Developer: Panic Button
Interview by James O’Connor
When Panic Button Games brought Doom to the Switch, they showed that the Switch was capable of far more than we realised. Its Wolfenstein 2 port is, if anything, even better – it’s a wonder, whether docked or handheld, how good a job it does at capturing the experience the game o ered on PS4 and Xbox One last year. We reached out to studio head Adam Creighton to ask about the company’s work with the Switch, and how they’ve managed to squeeze so much out of a mobile chip set.
HYPER>>: WHEN DOOM WAS FIRST ANNOUNCED FOR THE SWITCH, PEOPLE WERE SURPRISED THAT IT COULD BE DONE AT ALL. DO YOU THINK PEOPLE UNDERESTIMATE HOW POWERFUL AND CAPABLE THE SWITCH IS?
The Nintendo Switch is a very cool, very purpose-built hybrid device. Making games that were originally developed before the hardware was a consideration as a release platform work on there requires the right mix of game, tech, and development & platform expertise.
HYPER>>: AT WHAT POINT IN DEVELOPMENT – FOR BOTH DOOM AND WOLFENSTEIN – DID YOU REALISE THAT YOU COULD MAKE THIS HAPPEN? WAS THERE EVER ANY DOUBT OF WHETHER THESE PORTS WOULD WORK?
These are definitely swing-for-thefences projects. For titles like these we work with our partners to define joint quality goals for release, and we do a focused technical due diligence e ort. That e ort lets us know what’s doable, where the technical challenges are, and where we can push things even more. We start out with an educated, “We think we can do this, we think we know how, and we have an idea of the challenges and risks.” That due diligence e ort validates and refines those thoughts.
HYPER>>: DO THINGS LIKE FILE SIZE AND THE SWITCH’S BATTERY IMPOSE RESTRICTIONS ON YOU WHEN YOU’RE WORKING ON THESE GAMES?
Every platform has constraints unique to the hardware, and for the hybrid nature of the Nintendo Switch balancing performance and battery life is very important. That definitely factors in to development and testing (we do a lot of battery life tests during development). The Nintendo Switch is a portable device with a set amount of onboard storage, no Blu-ray media, and it needs to share space with other titles and system resources. Getting everything to fit is a series optimisation development priority calls and hard work.
HYPER>>: LOOKING AT YOUR DOOM PLAYERS, DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF
HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE ‘NEW’ TO
THE GAME, AND
HOW MANY DOUBLEDIPPED FOR
THE SWITCH RELEASE?
That’s more a question for
Bethesda, though anecdotally, we get a lot of positive feedback from both groups. To be honest, that was a big part of why I wanted to do this game. This brings the franchise to an all-new audience. Some Nintendo Switch owners are long-time, multi-generational Nintendo-only fans, and this is their first experience with Doom. And there are those of us who want
WE THINK WE CAN DO THIS, WE THINK WE KNOW HOW, AND WE HAVE AN IDEA OF THE CHALLENGES AND RISKS.
to take games like this and play wherever we are, so I’m fine buying it yet again to play on the go.
HYPER>>: YOU ALSO HANDLED THE SWITCH PORT OF ROCKET LEAGUE – HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT GETTING NINTENDOEXCLUSIVE CONTENT IN THERE?
Panic Button did the Nintendo Switch version of Rocket League, but it was Psyonix that negotiated and created the content unique to the Nintendo Switch. It’s fun stu for fans of all of those franchises.
HYPER>>: ROCKET LEAGUE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST SWITCH GAMES WITH CROSS-PLAY. THE IMPRESSION I’VE GOTTEN FROM READING INTERVIEWS ELSEWHERE IS THAT ENABLING THIS IS PRETTY SIMPLE, BUT OFTEN WE THINK THINGS ARE EASIER THAN THEY ACTUALLY ARE. IS DEVELOPING A GAME FOR CROSS-PLAY COMPLICATED?
I would not call developing for cross-platform easy, both because developing multiplayer functionality is not easy in and of itself, and when you add in multiple platforms, requirements, experiences, and more, it’s more complicated. Games with cross-platform play built into their game have a better starting point, but that’s not free - they invested in that work to get to that point. Each of the platforms have dierent authentication, technology, and experience requirements for their gamers, and I’m glad they do. Those requirements are geared toward creating a good gameplay experience on their platform of choice, and protecting gamers. Fitting into that technology experience and protecting the platform brand is important stu.
HYPER>>: IT’S MY UNDERSTANDING THAT PANIC BUTTON WANTS TO BRANCH OUT INTO ORIGINAL GAMES FOR THE SWITCH. IS THIS LESS OF A ‘SAFE’ BET THAN YOUR PORT WORK?
What developer doesn’t want to make their own games? ‘Safe’ doesn’t really fit into our company culture, because we’re a group of aspirational, push-the-envelope developers. There’s not much safe about games like Doom or Wolfenstein II - They’re technically challenging, and we’re working with Bethesda and Nintendo to bring them to a whole new platform and whole new audience.
As we create our own internal properties, we’re doing that as part of our overall portfolio, which also includes co-development and publishing. We won’t change the direction of our entire studio to do a game that might or might not be successful due to things outside of our control. We’re running a business, we want to keep being a key part of good games (whether or not they’re ours), and we want to keep growing and take care of our studio.
HYPER>>: HOW DOES PAYMENT WORK ON PORTS? IS IT A FLAT FEE FOR YOUR STUDIO’S WORK, OR ARE THERE RESIDUALS BASED ON SALES AFTER THE FACT?
Honestly, the terms for development are all over the place. We’re super flexible, and one of our strengths as a development studio is we want our projects to be collaborative partnerships with people who want to do amazing things together, and not just turn a buck or exploit a property.