Kickin’ it with WayForward – Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
UPDATE: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is now funded! You can still help the campaign by pledging on Kickstarter, or you can also use the Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Paypal Store! Remember, there are several Stretch Goals that will make the game even better, and all pledges at Kickstarter or the Paypal Store will go towards reaching those extra goals.
This episode of Kickin’ It With is a real treat for all you rebels out there! WayForward has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, a new HD game in the Shantae series and I got a chance to talk with three of the creative folks behind the game. Buckle up and get ready to hear more about it from Matt Bozon, Gigi D.G. and Jake “Virt” Kaufman!
4cr: Hi Matt! Thanks for joining us this week. Can you give our readers some information on who you are and what you’ve worked on? And yes, you can do the WHOLE LIST!
MATT: Hi, yes my name’s Matt Bozon, the creative director at WayForward and I also wear the publishing hat when it comes to our original games. I’ve directed a lot of games, the most notable being Contra 4, Shantae and the Mighty series, Sigma Star Saga and many other games dating back to SNES. I’ll also occasionally ride side-car on projects like Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why Did You Steal Our Garbage?, Double Dragon Neon, Bloodrayne: Betrayal, and Ducktales: Remastered. My entire career covers around 200 games. Anything that WayForward has made I’ve been a part of in one way or another.
4cr: The WayForward site had a teaser countdown for several days and when it was all over, a new Kickstarter campaign went live for Shantae: Half Genie Hero! WayForward is a respected and successful studio, why do you need to go to Kickstarter for funds to make Shantae: Half Genie Hero a reality?
MATT: Our business is based on contract work, which constitutes 95% of our total business over the last 23 years. Our goal since day one has always been to make original titles. But in all that time, we’ve only been able to self-fund 8 games, each a labor of love that takes a backseat to our “day job.” So far Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is the largest self-funded endeavor we’ve attempted, and it’s been a real stretch. To make the HD Shantae game that fans are asking for, we would need to either give up the rights to a publisher in exchange for funding, or give Kickstarter a try. The choice was easy, but the work wasn’t. We ended up funding a large amount of pre-production to get to the demo phase (the parts you see in our Kickstarter video). It took several months to get there, and cost as much as one of our handheld games.
4cr: What can people expect from this new Shantae adventure? Is it a retelling of the original game? Does it re-purpose part of the story of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge? Is it a completely original story?
MATT: We considered making a HD version of the original, but decided that fans might be more receptive to a new game. And since we’d be widening the audience significantly, a fresh approach felt best.
4cr: How long have you been working on Shantae: Half Genie Hero?
MATT: We started pre-production about a year before the launch of the Wii U. We slowly built up the visual style and character designs, and built up the tech needed for Ducktales: Remastered while being mindful that Half-Genie Hero would likely come next. Once Ducktales was complete, we took the existing art elements and began to shape them into the demo, which was roughly 3 months of a full console team.
4cr: With Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse set for release this year, and Shantae: Half Genie Hero aiming for a late 2014 release, can WayForward work on so many projects without risking any delays?
MATT: Under normal circumstances, no. Fans of Shantae know that the span between games has been 5 or 6 years in between, and that’s because we have to take on contract work whenever we can. However, this Kickstarter project will replace a work-for-hire project. We’re getting hired by fans, and contract work is always on time… we’re used to delivering for a movie release date or Happy Meal promotion. With funding in place, we feel very confident in our delivery date.
4cr: Jake “Virt” Kaufman and “awesome 2D game” really go well together. Will Virt be working on the OST for Shantae: Half Genie Hero? Is it possible to get the soundtrack to the game as a reward for the Kickstarter campaign?
MATT: Yes! We will be offering the OST for backers, along with special bonus songs depending on which reward tier you go for. Jake is extremely excited to be working on this game. Our working relationship dates back to the original Shantae game on Game Boy Color. I would not want to do this without him.
4cr: The game is set for release on Wii U, PS3, PS4, 360, XBOX and PC, but some of the backers are asking for Linux, Mac, 3DS and Vita versions as well. Have you considered releasing the game for those platforms?
MATT: We have just announced adding Vita, and are approved to develop for Xbox One as well. We’re still looking into Linux & Mac. We don’t expect to deliver on 3DS. We feel that Pirate’s Curse is the best possible fit for that system, which is why it is an exclusive title.
4cr: The campaign racked up over $120,000 in pledges in the first 24 hours and with the way things are going, you must be already considering stretch goals for the campaign. Can you please tell us about what you have planned for Shantae: Half Genie Hero if the main goal is surpassed?
MATT: After virtually high-fiving our backers, we’d like to set our sights on expanding the adventure a bit. The first stretch goals make the game one chapter longer and add replay incentives; one adds Risky Boots mode, which allows players to play the “villain” storyline. Other goals add unlockable costumes that make Shantae play differently… great for speed runners and completionists. We have more ideas than exist in even our stretch goals, so hopefully we can get into those soon.
4cr: We once again want to thank you for your time. Would you like to add something else before we go?
MATT: Yes, I’d really like to extend our thanks to the fans. None of us expected to see them jumping in the way they did. We hoped they’d like the game and want to pledge, but we never dreamed that they’d push so hard with the campaign. They’re staying up late, answering on the comments board, retweeting, and it’s all we can do to keep up. We’ll keep daily updates coming — our biggest surprise is yet to come, so get excited!
4cr: How did you end up working on the backgrounds for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero?
Gigi D.G.: I was contacted by Matt Bozon and asked to work on the project a few months back.
4cr: Are you working at WayForward or is this a one-off?
Gigi D.G.: This was a freelance job.
4cr: Which backgrounds from the trailer did you work on?
Gigi D.G.: I designed the lighthouse, the desert, the vertical tunnel, the forest, and the waterfall cave, all shown in the first minute or so of the trailer.
And, finally, here is Jake “Virt” Kaufman to close out this Kickin’ it With triple play!
4cr: Hi Jake. Thanks for joining us! Can you give our readers a bit of an intro and an idea of what you do in your line of work?
Virt: I’m WayForward’s staff composer, and my job consists mainly of blind panic and frequent trips to YouTube to watch videos of puppies, in order to temporarily silence the horrifying cacophony in my head. Somehow, I end up with finished tracks, sometimes dozens per week. I write stuff for nearly every game we develop, but sometimes I get help from old friends like Ian Stocker, who collaborated with me on “Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know!” When I started at WayForward, I was designing all of our sound effects too (Bloodrayne: Betrayal, for example) but we’ve since built up a whole in-house audio team to handle sound design, and they do a phenomenal job!
4cr: How much music will you be providing for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero?
Virt: As much as possible; a full-length soundtrack comparable to anything we’ve released. I want to absolutely stuff it to the gills with music. The fact that we’re developing TWO Shantae games side by side (Pirate’s Curse for 3DS, and Half-Genie Hero for PC/consoles and Vita) is both wonderful and scary, since they’re very different games stylistically, and I have to set them apart musically. For Hero, I’m thinking I want to start fresh, rather than remixing existing Shantae tracks. Big and shiny and magical, with lots of orchestration and live instruments and less of a chiptune-y feel, but still belly-danceable and funky and full of fun. No idea how I’m going to pull that off.
4cr: Some of the campaign stretch goals are for extra chapters that will expand the game. Will you be working on additional music to frame the new content? That would be a nice bonus and would make backers up their pledge since it means the digital soundtrack offered as a reward would be bigger!
Virt: If there’s extra content in the game, you bet there will be extra music! The more you guys support us, the bigger and cooler the game will be, and the more music I will write for it.
4cr: Where can people purchase your music?
Virt: All my soundtracks are free (with optional donation — in other words, name your price with no minimum) at http://virt.bandcamp.com. I believe in giving away as much music as I can, both to get people excited about our games, and to share the love with my fellow game music fans. If you actually purchase an album, the proceeds go right back into my studio gear fund, so you can help me make better soundtracks by keeping my equipment and sounds up to date!
4cr: Will the physical soundtracks offered in the Kickstarter be signed by you?
Virt: Maybe! I can’t think of a reason not to!
We would like to thank everyone for their time, and we look forward to playing Shantae: Half-Genie Hero next year once it is funded!