Welcome to the latest Industry Interviews! Joining The Switch Effect today is Jean-Francois Major, co-founder of Tribute Games. This Montreal-based indie game studio was formed in 2011 with a focus on creating games using today’s technology, but stylized in the 8- and 16-bit era. With incredibly fun retro-inspired games like Ninja Senki DX, Flinthook, Mercenary Kings and more available on the PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One and Steam, we were wondering if and when the Switch would be a potential console for these titles? Well, the time is now! Just announced last week, Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition will be arriving on February 6th and Flinthook will be arriving later this year.
If that wasn’t enough to get you excited, Limited Run Games also announced that they will be bringing these two titles to the physical format in the near future! 2018 is going to be epic!
Jean-Francois, 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?
Hi, thanks for giving me this opportunity. I’ve been working in the video game industry for well over a decade. Most of it spent as a programmer and now co-founder of Tribute Games.
Here’s one to get you thinking. What was your first console/game you owned?
The first console I owned was a Nintendo which came with Mario and Duck Hunt. If memory serves me right, Zelda was the first addition to the start of my collection. That beautiful golden cartridge!
Growing up, what inspired you to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
I grew up with a computer. I remember toying around with a software that allowed me to write gamebooks when I was really young. That was when I got curious about creating these interactive stories. I later had the ambitious dream of making the game to kill all games. A game that would encompass multiple genres in one. That’s when I decided to learn how to program. Needless to say that never got anywhere, but I fell in love with programming. Luckily, Montreal is a great city for video games. So it was fitting for me to pursue that path.
You began as a Level Designer with Microids in 2003 on Memorick: The Apprentice Knight for the Xbox and Still Life for the PC. Throughout your career, you’ve also held the roles of Gameplay Programmer and Senior Gameplay Programmer. Prior to co-founding Tribute Games, what console was your favorite to work on?
By a long shot, it would have to be the Game Boy Advance. Powerful enough to make great games, but you would hit the limits quick enough that you needed to be creative to stand out.
What game were you most proud to be a part of?
As a kid, I grew up in the arcades playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. So having had the chance to work on a “retro” TMNT game for the Game Boy Advance was one of my proudest moments.
However, I’ll admit that releasing games for Tribute always warms up my heart. I feel so much more connected to the people that get to play our games that it adds extra meaning to the work and effort I put in.
Let’s jump forward to Tribute Games. What made you decide to form your own company?
We decided to start Tribute a bit after Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. All consoles on the market were capable of doing 3D and we noticed 2D games were no longer actively pursued by larger studios. Yet our passion and skills were with pixel art games. We knew if we we’re this passionate about these types of games, there was a target audience for it. That’s when we decided to give it a shot. Let’s keep doing what we enjoy playing.
As games become more realistic, what is it about the nostalgic feel of yesteryear that appeal to you to inspire your work?
I see pixel art, hand drawn and the various shades of 3D as different art forms that should coexist. One needs to recognize what their strength is and what art form will best be used for the type of game that you plan on taking on.
Time to “switch” gears. With Flinthook and Mercenary Kings just announced to release on the Nintendo Switch, many gamers are going to either experience your titles for the first time or on a new console. What has the reception been this past week with the announcements?
The reception has been great. And it really feels good to be back on Nintendo consoles after so long. I can’t wait for people to actually play our Switch titles and see that we put in the effort to support the Switch’s features.
What are your thoughts on the Nintendo Switch?
I love my Switch. Playing and beating two player Snipperclips on the ride to PAX East last year just confirmed how great of a system it is. It’s just so versatile and I’m sure we haven’t seen everything yet. There will be creative ways to use those Joy-Cons.
Limited Run Games also made an announcement last week that these two titles would be getting the physical treatment. You’ve partnered with them in the past with Flinthook on the PS4. How exciting is it to be working with them again and can you tell us a little bit about the process?
Working with Limited Run Games has been nothing short from amazing. As an indie dev, you need to wear so many hats. And close to launch, that is when the stress level picks up a notch. It’s surreal how hands off we can be and have them handle most of the work that goes into making physical copies.
Not to mention that never in my wildest dreams I would’ve considered possible to release one our games in physical form. They really empower smaller studios.
Any other games we may be seeing from you on the Switch that you can share with us today?
For now, Flinthook and Mercenary Kings! Maybe our next unannounced title?
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m really proud to be back on Nintendo consoles come February 6th. It’s been way too long. I hope we get to release more games in the future.
Make sure to follow Tribute Games by using the links below!