The Nintendojo Interview: Bertil Hörberg (2019)

We talk Mechstermination Force with the game’s developer!

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 04/03/2019 06:15 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bertil Hörberg’s titles have been delighting Nintendo fans for several years now. With releases on 3DS, Wii U and Switch, the Gunman Clive games have found a strong and passionate fanbase. Tomorrow, the creator’s latest, Mechstermination Force will arrive on Nintendo Switch. We spoke to the developer about his latest title and why fans should check the game out when it arrives on eShop.

Editor’s note: this interview was conducted before we had an official release date for Mechstermination Force.

Nintendojo: What was the genesis behind Mechstermination Force?

Bertil Hörberg: After finishing Gunman Clive 2, and the HD Collection back in 2015, I had two different ideas for my next project. This was one of them and the other was a way too ambitious 3D action game. I chose the latter and spent two years getting very little work done and getting depressed. Then in 2017 a friend of mine left his job as art director at another local game studio, and we started talking about doing a project together, and I ended up hiring him and revisiting this idea. Those who played Gunman Clive 2 all the way to the final boss may remember that I dabbled with the idea of this type of boss back then, and I had actually wanted to do that for a long time, but I felt I could do more with it in a game fully built around the concept of giant bosses.

ND: With Switch proving to be exceedingly popular, some indie developers have voiced concern about their titles getting lost in the sea of options on Switch’s eShop. Are you concerned that might be the case for Mechstermination Force?

BH: Yes that is a huge concern on any popular developer-friendly platform these days, with tons of games releasing every week. And honestly I don’t have a clue how to combat that other than to hope the game can stand out on [it’s] own merits. But I don’t really dare hope too much and can’t make any projections on sales. I was very fortunate with Gunman Clive on the 3DS, with the right timing and price point to stand out and I don’t expect to experience that again.

ND: Our readers see new indie games announced for Switch nearly every day. What do you feel sets your game apart from other offerings on the platform?

BH: I don’t think there is much out there that’s very similar to this game. There are only a few other boss rush games that I’m aware of, the closest I guess would be Cuphead and Furi, but they are more focused purely on dodging the bosses’ attacks, while here there is a lot more interaction with the bosses, climbing up on them, destroying different parts etc., so the gameplay is quite different. Either way I think everyone who likes action platformers and big bosses should check it out.

ND: With both Gunman Clive games, you handled all of the game’s development outside the soundtrack. For Mechstermination Force, you brought two extra developers on. Was it tough to make the jump from solo development to working as part of a team?

BH: Yes there were certainly some challenges. It had been 6 years since I last worked with a team and I had never been in charge before, so there was certainly some adjustment period needed, and I still don’t really know what I’m doing in terms of leadership and project planning. And I can be pretty hands-on and probably quite difficult to work with as I’m used to doing everything myself.

ND: When we last spoke in 2015, you left the door open to making another Gunman Clive title. Has anything changed since then?

BH: The door is still open but I have no plans to walk through it for now. Also my thoughts about what a potential Gunman Clive 3 would look like have changed somewhat. During the time when I was struggling with my previous project, at one point I consider jumping ship to make GC3 instead and started thinking about ways to change up the gameplay and the style, as I felt the third entry would be a good time to shake things up to keep it fresh. But I realized that a lot of the things I had previously considered would make the game lose much of its identity, and a game that owes most of its gameplay to 30 year old design philosophies isn’t really the place to do drastic changes.

ND: Through your online presence, you come across as much more open, or perhaps more self-aware, than a lot of other creators in the industry. Do you find that being able to openly speak about your creative struggles has helped your development process?

BH: I don’t know about that, I try to be pretty open, but I certainly tweet a lot less than many other devs and I find the whole online presence thing quite stressful. Back when I first started getting a bit [of an] online following I got pretty addicted, and took it way too serious. But trying to get a sense of personal validation from strangers on the internet isn’t particularly healthy, and it’s just never enough. Especially in a position like this where you only release a game once every few years, get a short period of buzz (if lucky) with reviews, comments and tweets, and the rest of the time it’s mostly quiet and you don’t have much to show or say between those points. I do still enjoy showing off the stuff I’ve made online and communicating with the players, but I have to be aware not to fall into the trap of getting too obsessed with the response. But it’s also something I have to do for the exposure, and I’m very uncomfortable with the marketing aspect and bad at being a sales person. Also I don’t want to show too much, or have a bunch of really unpolished temporary stuff get picked up and reposted on a bunch of sites. So yeah, basically there’s just a bunch of conflicted feeling toward social media.

ND: Some developers have cited a concern that digital exclusive titles will eventually disappear. Publishers such as Super Rare Games and Limited Run Games have stepped in, giving a number of smaller titles a physical release. Have you considered a physical release for either Gunman Clive HD Collection or Mechstermination Force? Maybe a dual pack?

BH: It’s a possibility, but not something I will spend a lot of energy to make happen. I think those type of limited physical editions are really more about giving a treat to collection-happy fans rather than a big sales opportunity and financial boost (though I haven’t looked into the numbers). And for now my main goal is just that people will want to play it and to recoup the development costs. Also personally I’ve happily switched to digital only on all platforms where it’s possible and I’m not big on collecting stuff, so it’s not something that’s a huge drive for me, while I know many other devs have a lot of emotional feels to having a boxed copy of their game.

ND: While we have a basic idea of what to expect from Mechstermination Force, there’s still an awful lot we don’t yet know about the game. Are there any new tidbits you can tease our readers with?

BH: We tried not to spoil too much in the trailer, so there is still a lot of cool stuff we haven’t shown. A lot of the bosses have multiple form and transformations so I hope players will enjoy all the surprises and different gameplay mechanics. Fans of Gunman Clive will also see a things they may recognize, not only is the beige cowboy playable if you own Gunman Clive HD Collection on Switch, but there are some other strong links between the games as well.

ND: I know Mechstermination Force is still in development, but thinking ahead, do you have an idea what’s next for Hörberg Productions?

BH: Actually the game has been submitted to lotcheck and should hopefully get a release date soon, so we’ve already started planning the next project. For now I just want to make something smaller and simpler. I just want to prove to myself and the world that I can actually move straight on to a new game and release it in a timely manner without a bunch of cancelled projects and getting depressed in between.

We’d like to thank Bertil Hörberg for once again taking the time to speak with us. Mechstermination Force arrives on Switch tomorrow! We’ll have a full review in the near future, so stay tuned to Nintendojo!

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