Developer Interview: Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers (Wii U)
Recently, Aussie-Gamer caught up with Rock Pocket Games who are working hard to deliver the revolutionary Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers to the gaming masses.
Planted somewhere in the unseasonably cold Norway lies a trendy development studio called Rock Pocket Games where the order of the day is to develop games for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. For their latest title, however, the team has bucked their own development style and work tirelessly on Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers.
Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers is a charming adventure game whose scope is borrowed from titles like The Legend of Zelda and Uncharted but wrapped in bright colours and humor once seen in games like Banjo-Kazooiee and the like. The team are hoping to release across all platforms including Wii U, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and are developing a mobile version for Ouya, Android and iOS.
As the development continues, Aussie-Gamer caught up with Marketing, PR and Business Development Manager Natascha Röösli to find out a little more about Rock Pocket Games and Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers. We were also given access to some never-before-seen screenshots from the game, which are displayed throughout the interview.
Aussie-Gamer – Could you please give us a quick wrap up on how Rock Pocket Games (RPG) started up?
Natascha Röösli – Absolutely!
RPG started in 2008 but back then it was basically just Ivan Moen — the CEO — who made up the studio. He started the company because of the launch of Apple’s App Store which finally allowed indie developers to publish their games easily.
However it wasn’t before The Package became “App of the Week” in the US app store that Ivan decided to quit his day job and become a full time game developer. Since then, we’ve developed and released over twenty mobile and browser games, grew into a team of ten crazies and are now venturing into console territory.
Aussie-Gamer – Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers is quite an ambitious project; how did the idea come about and what’s the philosophy behind the game?
Natascha Röösli – The Idea, design and start of development for Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers goes back to 2009.
The inspiration for the dimension jumping came from a documentary called Parallel Universes created in 2001 by the BBC. The documentary deals with parallel universes, string theory, super gravity, and other theoretical physics concepts. It featured Michio Kaku, Paul Steinhardt, and other physicists talking about gravity and physical laws and how gravity might not have originated on our planet but might in fact be something that “leaked” through from another Universe.
This whole idea just lends itself perfectly for an exploration game with creative dimension jumping gameplay mechanics. It’s still available on Youtube and definitely worth watching.
The idea was also to give the player different game mechanics and the ability to use them creatively. We are aiming to design puzzles, specially later in the game, that can be solved in not only one, but in several ways. Possibly even in ways we didn’t intend. If we manage to have a gamer send a solution where we have to say: “Wow, ok, THAT we didn’t expect”, we achieved our goal.
Ultimately we want to try to move away from the whole: “Ok, now you can double jump and that’s what you need to use for the rest of the game”, or do the same series of inputs for a long period of time. The different dimensions are all like playing different games with the option to actually mix and match the mechanics to your needs.
On the other hand, it’s also our way to rebel. With so much focus and a lot of studios moving to mobile we are “swimming against the stream” by doing the opposite. We want to develop a game for consoles (and PC/Mac), for the family, that also appeals to the long-time gamer who grew up with games and is now in his or her 30s.
We’re trying to create Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers in a way so it appeals to a wide audience. For example there are quite a few hidden references that only older gamers will get (to games such as Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion) while other parts of the game are obviously for the younger audience. They will laugh at different aspects, hopefully.
The dimensions are not only influencing Oliver but items in the world as well
We just refuse to believe that there is no space or no audience for new ambitious IPs on Console other than the established AAA titles. We also strongly beliee that we have the talent in the team, coming from MMO and console backgrounds respectively.
We like to dream big but who knows, maybe we are wrong. Hopefully we are not alone and like us, there is an audience that would like to see more games like Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers.
Aussie-Gamer – “Dimension Jumping” is obviously a huge feature of the game, can you please explain for our readers how switching between dimensions will be used to solve puzzles?
Natascha Röösli – Oh God, where to start!
First of all, the dimension switching mechanic is used through the whole game in all aspects of Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers. For one, it’s sometimes used in solving quests for specific NPCs (Non-Playable Character). That can be as simple as trying to figure out how to get water to a dried out well, for example.
On the other hand the exploration aspect of the game has dimension puzzles such as figuring out the actual way to an NPC or an object, and to overcome obstacles. Boss fights use the dimension switching as well, during which you not only have to figure out how to defeat a boss but also deal with items needed which only exist in one dimension while others exist in all of them.
Objects are of course influenced by the physical laws in the dimensions. If a wooden object is light enough and exists in all dimensions, it will float up in Aqual (the water dimension) and fall down once you switch to Terra (the earth dimension).
So the dimensions are not only influencing Oliver but items in the world as well. All these mechanics are important in the game as a whole.
Aussie-Gamer – You are aiming to release Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers across consoles, PCs and smartphones — Which consoles are being developed for, and how will the versions differ?
Natascha Röösli – We are currently developing with all consoles in mind. That includes all of the big ones available, however we might go over design ideas after we know more about the next gen Xbox and Playstation.
For Wii U we have several ideas: one plan is to use the GamePad as an actual gadget invented by Professor McSplice. It enables you to see into another available dimension without having to switch, and Spike might be able to see and manipulate objects you otherwise couldn’t. A bit like an enhanced, more complex and interactive Night Goggles for Spike. That’s just one of the design approaches, though.
We want to give the player the option to choose devices on the GamePad which in turn will change the GamePad’s mechanics. One is the mentioned SpikeCam but there are also many other design ideas which are as straight forward as a hint/help system which will make you feel like you are talking to the Professor on the actual device (or his 3D self anyway) or as complex as us trying to use the accelerometer/gyrometer for integration with quests and dimension jumping.
Unfortunately the Ouya will most probably not be strong enough for the main game. However, since we’re planning companion games for mobile we can definitely use that to the Ouya’s advantage as well. It’s all a question of time and funding.
With that said, we strongly believe that every platform has their own strength and weaknesses and that they all provide different experiences. That’s specially true if you compare mobile to console or PC/Mac.