Thank you so much for joining me, my name is Matt and today we’re going to be taking a look at SteamWorld Heist. We’re lucky enough to have an interview with Brjann Sigurgeirsson of Image & Form, the development team that’s behind the game. We’ll ask him a few questions about the game as well as the Nintendo 3DS platform.
How long has Image & Form been a video game company, and what were some of the first products?
Image & Form has been around longer than the Internet! Well, almost – I founded the company back in 1997, and then we got into making computer games around 2002. For a very long time we were only a work-for-hire studio and as such completely unknown. Just a muscle and no brain. 🙂 We made, believe it or not, around 30 fairly elaborate games for PC and Mac on CD-ROM until we’d had enough.
Then the App Store came about, and we tried our hand at making our own mobile games. The first ones weren’t that great and we barely made any money from them, but they were ours – and it was a wonderful feeling. In 2011 we actually made a really great iOS game called Anthill, which was a milestone for us. Not only were we self-publishing, but we also felt that we had the capacity to make really good games.
A year before that we made a game called SteamWorld Tower Defense for the Nintendo DSi. It was sold only through the DSiWare Store, which was Nintendo’s first effort at catching up with digital sales, and – in hindsight – as such a fairly lame shopping experience. We really had no idea at that point that it would be the starting point of a very long development adventure for us.
But that experience meant that when we decided to leave mobile in 2012 (don’t worry, we’ll actually be back), we didn’t really know where to turn. We’d never met or talked to anyone from Nintendo, Valve, Sony or Microsoft – but we *had* made that little game for the Nintendo DSi, so we thought we could make a decent game for the 3DS, which was fairly new at the time.
And so we set about to make our most expensive own effort to date, a mining platformer adventure called SteamWorld Dig. It came out in August 2013, and to our surprise it was a worldwide hit – it went to the #1 eShop spots in USA, Europe and Australia pretty much right after release, and stayed there for a while. At the time we sucked at PR and marketing, so we didn’t expect that.
Since then (more than two years!) we’ve been working on ports of SteamWorld Dig to other platforms as well as our upcoming release, SteamWorld Heist. It’s set in the same universe, but the gameplay couldn’t be more different: whereas Dig was a mining game set in the Wild West, Heist is a turn-based combat strategy game set in space.
What’s it like to work with Nintendo on the 3DS and Wii U?
It’s both very demanding and quite easy. Yes, the forms to be filled out and the general red tape is exceptional, and in that respect Nintendo’s platforms are the most cumbersome of all. But they know this, so they have excellent people who readily answer your questions immediately – all the time!
How do you feel about the state of independent developers for the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii U at the moment?
I think it’s fairly good, mostly due to the non-congestion. When you announce and release your games, the Nintendo press are all over it for an extended time. But the Wii U would need to sell better. I know several developers who release on the Wii U and then are surprised that they can’t really make a living from it.
I heard the SteamWorld Heist is going to be releasing for the Nintendo 3DS first. Why?
Mainly because we’ve had great sales on the Nintendo 3DS, but also because the community is so great. Since we released Dig on 3DS first, many 3DS players have adopted it as “their” game. And they are very kind to us in forums and discussions.
The 3DS is also the odd platform out. All the other ones are HD and come with fairly powerful hardware. Releasing on the 3DS first means that the game can only be more spectacular when it comes to other platforms. And we’d rather start with the lowest specs and work our way up than the other way around. A lot of devs porting to the 3DS after first going to another platform realize that they have to cut features that slow down the system. We develop for the 3DS, so our games are balanced for it from day 1.
Miiverse is a very interesting social network that is used for the Nintendo platforms of 3DS and Wii U. Do you enjoy using it, and do you think that it offers deep interaction, such as Twitter?
If anything, Miiverse is a pleasant surprise. I was personally working very hard at one point to grow our Twitter following. When we reached 1,000 followers I was quite proud. Then I asked Agnes, who is our character designer and also oversaw our Miiverse interaction, how things were going on Miiverse. “We have more than 8,000 followers,” came the blunt answer, “without really doing much.”
Miiverse is better than you think, if you want to talk to the Nintendo community. They’re devoted and very happy to see us on Miiverse. It’s a completely unique feature.
Now that the world of steamworld has used tower defense, Metroidvania, and even a very unique style of RTS, what’s next for the gang of robots?
Something completely different… or not. 😉 Right now we focus on talking about SteamWorld Heist, which is coming out this fall to 3DS first and all other platforms later according to a staggered release plan. When all that is done, we’ll start thinking and talking about our next game.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your day and visiting with us here at GameGravy.com for this interview. We are all looking forward to playing Steamworld Heist.