Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

[Industry Interviews] Michael Waites from Four Horses

By Brett Hrin Jan 16, 2018

Joining The Switch Effect on today’s Industry Interview is Michael Waites, founder of Four Horses. This England based indie video game developer was founded in 2015 with Digger Dan DX on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, followed by Kid Tripp. Most recently, Kid Tripp released on the Nintendo Switch on November 23rd.

Michael, thank you for giving us this interview. Before we get into it, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the gaming industry?
No problem, thanks for reaching out. I’m a family man in my forties with a near-teenage son.  I’d been a hobbyist programmer for most of my life and snuck into the games industry through the back door as a tester. I quickly moved into project management, but at heart wanted to program games, so I developed an arcade puzzle game, Digger Dan (named after my son) on the DS. This allowed me to move into a programming role with my employer at the time, but since then I’ve moved in and out of games. During the day I actually work full time as a software developer in the oil and gas exploration field. At night, I do Four Horses stuff.

What was your first console/game you owned?
Do you know, I’m not actually sure what the first console I owned was?  It could have been a Game Boy, SNES, Mega Drive or Game Gear.  I owned them all, but didn’t get any at launch so can’t really be sure. The first system I owned that I used for games (and learning to code) was an Acorn Electron. It was probably the most under-powered computer available at the time, maybe this is why I’m more impressed by gameplay than I am in flashy graphics and effects. The first game I owned on the Electron was Killer Gorilla which basically was Donkey Kong in disguise.

Growing up, what inspired you to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
Quite simply, a love of playing games and the knowledge that I could code. I was drawn to video games when the earliest arcade games were starting to appear in places I visited. I was fascinated with being able to control what happened on a TV screen. Programming then became an extension of this – I had full control over what happened on the screen. Games were a natural thing for me to write as I already had an interest in them.

Personally, what new games (besides yours of course, haha) are you most looking forward to playing?
I’m really looking forward to playing Morphite, Cat Quest and The Mummy Demastered, all of which I’ll play on the Switch rather than PS4, PC or phone. I just don’t know when I’ll get any spare time to play; things are just so busy!  If enough people buy Kid Tripp so that I can quit my day job to do Four Horses full-time…

For those unfamiliar with Kid Tripp, the engaging and challenging pixelated platformer, what can gamers expect in terms of gameplay?
First off, they can certainly expect to be challenged. The game looks deceptively cute and simplistic, but it is really difficult, right from level 1. The controls are straight forward, you can switch between running slowly and running quickly, you can jump to different heights and you can throw as many rocks as you like at anything that gets in your way. The difficulty comes in the positioning of the obstacles and platforms and the speed at which the game moves.

The levels are very short though so each victory is never too far away and you feel hugely rewarded when you beat a level. Despite the initial difficulty, once you get more adept at the game it is possible to complete it without losing a life. Some levels contain mine-cart riding sections which are a lot of fun and there is a level where all the platforms are ice blocks, because ice levels are always everybody’s favorite!

Let’s “switch” gears a bit. We at The Switch Effect are obviously huge fans of Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch. What are your thoughts on the system?
When new systems are announced that aren’t the usual “same as the last generation, but more powerful”, I’m always skeptical. I really didn’t understand the Wii before launch, but when I got my hands on one, I loved it. I didn’t understand the Wii U before launch either, but I think we can all agree that Nintendo missed the target a bit with that one. It was a nice system, but it’s unique features weren’t really anything that consumers actually wanted.

When I saw the Switch reveal video, I was confused again, but certainly keener to get one than with the Wii and Wii U. I wasn’t too keen on the name, but was glad they had moved away from the Wii branding. I also didn’t really see the need for it to have its own screen as I was looking for a console that connected to the TV and replaced my Wii U. I didn’t want my 3DS to be replaced by it.

Now that I have it, I love every single thing about it. I love the sleek minimal UI that loads quickly rather than the overcomplicated UIs of other systems. I’d rather not have a console that tries to replace every media system in my home; I want a console to play games on and nothing more. I wasn’t expecting to make use of the feature, but I am finding that I undock and play handheld mode quite often. I was playing Mario Odyssey in the bath earlier this week.

Were there any new opportunities or challenges with bringing Kid Tripp over to Nintendo’s newest console?
There were no real challenges. Our in-house engine, the Nag Engine, is currently a pretty simplistic 2D sprite engine simulating the earliest generations of games consoles so adding Switch support only took one week. There are certainly opportunities the Switch offers for unique features in Kid Tripp, but as yet we haven’t included them in the game. After getting the game running on Switch, I took time out to port Star Ghost to Switch for Rainy Frog and this delayed the planned Switch features too much. If the game is popular on the Switch we will release updates which add these new features.

Any future projects you can tease at this time?
Nothing set in stone at this time. If Kid Tripp happens to produce enough income for me to do game development full time (unlikely), then I do have several ideas I’d like to develop into full games. There is the possibility of converting other existing titles to Switch if I am unable to commit enough time to a full brand new project.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Support the original developer of Kid Tripp – he has made a sequel called Miles & Kilo which is available on iOS now and coming soon to Steam.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with The Switch Effect and our readers. We are thoroughly enjoying Kid Tripp on the Nintendo Switch and are eagerly looking forward to your next release!

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