De­vel­oper: Panic But­ton

In­ter­view by James O’Con­nor

Hyper - - FEATURES -

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 dier­ent 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.

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