Just recently Two Tribes lifted the lid on its shooter, RIVE, which it had been teasing for a number of months. It was a welcome landmark for a company that's endured a difficult year, with co-founders Collin van Ginkel and Martijn Reuvers shutting down the development company and forming a smaller studio due to financial difficulties. The cross-platform (Wii U and PC) release of Toki Tori 2+ clearly hadn't achieved sufficient success, though the publishing arm of the business was kept separate from the closure, meaning that the multiple Two Tribes releases on the market — including the Classics range on Wii U — weren't affected.
Now with a small and lean development team, it's back to the start for Two Tribes, with RIVE's reveal allowing discussion around the company to focus on games once again. We caught up with Collin van Ginkel to chat about the new development team, RIVE — loosely confirmed for PC and 'consoles' — and the company's continuing outlook on the eShop for its projects.
First of all, we last spoke in January when you were rebooting the development arm of the company. Can you give us an outline of what's happened since?
Well, it's taken a while for us to get used to the new situation. We're down to three core developers now instead of 12. I think we're all settled in now though and we're having a lot of fun focusing on making games again!
With that core team of three people, has it felt like a return to the company's beginnings?
Very much so. For me personally it's been very liberating, and I know the other founder Martijn loves the fact that he can work on the game code again too.
Looking back I think the old Two Tribes wanted to go back to its roots already with Toki Tori 2, but became too big for its own good.
The reveal trailer for RIVE certainly shows an art style that can be loosely tied to Toki Tori 2, particularly the lava effect. Has it been a simple or difficult challenge to utilise that engine for a fast-paced 2D shooter?
We've had to change the way we work and where we spend our time on. We're not creating any new technology any more for instance for RIVE, but we're re-using whatever Toki Tori 2 had in creative ways. So you may see some similar effects or menus coming by, but the experience is totally different.
It's been very interesting to see Toki Tori 2 warp into RIVE. The first tests actually had Toki Tori 2 flying around in the world with Berrybugs to shoot at!
With a tank-like vehicle it looks like riding rails and solid surfaces is a feature, it seems similar though certainly distinct from Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails. Is the goal to limit movement to up the intensity, and how much can we expect to see vehicle transformations, like the flying seen at the close of the video?
We've heard more people compare it with Scram Kitty, but the funny thing is that we don't have on-rails sections at all. We give players full control over movement, sometimes with and sometimes without gravity.
We are planning some auto-scrolling parts as a tribute of sorts to Gradius, but won't remove direct control from the player there.
With there be multiple vehicles and weapons throughout RIVE, or is it being kept simpler than that?
We're sticking to one vehicle, but we do give players a launcher that can house different ammo. Right now we have EMP grenades and Homing Missiles for that, with more to be added as development continues.
Are there plans for multiplayer, whether co-op or competitive, local or online?
We are fooling around with the idea of local co-op, but that totally depends on how easy it'll be to implement. If we run into problems early on we'll skip it to focus on the main game.
Are there any mechanics you can describe that you feel will help this stand out in the shooter genre?
Definitely the robot hacking mechanic. We've got collectible hacks in the game that you can upload to your enemies if you can get close enough. Hacks can change robots to do whatever we want, such as invert their firing direction or let them heal you instead of hurting you.
I even made a hack that let's a robot play Dubstep music!
As a first project 'back', is this going to be a relatively short, high intensity game, or will it offer quite a lot of value and volume in content?
We're going for a short action packed game, definitely smaller than Toki Tori 2. However we'll have a mission system and high scores to keep players entertained after completing the story.
You've already told us that you're gunning to bring this to Wii U — can you expand on progress so far? Are you optimistic of releasing this on the system?
Since we're just with three people now we have to be careful what we promise. We are currently focusing on the core experience to be a great experience on our work PCs.
Having said that, it's up and running right now on Wii U, but at about 30fps instead of the 60fps we need for this type of game.
If this does come to Wii U, will it utilise its controllers or capabilities in any unique ways?
We only started thinking about that fairly recently. Off-TV play is a given, but nothing to report yet on the GamePad front otherwise.
Is Two Tribes currently working on publishing or porting any third-party games, in addition to developing RIVE?
Not at the moment. Personally I love being able to focus on one thing, but it does put a bit more pressure on RIVE being a success.
As a company you've always shown a lot of support for Nintendo platforms; is that still one of your priorities moving forward?
We've always looked at it at a case by case basis and lots of times in the past it made sense to go with Nintendo. I don't expect this to change anytime soon.
It might be interesting to note that we're currently generating more income from Nintendo's eShop than we are from Steam, or any other digital shop for that matter. This was definitely not the case a few years ago.
Why do you think that's the case?
Steam is overflowing with new games at the same time that PC gamers get conditioned into thinking everything should be free or pay-what-you-want.
We're not making millions by a long shot, but the lower amount of new releases means we get more visibility and thus more sales on eShop.
With the project still a little way off yet, is there a particular message you'd like to share with our readers?
The Nintendo Life community has been supporting us for years and we hope they will love where we're headed next!
We'd like to thank Collin van Ginkel for his time.