Today on Industry Interviews, The Switch Effect is joined by Aaron Dintino, Lead Game Designer from Rock Pocket Games, a Norway-based indie game studio. Formed in 2008, Rock Pocket Games not only develops its own titles, but also helps game designers bring their ideas from concept to completion. With their first Nintendo Switch port, Shiftlings Enhanced Edition, now available on the eShop, we thought now was the perfect opportunity to learn more!
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about what you do?
I’m Aaron Dintino, the lead game designer at Rock Pocket Games. My main responsibility is to develop various concepts that contribute to the overall experiences that our games provide to players. I make decisions on how the game’s systems and mechanics will behave as the player interacts with them, as well as designing levels that bring the most out of these systems. I’m also in constant communication with every department (programming, art, sound, etc.) to make sure that everyone on the team shares the same vision for the game.
What was the first video game console and game you remember playing?
The first console I can remember playing is the NES and the first game I’ve ever owned was the Super Mario Bros / Duck Hunt 2-in-1 cartridge. I still fondly remember pushing the NES Zapper against the screen to make sure every shot hit.
Growing up, what is your fondest video game memory?
Playing Pokémon Blue version is one that stands out to me. The experience of catching my first Rattata in that game is still funny when I think back to how ecstatic I felt. Also, walking into a game store and seeing Spyro the Dragon on display was a pretty mind-blowing moment. I can’t remember if that was my first exposure to 3D games, but it must have been because I unfortunately missed out on the N64 due to that moment. I ended up getting a PlayStation that Christmas instead.
Did you always know you wanted to work in the video game industry?
Yeah, I have. When I was at that point in my life where I had to choose what I wanted to do for a career, I thought of what I could enjoy doing for the rest of my life. The answer was obvious to me. All of the worlds explored, the stories uncovered, the laughs delivered and challenges conquered have left a deep impression. I knew that if I could create these kinds of memories for even one person, that would be extremely fulfilling for me.
Can you provide some background as to how Rock Pocket Games was formed?
Sure thing! Our CEO Ivan Moen started the company in 2008. Back then he was a one man show and due to the introduction of the iPhone, and ease of access for publishing on the app store, he decided to use his background from the demo-scene, and professional programming background, to test out game development. One of his first title The Package was Game of the Week in the U.S. app store back in the day, and it got a lot of attention internationally. That’s when he decided to make game development his full time job. Since then we developed and released close to probably 40 mobile games (mostly for work for hire) but moved into the console and PC market for our own projects. We still do mobile games but we focus mostly on the PC and Console Market for our own IPs.
Was the company’s focus always to be both a developer and publisher of titles?
Not really, as a matter of fact we generally try to work with a publisher at least for our bigger console and PC games, mostly because we work on quite big projects which we can’t finance 100% from our side. The Shiftlings Switch Enhanced Edition is actually our first self-published project, so fingers crossed.
What has been like to work with clients to help bring their visions to life?
We love working close with our clients when we get the opportunity to bring their vision to life. In most of our client projects we have been lucky enough to take a big part in the design in both the gameplay and look of the final product. Most of our clients also come back with the next project because they recognize that we treat their IP with the respect it deserves and are willing to go the extra mile.
Let’s “switch” gears. We at The Switch Effect are obviously huge fans of Nintendo’s newest console. What are your thoughts on the Nintendo Switch?
Completely blown away; I was even hyped for the console before the reveal! As a designer, I’m always fascinated by what Nintendo does with hardware. The Joy-Cons especially make me extremely giddy at the possibilities. I think it’s easy to forget that a big part of our gaming experiences don’t just come from a screen; it’s also a collection of simple interactions we perform with our hands. The medium’s biggest strengths come from our ability to interact with it. So to me, it makes sense to keep pushing the way we interact to new heights. I think the Switch mixes the right amount of accessibility with innovation in those regards.
Shiftlings is the studios first title to arrive on the Switch. For those unfamiliar, can you describe the game and why gamers should check it out?
Shiftlings is a fun, quirky puzzle platformer that should feel right at home on the Switch. Players control two alien janitors (Shiftlings) and must navigate through levels filled with puzzles and obstacles. The catch is that the two characters are attached to each other via rope. Luckily, they both have the ability to swap size at any time. While the game does support single player, we recommend playing this game with a friend. With a second player the controls become a lot simpler, but puzzles will require both players to be on the same page. The results of poor coordination can be hilarious!
Besides your own games, haha, what others are you most looking forward to playing?
I’m looking forward to Dragon Quest Builders, which comes out on the Switch in a couple weeks. I missed out on it when it came to other platforms but the Switch makes it so much more enticing (something I’ve been experiencing with a lot of games recently). Also the new Kirby game. Yes, please.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I would urge people to try out some games that they wouldn’t normally play, instead of only waiting for the next big thing. I’ve been reading that there are a lot of new/returning gamers whose interest in gaming has been rekindled by the Switch. And this is honestly a great console for that to happen. There is a huge palette of gaming experiences out there, some only offered by indie titles as well as games that invite you to try new ways of playing, like ARMS for example. I know it’s a lot to ask as this can be an expensive investment, but you might just discover a new world of gaming opportunities for you to enjoy.
Thank you again for taking the time to speak with The Switch Effect. Make sure to download Shiftlings Enhanced Edition from the Nintendo eShop today!
Thanks for having us!
Use the links to follow Rock Pocket Games!