Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to talk it up with Jean-Francois Major, who is the vice president of the delightful indie studio known as Tribute Games. This humble team released titles such as Ninja Senki DX and Curses ‘n Chaos on Steam, Playstation 4, and PS Vita. Throughout this interview I got to understand how they came to be and realize certain interesting aspects of their developments.
Ryan Silberman: How did Tribute Games come to fruition?
Jean-Francois Major: Tribute’s core team worked together at Ubisoft where we worked on Game Boy Advance titles (Star Wars Episode III, King Kong, Open Season, TMNT) and later Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. It became clear Ubisoft was moving away from 2D titles. When the team got split onto bigger AAA titles, that’s when we decided it was time to move on and start our studio and keep doing what we are good at and love, 2D games.
It’s funny you mention those GBA games, as I do indeed own copies of Star Wars and Open Season; every now and then I also think about picking up TMNT. The latter is definitely a hidden goody. I was surprised to see how fun and challenging Open Season actually turned out to be! I have always wanted to play Scott Pilgrim fully but didn’t have my own Xbox 360 since I was a middle-school kid that only had Nintendo consoles when it came out; when I finally did have one, it was too late. Apparently Ubisoft took it off of Xbox Live lately..
Cool! Yeah TMNT is an awesome game. Just sad we couldn’t afford to put multiplayer in there but then again not a lot of people had link cables.
Sadly, Scott Pilgrim got pulled off the store because the license with Universal expired.
Would there be a way for someone like myself to get a hold of Scott Pilgrim in some other way or is there simply no hope for it?
I think the only way now is to get it using a code. Best Buy still sells codes (Writer’s note: These are for the Playstation 3 version). I read Brian Lee Omalley is doing what he can to get it back up but I’m not sure if that will work out.
Seeing that Ninja Senki was created as freeware back in 2010, what made you guys consider doing a DX version for PC and Playstation systems? What is it like porting a Game Maker-created game for consoles?
We felt the title deserved a proper release to celebrate it’s 5 year anniversary. When we first released it, we didn’t have the contacts to release it on consoles and it just felt like it should’ve been on a portable console. While Game Maker simplified some of the work, sadly it also complicated our lives a bit. For example, we had to cut cross-save because it wasn’t supported and we just didn’t have the levels of access to get the feature in on our own.
Is there any particular reason why your projects (save for Wizorb) have strictly been PC/Playstation releases?
The short answer is man power. Sony reached out to us early while we we’re working on Mercenary Kings to get us on Playstation 4. So we adapted our engine to make sure it supports Playstation. With that said, we’re slowly working on adding Xbox One support. Mercenary Kings and Flinthook were both announced to come out on Xbox One. We’ll be in a better position to release on more platforms at once when our tech supports those platforms.
Have there been any games you seek inspiration from when creating projects of your own? What are some examples?
We always look at what’s out there and try to improve or adapt mechanics to our liking. With Mercenary Kings, we wanted to make a 2D Monster Hunter. We also played hundreds of platformers just to find the correct feel for the player’s jump.
When there’s an obstacle during development of a game (EX: Programming not working out right, or other quirks like that) what do you do?
We keep at it! We’re really lucky to have the stack overflow, google, countless forums and even twitter where just about everything was answered at one point. I’d be lying if I said I never hit a big wall and felt completely lonely but I always managed to find someone out there that has had or has the same issue as me and is willing to help or work together to get things moving.
What do you discuss on your podcast?
Our podcast is a great opportunity to discuss behind the scenes game design and developement. It’s also a great place to get to know us, see where we’re coming from and what inspires us. Some people connected the dots from some podcast chatter during our Flinthook reveal and guessed part of it.
What sorts of games will you guys see yourself making in the future? Are there any specific concepts that are currently underway?
We have a number of projects we want to get around to work on.
Sadly I can’t get into specifics at this time.
If you were to have a superpower, what would it be?
I wish I could teleport! I would go surf every morning and cut the commute to get more done every day.
Everybody give a hand to Jean-Francois Major! Sounds like there’s plenty of stuff cooking up over at Tribute Games and their releases are definitely worth checking out. You can find more info about Tribute and their content on their website.