Interview with Keith Webb, the creator behind Go! Go! Kokopolo
Wiitalia: Go! Go! Kokopolo doesn’t exploit the touch screen a lot, just for some features such as the slot machine, the title screen and the cards to scratch; do you think the more conventional buttons are an essential interface which video gamers cannot help using, or they just fit better the gameplay you thought? In this sense, have you considered Apple devices as a potential platform for the game?
Keith Webb: I think sometimes, just the very fact that you are getting a physical feeling from pushing the d-pad, and buttons, makes you feel more in control. With Kokopolo, it needed to be d-pad, and button based, as opposed to touch screen. But I had been toying with the idea of how Kokopolo would work on an IOS device with pure touch screens. Problem is with this kind of game, if you are obstructing the screen with your finger, it could get pretty annoying.
In terms of the lower touch screen mechanics, like the slot machine etc, I think they work cause they are simple. One of the original ideas was for it to be more a “slide 3 enemies together” to digest on the lower screen, type of thing, but that would have been too complicated I think in terms of the game as a whole. With the slot machine it is a lot simpler, but that wasn’t always the case. Originally if you stopped an enemy on an “X”, it would respawn back into the level and you’d have to go get it again. A major penalty!! Thank god I didn’t continue with that idea, or I think the game would have been a disaster, and extremely frustrating!!!
Wiitalia: Have there been other ideas which were not included in the final version of the game?
Keith Webb: Actually, no. Everything else that was orginally intended to be put in the game, made it into the final version. Apart from, I guess, one hazard, that was a kind of scarecrow that would jump up out of the ground and scare the player into running around randomly This was the only thing, I think, that was left out, mostly because it would cause some issues with the level structures and layouts. I might choose to include it in a sequel if I can iron out all the potential problems!
Wiitalia: DS installed base is huge, DSiWare has been fairly successful and its games can also be viewed in the 3DS eShop, but the console is in the twilight of its career since the successor has been releasing since March; have you already thought something to be planned for the new handheld device, or will you continue to exploit the knowledge acquired by developing on DS for a little longer?
Keith Webb: I may develop 2 more small DsiWare games, probably just 200 point-ers, but they will be tiny puzzle based games with not too much depth (and would be reflected in the price). Any other games the size of “Go! Go! Kokopolo” and bigger, would be saved for the 3DS. Got an idea for one right now which might be quite cool! And of course, there is always the possibility for a straight-up sequel to Kokopolo for the 3DS, taking into account the higher resolution and larger view field…perhaps on that you could get 100 enemies chasing you at a time!
Wiitalia: It would be great! Maybe would you like to expand Kokopolo universe with new characters and a deeper story?
Keith Webb: Yep, I’d certainly like to do that! I think the first sep was simply to see if the overall game mechanic worked well, which it looks like it does:) So the next step would be to add some more depth, and expand the world and concept of Kokopolo a little. There’s lots of possibilities here, and I’m sure there would be a few characters who would want revenge on Kokopolo for all his miscievious exploits. Perhaps in the next game, a bounty would be placed on his head, to bring him to justice! That would open up a lot of possibilities for new and exciting characters!
Wiitalia: British indie video game sector has grown quite fast lately, with well-known realities such as Frontier Development, behind LostWinds series, and Media Molecule, which has actually worked with Sony but could afford a very niche project, Little Big Planet; how do you feel to be within this movement nowadays in the spotlight? How can this movement be described as an insider? You also worked with quite big software houses such as Traveller’s Tales and SEGA, so I assume you experienced different approaches in the video game sector.
Keith Webb: It’s funny because quite a few of the people I worked with at Travellers Tales Oxford, and the people I know through them, have set up their own small indie studios. I think it is becoming a big thing in Britain right now. I wonder if once you’ve had a big hit (like Hello Games’s Joe Danger on the PSN) whether your mentality changes from being an indie company, into that of a mainstream company.
I think the main difference with big software houses, as opposed to smaller indie companies, is that they have to take less risks, and also the people involved have less input overall. If you work in an indie studio, chances are you can be hands on with all aspects of the development, but it is far more riskier, and you have to take the responsibility for any problems that arise, such as bugs becoming apparent after the game has been released (ahem– say tuned!!).
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed working in a big team, back at my days at Travellers Tales oxford, but that was a good size, of about 30 or so people. I think when you get teams of 100+ then you start to feel like a small cog in a big machine, and that’s probably far less satisfying!
Wiitalia: So what do you think is the best place where to develop personal ideas or niche concepts and at the same time reaching a mainstream audience (platform, country, and so on)? Some software houses have succeeded in these terms, but it seems more and more difficult nowadays…
Keith Webb: I wouldn’t say DSiWare was the easiest place to start out. The thresholds for getting your foot in the door, are quite steep, which is sometimes good, as it keeps the quality high, but also can be bad as it leaves interesting and innovative new ideas out in the cold. If I’m honest, something like Xbox Indies would be a god place to start, but then again so many people are doing that thatyou may get lost in the crowd. Maybe always step in the oposite direction than everyone else, and you’ll be able to stand out!
In order to get mainstream appeal, regardless of platform, is also down to the marketing. If your game is specifically tagreted to a certain audience, then it makes sense to develop for the platform prefered by that type of gamer, and if it stands out, then you should be onto a winner!
A lot of companies seem to be having success with iPhone apps, also, but again, it depends on your target audience, as the more casual market may favour iOS devices.
Wiitalia: Thanks a lot!
Keith Webb: Thanks to all the readers of Wiitalia! I hope you are enjoying “Go! Go! Kokopolo!” if you’ve had a chance to pick it up, and if not check out www.kokopolo.com for more details! All the best everybody!