Nintendo Switch has become the new home for independently-developed games. Not just as a new platform for ports of existing ones, but as a fresh space for developers to build titles with its handheld qualities and unique Nintendo magic in mind. Pode, the first game from Norwegian outfit Henchman & Goon, fits the latter to a tee, so to celebrate its upcoming release, we were lucky enough to sit down with the studio's very own Linn Sovig at Rezzed 2018.
Nintendo Life: Hello! Could you introduce yourself to the readers of Nintendo Life?
Linn Sovig: My name's Linn Sovig, I work with Henchmen & Goon, that's an indie game studio from Norway. We're working on a game called Pode, which a co-op exploration puzzle game for the Nintendo Switch.
And is it just coming to the Nintendo Switch or is it coming to other platforms as well?
We're starting with Nintendo Switch and then we'll see along the way, pretty much a timed exclusive.
We always knew it was going to be a living room friendly game, so consoles seemed like the most obvious platform to develop on, but then the Nintendo Switch came along and we thought 'this is a match made in heaven'. We really feel Pode belongs on Nintendo Switch.
The name Pode, where does that come from?
'Pode' in Norwegian means when you graft a plant and replant that as a seedling, so you grow a new plant out of an old plant. So that's the official meaning of what the word actually means, but then we also use it to describe our children in an affectionate way, so we'll say 'oh our little podes are running around, aren't they adorable?'. We like the double meaning of that, and it really suits our game very well because it's all about growing and has a strong botanical theme.
The two characters in the game, so they have names?
They do, the star is called Glo, and the rock character is called Bulder.
The characters are fairly child-like as well, so it's clear where that inspiration has come from! How long has the game been in development?
Yeah, I'm really impressed by the team, I only joined in January and what they've managed to do in that time is crazy, especially considering it's only been three or four people for most of that time, but now we're up to seven, since we're nearing launch.
Well then, we might as well get this out of the way, so when is the game coming out?
This summer, we just want to get it through the pipeline before we set an actual date, so for us internally, it's all about getting the game ready for certification and after that we'll be able to announce a date, but we want to see how that goes.
You said that the game was an ideal match for the Switch, what was it like to develop on the system at a base level?
Well, from what I understand, we decided that we wanted to port to the Switch by ourselves, and we use Unity so that match has been perfect. We found it was easier than we expected it to be, so we're still expecting something to go wrong, but it's been good!
Has Nintendo itself been supportive of the game?
Yeah, we've been getting a lot of Nintendo love, and we love Nintendo as well, because Nintendo's showing off a lot of indie games at the moment, and we're really proud to be a part of the Nindie group. So many people coming here and playing the game have said they've been playing more indie games because of the Nintendo Switch and that just makes us so happy, because we're indies ourselves, so we love making games. We're very honoured to be here with them.
Do you feel that the divide between AAA games and indie games is narrowing from your point of view?
I want to say 'yes' right away, but then at the same time we do recognise AAA games. At the end of the day, there's no way a seven-man team can create Grand Theft Auto or something, there's just no way to do that. I too think that the indie games are approaching the same level of quality as AAA games because we have such powerful tools such as Unity and Unreal, and also the game developers are becoming more experienced.
I don't feel comfortable saying it's levelling out, as I think people can still see a clear difference, but I think indie games are becoming far better quality. It's a hard question to answer at this point, but I do think that indies have this luxury of still being indies, and doing whatever the hell they want. There's a lot more risk taking in the indie scene, and we're taking advantage of that.
Is there anything you'd like to say before we sign off?
I will say it was very important to the game director that she create a positive experience, and I think she's really managed to do that. She's also managed to incorporate her culture into it, with Norwegian art styles and such. The puzzles are hard though, and I've been known to curse like a sailor when playing the game, but it's satisfying when you finally get through it. I really hope people are going to enjoy playing Pode!
We'd like to thank Linn for his time. Pode will arrive on the Switch eShop in the summer.