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  • Necrosoft Games Interview – Gunhouse, Oh Deer, Vita, & the Future

    January 11th, 2018GamespotUncategorized

    When PlayStation Mobile was around, Necrosoft Games was a big presence on the platform and released some key games including Gunhouse and the final PSM title Oh Deer!. Recently the developer re-released Gunhouse as a Vita-native title with plenty of adjustments and improvements, so I took this opportunity to ask Necrosoft's Brandon Sheffield his thoughts on the console, their progress with Oh Deer! and the firm's other announced title, Gunsport, as well as his plans for the future.

    First off, tell me a bit about yourself! Who makes up Necrosoft and what do you all do? 

    So I’m Brandon Sheffield – I worked as a journalist for a while (sometimes I still do, by accident) at Game Developer Magazine, Gamasutra, etc. But I started this studio back in 2012 because I had been making games on a freelance basis, and a huge amazing game I was working on got cancelled and I was super disappointed. So I realized I had to take charge and make things myself! 

    Our studio grows and shrinks depending on what we’re doing, so right now there’s me, and two excellent programmers. All our art so far has been contract, but we’d like to get a full time artist some day...

    Your studio had a big focus on PlayStation Mobile early on, Sony's ill-fated platform for Vita & phones. How did you find it working on PSM? Was it a successful place for you to release your games? 

    So PSM wasn’t great for sales, but it was great for us as a studio, really. Sony believed in us early on and partially funded the two games we put out on PSM, Gunhouse and Oh, Deer! Alpha. And whenever we put a game out, it shot right to the top of the charts, so it was successful in that way! 

    In an interview with Eurogamer you noted that Sony funded your first ever title (Gunhouse). Does Sony hardware (and Vita in particular) have a special place in your heart because of this? 

    Definitely! I’d say that’s part of the reason we’ve brought Gunhouse back to Vita. We’d like to do the same with our other PSM title, Oh, Deer!, but we just don’t have the cash for it. We were able to do it with Gunhouse because we had already done a bunch of work improving it for other releases, and we were able to piggyback off those for this release. It still cost us thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work though.

    The Vita-native version of Gunhouse released in December 2017. Was it difficult releasing a game this late in the handheld's life or was the process fairly smooth? How helpful have your contacts at Sony been in getting Gunhouse onto Vita? 

    Sony is definitely a great help to us! The biggest challenge really was getting the framerate to look good. That’s part of why there’s a lot of loading at the front, to make sure everything’s in memory already. We’re pretty happy with the framerate and final result!! A lot of devs have a hard time with this, but we know it’s important to people so we really pushed hard on that framerate thing. 

    Has Sony's fairly public withdrawal of support for Vita changed any of your future plans at all? Do you plan to support the platform at all going forward? 

    Well, we’d love to release more games on the platform, but it’s all a question of whether we can afford to do it. Money is always our biggest problem, because we don’t have very much of it, and we pay ourselves the absolute bare minimum to live, just so we can release a better product. It’s not that we’re doing this for the money – but we do need money to live and make our games! We’d love to support the platform, but we need to have the money to do it first! 

    Vita’s fan base is known for being incredibly vocal on social media and gaming forums. Have you been able to leverage this to get the word about your game out there? Has this been encouraging for you to keep pushing forward on the platform?  

    It’s always nice to see how supportive Vita fans can be! I hope they’ll support this game, especially since it’s also cross-buy with PS4 (once the PS4 version is released). It’s encouraging, but of course encouragement only goes so far – for this particular game the response has been decent, but not overwhelming. 

    How are you finding it in terms of raising awareness for your games in general? Oh Deer! had the distinction of being one of (if not the) last PSM games to release, which led to some fairly major sites covering it. Are things more difficult nowadays, or easier as you're releasing on more mainstream platforms?  

    Things are definitely more difficult when you don’t have a hook (like “maybe the last PSM game ever”), and frankly we haven’t done as great a job pushing our stuff as we could. Also it’s a bit discouraging when your game comes out and you get dozens of key requests which results in like… one video from someone. Ha ha. But we have some plans, we just need the time to implement them. We can do better! 

    Onto your newest release - tell me a little about Gunhouse. What can players expect upon their first time playing it?  

    Well, it’s kind of like a turn-based puzzle tower defense sort of thing? Lots of colors and wacky looking things? I’d say folks should try the game if they want to try a new sort of puzzle system, which doesn’t rely on match three or other familiar ideas. 

    What inspired you to make a "puzzle meets tower defence" game? 

    You can’t really tell, but I was influenced by the DS game Solatorobo’s inventory system. They had a Tetris-like inventory game that seemed quite clever – we had a version of the game that was a bit closer to that, but it eventually evolved into this. In order to create this puzzle system I basically thought – what’s the smallest possible size of grid I could use while still making an interesting puzzle system? With that in mind, I sketched a Vita screen, then figured out how much of it I could take for a puzzle grid while still seeing action on the other side. From there, I figured out what sort of system I could make within that space. 

    What has changed between the PSM release and the Vita-native version?  

    Since that early release, we've added more enemies, more stages, a hardcore mode, higher res graphics, more story, rotating objectives, stats tracking (offline), controller input method (that was a big challenge!), and a lot of other stuff! We also rebalanced the game, improved the tutorial, added a help section and probably a bunch of stuff that I forgot! 

    Were there any difficulties getting the title running on Vita? 

    The usual! Not enough RAM, low framerate. But we spent a few weeks on it and we got it there. 

    Do you plan on releasing Gunhouse in Europe eventually? 

    It really depends. If it sells super well in North America, we’d like to. But frankly the cost of releasing the game and getting it rated in Europe is too high for us to front. So… yeah. Sorry!!  

    Are there any chances of a physical release of Gunhouse at some point either now or in the future? 

    Yeah! Probably around May or June!? It’s definitely part of our plan. 

    I've already mentioned it earlier, but your last PSM release was an alpha version of Oh Deer! (a brilliant game which I still have on my OLED's memory card by the way), which is currently in beta on PC. How is development on this progressing? 

    It’s not progressing at all right now! We’ve completed one more stage, but we’ve run out of money completely for that title. Frankly it has never made money – first it came out on PSM, and then it came out for free on Humble Originals. So… There’s nothing for us to draw on for future development. Eventually we hope to finish it with our own money, once we gather enough! 

    Can we expect to see a Vita-native version of Oh Deer! one day once the game is finished?  

    Well sure… if the Vita is still going in 2021 or whenever we’re able to get the money to finish it, we’ll do it :P 

    How was it working with Motohiro Kawashima on the soundtrack? His reaction to your conversation regarding working with him seemed extremely heartwarming.

    It was great! He’s a great composer and a good friend. He’s really underappreciated in his home country, nobody in Japan knows him. The Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) series wasn’t popular there at all. These days he’s teaching music composition at a college, but nobody there knows who he is. I do hope to work with him again! 

    I understand you also got to show Yu Suzuki Oh Deer! and he complimented the game?  

    Yeah, I’ve met Suzuki a few times, and kind of forced a Vita on him once so he could play Oh, Deer! - he said it wasn’t too bad! More than that, he said the movement felt good, and that’s about all we could ask for. 

    In 2015 you announced a title called Gunsport for PS4, XB1 & PC. How is development on this progressing? 

    Ha ha, well, that’s a bit of an odd one. We’ve got 99% of the art and sound finished for it, but we’ve decided to go back to the drawing board on the code, making sure the gameplay is up to our high standards. So development has been going along, but we’ve also… totally restarted it. Weee. 

    Is this a title we may see on Vita one day, or does it rely too heavily on local multiplayer?  

    The bigger issue would be framerate across online multiplayer – we don’t have an immediate solution for that, but we’ll investigate it when the time comes! 

    What does the future hold for Necrosoft? Where would you like the company to be in the coming years?  

    I hope in the coming years we can just be sustainable, and also finish all the games we want to make! We’ve got so much that we want to do, we’re just constrained by time and money. I think people will be excited about our next game announcement though… I’m not quite ready to say what that is yet! 

    Finally, two questions I've been asking everyone - What are some of your favourite games that you’ve played on Vita?  

    The Danganronpa series for sure – if you listen to the first game, you’ll actually note some musical similarities to Gunhouse! Our composer for that, Disasterpeace, decided to challenge himself by using Garageband Loops exclusively – and it turns out Masafumi Takada (who I know from his Grasshopper Manufacture days) used some of the same ones. So there is one song in there that has a similar saxophone loop, which is pretty amusing! 

    But I digress – I also like Ray GigantDarius BurstPersona 4, and Dragon’s Crown! (But that last one might be cheating a bit, since I named all the rune magic in that game) 

    And which of the Vita models if your favourite (LCD or OLED)? 

    LCD for me! I like the weightiness and the shape of the older model a little better. Call me crazy! 

    I'd like to thank Brandon for very quickly replying to my questions. You can check updates for his company's games on Twitter and via the official websiteGunhouse is out now for Vita and will be releasing for PS4 soon!

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