Wolfgame Interview - Vita, VA-11 HALL-A, TACS Games Partnership, & the Future - ArticleAdam Cartwright , posted on 11 February 2018 / 3,178 Views
The first article I ever wrote for my own site was on the subject of external porting studios that had worked extensively on Vita. It didn't include Wolfgame, a developer who had also worked on the handheld originally via his own PlayStation Mobile releases, before moving to Vita-native porting in 2017. One of those games was VA-11 HALL-A, a "cyberpunk bartending action" title that was among the most anticipated releases for the Vita fanbase.
With VA-11 and Thom Hopper's Factotum 90 now under his belt, I took the opportunity to ask Wolfgame a variety of questions about the dynamic with his relation studio Poppy Works, the challenges he's faced in porting games to the Vita, as well as his future plans for the handheld. From the sounds of it he's got plenty more in the bag for Sony's handheld, so I'd recommend keeping an eye on his Twitter in future!
First off, tell me a little bit about yourselves! Who makes up Wolfgame and what do you all do?
My name is Wolfgang Wozniak. Wolfgame is just a little moniker I use for projects that are mostly just me, myself and I. A lot of the stuff I do is all over the place. For VA-11 HALL-A, it was porting, marketing, development, release management, business development, partnerships, merchandising, video editor, the list goes on… Of course, this was a not a game I originally made myself. VA-11 HALL-A was developed in Venezuela by Sukeban Games. I just helped do all that stuff for the PlayStation version.
Can you explain to me your relationship with the studio Poppy Works?
Sure! Poppy Works is my business partner, Cass and I’s studio. There are a few people involved here, but for Poppy I do a lot of the same work, but with the support of my colleagues.
You originally worked on PlayStation Mobile titles such as Magic Planet Snack. How did you find Sony's handling of this platform? Were you sad to see it go?
I remember when “PlayStation Mobile” was called “PlayStation Suite” and was to support the PlayStation 4 as well. That was way before the platform properly launched though. In a way I’m sad, because there’s a chance that a lot of those games were lost forever. I think Magic Planet Snack was the first PS Vita game to support “tate” mode. I hope someone is able to archive this work in the future.
We met our good friend Thom Hopper through PlayStation Mobile, and are working with him on Factotum 90 and Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo. So I’d say that it was a positive experience in the end.
Wolfgame has gained recognition for being a studio focused on the Vita even at this late stage in its life. Was this a decision you consciously made or did developers come to you requesting help with Vita projects?
Really, I think it was the success of VA-11 HALL-A that did this for us. Sukeban really delivered to fans on Steam. For us, supporting the Vita was a no-brainer, since the tools that I currently use still support the platform. If I’m going to be working on games that are at this scope and use Game Maker Studio, there’s no reason I can’t support it.
Has Sony's public withdrawal of support for the handheld discouraged you at all from future development?
We plan on supporting the PlayStation Vita for the foreseeable future.
How has Sony been as a partner? Have your contacts in the company been encouraging in bringing your titles to the console?
Our contacts have been very supportive of our recent work! I’m pleased to have them as partners. I’m looking forward to shipping more games on PS4 and Vita.
You indicated previously that Vita is a fun piece of hardware to develop for - is this still true? Have you run into any recurrent difficulties with your ports?
For me, it’s been fun since I’ve been able to fall into a groove with my toolset and pipeline. The VRAM can be a challenge for Unity titles, but we’ve been able to resolve this for our recent work.
Let's start talking about your work on VA-11 HALL-A. How did your agreement with Sukeban Games originally come about?
Oh, it’s a very simple story! I saw their game on itch.io for the Cyberpunk game jam back in 2014. I thought it looked really cool, and we reached an agreement. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy to say that it all worked out!
Did the porting process go smoothly? Any issues regarding scaling the game's UI?
Oh that was all of the work! I had to do Japanese integration from scratch as well. I made some kinda silly mistakes, but it ended up being a benefit in the end that I did it the way I did, since there were some UI issues that came up at the end that were just resolved because I did something “stupid” at the start of development. I feel like I dodged a bullet! Working with Playism on the Japanese version was a good experience.
Was it a relief to finally be able to ship VA-11? Has fan reaction been as positive as you expected?
Oh yes! I’m ready to move onto the next project. I’m happy that everyone in the Vita community worldwide has been so supportive!
Which engine does the title run on? How easy was this to use on Vita?
VA-11 HALL-A runs on Game Maker Studio. It’s really simple to get that up and running in a stable way on PS Vita. It’s a one-key-push to getting it running on the hardware. Yoyo and Sony made my life a lot easier there!
Onto your partnership with Thom Hopper - you've already worked with him on Factotum 90, is there a chance we may see future projects from Thom ported to Vita by yourselves?
Oh yea! We’re doing Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo. There’s a video up on the official PlayStation YouTube channel!
For both VA-11 and Factotum you have an agreement in place for physical copies through Limited Run Games. How did this come about?
I remember seeing one of the guys talking about it before they had even announced their service. I think I was the first 3rd party developer to get in touch with them for VA-11 HALL-A. When Factotum 90 became ready around the same time as VA-11 HALL-A for PlayStation, it was a no-brainer to work with them there as well.
Do you feel the advent of the indie physical market has played a part in ensuring the Vita is still seeing many releases even in its 7th year on the market?
I think it’s a factor for full time developers. I am seeing more and more western devs work with Japanese partners for the system as well.
Do you see physical releases of indie titles as important for preserving them for the future?
Absolutely. I am very pleased that these two releases are happening with Limited Run and Playism. I think I’ll look back on this time and be very happy that we did all of this.
Many moons ago you announced you were porting a title to Vita named Gyossait. Is this still happening?
Unfortunately, due to technical limitations around what Gyossait was written in, we’re unable to open the project files for it. Amon and I might work together in the future, but we had to scrap those plans for the time being.
Are there any dream Vita ports you'd love to work on?
I’d love to personally help with more arcade style games and visual novels. We’ve recently signed some games that I think people will be pleased with. Moving forward though, I’d love to try to focus on my own original work.
Do future Wolfgame projects still have a chance of landing on Vita? Any in the pipeline that you can give us some hints on?
No hints right now! But if all goes well, we should have nearly half a dozen still in the works.
Finally, two questions I'm asking everyone - what are some of your favourite games that you've played on Vita?
It has to be Dragon’s Crown or any of the Vanillaware games. They are beyond excellent!
Which of the Vita models if your favourite (LCD or OLED)?
I think I like the Vita 2000. It’s way lighter and much more comfortable!
I’d like to thank Wolfgame for taking the time to talk to me. You can follow updates on the projects he and Cass are working on through their Twitter accounts - Wolfgame and Poppy Works, as well as Wolfgame's website (and Poppy Works'!)
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