Interview: Rock Pocket Games (Oliver & Spike Dimension Jumpers)

Several interesting indie developer games have either been confirmed or have a strong possibility of being released on the Wii U in the coming year.  One had a tag line so bold that we had to get in touch with the developer and find out more about it.  Natascha Röösli of Rock Pocket Games sat down with us to talk about their upcoming title Oliver & Spike Dimension Jumpers.

Nintendo Feed: The tagline for Oliver and Spike is “Ratchet and Clank meets Zelda meets Uncharted” which most would agree is pretty ambitious.  Does the development team feel they are achieving/have achieved that goal?

Röösli: It does sound over-ambitions doesn’t it The fact is that it’s more in terms of inspirations. We would never put us on the same level as the studios who created those games but our team has some really big fans of said IPs.

She went on to explain what aspects of each of those titles Rock Pocket is hoping to capture in Oliver & Spike...

Ratchet & Clank has those quirky fun characters and cut-scenes we really love. The characters in Oliver & Spike, especially everyone around Oliver and the inhabitants of the different Dimensions, are supposed to be memorable and a bit over the top, much like in the Ratchet & Clank Series. We do try, however, to keep Oliver more grounded to not tired the player out.

Zelda manages to create this magic environment without being “in your face” with magic aspects. It manages to create emotion with its atmosphere without actively trying or using it as a key aspect of the game. It’s just something that works with the rest of the gameplay. We also took ideas from how to progress during the story-line without actually leveling up the character. Instead you find (or get) items and extend and upgrade them, much like in the Zelda series.

The Uncharted series is a big inspiration when it comes to how to do story-telling in a game. Not only due to the tongue in cheek approach, but also the importance to ground any kind of story, no matter how fantastic it may seem, in reality to not lose your audience in the process.

So in that regard at least we know we are trying our best to achieve those goals. If we succeed is up to the players. We are definitely looking forward to collect feedback from testers during the process and make adjustments accordingly.

Climbing in the Firma Dimension
Nintendo Feed: You mentioned in an interview with Aussie-Gamer that you were aiming to design puzzles that could be solved in several ways.  Do you feel you were able to do that while still keeping the game challenging?

Röösli: That is actually one of the toughest elements to deal with when it comes to the puzzles and dimension jumping. The dimension jumping mechanic is very open so there needs to be a way to limit it while still keeping room for creativity. The special areas where you do not have to use any crystals to jump are the best examples for said creativity but we also try to add puzzles for which you are limited crystal wise but where we actively design several ways to solve them.

Aqual Dimension
Aqual is a specific issue since later in the game you’ll be able to expand the time you can spend in Aqual so we have to be really careful to not have it as the obvious solution for a lot of puzzles. Also, it probably depends who you ask about the “challenge” level. The early game is going to be easier in terms of puzzles but the more dimensions open up the more tricky a puzzle will get but also the more options are available to the player. It’s a bit like an automatic natural progression.

We also try to minimize the twitch based challenges so the difficulty lies more in figuring out what to do rather than to get a jump timed and angled right. That gives us the option to have a hint system that will adjust the challenge according to the players needs.

Nintendo Feed:  Because the game is explained as being an exploration/adventure/puzzle title, do you feel you have been able to maintain a balance between all three genres?

Röösli: At this point we can’t be sure but we think the design balance is going to be quite even between them. Whether this works remains to be seen. Hopefully we won’t alienate the puzzle enthusiasts, the platform fans, or the adventure crowd. Instead of making a game that is just super puzzle heavy we try to make sure you encounter another game mechanic once you spent some time on a puzzle aspect. But yeah, it can be a bit different at times since it’s easier to just sit for hours and design puzzles or platform levels - in our case though it’s really important for us that the puzzles are integrated in the lore and story-line.

Nintendo Feed: Another item in your site was the concept of Co-op or Team Play, specifically mentioning Parents/Children.  At the time you indicated that this would have to be looked into as a viable element in the game.  Can you give us an update on how that is progressing?

Röösli: This is still on track and very much still the initial design we had in mind for the co-op. Spike is already a fan favorite and we think that the co-op, where one player plays Oliver and another Spike, is important to keep Spike an integral part to the game-play. We really do think that the thirty-something gamer who grew up with old school adventures or Ratchet & Clank would like something to play with his/her family and for now there are a lot of fps (first person shooters) and action games to choose from and not so many adventures/platformers.

Possible Co-Op Play Tera Dimension
Nintendo Feed: The Wii U appears to be quite polarizing among developers.  Some see it as gimmick with last generation specs while others see a large potential being able to integrate a second screen into their gameplay.  What do you see?

Röösli: We see a challenging opportunity to try to show how the WiiU is different than the other consoles. It’s not about pushing graphics but it’s about trying to find new uses for the TV other than being a pure output device. That’s of course not something every gamer wants and tastes are different but we like to experiment.

We are also excited to use the Gamepad as an actual device linked to the story-line. To give the player something the Professor could have invented so-to-speak, something they can actually hold in their hands.  For example we see the Gamepad as a device Oliver gets from the Professor to help him get around and through the story-line. So the Gamepad can change its mechanics according to the gamers needs at that moment in the story.

We are also really excited about the NFC possibility but the technology is still a bit scary to most indies. We will see where that leads us. That needs a bit more research on our part first.

Nintendo Feed: The Wii U Gamepad appears to have serious potential to be integrated as a major element of the storyline.  Do you feel that a Wii U release highly likely?

Röösli: We would really like to 100% confirm a WiiU version but at this point we simply can't. We are still looking for partners to help us fund the rest of development and depending on who that partner is a WiiU version might be a problem due to possible exclusivity. However, if we get the funding sorted and there is no exclusivity which binds us there is a strong possibility for a WiiU version.

Nintendo Feed: Would you care to suggest when we might see an official trailer for game?

Röösli: Well, if you mean trailer as in showing game-play mechanics and show a bit more what the game is like: We are working on that and will have a more telling video for the Game Developers Conference ready. After all we are keen to prove once and for all that Oliver & Spike is a well-rounded game with many more mechanics than just platforming.

Nintendo Feed would like to thank Ms. Röösli for spending some time with us as well as providing some additional screenshots from Oliver & Spike.

Did the information she gave whet your appetite for title that gives a little bit of everything?  Drop us a comment or jump over to the Chat Room dimension and let us know.

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