Best of ND 2015: The Nintendojo Interview: Bertil Hörberg

We talked to the Gunman Clive developer on what games inspire him and the future of the franchise!

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 12/28/2015 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

At Nintendojo, we’re big fans of the Gunman Clive games on Nintendo 3DS. The twin titles from publisher Hörberg Productions have proven to be a big hit with critics and fans alike. What many fans don’t realize, however, is that Hörberg Productions is a very small studio. In fact, it consists solely of two people: programmer Bertil Hörberg and composer Arne Hörberg. We had the privilege of speaking with one half of the team behind the titles about the difficulties of programming and the potential future of the franchise!

Nintendojo: First off, congratulations on getting Gunman Clive 2 finished and out on the Nintendo eShop. Now that it’s been out for a couple of weeks, how do you feel? Relieved?

Bertil Hörberg: Thank you, it’s been a complex range of emotions. At first it was a tremendous relief of course, but I’ve struggled with a sort of post-release depression, that I’ve heard a lot of other devs talk about as well. Initially it was general restlessness, and I couldn’t do anything but checking Twitter, emails, Googling the game all day and reading every review, forum post and comment I could find. But as the initial hype died down and new comments became more sparse, a sense of frustration came over me. Even though reception was generally very positive, I was just craving more. After over a year of development it feels a bit anti-climatic with a few days in the spotlight, and not a very big spotlight at that, even though I also realised how fruitless it is to care that much about online comments. But it’s been hard to get over and I’m only now slowly starting to find energy to get some work done again.

ND: Do you find that this is making it harder for you to move on to your next project? Is there a next project you have in mind, yet?

BH: For now my goal is port the game to more platforms, but I haven’t made much progress with that yet, so it’ll be some time before I get started on a new project. I have a few loose ideas but nothing solid yet and I’ll spend some time prototyping before I decide anything.

ND: Is one of those platforms Wii U?

BH: Yes, possibly. My plan was to start with the platforms the first game was on (iOS, Android & Steam), as I want everyone who played that to be able to get the sequel, and then move on to Wii U and possibly other consoles. But we’ll see how many versions I’m able to do before I want to move on to a new game, so I’m not promising anything definite yet. The 3DS version made up for the vast majority of the total sales for GC1, but I don’t feel I can disregard the other platforms after one game, and it shouldn’t be too much work to port it. As I mentioned though, I haven’t gotten very far yet and it’s going pretty slowly still.

ND: It felt like Gunman Clive 2 further developed the world that Clive and Ms. Johnson exist in. Do you think you have a third Gunman Clive in you? Where does the series go from here?

BH: I don’t know; it won’t be any time soon but I’m not against the idea of another sequel in the future. If I do create a Gunman Clive 3 or continue the series even further I think I will shake up the formula a bit more and do something a bit different. GC2 started as a very straightforward sequel with basically just more levels. I think it grew to be a bit more ambitious than that in the end, but it still follows the first game very closely in terms of the core gameplay and structure. Honestly I don’t really know where to go from here thematically; in GC2 I tried to make everything feel grander and more dramatic. He’s already been to space and traveled around the world, fought dinosaurs and giant robots, so I don’t know how I’d top that to make his next adventure feel like a clear step up again.

ND: Outside of the music, you’ve handled all of the development on the Clive titles. Do you revel in the freedom that allows, or is it stressful shouldering everything?

BH: I do enjoy the freedom, but it’s a lot of work and there are many aspects of development that I’m not very good at and/or don’t enjoy much. There’s a certain sense of pride in doing everything yourself though, and I like to keep a kind of DIY approach to the development. Even if you know you could get better results by outsourcing some parts, it wouldn’t feel quite the same.

I’ve been toying with the idea of hiring a couple of people for my next project though, to speed up development and maybe let me increase the scope of my games, but I’m not sure how that will work out. It’ll completely change the way I work and it’d mean a whole different set of responsibilities, and obviously much higher costs. So it’s something I want to try out, but I’m not sure yet if it’s what I want in the long term.

ND: The industry has shifted a large amount of focus onto indie developers, but you don’t often hear about the future. What’s your long-term gameplan? Is there somewhere you’d personally like to be in ten years?

BH: I don’t have any grand ambitions to build a big studio or to revolutionise gaming, and I’m rather old fashioned, so new technologies and new business models don’t interest me much. I just hope there will continue to exist a marketplace for small traditional games where I can make a living. Ten years is a long time though and being an indie dev can be pretty rough. Ideally I would have had a few more hit games by then and have more economic freedom, so I won’t have to care as much about sales or churning out new games ever other year or so.

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