The following lines contain an exclusive interview with Jonathan Lavigne in which he talk about game in development Mercenary Kings, Paul Robertson, Kickstarter and Ouya.
Seeing the actual designs of the preview video of Mercenary Kings and some of the concept arts and sprites, they looks like some of the content in the video animations Paul Robertson had done in the past. How much crazyness from Paul’s particular universe we’ll see in MK?
JL: While all assets in the game are entirely new, some ideas and characters from Paul’s movies will make an appearance in Mercenary Kings. We don’t know exactly yet what are all the stuff we might include, but you can at least expect the Violence Kings to make a comeback.
Related to that question, is now Paul Robertson part of the crew, having a more active role, or is he just a collaborator, like in Wizorb?
JL: When I asked Paul to help out on Wizorb, I thought that it’d be just for a few animations, but he ended up doing all animations for the characters. In the case of Mercenary Kings, he’s been part of the project since the very beginning and he’s much more involved. He’ll even be coming to Montreal and work with us at our office for a few months.
One of the first things that comes to mind seeing MK is Metal Slug, but you for sure have some titles in the head while you are developing KM, which ones do you have as the most inspiring?
JL: Actually, besides for the theme, Mercenary Kings won’t be taking that much from Metal Slug. I really hope that people won’t get the wrong idea about how it plays. It’s not going to be a “run and gun” game in the proper sense of the term.
I’d say that Monster Hunter, Phantasy Star Online, Castlevania HD and Borderlands are the tiles we refer to the most while working on Mercenary Kings. The Neo Geo Pocket version of Metal Slug might also be a bit closer to Mercenary Kings concerning the pacing and the structure of the levels.
In the MK trailer the music is very different from Wizorb, this time it has a more retro style, what could you tell us about the BSO?
JL: The music in the reveal trailer is very very early. The soundtrack of the finished game will probably sound entirely different. Also, the style will differ from Wizorb obviously because we’re doing an entirely different game, but also because the music is composed by Patrice Bourgeault (the same composer who worked with me on Ninja Senki).
Did you brought MK to any publisher or you already had your mind about not using publishers for your games so you could control all developing and marketing details, to make titles like in old days? Are you using crowdfunding after the success of several indie (and not so indie) studios, or you were already convinced to go the crowdfunding path? Are this kind of games really hard for a publisher to get interested in?
JL: We actually might have to go with a publisher to release Mercenary Kings on consoles (XBLA or PSN for example). However, we plan to finance the entire development by ourselves (in addition to the amount raised on Kickstarter). So, we have 100% control over the content we want to include in the game and how we want to market it. And going with a publisher for the distribution phase might actually help reach a wider audience.
Going for crowdfunding was a bit of a gamble because the game was still in a very early state. However, we chose to go for it because it was the path that would grant us the most freedom and also because it would help us to define our project better and get people to talk about it and spread the word. In the end, I’m glad we did it because it proved that there is a strong interest in new 2D games like Mercenary Kings.
I don’t believe that publishers are necessarily uninterested by these kind of games, but within a market with so many indies and at the same time so many triple-A games it can be hard to get some attention from them.
With other Kickstarter projects we read about how much was wasted in rewards for high tier pledges (making and distributing them), you have that in mind when designing your KS campaign to keep phisical rewards at minimun and opting for digital rewards? (if i could afford it, i would love to be as a npc in the game, so i think is a good thing)
JL: Yes, exactly. We tried to learn from what other have experienced with Kickstarter. There were however some complaints about our rewards, but in the end, I’m glad that we stuck to our plan because we really wanted to use this money for the development of the game rather than on swag.
You haven’t reach the 125k$ level so the game will ship with features from the 75k$ level, but you’ve said about implementing features from the list slowly after the game ships. Do you have all planned out or it’s something where the community could have it’s weight, like for example, choosing to add first online multiplayer than more enemies
JL: We’re confident that we’ll make the initial version a bit more ambitious than what was described in the 75k feature list. We’ll definitely ask for feedback from the community about post-release features, but we’re determined to bring all planned features to the final version of Mercenary Kings.
What’s cool about Kickstarter is that we now have many beta-testers willing to help balance the game and make it better.
Will the game have any kind of community component? like online scoreboard, trophys or achievements?
JL: Yes! It will have everything you mentioned.
Ouya: a caprice or the future? You already had bet for it twice (you’re bakers and developers) what does catch your attention from Ouya the most?
JL: It’s a console made for the comfort of the living room, it features classic controllers and it’s open to all developers. I don’t see any other console manufacturer with that much focus on indies developers so we’re glad to encourage it.
Some months ago you joined the Molyjam with “Friends til the end”, and we read about you wanted to make an arcade game like the ones in MSX computers. Had any of you grown playing this machines and Konami’s megaroms? here in Spain we have an active MSX community, and there is an annual event called MSXDev where new MSX games are developed. Do you know about it?
JL: I don’t think that there’s an active MSX community in Canada unfortunately. I only discovered MSX games a few years ago when I was working on GBA games, and their craft and simplicity really got my attention. And no, I didn’t know of such events in Spain. It’s awesome, I should really attend it if I ever travel to Spain!