Interview with Golgoth Studio on Toki Remix

Coming out of nowhere earlier this year, new kids on the block Golgoth Studio announced that they were working on a remixed version of beloved classic Toki for XBLA and WiiWare. Fans across the Internet went ape when they saw the loving attention to detail the studio was lavishing on everyones favourite classic gaming simian.

We got the opportunity to speak to speak to Anthony De Sa Ferreira, Business Development Director for Golgoth about their studio and working on the title.

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Tell us about Golgoth Studio – how did you get started?

During the recent financial crisis, I was unfortunate enough to lose my job and it was a really bad time to find something new. I was tired by my old job as “Commercial Director” and since I’d been a hardcore gamer for a long time, I thought of working In the Video Game industry. But before Golgoth Studio, I’d never seen a real opportunity to do it.

In June 2008, I met Philippe Dessoly in regards to his 2D Art work and immediately the idea of doing something with him came to mind. It was the time where digital platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade were beginning to meet with good success. I talked to Philippe about my idea to create a Digital Studio focusing on modern 2D Games and he was really excited. Because of our love for Grendizer, we called this project Golgoth Studio.

You’ve announced that you’re bringing a reworked version of Toki to Xbox Live Arcade. How did this project get started?

When Philippe Dessoly gave me the green light on the studio concept, I started to think about what could be our first game. In 2008, we’d seen many retro games on Xbox Live Arcade and we’d heard many complaints from players about the 3D used or the poor quality of these releases. So we decided to show off our 2D Skills by reworking an old title.

The first idea was to put together a modern 2D version without using tiles or pixels, something closer to a cartoon. The choice of Toki came really naturally, it’s a cult game for us and Philippe was actually in charge of the Amiga port, so it was like it was already written.

The most striking thing about the update is the lovely graphics. How did you settle on the style you wanted?

Thanks for praise! When we started to work on the new Toki design, the first thing we created were how it actually stayed. It’s probably strange, but we don’t draw lots of different styles and select one afterwards. The style is simply like that. Philippe already knew before hand how Toki should be and it was the same for the level design.

What else can players expect from the game and how have you ensured that those who didn`t play the game the first time round will be won over?

Players trying this remixed version of Toki, regardless of whether they know the original version or not, can expect to really be surprised by the graphics and the quality of the animation. We’ve put in huge amounts of work to create something close an interactive cartoon and I’m really confident that all gamers will be able to play and enjoy it. I think you’ll need to test it to truly understand, but I can only tell you if you already find the game beautiful in the trailers , when you see it on your HD TV, you’re going to find it really amazing.

You’ve already announced that you’re going to be reworking Joe & Mac Caveman Ninja. How far along is the project and is there anything you can tell us about this remake?

Currently we’ve not really started to work on the Joe and Mac remake, we’ve only done the new character designs and some item design. As we’re a small team we prefer to focus on one game and once we’ll finish it we’ll start to work on another one.

But to give you more information about Joe & Mac it will be a mix between the SNES and Arcade versions. We asked the community, through our forums, how they could imagine this new version should be. We received many great comments which will allow us to create a very interesting version of the game. Also the online co-op mode will be an important feature for us.

Has it been easy getting the rights to work on older titles? Have any of the original teams behind Toki or Joe & Mac been involved with these remakes and, if so, is this daunting or inspiring?

The most difficult thing with such old licenses is finding a good contact and to be sure it’s really the owner of the property. On Toki and Joe & Mac we were really lucky, but finding the right person was a real adventure which finally finished up in Asia. The Japanese company, G-mode, is really an important partner for us on the Data East license.

About if the original teams are involved in our version, the answer is unfortunately not because they just don’t exist now. We’re starting from the beginning with a clean slate, so everything new in our version will come from our imaginations.

Both Toki and Joe & Mac still have a huge following amongst older gamers who remember them from their childhoods. How has the fan reaction been to the news that you’re updating them?

It’s true, many older gamers remember these titles, especially Toki. When we announced our Toki Remixed version we received many mails of support from players, press, and even other studios. I think people really appreciate the fact that we keeping the 2D and the original spirit of the games.

It’s really great to work on a game, even it’s not a huge production, and to be followed by so many people like that.

Since you first unveiled Toki and then Joe & Mac, there have been lots of people requesting remakes of all sorts of games. Is there anything you’d really like to work on?

We’d love work on things like Dungeons and Dragons, Cadillac’s and Dinosaurs, Windjammers and the original Wonderboy games.

Capcom informed us that they currently working on some old titles for remakes, if Final Fight and Magic Sword is really what we could call a remake. Of course, I’m just kidding there and have a lot of respect for Capcom’s work.

We’ve tried Sega but have yet to get an answer from the UK licensing department . It seems that they‘ve not received our mails, or the guys there are really busy and probably need their sleep, I don’t know. (laughs)

Maybe the situation will change once Toki has been release. At least I hope so.

A lot of companies release older titles just as simple ports rather than giving them a proper HD makeover – what’s your opinion of this?

As you know, gaming is a business, so I think when publishers see the opportunity for sales of old titles, they try the fastest way possible to generate profit. And I’m sure you saw, like me, this huge wave of old title being release on all digital platforms, including ROMs running on emulators.

I think its shame because most people who buy these titles would be quite happy to wait on a reworked game. Even if it’s not on the graphics, it could be a new mode or new features. But I understand that it’s not the principal target for some companies. I’m sure gamers will appreciate our vision of what should constitute a remixed version.

Have there been any particular challenges on working on a downloadable title that you’ve needed to overcome?

The hardest challenge is probably to be approved by a first party, especially for the digital market on consoles with Xbox Live Arcade and PSN. Right now it’s really hard to get green lit with a modest title, so it’s important to take care.

Another point with multiplatform releases, it’s important to know the size limits of each platform. It’s kind of stupid that on XBLA you have almost no limit, whereas on Wiiware you’re restricted to just 40Mb!!

Is there anything you’d change about the way the current downloadable distribution system actually works?

The problem with the system right now, especially on consoles, is that the business model is much too similar to that of retail distribution. I mean, normally on a digital platform, the game price should be far more interesting due to the fact that the game you’ve just downloaded can’t be sold or given to a friend. But actually that’s not the case.

Also I really don’t understand why publisher are still necessary for downloadable games. The only way should be Developer (2nd party) to 1st party only. The price would then become even more interesting, and the choice itself even more important.

XBLA, PSN and WiiWare have become a whole new world for games developers this generation – do you think there’s a definite place in the future for downloadable games?

I’m think XBLA is here to stay and will come out as the best digital platform unless Sony wake up soon. More so for Nintendo! When you think that gamers pay each month to use Xbox Live, it’s hard to understand how Sony and Nintendo are often in so late.

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A big thank you to Anthony and all at Golgoth Studio for taking the time to speak to us. Expect to see Toki on Xbox Live Arcade and WiiWare during 2010.