I got the chance to catch up with Image & Form’s CEO, Brjánn Sigurgeirsson, after the studio’s latest multi platform release SteamWorld Heist came out. Admitedly, I never played a SteamWorld game before, but I absolutely fell in love with Heist. You’re more than welcome to check out my review here. Let’s dive into the interview, shall we?

Q. Let’s get this out of the way, there are currently three entries in the SteamWorld franchise: SteamWorld Tower Defense, SteamWorld Dig, and SteamWorld Heist. My first foray into the SteamWorld universe was Heist and even though I’m late to the game, I fell in love pretty much immediately. I mean, I had to replay Heist after losing twenty hours of gameplay due to my micro SD card crapping out in my 3DS, but I ended up having more fun the second time. One thing that really drew me in was the diversity and quirkiness of the characters. How do you decide what bot makes the cut and what bot doesn’t?

Well, that’s a really good question, and I like the concept of making the cut; it’s like the robots have been auditioning for SteamWorld Heist! 😀 There were quite a few bots that didn’t make the cut in the end. In total there are ten playable characters in Heist, and each one brings something. They all have pretty diverse back stories – there’s an embryo for a game behind each character – and they “naturally” fit their descriptions. Piper has great leader skills, Valentine is a superb sniper, Bea and Ivanski make for typical tanks, etc. The ones that didn’t make the cut perhaps didn’t have these stand-out traits. If I recall correctly there was the dreaded Loco Moto, for example. You can imagine what he looks like! He simply didn’t fit in, but who knows – he may appear in some other game perhaps?
Q. There are so many references to pop culture and other games littered in weapon names and dialogue. Is Image & Form HQ in a state of constant snickering and laughter at their own quips?

Yes, very much so! 😀 We’re quite nerdy and proud of it too – snickering at our own constructions is definitely one of our favorite pastimes. There’s a fun fact to be added to that – Gothenburg (where we’re at) is widely recognized as the pun capital of Sweden. You wouldn’t believe the oceans of puns we’re subjected to on a daily basis. It’s a really pun environment. 😉

But more importantly, it becomes tasty candy. When I played Plants vs Zombies I was really impressed and amused by the dead-pan, hilarious descriptions of characters and items. I’ve always wanted something similar in our own games.

Q. What’s it been like branching out from Nintendo DS and 3DS to other platforms like Wii U, PS4, PS Vita, and Steam? Is it something that has paid off?

Yes, I must say it has. Making games is expensive, porting them is relatively cheap and delivers real bang for our bucks. For the longest time we made PC/Mac kids games for CD-ROM (back in the dark ages) and then we moved on to make mobile games. At that time we didn’t really consider porting them to other platforms, they were simply poor fits. But that changed with SteamWorld Dig, suddenly we had a game that was likely to be enjoyable on all “button-input consoles”.

In the beginning It was hard, daunting and intimidating, as we learned the ropes. But it’s quickly become a part of our vision and business idea – to make games that people will gladly recommend to others, and to ensure that they’re available to as many people as possible. One important part of that has been bringing the games to as many platforms as possible.

Q. Heist is on multiple dedicated gaming platforms and is coming to iOS. What’s your preferred platform to play on?

Well, if you have a shitload of kids at home like me, then you know how rarely you get to use the TV in the living room or the stationary PC. For that reason the iPad is my go-to platform these days, so I’m particularly happy that Heist is coming to iOS. We didn’t port SteamWorld Dig to iOS since it had so many platformer elements, and we didn’t want to tack a virtual joystick/d-pad on there. I rarely think that works at all.

Q. Speaking of iOS, people tend to want to pay significantly less than people with dedicated consoles with the trade off being access to many more iOS users. How do you decide on a reasonable price point for the consumer without feeling like you’re devaluing your IP?

Yeah, that’s very hard actually. You don’t want your “other” gamers to feel that they’re paying through their nose while iOS gamers get an automatic discount. But at the same time, it is what it is – we developers/publishers have already shot ourselves in the foot regarding App Store pricing. There’s no repairing that, and not many iOS gamers are willing to pay $20 upfront for a very good game.

And the reality of it changes constantly too – recently the number of games in the $1-3 range have all but disappeared; it never was a comfortable space for customers or publishers. Either games are free or premium. In a way it’s good, because it means we’re more clearly choosing sides nowadays.

Q. We heard the SteamWorld collection will be part of the Nintendo Selects line. Now from what I remember growing up, Nintendo Selects were always reserved for first party titles. What was it like when Nintendo approached you and asked for SteamWorld to be part of the Selects line and have your game sit on the shelf with Mario and other iconic Nintendo characters?

It was a bit unreal, as I thought I’d misheard the Nintendo guy who called me and asked if we’d like to be involved in this. Just like you I was sure it was reserved for first-party stuff. How it feels? It’s an honor and a privilege. 🙂

Q. Nintendo seems to be opening up use of their IP again lately (which is a long time coming if you ask me). If you were approved to have any Nintendo character guest star in the SteamWorld universe, who would it be and why?

Samus Aran, because she’s the best. I’m sure Piper could find a job description for her. 🙂

Q. Have you ever been, or would you ever approach, Nintendo about adding Piper to Smash? Because it should happen. I’d love to see brilliant third party characters like Piper and Shovel Knight battling it out alongside Fox McCoud and Mario.

Well, either Piper or Rusty from SteamWorld Dig. In the indie space, Rusty and Shovel Knight are about as iconic as they come. At the same time I think it’s good that Nintendo keeps Smash “clean” – I like to think of Smash as a Nintendo lineup. But adding cool characters of course wouldn’t hurt!

Q. There has been one DLC pack for SteamWorld Heist. Are there plans for more?

None in production right now. We’re surprisingly busy anyway! 😉

Q. Soon after the Nintendo Switch reveal, you guys announced you’re developing for the system. I know we’re dying of excitement here at Pixelrater, but what has your team most excited for the new hardware?

The most exciting stuff I can’t talk about, unfortunately. But I guess it’s a secret to everyone until January, right?

Q. Any word on dev kits yet? What do you think of the hardware or rumored hardware at this point?

Well, we have one. It’s pretty straightforward, which is good!

Q. Will your next confirmed SteamWorld game come to 3DS as well as Switch? Or even Wii U?

Well, we’ll talk about the next game when we do, I guess. Sorry for being so secretive, but it’s basically the biggest lesson we learned from the Heist release, where we announced a very long time before the actual launch. It was unintentional, because we thought the game would come out faster. But after a while a game runs the risk of getting old even before it’s born. 🙂 So… we’ll talk about the game when the time is right.

Q. What’s next for the SteamWorld series?

Haha, nice try! ;D See above.

Q. Thanks for your time! I always have a question I like to close with. What are three of your comfort food games? Mine are Super Mario Bros. 3, Mario 64, and the relative newcomer Fantasy Life.

“Comfort food games”! Great description! You’d be surprised, but for me nothing comes close to chess. It’s by far the most awesome game in my book. You may argue that it’s not a video game, but it’s actually the online aspect of it that makes it so fabulous. I can sit for a whole day playing blitz chess games on my iPad, sleep for a few hours, then play the entire following day as well. I’ll never grow tired of it. I did a cautious estimate a while back, and realized to my horror that I must have played close to 150,000 games of chess so far – talk about comfort food! That’s A LOT of games. I don’t remember even half of them. 😉

But if you’re thinking video games specifically, I’ll gladly add Papers, Please and Journey, I can go back to them quite often. I seem to enjoy every strategy game I come across, however. Perhaps that’s why I like Heist so much – it’s skill-based and it’s got both tactics and strategy. In that regard, it’s just like chess.

About a week or so after this interview took place, Image & Form’s official Twitter accoount answered some fan questions about Nintendo Switch. I’ve embedded some of the interesting parts of the convo below.

Categories Feature Interview

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