Q: How did you come up with the idea of bouncing-projectiles for SteamWorld Heist? Did anything in particular inspire you or was it just a bright idea from a team member?
A: That was a very early feature of the game, which was present in the very first game design document. It had its origins in the fact that a lot of people in the office were playing XCOM at the time, and for fun we were tossing around the idea of a turn-based 2D tactical game during a number of lunch breaks. One of the benefits of doing it in a 2D sideview was exactly that – the ability to bounce bullets off walls, floors and ceilings.
You may be surprised, but it often isn’t deeper than that at Image & Form. It usually starts with the question “What game would I like to play myself?” There were quite a few features that didn’t make it into the game, and we changed direction a few times. But in the end it turned into a very interesting and fun game.
Q: So far SteamWorld Heist got just one important DLC, namely “The Outsider”. Do you have any plan to create other DLCs? Furthermore, have you ever considered the idea of adding a multiplayer mode for the game?
A: DLC possibilities are often being discussed during lunch breaks (yes, we often talk shop also during lunch!). We’ll see what happens there, we have a few ideas but nothing concrete just now.
Multiplayer would be awesome, and it’s something I would have LOVED to see in the game. As with everything else we don’t like to do things half-good. It has to be fantastic or not at all, and making multiplayer a part of it would have taken too long to finish, or it would have not been perfect. We had to abandon it. Hopefully we can come up with something sweet in that way in the future.
Q: How did you know about Steam Powered Giraffe? Was one of the team members a fan of theirs, or were you already in contact with them?
A: No, it was actually through a mutual friend, James Morgan who runs Indie Box. He persuaded me to let them make a physical collector’s edition of SteamWorld Dig, a beautiful little box with lots of goodies, and in the process he told me that he had asked a band called Steam Powered Giraffe make an additional song for the soundtrack.
I had no idea who they were, so I looked them up on YouTube and was blown away. I emailed them and asked if they would be interested in making the soundtrack for SteamWorld Heist. Luckily for me they were big fans of SteamWorld Dig, and we came to a very good arrangement.
Q: You previously said that for Heist you took some inspiration from games like Fire Emblem, but wanted to give a twist to the genre, right? What about Dig? Did you have any particular inspiration for it? Or was it just a stroke of genius?
A: Yes, you’re right – Fire Emblem, XCOM, Worms for Heist. Dig was inspired by a fairly simple XBLA game called Miner Dig Deep, as well as Dig Dug, the old arcade game. But the main inspiration was the digging itself and what you can find. Digging for treasure is very exciting in any context. It invokes all kinds of feelings, probably the same feeling that makes people want to buy lottery tickets. You never know what you’ll come up with. 🙂
Also we had a predecessor in SteamWorld Tower Defense, which was intriguing. When we made SWTD we didn’t really think so much about SteamWorld – the world and its lore – itself, but afterwards it became enigmatic and interesting. How could there possibly be a future where benevolent steam-driven robots rule the world and the humans have become simple lowlives who live in caves? It turns out there was a possible (although not entirely plausible) back story. It’s quite long, so I won’t bore you with it here. Look up the British inventor and philosopher Charles Babbage and his inventions, The Difference Engine and The Analytical Engine, and you will catch a glimpse of what kind of society we could have had, if his inventions had been constructed properly. The world could have been computerized a whole century earlier, which would have had all kinds of ramifications.
Q: The first game from the SteamWorld series, Tower Defense, had a decent success, obviously not comparable to that of its successors. Is there any possibility to give this game a second shot, maybe in the form of a port or maybe even a remake?
A: You’re right – it’s not really comparable! 😀 Yes, it’s quite possible that we’ll look into a prettier and better version of SWTD in the future. When we made it (for the Nintendo DSi), we actually did a tiny bit of research. There were no tower defense games on that platform at the time, so we decided we could fill a gap. We actually made SWTD very quickly, but naturally – once we were done with it, there were already three other TD games there. :S
Q: How was your experience with Anthill, the game you made for iOS and Android? Did it have the fame you hoped? Do you think you’ll try it again with the world of smartphone apps?
A: Yes, that was a major breakthrough for us, both financially and mentally. In fact, all of our four latest games have brought something special:
– SteamWorld Tower Defense taught us that we could self-publish successfully.
– Anthill taught us that we could make really great games.
– SteamWorld Dig made us somewhat famous.
– SteamWorld Heist showed that we could repeat our success with a distinctly different game, and actually make games that surpass even Nintendo in terms of quality.
We are actually putting the final touches to the iOS version of SteamWorld Heist. It’s interesting to revisit a platform five years after our latest contribution. We were worried that mobile was “dead” to us, since we’re probably never going to make a free-to-play game. But lately the App Store is showing signs of embracing high-quality premium titles as well. And Heist lends itself very well to touch input. It would be foolish not to give it a try.
Q: We know it’s all super secret stuff, but don’t you have any little-bitty piece of info about your projects with the Nintendo Switch that you can share with us? Pretty please?
A: Thanks for the flattery! 😀 It’s a SteamWorld game, that’s all I can say at the moment. 🙂
Q: After three games made for the SteamWorld series, are you interested in giving birth to new IPs? Or do you think there’s still something left to be said about the Steambots?
A: Yes, we’re not confined to one IP. We’re always trying to think about what we would like to play ourselves, and that’s most important. So far the games fit very well into the SteamWorld “lore puzzle”, but some ideas cannot really be turned into SteamWorld titles. If we decide that we want to realize those ideas, we won’t be afraid to “go on vacation from SteamWorld”. 🙂
Q: Do you think you’ll come back to SteamWorld Dig’s world someday? We miss Rusty, you know…
A: Haha! Yeah, what happened to him at the end there…? We’re curious ourselves. I’m sure there’s a story to be told.
Q: With the SteamWorld series you created two of the most downloaded games of the Nintendo eShop, period. Considering that, do you think it’ll be possible in the future to see Amiibos for Rusty and Piper, in a similar vein as the Shovel Knight amiibo?
A: Maybe! There is an enormous up-front fee to be paid for making amiibos, and merchandise really isn’t our strong side. A long time ago I asked Nintendo if they couldn’t make amiibos for us, and then they explained that it actually worked the other way around – we would license the Amiibo brand, instead of them licensing the SteamWorld brand. The minimum number of units we must produce is very, very high.
Coming from their successful Kickstarter campaign and lots of hype around it, our friends at Yacht Club Games had much higher momentum, a much bigger “wave” with Shovel Knight, and could sell their amiibo at exactly the right time. Both Dig and Heist are sleeper hits – they sell decently day-to-day for a long time – but neither game has had the “wave” needed to sell as many amiibos as we would have to. It’s a huge financial risk, and we’re always debating it. Perhaps down the line Rusty and Piper could join some other characters in a SteamWorld set? We’ll see. 🙂
Q: Being one of the most famous developer teams from the eShop world, it’s far from being unlikely that Nintendo would let you develop a game for one of their series sooner or later. Is there a particular Nintendo series you’d like to get your hands on?
A: Metroid. Always. We would probably halt anything we were doing at any time if we were given the opportunity to work on Metroid. And we would make the best Metroid game ever. You hear that, Nintendo? 🙂
Q: There are rumors that say that the Switch’s screen is a touchscreen, with limited functions. It hasn’t been confirmed yet but, if you’re allowed to say anything about it, do you think the loss of the dual screens is a limitation or, as they say, “restrictions breed creativity”?
A: Bzzzztt… krrrr… you’re… bzzzzz… breaking… gzzzt… up… can’t… krrrrzzz… hear you… bzzzt!
(La versione in italiano di questa intervista si trova nella pagina precedente)