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Interview: Bertil Hörberg Jumps Back Into the Saddle With Gunman Clive 2

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

"I felt I needed a bit more colour this time"

When it arrived with relatively little fanfare in December 2012, Gunman Clive appeared to be a cheap and cheerful Holiday title. Then we played it. What had seemed like a modest download game transpired to be a short slice of finely crafted fun with a charming aesthetic, which combined with a budget price and undoubted references to classic franchise such as Mega Man to spread serious word of mouth. It was all the more extraordinary as it was all the work of Bertil Hörberg on his own, with his brother Arne producing the music.

The action platformer would make more headlines, however, courtesy of its 3DS sales success in comparison to the larger markets of iOS and Android. The success story of the title, which had shifted a quarter of a million units by December 2013 with the "vast majority" on 3DS, has been held up as a triumph for the developer and the portable's eShop as a platform, even if a realistic and broader picture has the smart device and dedicated gaming handheld's markets in entirely different positions.

Though Hörberg had been working on a top-down adventure, Nintendo's pre-E3 trailer blowout surprised us with Gunman Clive 2, with some sequences that show the series taking on some more ambitious mechanics. We've caught up with the developer to learn more about this title, potential future platforms and to clarify reports that the adventure title briefly shown in 2013 has been shelved.

First of all, can you introduce yourself for those that are unfamiliar with your work? We suspect most will know you, but it's a good place to start!

I'm Bertil Hörberg, a solo indie dev from Sweden. I made Gunman Clive for 3DS eShop and now I'm doing Gunman Clive 2. Before I set out on my own I worked as a gameplay programmer for several years at various studios on games like Bionic Commando Rearmed, the other Bionic Commando game, and Pid.

When you released Gunman Clive on 3DS in December 2012, were you surprised by the success it enjoyed?

I wasn't so surprised initially when the 3DS version launched. The response and the early sales were somewhat in line with the other versions, but I've been surprised ever since by the continued success on the platform. Unlike other platforms where it was forgotten about and the sales died down after a couple of months, people are still talking about it on 3DS and it's having consistently strong sales after 18 months. That's just surreal and I certainly didn't expect that.

You highlighted at the time that the eShop version outsold the iOS and Android iterations. What, in your view, were the core reasons for that?

It's definitely a much less crowded market which gives me much better exposure, and the game is very well suited for the platform.

In a sense you became a positive example cited when plugging the virtues of the eShop. Do you agree that was the case and, if so, what was your reaction to that?

It's a weird mix of feelings. On one hand I love the eShop and have no problem plugging it, plus it's also given me a ton of good exposure, but every now and then I see some reference to my sales numbers in an internet console war argument and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Before we move onto Gunman Clive 2, you'd previously released conceptual animations of a top-down adventure project. What's the current status of that project?

Unfortunately that game just didn't work out. I lost motivation and couldn't get any work done and I wasn't very happy with how it was turning out. It still had lot of unsolved technical issues as well as a lot of game design choices left undecided well into the project. I eventually decided to cancel it and started working on Gunman Clive 2 instead as I felt I needed to do something that I knew I would actually be able to finish.

When did you begin work on Gunman Clive 2, and at what point was it decided that it'd be included in Nintendo's E3 YouTube coverage?

I started working on it in November last year. The E3 thing was kind of last moment and out of the blue. I got an email from Nintendo sometime in May inviting me to be a part of the press kit, and the deadline for the trailer was like two weeks later. I hadn't even shown anything to them before that, and I hadn't really planned when I would announce the game. But an E3 announcement from Nintendo wasn't something I wanted to pass up so I just went for it and rushed together a trailer as soon as I could.

Can you outline the core differences, evolutions and improvements that you've tried to include in this sequel?

It is a fairly straight forward sequel, I can't pretend otherwise. The first one was so short and a lot of people were asking for more levels so I figured that I could do at least one more game without too much change.

The most immediately recognisable change is probably the colour palette. I'm honestly not quite sure if that's an improvement or not but it got a bit depressing looking at a beige and brown screen for months on end when I was developing the first game, so I felt I needed a bit more colour this time. There's also a bit more going on visually in general. The controls are a bit little bit faster and the collision system has been revamped completely to allow more dynamic platforms. But overall it's the same core gameplay, and I'm just trying to add as much new cool stuff as possible and make a little bit more dramatic. I also tried to focus a bit more on the bosses.

The trailer clearly highlights some shifts in perspective and gameplay. Can you tell us more about new mechanics in the 2D stages and how other elements (such as the horse riding segment) will fit into the adventure?

I think one of the things people really liked in the first game was the diversity in the levels and gameplay mechanics, so I've tried to expand on that. In the first game there was the minecart and the rocket levels that stood out from the rest of the game. So my goal was to surpass those with the panda level and the 3D levels. A cowboy riding onto the sunset is such an iconic image that I just needed have it somewhere; but it doesn't really work very well from a sidescrolling perspective. Then I got the idea to do a level with sort of Outrun-style graphics and it worked really well together. There are some more levels with a 3D perspective that I haven't showed yet as well.

The first title was relatively short, albeit with replay value; will this be of an equivalent length? If it's longer, will that influence its pricing, especially as the original perhaps thrived on that budget price-point?

It will be in the same ballpark, but hopefully a little bit longer. I don't have the patience or the stamina to make hundreds of levels. I try to squeeze as much different stuff as possible into every level so it takes a long time to make. I haven't decided the final price yet, but it will also be within the same range.

Which platforms will Gunman Clive 2 be released upon, and in what order?

The 3DS version will be released first, then I'll try do do all the platforms the first one was on, and then look into bringing it to more platforms. I want to do Wii U and maybe Vita, and possibly the other consoles as well. But we'll see how many versions I'll be able to do before I want to move on, so I'm not promising anything for now.

Gunman Clive was loved by some for its retro nods and references, will there be more of that in this sequel?

I'm not sure it's so much references as it is blatantly stealing game design ideas, but yes there will be more of that.

Is this still a small scale project, with you producing the game and another on the music, or has your team expanded?

Yes it's still just me, with music by my brother Arne.

What release window is currently in mind for this?

I promised a fall release in the trailer, so hopefully I'll be able to stick to that but I'm not the best at following schedules or keeping my deadlines.

Are you working on or preparing any other projects, or is 100% of your focus currently on Gunman Clive 2? Do you have any plans for Wii U?

I'm only working on GC2 for now and don't really have any solid plans for my next game yet. I think I'll spend some more time working on prototypes this time around to avoid the problems I ran into with my previous project. But it'll probably be primarily for 3DS as well.

In general, how well — or otherwise — do you feel the 3DS eShop has progressed since you released the first game?

I love the eShop and there's some really good content on there, but there is still surprisingly few good indie games coming to the 3DS. At the same time I have to admit I'm very thankful that the marketspace isn't more crowded.

We'd like to thank Bertil Hörberg for his time.

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User Comments (45)



ekreig said:

Game is looking good. I'm not at all surprised that the first one sold better on the eShop; a game like Gunman Clive with touchscreen-only controls would be a nightmare for me! Keep up the good work, Mr. Hörberg.



Jazzer94 said:

Looks like a big step forward in terms of level variation and ideas the GC 1 looking forward to playing this.



DarkCoolEdge said:

It's great to hear that his next game will also be for 3DS
As for GC2, I'll download it on day one.



ricklongo said:

Gunman Clive is awesome, but my main complaint about it is that it needed more background variation. As much as I loved the paper aesthetic, I felt some different hues on the background would help differentiate stages.

Needless to say, when I first saw this trailer I was beside myself. It's as if Bertil Hörberg read my thoughts.

Now, if only there were a few collectibles along the way...



TreesenHauser said:

I decided to download Gunman Clive a few weeks ago. At first, the look of the game made me second-guess my decision, then I began really getting into it and now I think it's one of the best 3DS eShop games I've played so far! Can't wait for this sequel.



Spoony_Tech said:

Maybe he can make enough money this time to make it full color for Gunman Clive 3!

Seriously though looking forward to it.



Goginho said:

I haven't read all of this yet. I'm excited for this game though. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one. I'm a huge fan of old-school, jump'n'run platformers, seeing as Super Mario started it all for me with my love for video games
Only thing, will this sequal have co-op / multiplayer of sorts? I feel as if that'd be the most ideal addition this time 'round.



XFsWorld said:

So excited for this. Besides Smash Bros, this is my most anticipated game this year for 3DS.



King47 said:

The first one was good, I need to finish it though. I'm glad a sequel was made.
Good interview by the way.



Shambo said:

I love the new backgrounds and colours, and I loved the first game SO incredibly much already... I'll get it, no doubt about that, but I feel like this should become more than 'just' a downloadable game...



Prof_Clayton said:

Seems like an honest, down to earth guy. Now I'll be sure to get this, even if it bombs, just to support him.



NImH said:

GC1 is easily one of the best games on the eShop. I always recommend it to people. As for the request for "full color" as a upward progression to GC3, I couldn't disagree more. The current design style is intentional, and I say it's wonderful. I like the variation this time around, but going full color would cause the game to lose its unique visual charm.



noctowl said:

I loved the original so much. So much in fact that I forced my friends/family with a 3DS to buy it offering them a refund out of my. pocket if they didn't love it. Luckily the game is cheap and awesome so I haven't had to pay up.

Playing as a duck was hilarious and awesome.



plainj said:

I think Gunman Clive could have a much bigger future... new IP that Nintendo could get into... Nintendo would do well with a western franchise... on that note, Dillon should came back too!!!



Shire said:

Like others have said, I really like the sound of this guy. Thanks for the interview!

It's a shame to hear he cancelled his top-down adventure game, but I guess if he lost enthusiasm it was probably for the best. And it means we get Gunman Clive 2!

With panda bears! And dinosaurs! And more ducks!



DualWielding said:

the success of this game was on its pricing by being $1.99 from the start it made a name for itself as the best value on 3DS, almost every review was perfect because you really could not ask for more for $1.99 other games with similar lenght and scope try to start at something like $5.00 and then reviews complain about how the game was short ect... then they try to drop the price or make sales but then they don't sell as well because they don't have so many reviews praising them



ToniK said:

Nobody has mentioned the music. I loved the music and I'm really happy the brother is doing the soundscape again. Good job. Awesome game all in all if not a bit on the short side.



HyperSonicEXE said:

I passed on the first one - it just seemed like such a "concept" game. I'm still not so sure of the story, if I can really dig my heels into this game.
Safe to say, though, that I may certainly get this one since there is more going on visually, and it's certainly worth trying out now that we hear that collision and such mechanics have been improved.



Mus1cLov3r said:

I can't wait! Gunman Clive is amazing. If you haven't played it, I suggest you do so.

On another note, I had no idea he and his brother were Swedish.



TheInvisibleTor said:

Gonna get this as soon as it comes out. Though, Gunman Clive isn't the best deal in the eshop right now, i'd have to say Edge offered up more content than GC for $1.99.



Meaty-cheeky said:

For how successful Gunman Clive was for being a great game with a great price, I thought more Developers would fallow in Bertil Horberg foot steps in pricing their game a bit cheaper, yet the 3DS eshop has been slowing down and is filled with outrageously priced games. (very Disappointing)

Excited for Gunman Clive 2 though.



JaxonH said:

Statements like this

"I'm not sure it's so much references as it is blatantly stealing game design ideas, but yes there will be more of that"

and this

"I promised a fall release in the trailer, so hopefully I'll be able to stick to that but I'm not the best at following schedules or keeping my deadlines"

and this

"I don't have the patience or the stamina to make hundreds of levels"

really paint an interesting picture of this guy, and I'm lovin it lol... Dude is awesome.



Windy said:

The first One was so good! I was playing the first one on android and thought to myself this would be a perfect game for 3ds. Well a month or so later it was announced and we playing it soon after. You have the Magic for 2d sidescrollers Bertil Horberg I can't wait to play the next one. Short or long its a good bit of fun.



Danny429 said:

Even if the game turns out terrible (and I seriously doubt it will) I will still buy it just to support this guy.



mamp said:

I'm so getting this game. Anyone who gets in my way will die.... of laughter (cuz I'm hilarious).



dadajo said:

I can't wait for this game! I absolutely loved the first one and despite it being short the level design made the game so much fun that I kept on playing anyway. I hope if there is time to add it that maybe another character will be added since the duck mode was so awesome.



Magrane said:

-Loved the first game (music, replayability, graphics, modes).
-Loved the fact it's a two-man team with incredible success.
-Loved the inspiration it has sent to other indie developers.
-Loved how they reminded the big software corporations that they don't need much complexity in gaming when it comes to big sales (just another sign of the normal casual gamer market?), but passion. Passion leads to quality game crafting.
-Loved this interview.
....................and loved the new trailer for the sequel.

Glad to see things won't change much.

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