Lefthanded Games Studio is an upstart development team of artists and coders who have come together to create this Kickstarted project. The team consists of James Guy, Tom Bennett, Kevin Barnum, MaryAnne Santos, David Mullen, Dane Sit, Jason Pinder, Sean Karp, Bryan Wilkins, Neal Demeray and Cooper ‘Gooseworx’ Goodwin.Growing up, I was always a Nintendo kid. I dabbled with Game Gear but console-wise, it was always Nintendo for me. The N64 was the first console I ever saved up for and bought myself. The two years it took to stockpile my allowance was fueled by my ferocious enthusiasm as I flipped through the same old issues of Nintendo Power for any scrap of news on the system. Since then, I have expanded my focus and now I am a gamer on all platforms (less PC — I never made the jump to the ‘master race’ for gaming). My primary console last-gen was the Xbox 360 because I became an achievement fanatic. This gen, it looks like PS4 is getting most of my attention so far. My favorite game is Banjo-Kazooie and my favorite titles are all Rareware hits from the late 90s-early 2000s — also a big Final Fantasy guy.
None! This is a first for me. Some might argue that making your dream game as the first one out of the gate might be shooting yourself in the foot, but I’m committed to chewing all we have bitten off with Lobo. Other guys on the project have made games before as parts of other teams, but this is a first for us as a collective. They are equally committed to knocking this out of the park, which is really endearing to me, being that they are throwing their talents and skills behind a silly idea I’ve cooked up. It’s a great feeling.
We bill it as an action-platformer, collect-a-thon game, inspired by the Rareware classics and N64-era adventure titles.Long answer: The game centers around Mutt, the runt of a wolf pack that serves as the police and guardians for the city of Coasta Lucha. Lead by the legendary Lobodestroyo, these guardians make sure that the villanos are locked away and that justice is served. The game begins with Mutt coming to and realizing his wolf pack is missing and the Lobodestroyo is gone. He finds his hero’s belt strewn across the floor and his mask laying in the ruins of the Lobodestroyo’s temple. Donning the mask himself and putting on the championship belt, our unlikely hero steps out into the world to try and continue the legacy of the Lobodestroyo. His naivety is immediately apparent to Dorado, the fast-talking luchador spirit residing inside the champion’s belt. The two of them make for an unlikely tag-team as they adventure across game worlds and try and restore order and lock away the escaped villains who are terrorizing the citizens now that the threat of the wolf pack is apparently gone.
Development started the day the Kickstarter was successful. The idea and concept have been kicking about for a little over two years.
There are many influences in the art direction and style of the game. The most obvious gameplay connection is Banjo-Kazooie, which we unabashedly are modeling this game after. The art style will be closer to that seen in Wind Waker, however, and the characters pull from a wide range of assorted inspirations. My fondness for the lucha libre aesthetic is also a major part of the direction we are taking the game. As for experiences, lots of exploration of charming, themed worlds and an abundance of characters, collectibles and encounters.
Gameplay will not be all that varied mechanically, but the objectives and locals will. I am not a fan of mini-games and obligatory change-ups seen in a lot of these titles. Mutt won’t be getting behind the wheel of any random vehicles or participating in any frustrating quick-time events, for example. While the scale of this game is rather ambitious, one of the ways we are reining-in the scope is by sticking to the core platforming/collecting roots as much as we can.Boss battles are a massive part of this game. Each world will have a primary boss who is a member of the masked Liga de los Villanos. These characters can be unmasked once defeated which grants Mutt their powers and abilities, much like the bosses in MegaMan titles. In turn, he will be able to use these new powers to take on new challenges and return to past areas and explore them further (a la Metroid). We also have sub-bosses in each world that provided a more varied, often larger scale, battle than the Liga members. For example, World One is WikiTiki Woods, a Polynesian-inspired forest world that is being deforested by the world’s villain, Gnawton Sawtooth III. He is a enterprising capitalist running the operation and is eventually who Mutt will face off with as the bosses’ Villanos battle. But the sub-boss will have players going toe-to-toe with T.I.M.B.U.R., a buzz-saw wielding deforestation machine, piloted by one of Gnawton’s Lumberchuck goons.
Nope. Single-player only.
Oh, yes. Our composer, Gooseworx, is working hard on a dynamic soundtrack for each world that will change based on the areas the player visits. This is inspired by the crossfading seen in the Rare N64 games like Diddy Kong Racing, DK64 and of course, the Banjo titles. Gooseworx has a sound that will be instantly appealing for those of us who are fans of Grant Kirkhope’s classic tracks. This game is going to have a killer soundtrack.
Our team has grown since conception, largely due to the fact that our awesome backers raised more than our initial Kickstarter goal total. We were able to add two more artists and a sound tech to the team, which will improve the game quality drastically. The game itself is developing well and we are busting our asses trying to get the core mechanics to feel right before we start going crazy with enemy variations and world geometry. Once we have Mutt behaving and looking the way we want him to in our developer’s environment, then we will branch out and start building the worlds he will explore one by one. Mutt has changed a lot during this process and looks rather different. He’s still the same guy people enjoyed in the trailer, but with a slimmed down poly-count, crisper textures, a much more dynamic dig, and expressive features in his eyes and face. He also looks more like a wolf than his original design did, which I think will add to his appeal. We also debuted a new logo, which we feel will better match the tone and style of this game when compared to the original one used in the trailer.
I am a big fan of Kickstater and the opportunity it gives teams that would otherwise be unable to take on a project like this. I could see myself returning to Kickstarter for another effort in the future, should the cards fall favorably. For now, we are fully focused on this project and I haven’t given much thought to how I’d facilitate the next one yet. I am an avid user of the service, though, and am constantly backing new game projects and a few miscellaneous campaigns that strike me as cool.
It would depend on the project. If I had to run the Lobo campaign again, I would make sure we had the Nintendo developer agreement sorted out before starting, as it became a massive focus and quite quickly became our main objective after getting feedback from potential backers. I would also keep it away from the holiday timeframe and launch some time around tax season or in a gaming dry spell. It was hard to fight for headlines with holiday releases and earn people’s Christmas money that needed to go to presents, not projects. With those changes, I think it would have been an easier climb, should I have to do it again — but please don’t make me. I didn’t sleep for a month during the campaign. Too stressful!Communication is key! I messaged everyone who backed our project and did as much interaction as possible. It really is the least you can do when people are giving you money to realize your dream! I’d also suggest that you really know your audience before you start and seriously think about the tax and fees associated with your effort. It’s not a free campaign and there are a lot of legalities that Kickstarter will not hold your hand through. That, and make sure you advertise which system/OS your game is coming out on. It’s a massive pet peeve of mine where I have to scour pages to find out what release platforms you have for your game. Potential backers need to know that up front! [Editors Note: Could not agree more on that last part, remove the barriers to entry, people!]
Yes, we have loose ideas, but will focus on them entirely once we are moving on with the Wii U specific build of Lobo post-launch. It was a stretch goal, so we need to be sure to deliver our initial ambitions first. The second screen is one of the main appeals of the console and what makes it different from the other hardware out there. We will be aiming for a classic gameplay style, though, so we will not shove tilt-and-touch mechanics in for no reason if it detracts in anyway from the game we are trying to bring to the system. I feel that cheapens the game and ultimately will irritate gamers.
When can Wii U owners expect to see Lobodestroyo on the eShop and have you considered your pricing options yet?
‘Holiday 2014′ is all we are committed to at this stage for our launch platforms (PC/MAC/Linux/Ouya) and the Wii U after the exclusivity agreement with Ouya expires (four months later). We are too small of a newbie team to toss out specific dates and are well aware of the delays and issues even the big dogs have when putting out titles. The game will ship when it’s ready. We will not rush this game just to meet an arbitrary deadline. It’s my baby! I’m not going to release it to the world until it’s fully cooked — I feel like I mixed up my metaphors there. I am not endorsing cooking babies. But you know what I mean. We’ve yet to set a concrete price for the title.
I am a Nintendo fanboy and getting to develop on a Nintendo console is my childhood dream. That said, the Wii U development wasn’t really a focus, despite the fact that this game is inspired by the N64 era of gaming. It seems silly in retrospect, but we had it as a distant stretch goal due to the lack of install base and didn’t think it would be as big of a boon to the campaign as it was. But the Internet demanded it, so we shuffled our priorities as best we could and here we are!
How did you find the path to becoming an approved Nintendo developer and how about that Unity deal?
It’s a short one, honestly. Fill the form out, give them all your details, they scope you out and do their homework, then give you a call a few weeks later. I was shaking a bit during my call, I have to admit. Very surreal to have Big N on the other end of the phone. Unity will allow us to port the game relatively easily to a wide array of platforms for a low cost, so it was the best choice for us on the budget we are on. I am a fan of Unity and think it is a great fit for teams like ours.
Not yet, primarily because we are not going full bore into the Wii hardware until we are further along with the base game. We also already had Unity licenses, thanks to our backer funds, so we haven’t needed to pester them too much yet. There is a great developer forum utility available, though, which we plan on leaning on a lot when the time comes. Nintendo want games like Lobo and indie teams like us developing for the Wii U, that much is very evident. It’s nice to feel welcomed.Well, I’d have preferred it if Reggie had called me himself to let me know we where approved developers! Ha, but no, they go out of their way to make it smooth and easy for us developers. It’s transparent, fair and welcoming. Can’t really complain about that!
I can’t really tell you that yet, as I honestly don’t know. I don’t want to jinx anything or be presumptuous, as this really is a first foray for us as a team. I won’t lie, though: I have big plans for what we could become should this all pan out for our little ragtag crew. Lobo was designed to have some unanswered questions and teases that will leave us plenty of wiggle room if we are given the opportunity to expand the game into future titles. At this stage, I can certainly see WiiU/3DS being a great option should the game we want to make be a good fit.
Nintendo Enthusiast would like to thank James for a thoroughy enjoyable interview. Lobodestroyo is in safe (and funny) hands, indeed! To keep up with the latest updates from Lefthanded Games, check out their Twitter, Facebook or own website.
Don’t forget to check out Lobodestroyo when it launches next year on the Wii U eShop!