Renegade Kid burst onto the handheld gaming scene in 2007 with their cult DS hit, Dementium: The Ward. Moon, Dementium II, and ATV: Wild Ride quickly followed, all of which were met with critical acclaim and adoration from fans. Fast-forward to today- Renegade Kid has found a new audience on a new system. Their recent release of the perfectly crafted Mutant Mudds on the Nintendo 3DS eShop has made waves in the gaming community with its retro feel wrapped in a modern package.
Co-Founder Jools Watsham has been very public with talk of Renegade Kid’s triumphs and trials (as well as many gaming-centric issues) through his personal blog and Youtube Channel . We reached out to him to dig a little deeper into Renegade Kid’s history and future!
First and foremost, we’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us! And I believe that congratulations are in order- Mutant Mudds has been a big hit in just about every sense of the word. What was it like taking a project that struggled to get off of the ground not once, but twice, and turning it into a polished, successful product?
Jools: Thank you for your interest in Renegade Kid’s games. As you might expect, it feels pretty darn incredible to have Mutant Mudds released. The previous setbacks with the 3D platformer didn’t really get me down. That is part of the business, unfortunately. What really makes the release of Mutant Mudds special for me is the fact that I have finally released a 2D platformer. Something that I have wanted to do for 20 years now!
Renegade Kid has often found themselves receiving praise from the critics- Craig Harris, formerly of IGN, was rather fond of your work on the DS. Mutant Mudds has perhaps had the best reception yet- we here at Fanbolt gave it a 5/5. But it also had something that Dementium and the others didn’t have- marketing straight from Nintendo themselves. What was it like to get that big push for Mudds in the eShop?
Jools: It is really a dream come true to have the support of Nintendo. I don’t think it’s a secret that I am a fan of Nintendo, so having the opportunity to work very closely with them on Mutant Mudds as a publisher was a new and excellent experience. I am honored that Nintendo pushed Mutant Mudds. Nintendo does not back many third-party titles, so to have them promote Mutant Mudds speaks to how they feel about the quality and appeal of the game. I couldn’t be happier.
The demo for Mutant Mudds just landed. Has that given sales for the game a second wind? Do you think it would have made an even bigger difference had it been there day one?
Jools: The Mutant Mudds demo has certainly created new interest in the game and caused quite a bit of activity on the eShop. What’s nice about releasing the demo now is that it takes something that is two months old and makes it new again for many people. Having free demos of games is always a good thing where applicable, whether it is with the release of the game, before, or afterwards.
Is there any desire to pursue returning to the Mario Sunshine-influenced, 3D-platforming version of the game shown so long ago? Or is Maximilian permanently paper thin?
Jools: Right now, my desires are firmly rooted in the 2D world of Mutant Mudds. A 3D platformer could exist in the future, for sure, but right now 2D is the way to go for me.
You said in a recent video blog that if you were to make a sequel to, rather a continuation of, Mutant Mudds, it would be the same game just more of it. But you didn’t take that same approach with Dementium- the sequel was quite different from and much improved over the first. What caused Mutant Mudds to end up “just right”, as opposed to perhaps some dissatisfaction with Dementium?
Jools: I think Mutant Mudds turned out the way it did for many reasons. We went solo with the development and publishing of the game, which gave us total control and avoids undue pressure from external sources. We were not only able to create what we wanted but also present it to the world how we wanted. How the game is presented to the world can be just as important as the quality of the game in terms of people’s opinions and expectations of a game. The team was in a good mindset to make something special happen. I was ready and excited. Matthew Gambrell was ready and excited. And, Troupe Gammage was ready and excited. When you have a small group of experienced professionals, who love their craft, presented with an opportunity to do something they desire – it is a good recipe for potential success!
With the recent announcement of your next game for eShop, it begs the question- how many “retail” titles, like Dementium, are we going to see from Renegade Kid in the future? Landing a publishing gig has seemed to be biggest hurdle in the release of several of your titles. Is the eShop an easier, less nerve-wracking path to take? Or is the risk of going retail worth the ability to make a more fleshed-out adventure?
Jools: Our goal to develop big adventures, like Dementium and Moon, has not changed. Mutant Mudds was a test to see what the eShop market has to offer in terms of activity. It was a relatively low-risk test for us because it was a game we developed on the side that was pure joy to develop. The success of Mutant Mudds has shown us that the eShop is a viable market for smaller games in the short term, and hopefully larger games in the future. What would be ideal for me is if we could release a large scoped game, which would normally sell for $40 at retail, for $10 – $20 on eShop. It might be too soon for this to happen on eShop though. But, the future of video-game sales is digital distribution. It is just a matter of time.
Speaking of retail titles, we know that the port of ATV: Wild Ride 3D is still in need of a publisher. Is the game otherwise done, ready to go, waiting? Also, to clarify, was this the project code-named “Planet” that you spoke of in your blog early last year that was to be a “conversion of an existing title”?
Jools: We’re going eShop with ATV Wild Ride 3D. It is nearly completed, but it is something we’re developing on the side, so it’ll take a little longer to complete. “Planet” was the codename for Planet Crashers.
Will ATV Wild Ride 3D retain its online elements with the move to the eShop?
Jools: Yes, we plan on supporting local multiplayer, like the original DS version, and also adding on-line multiplayer as a new feature for the eShop version.
The port itself seemingly provided a nice transition piece for Renegade Kid from the DS to the 3DS. What was it like to move from one platform to the other? There was an obvious closeness to the DS hardware with your first four games- did it transfer well to the next generation?
Jools: Typically, each transition to a new hardware is very much a case of relearning many high-level things while implementing your experience of low-levels things. The 3DS was no different. There were the expected challenges, but overall the transition went well for us. Getting more power to play with is always nice!
If memory serves correctly, there was a rather nasty game-breaking bug involving the LOLA in “Moon”. Back then, it was impossible to fix- but how easy would it be for you to fix something like this post-release on the 3DS, whether it be a retail or eShop title? Are there many hurdles in the process?
Jools: I am not sure how easy it would be, but it would at least be possible now. I think they did something like that for Ridge Racer. But, I believe that was a very special case and not something Nintendo wants to make a habit of. Something I like about handheld/console development is how strict the guidelines are for the release of a game. Sure, it can certainly be difficult sometimes, when your game is failed multiple times because of a crash bug, but at the end of the day it is the player who wins.
Let’s talk new games. Bomb Monkey will be coming to the eShop later this year, correct? How long has it been in development? Or, how long has it been an idea in your head, something you knew you wanted to make?
Jools: Yes, Bomb Monkey should be out summer 2012. We started development of Bomb Monkey this year, so it has been a quick project. However, it is a game design that I’ve been kicking around for many years now. Based on how well the eShop is performing, it felt like a good time to release a smaller scope game to test the waters with something that is a little different than Mutant Mudds. I expect Bomb Monkey will be priced at around $4.99.
You mentioned on your video blog that, with Bomb Monkey, you’re striving to create a puzzle game that captures that “addictive” quality that Tetris has. Many have tried, few have succeeded to do that very thing- what’s the key for you?
Jools: Yes, it is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve, and I honestly won’t know if we have succeeded until a massive number of people have played it and reveal their honest impressions. I may be proven completely off-base and wrong this summer, when the game is released, but in my mind the key is in the simplicity and timing of the game mechanics. There can’t be too many things for the player to worry about or learn, enabling players to just jump in and pick-up the game quickly. And the speed at which the games’ pace increases is vital to the player’s feeling of control, challenge, and ultimate demise. If you feel as though it gets too hard too fast, then we’re toast. The player will probably not want to return to the game because they feel that it is unfair. If the game is too slow and boring, then the sense of challenge isn’t there and they’ll find something else to entertain them. Yeah, it’s hard to get it right. I am foolish enough to think that Bomb Monkey feels just right now. But, the beauty of the internet is that people aren’t shy about sharing their opinions. We’ll soon find out the truth.
What else is coming up for Renegade Kid in the next year or two?
Jools: Beyond Bomb Monkey and ATV Wild Ride 3D on eShop I think it is safe to say that we’ll see another Mutant Mudds game in the future. We’ll continue to court publishers in the hope that we’ll secure partnerships to develop original and/or license games. Just going to keep fighting the good fight.
It seemed like Renegade Kid was about to pigeon-hole itself as the developer of moody, handheld, first-person games. But then you threw us the ATV racing curveball, and followed it up with 2D platforming, then a puzzle game. And, arguably, they’ve all been done equally well so far- we’re sure Bomb Monkey won’t disappoint. How many genres would you like to explore over the course of the next generation?
Jools: It sounds like we’ve nearly covered them all! I can’t think of another genre that intrigues me at this moment, but I’m sure there are some that I’d like to tackle. I expect we’ll revisit some of the genres we’ve touched in the past. Something I really enjoyed about developing Dementium, Moon, and then Dementium II was the opportunity to improve on the same genre over the course of a few years and a few games.
Not to force you back into that pigeon-hole, but Moon 2. Pretty please? With more LOLA and awesome boss fights in 3D on top?
Jools: Thank you for your interest in the game. I think what’s more likely is that we’ll develop a new original FPS game that we have more control over. Being tied to publishers can prove to be frustrating and limiting in regards to sequels and ports. It has been a learning process. Moving forward, it is our hope to retain all rights to our original games so we have controls over such things.
Thanks again for taking the time to share with us! We couldn’t be more excited about what Renegade Kid has coming up next!
Jools: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure!