Interview with Keith Webb, the creator behind Go! Go! Kokopolo
Wiitalia: Go! Go! Kokopolo has been introduced as the worlds first chase-em up, full of pure arcade mayhem and a crossover between Pac-Man, Snake and Flicky; how would you furtherly describe the game in order to make players choose just Kokopolo among all other DSiWare games? I must admit the visual style surely represents a good incentive to pick it up…
Keith Webb: You’re pretty spot on with your comparisons to other games, but I think it takes certain ingredients about what made those games enjoyable, and stirs them all up to create something new.It’s a game that is un-ashamedly old-school in terms of it’s core gameplay, and can look quite chaotic from the outside, but is actually very well structured and abides to series of well defined rules on the inside. (Actually, that doesn’t make it sound fun, that makes it sound boring!) I think that if you stripped away all the graphics, sound effects, and music, and substituted all the characters with simple blocks, it would still be a really fun, and adrenaline pumping game. That’s probably what makes it enjoyable, is that it works like this at the core level! Of course, the humour in the game, that is deeply rooted in there, adds to it quite nicely. And also, I think most people can relate to being frustrated at some point, and wanting to cause a bit of mayhem to let it all out. This allows players to do that, but in a fun and cartoony environment!
Wiitalia: Within the indie gaming movement, it is still possible to clearly find the influences given by personal background in terms of games played during the childhood and current gaming tastes, opposite to market rules that usually try to suppress innovative ideas and creativity; Tanukii Studios is a young team which fully expresses your person, and obviously your knowledge and feelings as a video game lover: how did this affect the development of your first work and to what extent? Which games insipired you while developing?
Keith Webb: First and foremost, I wanted to make the game fun! Something that I would have liked to have played when I was younger, although of course it is still fun now! We were lucky as a small Indie studio, with no expectations from consumers, that we could take a risk and produce something of this nature, which may or may not have worked out. In the end, it looks like it did, as it is getting a really good response from players and critics alike! Many of the old classic arcade games were foremost in my mind when designing the game. You mentioned Pac-Man and Snake earlier, which were big influences, but also “clear the screen of enemies” games like Bubble Bobble and Zupapa by SNK. Flicky actually wasn’t an initial inspiration for the game, even though it probably resembles that the most from the outside, the game plays entirely different. Some classic platform maze games, such as Taito’s New Zealand Story were huge influences in the layouts of the stages, in the way that they twist around each other, rather than simple progressing from left to right! These are the games that made up my childhood, which is probably why the inspiration shows up quite well in the game!
Wiitalia: Go! Go! Kokopolo was initially intended to be released on both Wii and DS as a retail game, when DSi and its digital delivery system were not announced yet. When did you realize it would have been a better choice to move to DSiWare and how this changed your plans in the matter of contents, development horizon and so on? The technical aspect glaringly shows its indie nature but in terms of contents I can say it wouldn’t have made a poor impression as a full retail title.
Keith Webb: It’s true that it was initially planned as a retail DS game when I decided to actively pursue the project. A couple of issues arose with that, most notably a publisher and a distribution channel. Again, as a more riskier title, many publishers I approached with the initial prototype and design outline were very cautious of committing to the project, which is quite understandable as retail needs a lot more overheads, and therefore they need a pretty certain guarantee that the game would sell. Kokopolo was a new IP, so I guess they didn’t want to take the risk.
What that has done however, is allowed me to have more control over the project as a whole. Perhaps with a big publisher, they might have wanted to change things, and the game might have turned out pretty different!
In the final DSiWare product, it is actually identical to what I wanted the retail one to be, nothing omitted, everything fitted in the game, so that’s good. The only one slight disappointment, is that it would have been nice for me to go into the shops and see a boxed copy on the shelf, but then again, it would have probably would have been sold at a lot higher price, which may have put people off!
Wiitalia: When I had played the game, the first thing I noticed was the perfect mixture of different genres, since it contains platforming elements, a strong action mark and a puzzle nature coming from a bright construction of the stages and a wide array of enemies; moreover, the story is greatly connected to this gameplay. How did the development process work? Did you imagine the game structure at first, or the idea of the characters and the plot came before?
Keith Webb: Actually, the initial idea came from a mish-mash of small game ideas floating around in my mind. I’d wanted to do a top down bomberman-esque game, which the viewpoint comes from. I wanted to also do a fast-paced platform game, which the speed and action comes from. I wanted to do a puzzle and clear the screen type game, where the basic concept comes from.
In fact, I just remembered the other day what the reason was behind a majority of the enemies being based on vegetables was. I had originally played a game called BakuBaku animal by Sega (a type of PuyoPuyo clone where certain animals can eat cetain foods). I remember liking this idea, and was thinking of developing a top-down puzzle game, where you push or lure food-based enemies into different animals open mouths. I think I ran with this idea, and it became the basis for the SnapSnap plant and luring enemies! Strange, I forgot about that until recently!
The story came about, because I needed something completely non-serious for the plot, to show the over the top nature of the characters. Kokopolo was originally conceived as a hero, but it made sense to switch the roles to make it a much more unique experience!