Last month Dutch developer Two Tribes announced their upcoming puzzle/platformer Toki Tori 2 would miss its planned December 20 release date.
In wake of the delay, Aussie-Gamer reached out to Two Tribes co-founder Colin van Ginkel to discuss not only the delay, but his thoughts on developing for Nintendo Wii U and a little about what to expect in the studio’s upcoming game.
Founded in 2000, Two Tribes released its first game for the Nintendo GameBoy Colour, Toki Tori. By and large it was every bit a classic handheld title; readily accessible, complex in design though overly simple in execution. The games success helped cement the studio as a future indie powerhouse.
While Two Tribes have revisited Toki Tori numerous times since by way of remakes and rereleases for PC/Mac, Wiiware and most recently with the Nintendo 3DS eShop, a true sequel hasn’t been released, despite the original’s obvious success.
However between the various ‘for-hire’ and original projects the studio have worked on since, Colin expressed that a sequel has always been in the works. It was just a matter of time. “We tried making one before on several occasions, but the market was a lot different in the early 2000’s, where you had to get publishers on board for any game. Now we’re in charge of our own destiny and it’s time for Toki Tori 2!”.
With the rise of more robust digital platforms such as Valve’s Steam service and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade it’s becoming increasingly easier for studio’s like Two Tribes to self-publish their own games. With that in mind, the studio set out to develop the game it had long desired to make.
But after a whole decade could the core gameplay of Two Tribes’ GameBoy Colour original be as appealing in 2013? While it might had been tempting to simply do more of the same while taking advantage of new development tools, Two Tribes instead stripped down the game and approached the sequel from a whole new perspective.
“We only kept a few core values of the original game, the rest is all new. Instead of the old-school 8-bit feeling we had going in the original Toki Tori, we’ve now chosen to create a living breathing game world.” Colin explains, “All levels are connected and we allow players to freely explore the game’s world. It is very different from the original”.
Written about in detail over on Two Tribes’ Toki Tori 2 blog, the idea of an open world, ‘knowledge unlocks’ and free exploring are new game design concepts Colin and the team are looking at employing. Rather than guiding the player by the hand and have them unlock new items to progress, Toki Tori 2 is designed in such a way that players are instead taught skills they need to fully explore the world around them.
By Colin’s admission, everything is accessible from the get-go it’s simply up to ho much brainpower the player is willing to invest, which in turn dictates how much of the game world is unlocked.
News of Toki Tori 2 was being ported to Wii U came well after the studio began work on the game. Previously, it had been announced for PC and Mac, platforms the studio still plans to release the game for. Regarding switching over to Wii U development, Colin was clear that it was important to not discard what had been done already just for the sake of using every new feature of the console.
“Instead we looked at what makes sense from the perspective of the existing game design and added that.” Though one of the crucial features the team wanted to use was the Wii U GamePad, more importantly it’s onboard second screen which could help to compliment the existing gameplay.
Aside from Off-TV play, Two Tribes have worked in a way for players to leave themselves little markers all around the world map, while also using the second screen as a way to remind players of what lessons they’ve already learnt.
And then there’s the much discussed ‘TokiDex’, an in-game library of all the creatures players will come across. To fill in the information players will use the GamePad like a camera, lining it up with the TV screen and snapping a picture.
Since the Wii U reveal, Two Tribes have teased and openly talked about adding in a level editing mode, a mode that will allow players to create their own custom level. During our exchange Colin played down the possibility of it actually being in the final game.
“The level editor is still in a proof of concept phase at the moment… We’re aiming to make everything that’s possible for our designers also available for the players out there. It’s going to be a challenge, but it is something we want to get right” If the level editor features does find it’s way into the final build, players will be able to edit solely on the GamePad and watch as their level comes to life on the TV.
So how did Toki Tori 2 shift from being just a PC/Mac game to a downloadable Nintendo Wii U game as well? After years of developing for Nintendo platforms, the two parties have forged a strong relationship, one that seemed to benefit both when it came to Wii U.
“We talk to them (Nintendo) a lot, and at one point we decided their Wii U plans would fit Toki Tori 2 very well,” Colin expresses. At this point I asked what it was like working on a new piece of Nintendo hardware, having worked on them for over a decade. Colin responded, “Working with the Wii U is like coming home, to an improved home actually. Nintendo has improved quite a lot of things for developers working on Wii U, compared to their stetup for the Wii or DS”.
“The Wii U hardware has been easier to get to grips with compared to Wii and Nintendo DS, and their new-found enthusiasm for online functions such as Miiverse and the new eShop gives us so many more options of reaching our gamer fans!”
Of course the Nintendo eShop isn’t the only way developers can interact with their fans. With the launch of Wii U Nintendo introduced its own social networking service called Miiverse, an online community where players can write comments, draw and upload images from their favourite games. Some games such as New Super Mario Bros. U even integrate Miiverse into the gameplay experience. Regarding Toki Tori 2, I asked Colin whether something similar was planned for Toki Tori 2.
“We are currently researching Miiverse. It was supposed to come in an update, but since we’ve delayed the game from the (original) launch, we’re now looking into it again for the initial release”. Exactly what though, he wouldn’t share. I speculate it might have something to do with sharing ‘knowledge unlocks” or quite possibly allow players to share their own custom levels. Though Colin expressed the team is still uncertain whether to expand on it for the final release, “No promises yet though!”
Before ending our exchange, much like we do with many of the folks we chat with on Aussie-Gamer, I asked Colin whether he had any special message for our great community;
“We don’t know that much about the Aussie-Gamer community actually. Perhaps you can all introduce yourselves in the comments below? We love hearing from you!”
You heard the man. Go!