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Gaijin Games

18th June 2011; By Patrick

Last time we interviewed Alex Neuse of Gaijin Games, we were just on the verge of the release of the final title in the series, BIT.TRIP FLUX. Now that all six titles are available on WiiWare, the team is in the process of bringing two different collections to market: BIT.TRIP SAGA on the 3DS, and BIT.TRIP COMPLETE on the Wii. Naturally, we invited Alex back to discuss these new compilations, as well as some other things relating to the company.

Wiiloveit: To start, could you please introduce yourself for people who are lame and might not know you?
Alex: Hello all you lovers and losers! My name is Alex Neuse, and I'm the "man in charge" over at Gaijin Games, the studio behind the BIT.TRIP series of video games.

So, Gaijin Games is currently working on at least two titles right now: one for the 3DS, and one for the Wii. Would you like to detail them a bit for us?
I sure would! We have BIT.TRIP SAGA for the Nintendo 3DS, and we have BIT.TRIP COMPLETE for the Nintendo Wii. SAGA is basically the definitive on-the-go version of the entire series. It has all six games on it, in their original manifestations, and they all display in 3D and use appropriate controls for the portable device. SAGA is for people who want to play BIT.TRIP while on the move. 

For BIT.TRIP COMPLETE, we pulled out all the stops and created what we like to call the ULTIMATE EDITION collection of all six BIT.TRIP games. COMPLETE packs tons of extras and represents the definitive on-your-couch experience. We've added 20 new gameplay challenges to each game, which should test the skills of seasoned BIT.TRIPPERS in nefarious new ways. There are unlockable Art, Video, and Audio galleries... There are new difficulty modes in all the games... I'm writing letters to the fans that will be unlocked as you progress... And there are online leaderboards. In addition to all of these in-game features, COMPLETE comes packaged with a BIT.TRIP SOUNDTRACK SAMPLER audio CD with 18 tracks from the series.

Awesome! So on COMPLETE, can you detail the challenges a bit? Will they be like the Retro Challenges in RUNNER (e.g., "hit X amount of beats in a row") or something completely new?

Each challenge in COMPLETE is a bite-sized mini-level. In order to successfully complete the level, you must play a perfect run. And these are not easy. Let's make that clear right now.

When has the series ever been easy. What about the difficulty modes? Will they make missing more hazardous, like in RUNNER on PC where you can't miss a Gold Bar, or what?

The difficulty modes in RUNNER are the same as they are in the PC/Mac version, yes. But for the other games, the primary measure of difficulty is how easy/hard it is to mode up/down. Which is nice, because I don't think very many people saw the wonderful META mode in FLUX.

Agreed! Moding up was very hard in that game! About SAGA for a minute. If I wanted to play BIT.TRIP VOID as it was on my TV screen on my 3DS, is that what 2D would offer me?

That is what 2D would offer, yes. Slide that little nubbin all the way down. Also, it's most likely smaller than your TV.

Both SAGA and COMPLETE are being published by Aksys Games, yes?
That's correct. The wonderful folks at Aksys will be bringing these games to market.

What has it been like working with them ever since your debut title, BIT.TRIP BEAT, especially after experimenting with self-publishing lilt line?
We love Aksys Games. They are by far, the nicest, most honorable, fair, and handsome publisher I've ever worked with. I've worked with a lot of publishing partners over my years in the industry, and Aksys has been nothing but wonderful to collaborate with. 

As for self-publishing, we will continue to self-publish some of our upcoming games, but above and beyond that, we're going to be publishing some Robotube games in the very near future, as well as some as yet undisclosable projects from other indies too. For now, we're keeping our self-publishing to the PC/Mac versions of the BIT.TRIP series, though.

Okay then! Speaking of Robotube, are they working with you on these versions of the BIT.TRIP series now that Chris Osborn has left to form Tracer Studios? And also, what does his departure mean for Gaijin Games?

Robotube is not working on our BIT.TRIP games at all. Robotube has its own IP and games to explore, and we're working with them on getting those games to the iOS & other new markets. In fact, we'll be announcing a new Robotube game for the iPad later on today.* As far as Chris' departure goes, he wanted to kind of do his own thing, I think, and maybe step up the solo rock-star gig, which if anyone can pull that off, it'll be Chris. We're very excited to see what he's cooking up. Internally, we've been working with a few new programmers and are moving forward as only we can, WITH DOMINANCE!

* Editor's Note: This title turned out to be an iPad version of Robotube game, Bloktonik, which was announced this past Wednesday - the same day this interview was conducted.

Awesome! Now, Aksys has stated through Nintendo that SAGA will release towards the end of Q3. Do you think that COMPLETE will release first, and if so, do you have a general estimate?
We're trying our best to have both games release simultaneously. No promises though. ;)

Oh, alright! About the indie games you briefly mentioned earlier... Will this publishing be like lilt line where you also do most of the porting development, as it were, or will it be more in line with traditional publishing?
It'll be more in line with traditional publishing, since we are doing so many things in-house that we don't have much time to focus on development of other peoples' games. lilt line was an experiment for us, and through doing it, we realized that we can't pour that much of ourselves into every single thing we do.

That's understandable. Now lilt line developer 'different cloth' has been very outspoken about his views on the terrible market conditions on WiiWare, namely the fact that you need to hit a quota of sales to earn profit. Does Gaijin Games have an opinion on this reaction, or even just the market conditions on WiiWare in general?
Well, WiiWare has been good to us with the BIT.TRIP series, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is a series.  But a lot of it also has to do with the fact that the BIT.TRIP games have a certain aesthetic that spoke to people through visuals and music more easily than comparable features in lilt line. I will say, however, that WiiWare is not the most lucrative digital distribution service, as far as we've learned from other indies. There aren't as many users on the service as there are on comparable services, and let's be honest, it's not easy to buy a game on WiiWare. For as well as we've done on WiiWare, I know of several other developers who haven't been able to make ends meet having only one game on the service.

Do you have any other "tips to success" as it were to developers on WiiWare than to appeal to the audience and release in a series?

My success tip would be to not release on WiiWare exclusively. I know it's sad, because Nintendo needs more exclusive content, but at least have a PC version even if you can't release on PSN/XBLA alongside the WiiWare version.

The BIT.TRIP series as a whole has become one of the undeniable faces of the WiiWare service and it's also been pushed constantly by Nintendo. Is this something you predicted when you first launched BEAT, and how do you feel about it?

We had very high hopes for the series at first--we were very cocky. So we wanted all of that support and pushed hard to get it. The fact that we got it was both sort of expected, but also invigorating, because even though we thought we had something special and thought that it should get that kind of praise, I think each of us were unsure as to whether others thought that too. Now that I think back on it, our cockiness was probably a front. It was something we could hide behind, but it was also something that forced us to try our hardest to live up to our friends/families/fans' expectations.

Fair enough. So from December of last year all the way up until April of this year, you collaborated with VALVe and other indie developers in the Portal 2 ARG. Did you enjoy working with other indie devs towards the same goal, and would you do it again if given the chance?
We had a lot of fun doing that, and met tons of awesome people.  We'd do that again in a heartbeat.

Finally, about the BIT.TRIP series in general. Some titles are held up to extremely high esteem, such as BEAT and RUNNER, while others seem to be ignored, like CORE and VOID. Why do you think this happened, and would you rather have had all of them appreciated the same?

I wouldn't have it any other way than how it is now. Every series needs its ups and downs. And if you follow the story of CommanderVideo, you'll understand just how important games like CORE and VOID are to CommanderVideo's character progression. CORE represents a much harder time in CV's life, and VOID represents much more nebulous moments in his character progression. These are inherently more difficult concepts to grasp, especially when presented in such an abstract way. We're certainly happy with the success of games like BEAT and RUNNER, but if those are the only games that you've played, there's a lot more equally interesting (and some would argue more interesting) content in the other four games to explore too.

At this point, I'd like to thank you for answering my questions today given your very busy work schedule! Do you have any final comments or thoughts for the Wiiloveit audience?
I'd like to thank Patrick for this opportunity to sit down and chat, and for the Wiiloveit audience, I'd like you all to ponder falling into Nether Mode on the Wii U. You get where I'm going with this!?! Freaking out over here.

No doubt, SAGA and COMPLETE are big releases to look forward to. But as Alex said, they are working on other indie titles as well. What do you think those could be? Will they be as good as the BIT.TRIP series? We'll be sure to ask Alex to return as new information comes to light.

Alex Neuse was talking to Patrick
For more information on this title or the developers, click here.

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