The following article was originally produced for the site Nindie Nexus! They’ve had to move hosting sites, so all of my content will be uploaded on both my blog and their new site. They’re some of the most passionate players I know. Please go support them!
Hello Fred! Thanks for doing this little interview with me. When people typically read interviews with developers, there are quite a few clichés that you’d see. How about we tackle some of those first? What inspired you to get into game development?
Getting into game development was a natural progression from me. I’ve always loved making things, and I’ve loved video games since playing Alex Kidd in Miracle World on the Sega Master System. The first real development stuff I did was making maps for Duke Nukem 3D in the Build Engine and skins for Quake 2 multiplayer. Then there were some awful, unmentionable Sonic fangames made in The Games Factory.
kuso has the unique mechanic of setting your own checkpoint. What inspired you to create this?
I wish I could say it was some stroke of genius, but it was actually a workaround for not knowing how to implement traditional checkpoints — but I did know how to make a thing appear at a place when you press a button. I’m glad I stuck with it, because it added a really excellent layer of accessibility for players who are having a hard time.
kuso in Japanese is a term one would use to express frustration. With your own example, a Japanese speaker would say “kuso” where an English speaker would say “shit.” Do you fear that can hurt the potential of your game?
kuso isn’t available on consoles in Japan, and that’s the only place where I think the name might affect its sales. I’ve gotten a lot of tweets from people saying “why did you call your game shit,” when that’s really not the case. The word “kuso” doesn’t have a direct translation to English, and like you mentioned, is an expletive for frustration. I picked the name when I was visiting a friend in Japan. I told him I’d found a copy of Takeshi’s Challenge for the Famicom, and he said “that’s legendary kusoge“. He told me that kusoge referred to incredibly difficult (and usually poorly made) video games. LOVE and its sequel being difficult games with a clear retro aesthetic made the name seem like a good fit. I also bought a domain name from the country of Georgia to make it really fit: www.kuso.ge.
LOVE and kuso have now been ported to Nintendo Switch. When did you decide you wanted to have console ports? As a followup question, why the Switch exclusively?
As a lifelong player of games on PC as well as consoles, I of course wanted to release on a console. I felt a huge surge of pride when LOVE released on Steam in 2014, a platform that at the time was difficult to release on as an unknown indie dev, but not nearly as big as the surge of pride when I was able to tell my friends and family that I have a game on Nintendo’s console. The Switch (in my opinion) is the ideal way to play games. I travel a lot and enjoy having a handheld to play, and when I’m home I like to sit in front of a giant TV and play games, so that was why I targeted the Switch first. I’ve also been working on an Xbox One release of kuso, but it’s significantly more difficult for me to develop for than the Switch.
With LOVE and kuso existing on the same shops, why port most of LOVE‘s levels to kuso? I found it a bit odd when playing.
LOVE launched on Steam in 2014, and I supported the game for a couple of years. A little later, I started developing the sequel, kuso, which I released in 2017. Unfortunately, the game sold about 1/40th of what LOVE sold in 2014, as the indie gaming landscape has changed dramatically in those three years. I then spent the following year developing the Switch release of the game, as well as a huge, free content update which included all of the original levels from LOVE remade from the ground up, with new music, slightly revised layouts, and with modifications to suit the different physics found in kuso.
LOVE was released on the Nintendo Switch on Valentine’s Day of 2019, five years after the release on Steam. This release served two purposes: One, giving fans of the original game the original game with its original music, original levels, and original physics. Two, an alternative revenue stream.
When kuso released on the Switch, it did better than the Steam release, but it didn’t do well. kuso is only a $5 game, and I’ve been told over and over again by players that that price is too low. So by releasing this other piece of standalone content, it gives fans of kuso an option to show their support. For fans of LOVE, they have the option to buy a game they enjoyed on PC in 2014. And for everyone else, they see a game on the eShop for $2.99 that they might be more willing to try than a $4.99 game.
Nintendo is now allowing indies to develop new games with their IP. Would you ever want to work on a game with Nintendo? What franchises do you dream of making? There are many choices from Super Mario, Golden Sun, to The Adventures of LoLo.
So the first Zelda made by an indie dev is a dungeon crawling rhythm game, which is way outside of the traditional Zelda game. I think that’s what Nintendo’s doing, and it’s exciting [to see them] taking established IPs and letting indies do wildly different things with it. So I’d love to do something like taking the Mother/Earthbound characters and making some sort of third-person character action game like Bayonetta/Metal Gear Rising. Or make a Mario Kart game where you’re constructing crazy tracks rather than racing them, à la Roller Coaster Tycoon.
For my last question, and probably most cliché, what are your future plans for development? If you are willing to share. You’ve made two amazing 2D platformers, so I’m excited to see you take on other genres.
The project I’m in early stages right now on is a classic style arcade game with a twist, developed for virtual reality — specifically the Oculus Quest. I’ve been incubating this idea for some years, and it’s very different than a 2D Platformer. I hope I can pull it off.