According to a recent job description for a new role at the company anyway. Basically, the makers of the Mario vs Donkey Kong series and Metroid Prime Hunters are looking for someone with experience in developing applications for Android and iOS devices. Here’s the link to the job role, as archived for future reference:
Software Engineer – Mobile Game Developer Role (NST)
As well as a short summary of the role:
Nintendo Software Technology Corporation, based in Redmond, Washington , is a wholly owned subsidiary of the world’s largest manufacturer and marketer of video games, Nintendo Co., Ltd., headquartered in Kyoto, Japan. Nintendo Software Technology’s mission is to design, develop and deliver the very best video games. We conduct research, use state-of-the-art equipment and review methods of operation so that we may continually improve the quality of the games that we produce. Each person employed at Nintendo Software Technology Corporation is a valued team member and is encouraged to participate in our efforts to create the highest quality games.
You will play a key role in helping Nintendo build fun and engaging mobile applications and games as a member of NST’s game team.
So what can we gleen from this? Well, given that it’s a Nintendo of America development studio that they’re hiring for, it’s quite clear that this mobile app development stuff is probably going to be taking place all over the world rather than just in their Japanese offices. And based on the fact it’s the Mario vs Donkey Kong guys?
Seems like it might be a ‘casual gamer friendly’ spinoff of an existing series that’s being made for smartphones. I mean, look at Mario vs Donkey Kong for a minute. Isn’t this the sort of thing that just seems to be perfect for smartphones?
Above: A touch screen based, overly colourful Mario spinoff with short levels. Perfect for the app store?
Either way, it seems Nintendo is making their first mobile titles right now. What do you think of this listing and the implications it has for Nintendo’s mobile plans?
As you probably know, we’re pretty big fans of Rare’s games and their many spiritual successors at Gaming Reinvented. And with our extensive coverage of such titles as Lobodestroyo, A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee, it’s quite clear we’re also interested in supporting anyone willing to continue their legacy through their own 3D platformers in the indie game world.
So we were delighted when our request for an interview with James Guy of Lefthanded Games Studio (makers of Lobodestroyo) agreed to an interview with Gaming Reinvented! With exclusive information about everything about the game’s backstory to the development team’s history and the role the game plays in the DKU as a whole, there’s something for everyone here! So whether you like the game for its new ideas, its Rare heritage or any number of reasons besides that, keep reading and enjoy our Lefthanded Games interview!
1. So let’s begin with a simple bit of backstory. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your previous history with video games?
I’ve been a gamer since day one for the most part and was lucky enough to be spoiled with a Game Gear and an Amiga when I was living back in the UK.
But my first true save-up-your-pocket-money-and-buy-it console was the Super Nintendo. Fell in love with Mario World and DK Country shortly after that, and it’s been an ongoing habit ever since. I’d say the N64 was my most influential system on me as a gamer and what I like to play. My original N64 died a few months back and it was with a heavy heart I had to replace it. He got a warrior’s funeral and was sent out to sea on a burning raft of thatch and tears.
2. How did Lefthanded Games Studio come about? Any interesting history behind the name or anything?
I’m a lefty, as are a few others on the team but honestly thats not what it’s all about. Lefthanders are often considered the oddballs of the group. The outsiders. Freethinkers. That’s sort of what we are going for. Plus it was an easy logo and I was feeling lazy that day.
Above: The name ‘Lefthanded’ was meant to represent the team being outsiders. Apparently.
3. Now onto the theme. What inspired you and Lefthanded Games to focus on a lucha libre theme for Lobodestroyo?
I’ve always been a massive fan of the Día de Muertos and Lucha Libre aesthetics. The vibrant, over the top visuals and the rich lore and cultural motifs. Great stuff. Lends itself to game world design I feel.
4. Talking of the theme, what was the reason behind the name ‘Lobodestroyo’ anyway? I know it’s the name of an individual in the game’s setting, but is there a meaning behind the term?
Yes, the Lobodestroyo (or loosely translated ‘wolf of destruction’) is a legendary figure in our game’s world. At the outset of the game he gets taken out and is gone under mysterious circumstances. It’s up to Mutt, the player character, to avenge his fallen hero and track down those responsible for the destruction of his village.
5. Is there a main villain behind the La Liga de Los Villanos? Like how the Mega Man robot masters had Dr Wily as the true force behind them?
Very early in the game there is a prison break and the maximum security lockdown villains get loose. These are all big time baddies that were previously defeated and locked up by the Lobodestroyo. With him out of the picture, these big-bads have banded together to form a league and are wreaking havoc on Costa Lucha (our game world).
6. Lobodestroyo has a very unique art style to it. Can you tell us a bit about the story behind it and why said style was chosen?
It’s a mix of wanting to harken back to simpler, clean character designs that have that childish cartoonyness to them, but also have a style that makes everything feel like it’s from the same game universe. That, and we are keeping out design rather simple visually (which was initially out of necessity considering the hardware we would potentially be running the game on) to make sure to tweak things to get that ‘lobo-look’ we’re gunning for. There are rarely any straight lines in our game. Everything is a bit wonky or crooked. It makes it all rather cohesive and helps craft the look of the world.
Above: The unique art style of Lobodestroyo is both to help the game run on weaker platforms and to provide, a different, more consistent look.
7. Apparently, you’ll need powers from later levels to clear missions and defeat bosses in earlier ones. What’s the general set up for this? Is it just learning new moves in one place, leaving to the hub and returning, ala the first Banjo Kazooie? Or is it like Banjo Tooie where the levels are also directly connected to each other?
There is world interconnectivity in our game as well as a centralized hub that allows players to explore and unlock the game worlds. Some missions will branch between worlds, and other will require abilities that you might not have when first encountered. You get a healthy batch of initial abilities at the outset of your adventure, but gain new ones as you defeat and lock up boss villains. Taking down a boss is what grants you new powers after you unmask them, which is a theme lifted from old school lucha libre Mask vs Mask, retirement matches.
In Lobodestroyo when you take down a boss, you ‘retire him’ and claim his mask, which grants you some powers unique to that villain. It’s rather Mega Man in that regard, and allows for further exploration of previously visited worlds much like in the Metroid titles.
8. So what was the story behind Mutt himself? What inspired his character design?
Mutt is an amalgamation of the initial concept I had for the game’s hero and input and changes the team has had on the idea since we began working on the game. The Mutt of today is drastically different than the original guy I scribbled out in my sketchpad. I’m immensely happy with where the character has been taken and couldn’t be prouder of the guy we have constructed together as a team.
Above: Mutt has gone through quite a few design changes throughout the game’s development.
9. One thing Banjo and Conker did really well was humour. Is that a focus in this game as well?
Humour has always been a large focus of this game. It wouldnt be a very accurate Rare homage if it wasn’t! From the lines delivered and characters met, to the objectives completed and worlds explored, the humor is evident in Lobodestroyo from the outset of the adventure. We are aiming for a Banjo-level of humor where there is something for everyone- without stepping into the overtly crude and arresting tones found in Conker. I want a game that a kid can play and not get in trouble with Mum and Dad,, whilst also delivering a title that the 30-somethings that grew up on these games can laugh along with (and everyone inbetween of course!).
Above: The humour in Lobodestroyo might be a bit similar to that of Banjo-Kazooie, overt, a bit crude but generally family friendly rather than like that of Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
We have enlisted help in writing these scenarios from the very talented (and decidedly hilarious) hosts of DKVine’s Kongerversation podcast, Chad and Hyle. They are helping to ensure that we are steeped in Rare references and suitable innuendo, that walk that fine line we have set forth for ourselves.
10. Out of the characters shown so far, which one is your favourite and why?
One of the great things about these exploratory titles is the wide cast of characters you meet on your adventure. I am fond of everyone we have living in the rich world of Costa Lucha but if I had to pick I am still partial to our heroes the most. Mutt is a great character and I’m really proud of him, but Dorado (the skull-faced spirit living inside Mutt’s championship belt) is where all the dry humor and wicked punchlines come from. The back-and-forth between the two characters is proving to be great fun, and the pairing is one of my favorite parts about the character design on this project. If I had to pick a runner up though, it would probably be Mopey Dick the wailing whale. The tongue-in-cheek lines and scenarios centered around a manically depressed whale make me laugh for all the wrong reasons, and for that he’s rather high up on my list of favorites.
11. And for that matter, what’s your favourite level?
All the worlds in Lobo are near and dear to me for their own reasons. Each has elements plucked from my own life/interests/experiences merged with my favorite aspects of other titles’ worlds that have struck home with me. We want to have all the tropes in place while putting our own spin on things. All that said if I had to pick I’d go with WonderWish Studios. It’s a theme park built inside a (presumably) dormant volcano that has been overthrown by a military force and flooded with lava. The combination of platforming and combat with the assorted theme park spoofs and parodies are particularly fun to work on (as someone who’s day job is linked to theme park culture).
12. Lobodestroyo raised over $80,000 on Kickstarter. What lessons did you learn from this campaign?
Note: We messed up the figures here. But because the response is awesome, we thought we’d leave it in…
Woah, where do you bank? That exchange rate sounds amazing! Hah, no, we walked away from our Kickstarter with a little over $39,000 thanks to amazing support from our backers and supporters.
Above: The 43K raised on Kickstarter was impressive, but still not a lot when it came to game development.
While 40k is a massive chunk of change it is embarrassingly little when put into the scope of a project like ours. We budgeted and planned for the project well in advance and spent all the funds (less the extra that came our way during the last minute rally at the end of the campaign) within a month of receiving the check from Amazon (owners of Kickstarter).
We entered into an agreement with the folks at Ouya as part of their Free The Games Fund. The idea with the fund was to have games created for the kickstarted Ouya console, whilst providing avenues for fledgling game dev teams to try their hand at indie game development. They agreed to match our initial campaign goal of $35k, in installments, as certain milestones were met.
Due to the placement of these milestones and the usability of the funds (due to timing) we have not received any money from Ouya, nor have week provided any of the required milestone software builds to them. We are currently debating our next steps with all of that since their buyout by Razer, and will have more to say once the team and I come to a conclusion on what to do.
13. Given that a Wii U version is a priority here, have you got any interesting plans for GamePad and its use in this game?
Absolutely, but we have said from the start that we wont let gimmicks and features get in the way of the game we are trying to make. Don’t expect anything that alters gameplay outside of the intended scope.
Above: Don’t expect any Game & Wario or Nintendo Land style gimmick controls in Lobodestroyo
Especially waggle controls… never!
14. So what was the story behind Gooseworx providing this game’s music? It seems to be a very good soundtrack so far, so how did you find him and his musical work?
Gooseworx is an amazing talent and the man behind the magic, Cooper, has been crafting some solid tracks that are beyond my greatest expectations. Nothing all that glamourous really as far as his involvement on the project at the outset…He joined the team after I begged him through social media basically. I’d been a fan of his for a while and regularly visited his soundcloud page to listen to his work.
Above: The fact Gooseworx is a Rare fan who covered songs from Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 is pretty cool as well.
The soundtrack is going to be one of the strongest elements of Lobodestroyo certainly. I can’t wait for Gooseworx’ tracks to bring our game worlds to life!
15. Given that the Ouya itself isn’t really a thing any more, is the console still being supported for this game?
Ouya has been bought out by Razer, and after some confusion and hiccups Razer has decided to offer a new Free The Games Fund-type deal to all the participants in the original program, like us. We have the contract in hand as of last week and are reviewing it as a team to determine what’s best for us, considering where we are with Lobo and what would be required of us to secure the proposed funding. We dont have much more to say on that front right now but know that the team and I are all weighing up our options as to how to move forward there.
Above: The Ouya’s failure raises doubts at Lobodestroyo’s future on the system.
16. What do you think of the other 3D platformers that are also inspired by Rare’s games, like A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee? What kind of things should help this game stand out?
Above: Mr Guy also backed both A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee on Kickstarter.
As a firm supporter/backer of both titles and an avid gamer, I am excited to know we have all this Rare-vival gaming coming our way in
the not-too-distant future. Hat in Time was one of the projects that convinced me to try my hand at crowdfunding and push for a campaign for Lobo. Yooka-Laylee is essentially trying to do the exact same thing Lobodestroyo is, but with…you know… legitimate game
developers (and former Rare staffers on the payroll). It’s great to see that the idea behind what we are trying to do is a strong one, if anything based on the immense success Playtonic found immediately after launching their campaign. It really does mean we are on to something with what we are trying to accomplish, and that there is a massive audience out there who want these sorts of titles back.
17. And on a random note… Yooka-Laylee apparently is because of a shared rap music singer, so does anyone from one of Rare’s older games make a cameo appearance or anything?
We obviously don’t own any rights to anything Rare-related so don’t hold your breath for Bumper the Badger to drive past Mutt, or a Great Mighty Poo cameo to uncover. But we do have some ways of nodding to the characters we all know and love.
Above: No, the Great Mighty Poo is probably not going to appear in this game. Nor any other recognisable Rare characters.
While I don’t want to spoil anything or say too much, I think that the die-hards out there will be pleased with what we have packed in.
18. It’s a bit early yet, but does Lefthanded Games have plans for games after Lobodestroyo? Is it possible the game will become a series?
The skeptic in me says that right now it would be a bit foolish to think beyond the immense task in front of us, or to presume that success will come our way in any form. We want to make this game the best we can, and get our first team project out the door. After that… well, time will tell. I will say that we are brimming with ideas and drive, so don’t expect Lobodestroyo to be the only thing you ever see with a Lefthanded Games sticker on it.
19. Finally, to all those budding game designers and indie game studios out there, what advice would you give them?
Do what you love and find a way to work on what you are passionate about. Be it a part-time, side-project or the building blocks of your whole career (or both!), make sure you indulge your creativity and start making stuff! Don’t let yourself get held back. If you have an idea, run with it! Inversely though, don’t buy into the idea that kickstarter games are free money and a sure thing. If making games was easy, everyone would be doing it.
If you are going to jump in on a public stage, be prepared, do your homework, and expect to encounter obstacles.
So that concludes our interview with Lefthanded Games. We’d like to say thank you for Mr Guy for agreeing to an interview with Gaming Reinvented, and to wish him all the best of luck with Lobodestroyo on the future. Hopefully this game (along with the various other Rare inspired 3D platformers being made at the moment) will bring about a Nintendo 64/Playstation style gaming renaissance where the indie world finally embraces the styles of Banjo-Kazooie and Conker’s Bad Fur Day and where said games are system sellers all over again.
What do you think of our interview with Lobodestroyo creators Lefthanded Games?
Have you been wondering what the first game in the Nintendo and DeNA mobile games partnership will?
What title will start off Nintendo’s foray in the world of smartphones and apps?
Well if so, it looks like you won’t have to wait too long to find out! Apparently, according to DeNA’s Q1 report, they’re currently making announcement plans for the first game.
In other words?
We’ll see exactly what Nintendo’s first mobile app will be very shortly. Let’s hope it turns out to be a good, logical one (like say, WarioWare for smartphones, some sort of new tactics or RPG style game, etc) rather than something stupidly niche or not at all well thought out. What do you expect from Nintendo’s first smartphone app?
As said by Scott Moffitt of Nintendo:
[Mobile and console] are two different types of gaming experiences and I don’t think the approach we’ll take is to just port existing content over to the mobile. That really wouldn’t be doing justice to those devices and to that experience, it’s a different kind of gameplay.
It’s a really good decision to be honest. We’ve seen a lot of big companies try (and as we’ll point out, merely try) to port existing home console titles over to smartphones.
It usually doesn’t end well. Games dependent on standard button controls tend not to map particularly well to virtual ones on touch screens, especially not in regards to more action or adventure orientated titles like most of the ones Nintendo makes.
Above: Or in other words, don’t try and port a game like this to smartphones.
So yes, Nintendo are making the right decisions here. Come up with new games based on your existing franchises, and design them specifically for both the typical smartphone interface (read, touch screen) and the typical play sessions these games have (mostly a few minutes in a time, but frequent enough to add up to a decently long experience over all). Don’t try and say, port Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask to mobile phones and stick it on the app store, come up with a new and original Zelda title that can be tackled in short bursts and doesn’t involve fiddling around with awkward controls not really designed for the hardware.
Do you agree that Nintendo’s decision here is likely the right one?
Nintendo Explains Timing and Release Behind NX Announcement – Examiner
For a rather long period of time, 3D platformers were not a particularly popular genre. Okay, they were big in the days of the N64 and Playstation 1, but with Rare’s decline and the FPS genre taking off, the days of 3D mascot platformers seemingly came to an end.
But as with everything else, Kickstarter came to the rescue. Inspired by classic collectathon platformers like Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 (among others), three different teams have funded new projects in the style of the N64 games we all know and love. Those being? A Hat in Time, Lobodestroyo and Yooka Laylee. What’s more, all three have at least some involvement from ex Rare staff (often Grant Kirkhope). Here are the Kickstarter trailers for the three:
But which one is best? Which of the three big 3D platformers of the 2010s is going to be the true spiritual successor to Banjo Kazooie? Let’s find out, in the 3D platformer comparison!
The Story and Characters
Time is falling apart, and the brave interstellar travelling Hat Kid has to collect the pieces and put them back together away. All while racing against the evil Moustache Girl and her wishes of using time for evil purposes.
Above: The basic trailer for A Hat in Time, showing some of the story and levels.
Lobodestroyo’s plot on the other hand, is a tad more complicated. Probably better to let them explain it to be honest:
The legendary Lobodestroyo is the sentinel of Costa Lucha. His wolf pack protects its citizens by locking away villains who threaten the peace, and maintain order from high atop Mt. Justice! At least he did…
Mutt, the runt of the wolf pack litter, wakes up to find Mt. Justice in ruins; His wolf pack brothers missing; and the Lobodestroyo’s championship belt strewn across his destroyed temple. To top it off the maximum security lockup has been breached and the 10 members of La Liga de Los Villanos have escaped. Determined to avenge his brethren and prove his worth, Mutt dons the championship belt and takes up the mantle of his fallen hero.
Tag-teaming with the luchador spirit Dorado, who dwells in the mystical belt, Mutt explores the hub city of Costa Lucha and unlocks new areas, while he attempts to track down and unmask the evil villains who have overrun each game world.
And what’s the plot for Yooka-Laylee? That’s actually a good question, since the Kickstarter page and official website don’t really give away the plot. All we know is that Yooka and Laylee (the chameleon guy with no pants and the bat with the big nose respectively) are trying to collect Pagies in a bunch of worlds loosely based around books.
Above: Pretty much what we currently know about the plot of Yooka-Laylee, in one picture.
So what’s the best plot here? Depends on whether you want a simpler excuse to go jumping on heads or a complex excuse to save the world. Lobodestroyo has the more thought out storyline, A Hat in Time has the easier to explain one. We’d probably go with Lobodestroyo ourselves, though the lack of a complete Yooka-Laylee storyline/plot summary means it’s not a fair comparison at this point.
So now onto the art side of things. To make it a bit fairer, we’ll divide this section into two parts; the concept art and the in game graphics. This is because the quality of in game graphics depends on heavily on far the game is into development, whereas the concept art gives an idea about what the team are going for aesthetically.
On the concept art level then, what game does better? Well, that’s a difficult one given how all three games have a different style going on. A Hat in Time seems to be inspired more by the cel shaded art of The Wind Waker and Jet Set Radio, whereas Lobodestroyo takes influence from comic books and Yooka Laylee flat out goes for an updated Banjo Kazooie vibe for things. They all look fantastic too:
Above: Yooka-Laylee’s concept art looks absolutely gorgeous.
But honestly? On this count, we’d probably go for Lobodestroyo. Why? Because it seems more original in terms of the style it’s going for. Sure, the other two look good, but they also seem a bit… well, safe. Like they’re trying to take as much inspiration from Banjo and co as possible without really building on it in any way.
On the other hand, there’s something about Lobodestroyo’s style that stands out a bit more, at least in terms of the concept art. Look at this stuff:
You’ve got a luchador fighting wacky animal villains from the ‘La Liga de Los Villanos’ in the style of Mega Man. Add a bunch of quirky and surprisingly ‘dark’ settings (like a high security prison and a theme park castle filled with cheering minions of the villain) and stuff like the tank shown above, and you’ve got a game which would have been a highly original title even back in the days when collectathons were two a penny.
In game on the other hand? That’s a hard one. All three have decent enough graphics (even for games that are in alpha or early beta stages). But we’d probably give it to A Hat in Time, simply because of some of the awesome aesthetics in its later levels. I mean, look at this mansion level:
That’s creepy as hell to be honest. And the art style with all the shadows and dynamic lighting is done in such an amazing way that I just have to give this one to the game. Will Yooka-Laylee or Lobodestroyo come up with something equally as great for their future levels? They most probably will, all three games seem like they’ll have all manner of creative looking levels and graphics. But for now, A Hat in Time wins this one.
Music (featuring Grant Kirkhope)
Out of all three projects, all of them feature music by Grant Kirkhope. Given that he composed the soundtrack for the Banjo Kazooie games and Donkey Kong 64, that very likely means they’ll retain the feel of Rare’s classics just fine.
Above: Some songs he previously worked on You should recognise all of them even without the pictures
And while Lobodestroyo will only be getting one song by Grant, that song (the boss one) will be remixed by Gooseworx into a whole bunch of catchy themes. It will also be accompanied by a bunch of (likely equally good) music by Gooseworx.
But we’re probably going to have to give this one to Yooka Laylee. Why? Because not only does Grant Kirkhope compose music for it, but so does David Wise. You know, the guy who brought us such classic Donkey Kong Country songs as Stickerbrush Symphony and Aquatic Ambience. So while all the games have at least classic Rare styled soundtracks and Grant Kirkhope provides songs for multiple projects, we think the game with multiple members of Rare’s music staff composing for it is probably going to do better on the music front.
Gameplay and Level Design
And now, the most important part of these games. Which one is better in terms of gameplay?
Well, we can’t really say much yet, since we haven’t played it. So let’s look at some of the videos showing the game being played by other (slightly luckier) testers:
For A Hat in Time, we have two full levels showed off. The mafia filled beach town, and the creepy haunted mansion shown earlier:
It looks pretty good, though the game feels a bit more like Mario Sunshine than a Nintendo 64 era game. Not bad, just a bit different.
For Lobodestroyo, we don’t have another footage online to show what it really looks like. I mean, I came across this test area tech demo:
But that doesn’t really say much. You get a bit of the walking animation in a test room. Nothing else seems to exist yet, outside of concept art and things.
For Yooka-Laylee, we’ve got a small amount of gameplay footage that was shown off earlier this year:
It looks surprisingly good (for about three months of development), though we can’t really judge much in the way of level or game design from it, since the tech demo type stuff shows no real missions or standard gameplay.
We’re not to going to judge this yet, because we only have full levels for one of the games.
Well, all three came with fake Nintendo 64 cartridges and boxes for the people longingly wishing to be taken back to those days. For instance, here are the retro boxes and cartridges for the games (given out as Kickstarter rewards):
Granted, the Nintendo 64 cartridges provided aren’t functional, since none of the games would ever actually run on a Nintendo 64. But hey, it is a nice retraux touch to have, right?
A Hat in Time raised $296,340 on Kickstarter, Lobodestroyo raised $43,831 on Kickstarter and Yooka-Laylee raised £2,090,104 ($3,265,160.47) on said service. So based on that, Yooka-Laylee is obviously the one out of the three that people showed most interest in financially.
Either way, it’s still good news all around. All three games met their funding goals and are hence currently in development. Regardless of which one you want to play most, it’s been a good result.
Here are the consoles supported by the three titles:
|System||A Hat in Time||Lobodestroyo||Yooka-Laylee|
As you can see, Yooka-Laylee and Lobodestroyo are available on pretty much the same console platforms (or in other words, all of them that have any real market share at the moment). The latter is also available (or at least being made for) Ouya, despite said system failing miserably and not really being all that important at this point in time.
Above: The now failed Ouya system whose owners will now also be able to play Lobodestroyo
On the other hand, A Hat in Time is seemingly PC and Wii U specific, with support for other console platforms being currently unplanned. So it loses out a bit on that front, given how its competition will also be available to buy for the Xbox One or PS4 (for those people who aren’t really major Nintendo fans).
So while it’s extremely close, we’d give this one to Lobodestroyo. Yes the Ouya isn’t exactly a relevant system any more, but hey, it is technically going to support one more system than Yooka-Laylee.
Thought the real winners are probably Wii U owners, given that they’re getting three full-fledged 3D platformers around the same time, on a system that’s otherwise mostly of devoid of games and that’s been near completely abandoned by third parties.