Japan is just a click away!

interview: Rockin’ Android producer Jody Mahler

Since launching its first game last year, indie game publisher Rockin' Android has developed a large fanbase thanks to its propensity for bringing PC doujin shooters over from Japan. Its latest release is Gundemonium Collection, a compilation that contains three wildly different shooters by doujin developer Murasame of Platine Dispositif. The developer is already well known by some of the more hardcore shmup fans, having created several quality shooters like the ones that make up the Gundemonium trilogy as well as non-shmups like Engage to Jabberwock and Bunny Must Die. Unfortunately, the language barrier has kept many from fully enjoying games created by Platine Dispositif and other circles from that region. Thankfully, Rockin' Android realized the potential independently-produced retro-style 2D games have to offer and saw fit to release games from various developers already. However, with Gundemonium Collection, RA took things to another level by converting/porting the games to the PS3, thereby providing the once PC-only titles to a much wider audience.

otakuxgamer had a chance to talk to producer Jody Mahler at E3 and ask him about Gundemonium Collection, the localization process, and Rockin' Android's future plans. This is what he had to say -

Before we get started, can you tell us about Gundemonium Collection?

So, there's the three games - GundeadliGne, Hitogata Happa, and Recollection. All from the same Japanese developer. Each game has its own unique storyline, but they're all tied into this concept that there's another dimension - a dark world dimension that's been trying to bleed its way into that fantasy world. It has a western element to it, and a kind of a steampunk feel. The whole idea is that this other world opens up a portal to our dimension and starts sending these demons over, and that's who you're fighting against. So you're part of this force [that uses] alchemy, magic, and traditional guns to combat that and you're basically the best of the best. That's where all three games tie into the storyline.

Each game is unique. For example, Recollection [is single player, only moves forward, and is a side scroller] while GundeadliGne is co-op and it's both sides, so you switch back and forth, left and right, to fight. Hitogata Happa is top-down. And what's unique about Hitogata Happa is the storyline. What happens is instead of you going to fight [the demons yourself], you meet a sorcerer. She takes all these little dolls and she charms them, brings them to life, and then she gives you the power to control them. So instead of you fighting with the whole army by yourself, you have the army of dolls. Each one has its own unique weapon. You could choose to use them in a sacrificial way - kind of like a kamikaze thing. Or, you can use them [strategically]. Some bosses require a sacrifice, but in this game it's good to sacrifice your doll because you got a whole surplus.

If one of your dolls dies, do you lose that particular doll's powers?

You can buy more. At the end of the round you get to go buy more dolls. So you're going, "I'm getting low on doll whatever." You [can] just go buy a whole bunch more. So it's kind of a fun perspective.

Who handled the PS3 conversion?

We handled that. So that's part of my process - to oversee that and make sure that happens. We had a team of developers who worked to take this PC game and get it ready for the PS3. There was a lot of development that goes along with that. So you can't just take it and throw it on there. You get kind of a blueprint, but a lot of code is re-worked.

This team is at Rockin' Android?

We have a hybrid team. We have people on our side who prep things for Sony, and Sony has their own internal team that takes that, implements it, does things that need to be done. So it's a cross-production in that sense. Sony's doing their half and we're doing our half to get it ready for the PS3.

Does this mean that, at least as far as 2D is concerned, you can take pretty much any PC game and convert it to the PS3 if there was a demand?

In a perfect scenario, yes, but it's really highly unlikely. You need to know extensively how the PS3 works. 2D or 3D, it's not as simple as "can you just re-use that code." So it really doesn't work. But, of course, you can get some game and then port it over to another system. But [it's not like there's a] converter or anything like that. That doesn't exist.

How long did it take to do Gundemonium Collection?

About four months total. We really pushed through them. That's really short in game development time.

What kinds of games is Rockin' Android focused on?

We love retro-style games. Right now, we got these new shooters coming out. And that's just part of the passion, the love of shooters. But we're about all genres. So we've got an action RPG coming along. We've got some puzzles coming in. We are definitely not just limited to just shooters. But shooters are our passion. So we love to just have those out there so people can enjoy them. For the most part, its kind of a lost art - you don't really see 2D shooters any more.

We're definitely passionate about the Japanese titles and moving those over to this market. But we're open, so we're not locked down to that. But that's just what we're focused on right now.

You have a poll on your site that asks "what types of games would you like to see Rockin' Android release?" Right now, the results are 65% for 2D side-scrollers, 17.7% for shooters, and 17.5% for fighting. What particular 2D side-scrolling platformers would you be looking into if you were to go into that genre?

I can't give you any future title releases. We do have more side-scrolling shooters coming up, but before we release those, we want to get some other different genres out. So we want to get an action RPG out of the way. We got some puzzles. We want to knock those out. And then we'll probably reset the cycle and we'll go back to the next round of shooters that we have planned.

I love co-op. I think co-op is just better. Especially with a side-scroller. It's just... You really depend on your partner - you really need somebody to watch your back. So, keep your eyes opened for those types. You won't be disappointed.

I noticed that you had "fighting" as one of the options in the poll. Will you be pursuing the more well-known ones that are out there?

As far as a fighting title goes, we would like to release [an SNK-like or Street Fighter-style 2D fighter]. I don't have anything right now to tell you about, but we do have something planned.

Have you heard of the Melty Blood series?


How about Akatsuki Blitzkampf? It's a popular fighter that's similar to older Street Fighter games in which all the characters look like they're wearing German uniforms.

No. I haven't heard of that one. I'm gonna have to check that out.

How about Arcana Heart?

Yeah. I haven't played it myself, but I know the name.

Would those titles be under consideration?

I know the first one, and I do like it. I do enjoy that game. There isn't anything officially in the works to pursue those games, but if I could, if I could just make them happen, yeah - I'd bring those things in. I haven't played the other two, but they sound awesome anyway. But there is nothing officially in motion to get those games.

Would it be possible for you to bring over some of Cave's games? We know that the new titles are locked down by Aksys, but how about some of its older ones?

You know, anything is possible, but there is nothing on the plate currently to even pursue that. But anything is possible.

So, you're only on the PS3...

We're exclusive to PS3. There will be the [original PC versions], and then there will be [the PS3 conversions]. But right now, no Xbox, no Wii.

This is kind of big for Sony, because this is the first time Sony has really kind of opened themselves up to smaller publishers and developers. So, that's a big step. Microsoft had their developer thing going on for a little while now. Nintendo's got their WiiWare. And it's just about now that Sony said "ok, some of these smaller guys have really awesome ideas" - a good game doesn't always have to be from this big major publisher or developer. So that's where we've come in, and we're completely happy and stoked about having that opportunity. Because otherwise, [this release] wouldn't exist. So Sony's been a big push to really open up the doors to the smaller guys.

On the PC side, does your deal with Direct2Drive prohibit you from using Steam?

Steam is a possibility. We're hoping, but nothing's official. There are some politics there, but it's something that can be worked out, negotiated. But right now we're just Direct2Drive and GamersGate. And soon we will also have our own online downloadable games section on our web site so you can get them directly from us.

Will we ever be able to buy the PC versions at retail locations?

Right now, if you happen to be in LA, there are one or two shops that carry. But most of the time, your best bet is just to get them from the web site. But, we're always trying to expand, so it would be awesome to see [our games] at Best Buy one day.

A little while ago it was announced that Rockin' Android would be releasing five games. Four of them already came out, but the one called Miku Miku has yet to be released...

We still have a couple of titles that are right now shelved for release. They're finished and ready to go, but it's just not time yet. They'll be out, but just not yet. The schedule will be on the web site. We actually sat down and we started mapping things out, because now we have a really strong idea of when the release dates are going to be met.

So is there anything else that you wanted to add?

Support us. Buy our games. The more support you give, the more games we can turn around, and that's always lovely. And we're actually happy to be in a place where you're not going to see many others. You're not gonna see anybody else putting out what we put out. [We're trying to show] our dedication, commitment to the games that we really love, that really deserve more of an audience. And we're hoping the PS3 is going to allow that audience to grow.

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