Renegade Ops: An Interview With Jools Watsham

There aren’t many who as as down for video games as Renegade Kids’ Jools Watsham. His Twitter feed is a constant source of love for the industry, as he promotes the work of fellow independent studios, presents his latest pick ups, and talks with fans. Not only that, but over the past year he’s always found the time to answer my feature questions, something I’ve always appreciated. All this and he still finds time to win us over with games like Mutant Mudds and Dementium.

Treasurenauts, Renegade Kids’ upcoming action platformer, sounds to be quite the adventure. Players traverse a world, scouring it for jewels. The goal is to beat the game in a single sitting, be it alone or with a friend over local WiFi. With this interview, I wanted to learn more about the title, Watsham, and the studio. I hope you enjoy the results.

Before anything else, why the name Renegade Kid?

Jools Watsham (JW): We kicked around a few names before settling on Renegade Kid. We wanted something that had a nice impact; something playful and somewhat aggressive or rebellious. I am very happy with the name. It sums up what we’re about quite well.

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I find it easy to classify Mutant Mudds, but Treasurenauts is an interesting mixture of so many genres. How do you describe Treasurenauts?

JW: Well, the quick and easy genre description is action, adventure, platformer. But, that doesn’t really tell you much. I see it as a classic 2D platformer with a heavy emphasis on exploration, discovering secrets, and collecting tons of delicious treasure. You’re a greedy spelunker, basically, slaying everything in your path for every ounce of loot you can get your grubby hands on!

What are the roots of Treasurenauts? What inspired you, and how did your own work lead to this point?

JW: It has had a strange journey of self-discovery – and it’s not over yet. It started with the name: Treasurenauts. I just really liked that name. I am a big fan of Indiana Jones, so I have always been interested in games that are heavily inspired by those movies, and I have always wanted to create something in that vain. Games like Rick Dangerous, Spelunky, and Random Heroes are some of the big influences of Treasurenauts in one way or another – as well as a little dash of Metroid and Super Mario World for good measure. And then, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog was an inspiration in regards to how you lose your loot when you’re hit. Tying your health to your wealth felt like a natural fit for a game about collecting treasure.

Also, building off of Mutant Mudds was very advantageous. Working from a strong foundation allows you to focus on the game design a little more and not worry quite as much about the technology and tools.

You’re certainly taking some risks with Treasurenauts. You’ve said the game aims to be played in a single sitting. As a portable game, this is no small feat. Is Treasurenauts just as enjoyable to someone who can only commit 10 minutes at a time?

JW: This is still an area of exploration for us while we’re developing the game. We aim to allow Treasurenauts to be enjoyed a few different ways, which I’ll have more info on a little later.

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In games that share elements with Treasurenauts, randomly generated environments play a large role. From what I’ve read, the stages in Treasurenauts are hand crafted. What are the benefits to your approach?

JW: We felt as though a hand crafted set of levels would allow the player to learn the layout and become more familiar with the game over time. There are many secrets in Treasurenauts, and having those secrets static – instead of changing location each time you play the game – offers the opportunity to explore and be rewarded by discovering new content on replays.

Will their be leaderboards or a way to compare our best runs to friends?

JW: There will not be any on-line leader boards or sharing of data, but there will be a record of your high score.

Is there any benefit to the multiplayer if both players own the game, as opposed to using Download Play? Is the other player forced to play as a Shy Guy?

JW: That is still to be determined.

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After the success of the first Mutant Mudds, you did not immediately move onto development of the sequel. Do you feel it’s important to spread your wings a bit before jumping into sequels? How will this benefit Mudds 2?

JW: Yes, I think it is beneficial to work on something different and new before developing a sequel. It gives you a better perspective of what the sequel can be, as well as providing you with new experiences. We will be able to leverage new technology developed for Treasurenauts with Mutant Mudds 2, if we wish, and build upon an improved system.

One thing that I’ve always enjoyed is the enthusiasm and excitement surrounding your work. This bleeds into your announcements as well, I feel as if the fan inside you can’t hold back. Mudds 2 was confirmed as far back as June of 2012, and Cult County was revealed before Treasurenauts, despite the latter releasing first. Is this intentional, or can you just not help yourself from giving fans these peeks at your software?

JW: I like to be open about our development efforts. I think our fans enjoy knowing what we’re up to, and it also has the benefit of getting the word out. When I worked at Acclaim we always had to be hush, hush about what we were working on and that always bothered me. You don’t want to give everything away, or the player has nothing new to experience in the game, but being too secretive can be damaging too.

Sometimes our development priorities change internally, which can change the order in which we release games, and that is an unfortunate side-effect of being open about what we’re up to. I think the pros out-way the cons though.

Is there a chance we may see Son of the Dragon return? Or has it become a Super Mario 128-esque title that morphed into something else?

JW: Sure, there’s definitely a chance we will resurrect Son of the Dragon some day.

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2 thoughts on “Renegade Ops: An Interview With Jools Watsham

  1. Every time I see an article about, or that mentions, Mutant Mudds, it seems to use that particular screenshot. What bothers me about that, is that the screenshot shows things that aren’t actually in the game. That rocket-looking thing? Not in the game. Gold diamonds? Not in the game. That particular level layout? Not in the game. What is the deal with that screenshot?

    • Heh, wow, you raise a great point. I’ll swap it out, and as for why I used it, the only reason I can come up with it perhaps those missing contents jump out at me. My brain sees these cool things, and I’m drawn to that shot.

      Weird that I hadn’t notices myself before posting. Good eye! Thanks!

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