Guildford-based developers Hello Games have spent the past few years crafting the delightful Joe Danger, but only for those console things. Now, though, they’re bringing their colourful stuntman to PC, and they’re promising a PC version with shiny knobs on.
We spoke to Hello’s Sean Murray to find out more.
RPS: Why now? You’ve spent years working on this for PS3 and Xbox, why come to PC?
Murray: Well, it’s a funny one! We’d always wanted to bring the game out on PC, we actually started off on PC, in the olden days when we couldn’t get devkits or anything. And for ages when we were showing the game at GDC and PAX and so on, it was on PC. What stopped us releasing on PC was the necessary evil of console exclusivity. Joe is at a stage in his life now where he’s free of all that malarky, and so as soon as we knew that was possible we started working on it to give it a proper release.
RPS: For those who haven’t yet encountered Hello Games or Joe Danger, can you tell us a bit about what to expect?
Murray: Well, I guess I can start with Hello Games! It’s a tiny little company, four of us who were friends in the games industry. We broke away from much larger studios and started doing our own thing. We had this idea that we wanted to make games that were like the kinds of games we grew up with: so that kind of era that could be seen as a golden age of colourful, vibrant and charming games, games that also had quite a lot of depth. We messed around with a whole load of ideas in those early days, and we kept coming back to this idea of a little motorcycle stuntman… And I guess the way it happened was that we had the core idea of what we wanted to make, but it hadn’t formed into an actual game. When we were playing about with ideas, mocking things up, we had this Evil Knieval stunt cycle toy, which we launched over ramps and things like that. It sort of sparked the game. And that’s what Joe Danger means for me, that sense of fun you get from playing with toys, combined with the depth you get from core gameplay videogames. That’s a terrible answer to your question, isn’t it?
RPS: No, I think that sums it up! So can tell us about exactly what you are bringing out on PC?
Murray: We’re bringing out Joe Danger 1 and 2, both at the same time. That includes the complete story of Joe Danger. The first game starts you off as this washed up stuntman living in a trailer park in the middle of the desert, to being a travelling stuntman and bringing crowds at stadiums. In Joe Danger 2 you are a stuntman on the set of a variety of films, and you take him on an adventure through a load of those films. That’s his story as a whole.
RPS: What sort of stuff are you supporting on PC? I am thinking particularly of split-screen and options like that?
Murray: One of the things that’s been key to us is to never just port the game straight. You were asking about why we hadn’t done PC before, and one of the reasons is that we need to be interested and engaged. We need to have an idea of fun things we want to do on that platform. We wanted to spend some proper time on PC. We could have just released it as a straight port quite a while ago, but we wanted to do cool things like a level editor that ties in with Steamworks, allowing you to make levels in game and share them, and download other people’s levels. You get a nice screenshot and a name with a bunch of tags, so you can browse stuff and see what you might like. We’ve added that for both Joe Danger one and two, and it’s really nice thing. We’ve been using it ourselves, because it’s easy to do stuff with that, and so we’ve made some extra content, new levels for both games! We’ve added ghost modes, so you can have those uploaded to Steam, too. You can see your friends as replays on their runs through. We introduced that in Joe Two, actually, but we’ve retro-fitted into One for the PC version. It gives a nice flavour of competitiveness, we think. It adds a lot to that first game, for me at least. We’ve also got local splitscreen multiplayer, same-screen multiplayer. But also we’ve had to deal with the stuff that kills me when I play other ports, which might not seem all that important, but things like mouse support, controller remapping, lots of graphics options like high resolutions and 16x anti-aliasing. I know it seems silly, but I really like that stuff to be done properly.
RPS: I think you’d be surprised just how many people find that stuff to be critical.
Murray: I can remember there was an article by you or John about rules for porting games to PC…
RPS: That was John, yes.
Murray: It was a while back, but I can remember forwarding it around to people and discussing it. And I suppose off the back of that there’s the issue of porting possibly being quite a boring task. We need to motivate ourselves by finding the things that are interesting about it. We’ve just got to have some fun with it! Writing a new video codec to make the videos really hi-res… as a coder that’s really just fun. Stuff like that motivates us. We wanted to deliver a really nice version of the game for PC. Something that felt really complete… ultimate.
RPS: Are you going to go back to doing console exclusives after this?
Murray: The phase we’re in at the moment means that we really want to work on PC. But I don’t know. This felt like unfinished business. It’s really weird to be the developer on something like this and always have people hassling me for a PC version. So we wanted to do it, we had to do it. We won’t make a Joe Danger 3, though. We only made Joe Danger 2 because we had a really good idea for it. From that point of view, we’re more creatively driven than business driven. If we had some amazing idea for Joe Danger 3 we might do that, but we’ve started on a new IP in the studio, and we’ve gone back to a few of us working on that. That’s a next-gen game, but whether it’s next-gen console or next-gen PC… I don’t know.
RPS: I think there was a hope that the next-gen console deals would put an end to exclusivity deals for indies, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be that fortunate. But from what I’ve heard from devs, spreading the risk across PC and consoles is actually often a safer way to go. Do you think that’s an issue?
Murray: Well, there’s two things there. And these are things I feel passionate about at the moment. For indie developers, and you and anyone reading RPS, well, exclusivity needs to die, especially for indie games. It’s so outdated as a concept. I would much rather that a console, or a PC, or whatever was just better because suited to you for a particular purpose. You’d buy a PS4 or whatever because you wanted a sit-down console, not because of the games on it. The idea that a game comes out on a platform because the devs are being paid not to release on other platforms, that just seems like a weird out-dated hindrance. It stops people from being quite so creative. I am only releasing my game on that format, so if it fails I don’t have a backup of looking for a market elsewhere. But there are some signs that it will go away eventually, and I think that would be really nice. The second thing is that PCs and the next-gen consoles are going to be really similar, and that’s super interesting. We’ve come from a time where platforms were really different. One of my hobbies as a kid was writing emulators, stuff like writing SNES emulators for PC, and then things were so ridiculously different. It made sense to develop for one platform at that point, but that doesn’t – potentially – make sense now when we’re basically talking about PCs and consoles basically being differently specced PCs. How are consoles going to differentiate themselves? Interesting, I think.
RPS: So what’s the plan for Joe Danger on PC? Any release date?
Murray: Ah, well, I don’t actually know. We’re hard at work on it. I never thought of that bit before this interview actually. I’ll have to get back you with actual dates! Could be soon.
RPS: Okay! Thanks for your time.
Joe Danger is coming to PC soon.