A man who needs no introduction (but we’ll give him one anyway), The Switch Effect is honored to welcome Jools Watsham to the latest Industry Interviews/Owner Outreach. Jools has been working in the video game industry since the ‘90s in various roles. Most recently, Jools was the Co-Founder & Director of Renegade Kid, LLC. and now the Founder, Designer, and Artist for Atooi LLC. With Mutant Mudds Collection now available on the Nintendo Switch eShop, we are thrilled to learn more about Jools and Atooi LLC.
Jools, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Before we get into it, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thank you! It is wonderful to chat with you. Right now I am working on a handful of different games at Atooi, which is very exciting and keeps me very busy. My primary role is game design, while also handling production, business, and PR stuff.
I still like to play games a lot. I am mainly playing my Switch these days. Prior to that I spent most of my gaming time on the 3DS. I really like handheld gaming as it allows me to play it anywhere, but with the added ability to easily play the Switch on the TV I find myself doing that more than I used to.
Here’s one to get you thinking. What was your first console/game you owned?
My first gaming machine was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It was a very small, under-powered computer in the 1980’s that had games like Jet Set Willy, Hungry Horace, and Skool Daze. I loved it!
Growing up, what inspired you to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
I think being exposed to the computer side of gaming from the beginning helped show me that there was a creation aspect to gaming and not only a play aspect to it. As I moved from the Spectrum to Commodore 64 and then Atari ST and Amiga I always found myself tinkering with technical aspects as well as artistic aspects of game development as a natural curiosity.
Looking back at your impressive resume, you began as an artist in ’92 on titles such as Rodland, Troddlers, and NBA Jam. Throughout your career, you’ve shifted roles to that of Producer, Game Director, Designer, Composer and more. Prior to forming Renegade Kid, what console was your favorite to work on?
The Nintendo 64 was a really fun console to work on. It was the only cartridge based console on the market at that time, which made the load times practically instant. I really liked the controller and games library too. The N64 was a fantastic era of gaming and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it with the likes of Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls and Turok 2.
What game were you most proud to be a part of?
I think Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls is the game and project I am most proud of from the games I worked on prior to Renegade Kid. It was my first project as the lead, where I was responsible for the game design and schedule. They called the role Project Manager, which isn’t very exciting sounding, but it fused Game Director and Producer into a single role.
Let’s jump forward to Renegade Kid and Atooi. What made you decide to form your own companies?
I always craved the independence to make what I wanted how I wanted. I often disagreed with how games were developed at Iguana / Acclaim, which further fueled my need to branch out on my own and see what I could do if given the freedom to develop games the way I thought they should be.
Gregg and I had good jobs when we decided to leave and start Renegade Kid, which was the perfect way to do it. It was an extremely exciting moment and felt equal parts scary and the right thing to do.
All of us at The Switch Effect love a retro-inspired game and with your recent titles of Mutant Mudds, Totes the Goat, and Chicken Wiggle, it’s clear that you do too! As games become more realistic, what is it about the nostalgic feel of yesteryear that appeal to you to inspire your work?
I feel that there is still a lot of new ground to be explored within the retro inspired genre. Mutant Mudds, Xeodrifter, and Chicken Wiggle are all 2D platformers, but each of them offers a different experience. It was a true pleasure to develop all of them.
Time to “switch” gears. With Mutant Mudds Collection now on the Nintendo Switch, many gamers are able to experience Max’s adventure for the first time. What has the reception been like now that you’ve arrived onto Nintendo’s latest console?
The reception has been positive from players, which is great, but something I think we’re hearing more now than when Mudds was first released in 2012 is folks commenting on the difficulty of the game – even the first Mudds! I am extremely proud of Mutant Mudds Collection. I think the whole package came together great with the online leaderboards and HD rumble. We really went for gold in terms of making the Switch release special, and the game is better because of it.
You’ve recently announced on social media that Totes the Goat and Xeodrifter will be arriving on the Switch in the near future. Are you able to tease a timeframe?
Yes, I am very much looking forward to release Xeodrifter and Totes the Goat on Switch. It looks like Xeodrifter will be released sometime in February, and hopefully Totes will be in March.
Any other games we may be seeing from you on the Switch that you can share with us today?
Treasurenauts is our big game that we’re working on right now. We’ll have more news to share at E3 this year.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for chatting with me. If you’d like to stay up to date on Atooi news, following me on Twitter is a good place for the latest and greatest.
Mutant Mudds Collection is now avavilable to download on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Grab yourself a copy today.
Make sure to follow Jools and Atooi by using the links below!