most of my past games have passed lot check on first try – something I’m really proud of, and that not many developers are able to do!) I feel that the time is right to do the publishing side of things myself.

Ultimately it will give me more control over my own brands and games. Which is always a good thing.

Do you still plan to publish any games with other partners, or is it now your intention to always self-publish?

I have been very happy with the partners that I worked with in the past. I still visit Engine Software (who published Flipper 2) on a regular basis. And Circle Entertainment has just been great in trusting me, they always let me run free with my weird game ideas!

I really want to continue those partnerships in the future. For example I’m working really hard at the moment to get Tappingo into the Japanse eShop together with Circle. And I hope they will publish many of my upcoming games in Japan as well!

Your announcement stated that you want to help other developers bring games to the 3DS. Can you tell us more about those goals?

My goal is to get as many indie developers on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. I have been doing this since the early DSiWare days. I’m trying to do this in multiple ways:

Giving advice to aspiring Nintendo developers (how to become an official developer, how to do certain things technically, how to best incorporate the innovating hardware into game design).

Tools — If developers have problems with certain technical things I’m always willing to give them my own tool chain (which has many things like level editor, graphics editor).

And most recently also Gomba – which will enable developers that don’t really know how to program to still make games for Nintendo 3DS.

In fact, if you are reading this as a aspiring developer; Please drop me an email at hsmits@goodbyegalaxygames.com if you want to talk! Also I will be in Budapest early next month meeting up with some indies, anybody interested is welcome to join in on the fun!

Also everybody can ask my anything on Twitter at @HugoSmits.

I’m always happy to help out fellow developers!

Have you had any discussions as yet with prospective developers in terms of publishing their products?

Not yet. I first want to focus on my own projects and get the publishing side of things under control (I still have to publish my first title, so it takes some extra time figuring out all the forms and things I need to arrange).

After that I will be able to look at titles from other indies. I plan to release Gomba in the summer, so who knows, maybe a developer makes something cool with that and we get to release it in early 2015.

What do you consider as the benefits of moving into publishing in this way?

Having full control over your own games and brands is a major thing. I make these things from my bedroom, I do this out of love mostly. So getting to decide exactly what happens to my characters, my babies, is really important for me.

Are you happy with the processes and support from Nintendo for publishing games on the 3DS eShop?

EXTREMELY. Last time I did an interview with you guys I was complaining that they barely answered any of my emails.

Right now the situation is completely different. In fact, not only does Nintendo answers my emails almost faster than I can send them out, they even buy me drinks once in a while!

People like Tim and Ed deserve a lot of praise, they have been absolutely critical to the success I’m currently having in the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

Dan Adelman is still being awesome at NoA, and they have been really REALLY great in recent weeks for me. In fact, NoA arranged some amazing things for my new project that I cannot tell anybody about yet!

We finally caught that wave, we have a good momentum going on right now; with Nintendo actively supporting us, I don’t see why we cannot change the course of 3DS and especially Wii U in 2014.

In terms of attracting developers to the 3DS, are any issues of its infrastructure and absence of support for popular dev engines major road-blocks for some?

Nintendo is very supportive to (small) indie developers. Absence of popular dev engines/tools is a major road-block, but not really Nintendo’s fault. These days there are a lot of click&play tools that let you create games without any technical knowledge.

So there’s a big group of indie developers who does not know how to program.

Programming skills are absolutely critical to console/handheld development. But this is true as much for Nintendo 3DS as it is for PS Vita or any other console.

Hopefully Gomba can help those indie developers out!

What do you think of the 3DS eShop line-up, both current and in terms of games on the way in the future?

Currently it is a bit weak. But I know a lot of indie developers, and I know a lot of the games they have in development. And let me tell you, gamers are going to be blown away! Just so much cool stuff coming up!

Finally, do you have a message for our readers in terms of what you hope to achieve as a publisher on the 3DS eShop?

Michael Pachter will probably puff at this, and maybe I’m naively optimistic. But I truly feel the time is here to make a change for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.

It took indie developers (especially small ones like me) some time to get all the development tools up and running for Nintendo 3DS. But now that they are running, boy are we ready!

We finally caught that wave, we have a good momentum going on right now; with Nintendo actively supporting us, I don’t see why we cannot change the course of 3DS and especially Wii U in 2014.

By the end of 2014 we will hopefully see the Wii U transform into this wonderful console with lots of innovating quirky games made with passion and love by real Nintendo fans. There’s just so much potential in the platform.

I’m just really honoured to be part of this movement; if by 2014 Gomba has helped just one or two indie games get success on 3DS, I will feel really grateful to have a small part in that.


We'd like to thank Hugo Smits for his time.

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User Comments (21)

nostalgianinja

#1

nostalgianinja said:

I have quoted on the site's blog (Which is a blogger blog) that it's a very good start.

There is one thing that will bother me a bit (but not too much) and that is the use of QR Codes. From what I said on the Gomba blog post, I'd prefer a server-based system to a QR code system because of Version Control and backups, along the convenience of using the internet to give way to transferring the games from one place to another no matter what size.

I'd be happy either way to check this dev tool out, and I'll be keeping an eye out for the Flash beta he wants to release.

Mega719

#2

Mega719 said:

I'm always happy after reading these indie interviews, i wish 3rd parties can
be like this indies believe in Nintendo systems but 3rd parties shun them if it doesn't make them money. If you have limited hardware at least try to find a way to make it as good as the others instead of making a very cheap bad port

HugoSmits

#4

HugoSmits said:

@2Sang No, I'm just a huge fan of Commander Keen.... however, I actually did work for Apogee - but that was way later then the golden days of the 90s :)

WiiLovePeace

#6

WiiLovePeace said:

Cool interview. Interesting stuff. So are you saying that I don't need to understand any programming code to make 3DS games with the Gomba tool? Or that it makes the code easier to understand or...?

Cathousemaster

#7

Cathousemaster said:

Very interesting,reminds me a lot of my Catapult days back on the GBA. This is quite different of course.

The point about the server is valid though - a server, accounts and user-generated content would be the ultimate way to go.

leemeyer26Staff

#8

leemeyer26 said:

@HugoSmits Very exciting stuff! Did Nintendo give you approval for the paid app? I'd be curious to know their stance on the dev tool.

sinalefa

#10

sinalefa said:

I hope the talent is there. Making 3ds developing more approachable could also mean unpolished, amateurish games.

nostalgianinja

#12

nostalgianinja said:

@HugoSmits That makes sense. There'd be a specific folder to place it and then we can put it to/from the system. Thanks for clearing that up. makes things a little more simpler to work with then.

Kaze_Memaryu

#13

Kaze_Memaryu said:

Well, this stuff is certainly welcoming for small guys like me who still need to up their experience in active gaming development (I've only done loads of concepts, but no serious development for various reasons)! Consider me sold, Mr. Smits!

But I do have some questions:

  • Is Gomba similar to RPG Maker? As in, does it focus on tile-based top-down RPG's? Or is there some kind of selection to choose 2D or top-down?
  • Does Gomba support specific programming languages (maybe I just missed it)?
  • Is there a size limit of some sorts?
  • Can you 'lock' your project so others who download it can't mess around with the code?
  • Don't you think allowing people to save their projects on a server would soon become a money pit?

Ah, sorry for all those questions... Still, I like what you do for us! Keep it up!

Windy

#14

Windy said:

@HugoSmits WTG! Can't wait to see this app. Even if I can't get it working I will support by buying. Can't wait to see what me or other people can do.

Earthboundy

#15

Earthboundy said:

ok am I the only one that thought that the game company was called "galaxy games" and that this was a farewell of sorts XD

ToonLink795

#16

ToonLink795 said:

Hmm this sounds interesting I might want to get my hands on the Gomba development tool-set and 3DS app. I've used game development software's such as GameMaker Studio, Hammer, Flash, and soon to be Unity. Although I am pretty good with the designing part of games I have never been all that good with the code part of it.

2Sang

#17

2Sang said:

@HugoSmits That's awesome. I wish that someone would remake the keen franchise or even create a sequel that isn't like the GBC version.

andrea987

#18

andrea987 said:

@HugoSmits I bought some of your titles, and I always find them full of fresh and fun ideas. Color Commando is one of my favourite dsiware titles. I've got a couple of very interesting concepts for games, I might hit you with a mail, if you don't mind.

ToonLink795

#19

ToonLink795 said:

@HugoSmits will you be able to import your own custom made textures, sounds and character art into the engine to use. If so i'm defiantly interested in your project. If not I will still try it out so keep up the great work.

HugoSmits

#20

HugoSmits said:

@ToonLink795 yes ofcourse that's possible :) it supports most standard file formats (bmp,jpg,gif,tga,etc for art).
@andrea987 Thanks! and yeah, go ahead and email me :)
@Kaze_Memaryu it is tile based, but not stuck to one genre. Programming is done in a C-like scripting language I invented specially for Gomba. Locking code is possible, not sure I will include that feature though.

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