Digger and Better: The making of SteamWorld Dig 2 on Nintendo Switch
Swedish developer Image & Form has proved to be one of the most popular Nindies, thanks to its acclaimed SteamWorld series on Nintendo DSi, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Now, Image & Form is making the leap to Nintendo Switch with SteamWorld Dig 2! We caught up with Julius Guldbog to find out what to expect…
Nintendo UK: So far you’ve made three games in the SteamWorld series but SteamWorld Dig 2 is the first direct sequel. What prompted you to return to SteamWorld Dig?
Julius Guldbog: Two reasons. First of all, we felt there were so many things we could do or that we didn’t get to do with the first SteamWorld Dig. We were a very small team back then and we had to get the game out because we ran out of money. That meant we had to cut a lot of features! This time around, we’re 20 people and the company's got lots of cash, so we can make the game we always wanted to. The second reason is that fans have been asking for it ever since we released the original SteamWorld Dig. People couldn't stop playing and wanted more! We're finally able to deliver.
NUK: So what are some examples of the things you wanted to do in the first SteamWorld Dig that will now be in the sequel?
JG: We can make the game as big as we wanted to make the first one. The original SteamWorld Dig is short but sweet. SteamWorld Dig 2 will have lots of worlds with different themes, multiple boss fights, a ton of upgrades and you’ll even be able to customise your gear. There’s also the scope of the game. In true Metroid fashion you have to find different upgrades and weapons to re-explore all areas. That’s something we barely scratched the surface of with the first Dig, but this time we’re going full Super Metroid on it. It’s gonna be a lot of fun!
NUK: It looks like you’ve had a change of main character for the sequel. What’s happened to Rusty and who is this new protagonist?
JG: Yeah, we have a new main character, Dorothy. In the first game she’s the NPC you sell your gold or minerals to. In SteamWorld Dig 2 she’s out on a quest to find a long-lost friend. You’ll have to guess who that is... Rusty is important to the sequel in many ways and we’ll show more without spoiling the big surprises in the coming months.
NUK: Image & Form has grown considerably in-between the creation of SteamWorld Dig and its sequel. What have you learned during that time, that’s gone into the design of this one?
JG: One big lesson from SteamWorld Heist is how to manage a team of our current size. We’re about 20 people working full time on SteamWorld Dig 2 and that’s not even counting the musicians and external people helping us with the game! SteamWorld Dig was made by six people and Heist by around fourteen. We had to learn the hard way how to make games with a bigger team and now we’re hitting the ground running with SteamWorld Dig 2. So development is faster, more streamlined. We have everything in place in order to make a great game.
Gameplay-wise, one awesome thing about the first SteamWorld Dig was that it was procedurally generated. Which means that major parts of the game are different every time you start a new save file. We had some of that in SteamWorld Heist as well. All ships are generated before you start a mission, so every mission plays slightly differently. The reason we had that from the start was because we had very limited resources for level design. So procedural generation made a lot of sense. Now that we’re more people, and have two full-time level designers, we can create a beautiful handcrafted world with more challenges, puzzle caves, little tricks and traps everywhere. Stuff procedural generation wouldn’t allow, basically.
NUK: So what attracted you to develop SteamWorld Dig 2 on Nintendo Switch?
JG: One big reason is that we have a great relationship with Nintendo. We’ve been supporting them for the past few years and vice versa. It’s mutual. Also, we love their stuff. Many of us play Nintendo primarily, so we’re huge fans, and just getting to work with unannounced hardware was reason enough. The core concept is so intriguing. I play most games on my handhelds and enjoy my home consoles. But having a console on the go that I can also play on my TV is a dream come true.
NUK: And how have the capabilities of Nintendo Switch helped you improve the sequel?
JG: The first SteamWorld Dig was made for Nintendo 3DS, so we made sure that you could play it on your daily commute. But we also wanted to make sure that it could be played for longer periods of time as well. And of course that carries over to SteamWorld Dig 2. Having a console that's essentially both a handheld and a home console is the perfect platform for it.
Other than that, it’s a powerful machine, so we can make some really nice things with the graphics; like improved textures, cool lighting effects, really fluid animations and more. It’s a buttery-smooth 60 frames-per-second full HD when docked, and 60 frames-per-second in handheld mode too.
NUK: You announced during the Nindies Showcase in February that SteamWorld Dig 2 would make use of HD rumble. How’s that coming along?
JG: I quite like what we’ve been able to pull off with HD rumble. One thing is recreating the sensation of digging into certain materials. There’s so many cool things you can do. HD rumble will be a fabulous feature of SteamWorld Dig 2.
NUK: If anyone reading this has never played a SteamWorld game before, what would you say to convince them to give SteamWorld Dig 2 a try?
JG: If you enjoy exploration based platformers like Metroid or the Mega Man X series SteamWorld Dig 2 will be your new favourite game. Because it’s not only a Metroid-like experience, it’s a really great mining game too. A fantastic mix of the two that’s nowhere to be found outside of SteamWorld. It’s also the perfect entry point for the SteamWorld series, if you’ve never played one of our games. As I said earlier, we have a new fresh face that’s also new to the adventures of SteamWorld. Join her!
NUK: When can we expect SteamWorld Dig 2 to be released?
JG: It will make its debut on Nintendo Switch this summer. Nintendo Switch is the main platform for SteamWorld Dig 2 so we’re making sure that it’s running beautifully on the hardware. It’s going to be so much fun seeing people playing our best game to date.
For more information about SteamWorld Dig 2, make sure to follow Image & Form on Twitter!