The quest to save Evertonia
The Australian & NZ indie landscape is often an afterthought amongst the hustle and bustle of the billion dollar video game industry. As it stands, most are well aware of the success stories of games such as Untitled Goose Game, Hollow Knight, Path of Exile, Ashen and Golf Story, but if you dig further into our local scene, what you’ll find is scores of untapped, talented developers just waiting to be discovered. There are studios working on large scale multiplayer titles, stunning 2D games, heartfelt narrative driven adventures and innovative gameplay experiences, to name only a few.
In an effect to shine a spotlight on these studios, each week we will be sitting down with the Aussie and Kiwi developers behind the games that are moving the local industry forward.
To kicks things off, we are heading across the Tasman to Auckland, New Zealand, where 3 person studio Rainbite has been beavering away on their upcoming release Trigger Witch. If you missed our coverage of Trigger Witch earlier this month - the game is a highly stylised 2D twin-stick action title that combines the often separate concepts of fantasy and firearms. Players step into the boots of Colette, a prospective graduate from an academy for Witchcraft and Triggery. After a mysterious man invades the realm of Evertonia, it is up to Colette to restore peace to her home.
Hi Dan, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us to discuss everything Trigger Witch and Rainbite. For those new to your studio, tell us a little about its history and team?
Thanks for having us! We're a small team of three from New Zealand focusing on making 2D games with unique design. We met at university and decided to start our own company after graduating. Our first title Reverie is a zelda-like set in modern day New Zealand, and is available for PS4, Vita and Switch. Our second release is Rym 9000, a psychedelic vertical shooter, which was originally developed by Sonoshee. We ported it to PS4 with a variety of improvements and extras.
That seems like the way to do it! As someone who has played Reverie, Trigger Witch looks like a well-placed step forward - what lessons did you learn while developing Reverie and Rym 9000 that helped in the process for Trigger Witch?
We really got our work pipeline down - who handles what in which order etc. We learnt all the aspects that make up a 2D action-adventure title with Reverie, albeit on a smaller scale, and could apply them to Trigger Witch. There were a few tweaks and certain areas we gave special attention to that were weaknesses of Reverie's - particularly around player involvement in the world/narrative and the overly simplistic combat. Hopefully that effort shows on Trigger Witch!
Well by the looks of the recent trailer I think it's evident the focus put on Trigger Witch's combat has really made it shine! How many guns will Colette have at her disposal?
Thanks, we put a lot of effort into how the combat feels - you do a lot of it in Trigger Witch so it was important to feel satisfying and fun. Colette has 9 weapons in total at her disposal, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Trigger Witch seems to offer a unique blend of fantasy and firearms, how did Rainbite land on the idea of combining these two often separate ideas?
It was us trying to come up with a concept that would really grab peoples' attention. We wanted something funny and unexpected - and the juxtaposition of a classic fantasy world of witches and critters with military firearms fit that bill.
I think everyone will agree the juxtaposition between the two certainly demands your attention! Has the game shifted or changed from its original vision - was the plan always to make a 2D open world action game?
Trigger Witch has stayed pretty close to what we originally envisioned. We had experience making a 2D open world action-adventure, so rather than spend a whole lot of time prototyping we landed on an interesting gameplay mix and got to work trying to top our previous effort.
Trigger Witch also features a colourful cast of NPCs with a strong narrative to drive it along - when planning the game did you have the story in mind first, or where they developed in synchronously?
The core concept and storyline was thought up very early on - but the specific details and especially secondary characters were added over time. Our writer, Jono Pech, was instrumental in fleshing out the base storyline into something fully realised with additional characters and some strong themes running throughout.
We can't wait to meet them! Is there any secondary NPCs who Jono is particularly proud of?
Colette's two childhood friends, Shelley and Remi, are really well-written characters with their own unique personalities. I would say he's also quite proud of the game's villain - but we can't spoil who that is! You'll have to find out for yourself ;)
Tell us a little about the puzzles Colette will face? Players will spend most of their time in combat, but we made sure to add unique puzzles to every dungeon based on it's environment. There's puzzles based on reflective walls, light/darkness, colour, magnets, mechanics and more!
That sounds awesome! Being a small indie studio, how do you organise and plan a project like this, what must be considered?
The scope of the project is a key factor to consider. We have to work out how many dungeons we can do, how many sidequests, what's the story length, how big should the world map be and so forth. If it's too small, we aren't challenging ourselves and ensuring the core game concept reaches it's full potential. But if we overshoot, the game'll take too long or we'll have to cut some crucial parts which will mess with the flow of the story. It's a tight balancing act!
How long does that pre-development process take - like you said, I imagine it can't be easy!
We had the core concept and gameplay down quite quickly - perhaps in a few weeks so we could start development relatively quickly. But we continued to improve and adjust those core mechanics the whole time based on feedback from testers and trying out new ideas.
We’re stoked at the inclusion of local co-op in Trigger Witch, was that something that was planned from the start?
As soon as we had the core gameplay design and game structure nailed down, we very quickly decided we'd be adding local co-op too. Not too many games of this type have full local multiplayer, so we were really happy to add that and got great feedback about it.
For sure! Is the entire game playable in co-op from start to finish?
Sure is! It's drop-in/drop-out at any time. Great for both sitting down and playing through the whole game together, or just being able to run around the overworld with a friend to show them how it plays.
Lastly, how does operating out of Auckland, New Zealand fare for game development?
New Zealand has been historically quite isolated, so it's great to communicate and work with developers around the world online. Locally we have a small but dedicated development scene based mostly around Auckland and Wellington. There's plenty of game jams, meetups and other events to enjoy!
Trigger Witch is set for a July 2021 release on PlayStation, Switch and Xbox.