10tons Talks: An Interview With The Twin-Stick Developers

If you want twin-stick shooters, you go to 10tons. If you want puzzlers? You go to 10tons. The studio develops their games with a variety of platforms in mind so no gamers miss out. Odds are if you own a platform made in the last decade, you can find 10tons’ games available on said platform.

The Nintendo Switch, young as it may be, has recently been blessed with a number of 10tons’ games. Everything from their debut work, Crimsonland, to the recent cyberpunk-themed hits, Neon Chrome and JYDGE, are available for purchase on the Nintendo Switch eShop.

10tons’ next planned release, Tesla vs. Lovecraft, looks to be another strong addition to not only the Nintendo Switch but also Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with 10tons in regards to their prolific catalogue, their involvement with the Nintendo Switch eShop, and their plans for the future. Our conversation is as follows:

10tons released plans earlier this year for a number of releases on the Nintendo Switch and has followed through with that plan. I’d like to talk to you about plans you may have for future releases on the Switch, how developing for the Switch has affected 10tons, and what it is that attracted you to development for the Switch in the first place. I’m a big fan of JYDGE so I’d also like to ask you about Jydge and some of your other games.

As a multiplatform developer and publisher, our plan is straightforward. When we start to support a platform like a new console, we support it with everything that makes sense. In the case of Switch, we’ll be bringing our entire console catalogue – as seen here – to the platform pretty much as fast as we can. We’re more than halfway through by now. From then on we aim to treat Switch as an equal platform to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. That means our next brand new game, Tesla vs. Lovecraft, should be available for Switch simultaneously with other console platforms, in early 2018.

As for what motivated us to start supporting Switch, we’ve always dreamed of being on a Nintendo platform, and now that we have gotten comfortable with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and Switch coming up at the perfect time, it was the most natural thing to make the effort now. It’s also no secret that indie games are a tough business these days, and a new console storefront is well known to be one of the best business opportunities there is. As long as a new console is popular and the amount of available games is limited, everyone who gets on board early will reap outsize rewards. Our games have done really nicely on Switch, but more importantly, the reception among gamers has been awesome.

10tons’ first release, Crimsonland, was recently ported to the Nintendo Switch. How long ago did development begin on Crimsonland and how has 10tons’ philosophy behind game development changed since the initial release of Crimsonland? 

Crimsonland indeed is the first proper game 10tons, or rather the founders of 10tons, ever made. That was back in 2002-2003 when they were still university students, and as the shareware game gained popularity, they figured to give indie game development a shot as a career and founded 10tons. The next 11 years or so the company made casual games, as the shooter market just seemed very risky. With PS4 and Steam access via Greenlight, it was decided that Crimsonland would be remastered, which took 2-3 months with mostly two developers. 99% of the code is the same as in the classic version, the most notable difference being entirely redone graphics. The Switch port in itself took a bit over a week for one developer. I can’t even begin to think how much the original creators of Crimsonland have learned in the past 15 years, but I’d imagine a lot!

The Switch is still under a year old and 10tons has already released a wealth of titles for the young console. On a scale of 1-10, how exciting has it been to help support such a young Nintendo console?

It’s a 9. We’ve wanted to be on a Nintendo platform for a long while, and we’re super happy to have that come true. The platform has also exceeded all our expectations regarding developing and publishing, as all that stuff is just very good on Switch. The only slight kink in an otherwise perfect experience is that we’d have liked to get a dev kit sooner and to start our release barrage sooner. Well, if we’d have been able to start six months earlier, we probably wouldn’t have released our catalogue in such a hurry. We just saw that by the time we got there with Sparkle 2, there already were 149 games in eShop, and 19 games launched that week. I think it’s been about 10-20 per week ever since. So while it’s still kind of early, competition has definitely arrived. It’s still good though, our success with Switch will register for everyone’s Christmas bonuses.

What about developing games for the Switch appeals to 10tons?

The Switch is a really good fit for our games, as we’ve always, and especially nowadays, made games that work on desktop, TV, and handheld/touchscreen. Then again, we never think of any single platform. Multiplatforms are so deep in our DNA that we’re really platform agnostic. We just make games, and we make them in a way that we won’t exclude any screen sizes, input methods, or use scenarios. At least to the best of our abilities, obviously, something like King Oddball works ideally in handheld/mobile scenarios and can get kind of monotonous in a three-hour console gaming session on the big screen. Although we know for a fact that a whole lot of people have enjoyed that specific title precisely that way. Anyway, we don’t really target any specific device or platform, because we’re multiplatform developers.

I’ve read about plans to release Tesla vs. Lovecraft on the Switch. How would you describe this games to someone who hasn’t heard or read anything about it? 

Tesla vs. Lovecraft is a top-down twin-stick arena shooter featuring the two cult personalities, genius inventor Nikola Tesla and horror author H.P. Lovecraft. Science and metal clash with madness and tentacles in a big way! Twin-stick shooters are obviously one of our things, and with Tesla vs. Lovecraft, we’re exploring yet another direction within the genre.

It’s closer to Crimsonland than Neon Chrome or JYDGE, as we feel we’ve exhausted the cyberpunk vibe with those two titles for a while. Overall we feel like twin-stick shooters are somewhat more niche than we perhaps realized, and with Tesla vs. Lovecraft, we’re seeing if we could widen the audience a bit with the theme we chose and somewhat less obscure mechanics. We’ve also upgraded the graphical fidelity from Neon Chrome and JYDGE quite a bit, and it’s looking great! We’re really excited to have it soon in the hands of gamers.

Why is Nikola Tesla at odds with H.P. Lovecraft in Tesla vs. Lovecraft? How did this idea come about? Will Tesla vs. Lovecraft feature a spooky narrative full of inter-dimensional gods? Are there any game modes where players can play on the H.P. Lovecraft side? 

The game was actually originally prototyped as a mage themed shooter, but it quickly evolved into a game with scientists against monsters. Then we just realized after a little while that Tesla vs. Lovecraft is just the perfect distillation of that and a really cool name for the game too! We also learned quickly that Tesla and Lovecraft have already been combined in popular culture quite a bit, which is even better. There’s not many adversarial setups between them though, so everything lined up just perfectly.

As to what the lore of the game is about, it all starts with Tesla’s endeavour to provide free wireless energy to everyone, and Lovecraft is convinced the technology is actually based on really dangerous, otherworldly powers that Tesla doesn’t fully understand. And what happens next, you’ll just have to wait and see for yourselves…

When can gamers expect Tesla vs. Lovecraft to be available for purchase?

We’re currently aiming for an early 2018 release, possibly even January. The game’s practically finished, there’s just the usual final cleanup and console certification processes to go through. With the holidays messing things up, we don’t dare say January 2018 for sure.

Do 10tons have any plans for future Switch releases besides Tesla vs. Lovecraft? Ports? 

We plan on finishing our project of bringing our existing console game catalogue to Switch, and then to release every new game for Switch as simultaneously with other platforms as we can. We’ve learned by now that that’s probably the best way to go with multiplatform console releases, as few people actually like their console to be the second one or the last one to get a multiplatform game.

Do any of your planned titles focus on competitive, PvP gameplay? 

Online and PvP seem to be all the rage these days, and we’ve discussed it internally a lot. We use the same in-house engine for all our games, and we don’t have online multiplayer tech yet. We could create it for sure, it’d just cost a big chunk of money. We’ll see, it’s certainly possible. Although we can see a whole lot of games, especially twin-stick shooters, with online multiplayer or co-op, and it looks like it’s not at all a feature that guarantees any level of commercial success.

Will any of your future Switch titles include Switch-exclusive features?

Frankly, we try to avoid console specific features as much as we can. Firstly, platform holders by and large demand feature and content parity. So if we made one platform something exclusive, we’d have to make something else exclusive to other platforms. That’d be a whole lot of exclusive stuff! Secondly, we indeed try to treat all our fans as equally as we can, regardless of platform. Sometimes it’s just not possible, but at least we can try to make our games as identical on every platform as we can. We know it’s not a stance a lot of superfans of a specific console will agree with easily, but from our perspective, it’s a very clear case. All gamers are our preferred customers, not just gamers on platform X, Y, or Z.

Recent Switch releases, JYDGE and Neon Chrome are both set in the same universe, right? Are there any plans to expand upon this universe either through sequels, new titles, or other media?

With Neon Chrome we indeed got to fulfil a longtime dream of making a cyberpunk game, and it was great. While a lot of people really loved Neon Chrome in every way, we quickly learned of a subset of players that didn’t enjoy the roguelite aspects much but did like the core gameplay, the theme, the style, the world.

We still love cyberpunk, so the idea of an anti-roguelite Neon Chrome was pretty much there. And it became JYDGE just like that. We’re extremely happy it went exactly as planned, as all the people who had misgivings about Neon Chrome just loved JYDGE! What we didn’t expect, and which really made JYDGE the commercial hit it is, is that even the fans of Neon Chrome’s roguelite aspects loved JYDGE. That said, now that we’ve made Neon Chrome and JYDGE as the official prequel/spinoff, we don’t immediately see ourselves making a third title in the same universe. We still love cyberpunk though, so who knows.

I like how you brought a Robocop/Judge Dredd-esque figure into a classic cyberpunk setting in JYDGE. Is the title “Neon Chrome” itself an homage to writer William Gibson’s Burning Chrome? What else inspired the world and characters of JYDGE and Neon Chrome? 

Oh yeah, Neon Chrome comes very much from all the cyberpunk we know and love. Shadowrun, Gibson’s Neuromancer/Count Zero/Mona Lisa Overdrive trifecta, Bladerunner, Deus Ex, you name it. And then JYDGE is obviously a homage to all the future-cop stuff there is, probably more Robocop than Judge Dredd. Early in the project we discussed how on the nose we can or we should be about it, and how tongue-in-cheek.

We settled with very on the nose and tongue very much in cheek, all the way to the silly title and silly spelling everywhere in the game. It worked out fantastic, the recognizability and unusuality catch people really well and by far the most that end up buying the game are really happy with it.

Physical media is great unless you’re concerned about space. Do 10tons have any plans to release physical copies of games on the Switch in the future?

We don’t have any physical copy plans at this time. We haven’t studied it in detail, but as far as we know there’s a quite significant cost associated with it, and these days most indie games don’t sell tens of thousands of units anyway. The superhits may sell millions or hundreds of thousands, but that’s really the top 1%. By far the most, like us, sell some thousands or low tens of thousands of units of a digital game in a few years, including pretty deep discounts, so it’s really iffy if we’d be able to sell a few thousand units of a premium priced physical copy, or whatever the minimum print would be.

Personally I also really love digital, it just skips all the clutter and fuss of it. I appreciate some people’s desire for collecting physical libraries, however.

– END –

There you have it, folks! Check back for more 10tons news as it comes. In the meantime, brush up on Miskatonic lore in preparation for Tesla vs. Lovecraft.

3 thoughts on “10tons Talks: An Interview With The Twin-Stick Developers

    1. I haven’t played Time Recoil but it sounds fun. What about it did you like most in comparison to Jydge? Did you get to play Neon Chrome? It’s great! I prefer it to Jydge.

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