Two Tribes has been a familiar name among Nintendo download fans, well known for its Toki Tori mascot and for publishing some excellent titles on 3DS and Wii U, in particular. There were tougher times, however, and sadness when the company co-founders Collin van Ginkel and Martijn Reuvers confirmed that intense action shooter RIVE would be their last new game as a studio. It arrived on PC and PS4 but never made it to Wii U, eventually shifting into development for the Nintendo Switch.
It's a topic we covered in the past, but with the 'Ultimate Edition' about to arrive on the eShop we caught up with Collin van Ginkel for a chat about the road to this release, the completion of a promise to Nintendo gamers and potential next steps - even as Two Tribes wraps up.
Also worth noting before we delve into the interview, RIVE will have a launch discount on Switch to honour the original '[email protected]' promotion from way back in 2015. The standard price will be £13.49 / €14,99 / $14.99, but there'll be a 15% discount for the first two weeks; it launches on 17th November.
With RIVE now all set for Nintendo Switch, what are the overriding emotions within the team?
We’re quite ecstatic actually. We’re finally able to make good on a promise we made in 2015. RIVE is coming to Nintendo gamers!
It wasn’t an easy decision to cancel the Wii U version, but we still stand by our assessment back then. If you’re making a game that is a tribute to 90’s shooters, you cannot release something that doesn’t run smoothly 99.9% of the time.
We previously spoke about your work with Engine Software and the push to deliver 60fps across all areas. Were there any notable chokepoints with this, or was it simply a case of steadily working through the project?
The original team came back together to dig deep into the existing game and fix a lot of chokepoints. Realistically speaking, Switch isn’t as powerful as the PS4, but with the extra time we got we managed to squeeze out a lot more performance than we expected. The result really fits the Ultimate Edition moniker, with faster loading times and fewer noticeable hiccups during checkpoints for instance.
Did you hit the target of native 720p portable and 1080p docked, or was a little trickery needed with the resolution?
Yes we did, it looks super clean on both an HDTV or the Switch’s built-in screen. We didn’t consider anything lower than full resolution to be honest, same goes for the 60fps refresh.
Our main challenge was with the CPU, which is harder to optimise than the graphics processor (GPU). It’s easier to cut a few visual features than it is to cut code, since that influences the game experience directly.
You've branded this as the 'Ultimate Version' due to Copilot mode and HD Rumble. Can you talk a little more about implementing the rumble, in particular?
We were really surprised by how different HD Rumble is from normal rumble. On Wii and Wii U the rumble functionality was really limited as we could only turn it on and off for a set amount of time. To me, HD Rumble feels more like touching a speaker and feeling the vibrations directly.
So instead of the existing rumble code in RIVE, which was very digital in nature, we constructed audio samples for a series of events in the game. Touching a small object like a cone will simulate a subtle bump, while being hit by an explosion results in a really hard rumble which fades out over time to simulate the spider tank’s hull vibrating after the hit. It was a lot of fun fooling around with that.
Are you optimistic that Copilot mode will be a hit feature on the Switch?
I think it’s a really cool extra feature for when you have a friend over. Each time you die, the controls switch from shooting to moving or vice versa, which means you have to prove your skills on both fronts! Of course you can just swap Joy-Cons in real life, which we don’t mind!
For those unfamiliar with the game's updates and evolution on other platforms, what other modes and features are there beyond the main campaign mode?
We’ve been able to cram quite a bit into the Ultimate Edition for Switch. Aside from the main campaign mode, which will take even seasoned players quite a while to complete, we’ve got Single Credit and Speedrun campaign modes. On top of that we also have Daily Challenges and the Battle Arenas which are endless! Oh and I’m forgetting the Achievements and Leaderboards. Players will get their money’s worth for sure!
When testing the game, have you had a favoured way of playing between portable and docked?
I’ve been traveling a lot since late last year, so my preferred play style is definitely portable. The game has been altered to be less dark in places for this style of play.
I think Martijn Reuvers, also co-founder and programmer extraordinaire, plays mostly on his TV. It comes down to personal preference I guess, either way the game plays as intended, don’t worry.
With this being the last new Two Tribes game, will the Switch release be particularly emotional for you?
Like I said at the start of the interview, we feel like we’re making good on a promise. RIVE was always supposed to be in the hands of Nintendo gamers, so we are very pleased to be able to finally release it. We’ve spent as much time as we needed to make RIVE the perfect goodbye present to Nintendo gamers, now it’s up them to tell us if they thought it was worth the wait!
Are you confident that RIVE will connect with a Switch audience, and is it still your hope (as you previously said to us) to bring your back-catalogue to the system in the future?
With the announcement of the Ultimate Edition we noticed quite a few people anticipating the game, and a poll on our Twitter pointed to 80% of the people wanting to play it on Switch. It’s getting very crowded on the eShop though, so let’s hope we don’t get buried underneath all the other, admittedly high quality, releases this week!
As for back catalogue releases, we’re always keeping the door open for those. It would be a shame if people wouldn’t be able to play our classic games on newer hardware, wouldn’t it?
As you look at current trends in download gaming, do you envisage the Switch eShop becoming a notable platform for Indies over the next few years?
I think it already is actually. It’s just powerful enough to allow game creators to realise their creative vision and it’s cheap enough to be present in every household. I’m expecting big things for Nintendo’s latest hardware, especially from Indie developers.
What's next for the core Two Tribes team, are there any individual projects you'd like to talk about?
This question I have to split into two different answers. Working on RIVE’s Switch version has taken up a lot of Martijn’s time, so he hasn’t been looking to other projects as of yet. He’s started a band with his friends though, maybe that will be his next career move?
As for me, I’m traveling a lot and I’m looking for my next challenge. I’ve noticed the past year that the videogame industry is difficult to let go for me. Perhaps I’ll be back in some capacity, but probably not as a developer.
As you look back over Two Tribes and its history, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that two kids from the small Dutch town of Harderwijk managed to run a successful games company for over 17 years.
At the last Dutch game awards, all games nominated for ‘Game of the Year’ were worked on by (ex) Two Tribes employees, including our own RIVE. That made us feel very proud.
We'd like to thank Collin van Ginkel for his time.