VGB Feature: Toki Tori 2 Interview with Two Tribes’ Collin van Ginkel

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More than a decade after hatching on the Game Boy Color, Toki Tori has finally returned to star in his first true sequel adventure, and the creative minds at Two Tribes are pulling out all the stops to bring their loveable puzzle platforming chick up to modern standards. Although a firm launch date has not yet been announced, Toki Tori 2 is coming soon to PC/Mac (via Steam) and Nintendo’s Wii U console, and it is sure to please existing fans and capture the hearts of a whole new audience of gamers at the same time.

Eager to learn more about Toki Tori’s coming of age, we whistled and stomped at the opportunity to squeeze in a little Q&A time with Two Tribes’ co-founder, creative director and the spiritual father of Toki Tori, Collin van Ginkel, who obliged us by sharing his thoughts on how Toki Tori 2 has evolved since the first game, what it’s like developing for the Wii U, and other topics.

VGBlogger: As you look back now, what are you most proud about with the first Toki Tori? Did you and the rest of the Two Tribes team ever imagine that your very first game would endure after all these year?

Collin van Ginkel: I think what still baffles me the most is that a couple of hobbyists from the Netherlands managed to convince Capcom to publish their original unknown game. The game had zero hype going into the E3 at which Capcom saw the game for the first time.

As for Toki Tori’s endurance, I think I expected us to be working on Toki Tori 10 by now, instead of number two ;)

VGB: While you have maintained a constant connection with the game since its original Game Boy Color release by bringing it to new audiences on WiiWare, Steam, iOS and so on, what has it been like to reflect back on what the team accomplished with the first game and to finally seize the opportunity to create a true sequel?

CVG: Of the original Toki Tori GBC team, only Martijn Reuvers and myself are left. So for most people at Two Tribes, Toki Tori began life on WiiWare and Steam, making it the version we usually talk about with regards to making plans for the future. Everyone was excited to start work on something new and original and I think it shows in the many ways Toki Tori 2 differs from the original!

VGB: From the new world map structure to the removal of the item/weapon inventory system, Toki Tori 2 is reinventing many of the core systems from the first game, probably more so than a sequel to a successful game typically does. If you can, takes us inside the process of how you evaluated what worked with the first game and what needed to change. Was it strictly a matter of the first game being a decade old and in need of modern improvements or was there more self reflection involved in terms of pinpointing weak spots that had to be addressed?

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CVG: We decided pretty early on that we couldn’t continue with the original design. We had been struggling to add new interesting things to it for the last few updates, so it felt like we had reached the limits of what we could squeeze out of that formula. This meant we had to figure out what we thought made Toki Tori a compelling game experience and implement those qualities in our sequel. This doesn’t mean we talked about features and items, but more things like ‘a WTF moment followed by a Eureka!’ or the way our puzzles can always be thought through without things like hidden objects that are required to solve the puzzle.

Another thing about Toki Tori 1 is that it is very much an old school type of game, with rigid level structures and game rules, which we thought was fine for a Game Boy remake, but we wanted to create a more compelling overall experience. This lead to the creation of the game’s island that can be explored and the removal of the level-determined inventory in favor of a living and breathing game world where the creatures are your tools.

VGB: Has the overall goal of the game changed or is Toki Tori’s main objective still to collect unhatched eggs?

CVG: As of yet, we have not made a single egg graphic for Toki Tori 2. We purposely steered clear of adding too many elements of the old game, even as placeholders, because we wanted to embrace the new design in everything we did. The objective in Toki Tori 2 is explained through a series of interactive animated scenes. We don’t use any text and never take the control from the player, they control Toki Tori as they would in any other area of the game. In these scenes we try and communicate the goal and the story of the game to the player.

VGB: With the inventory removed in favor of whistle and stomp mechanics, how does this alter the way players must approach solving puzzles, exploring the world, and dealing with enemies?

CVG: I think it makes it more approachable for players. There is no management of your inventory, you only have to remember how the creatures you encounter respond to your two moves. This doesn’t mean the game will be a breeze to complete, but it does mean that by simply scanning your surroundings you have all the information you need to solve the puzzles.

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VGB: When was the decision made to bring Toki Tori 2 to Wii U in addition to PC/Mac? And what about the platform sparked the team’s interest to do so?

CVG: We’ve always been fans of Nintendo platforms and Toki Tori has a rich history with Nintendo, so it made sense to explore the new Nintendo platform when it was announced. Nintendo has been very supportive and we like their plans for the new eShop.

VGB: Over the summer a trailer was released teasing a Wii-U exclusive feature called the Tokidex. Can you elaborate more about how this feature works and what it adds to the experience?

CVG: The TokiDex is like a small collect ‘m up inside the game. You can use the Wii U Gamepad to scan the environment as if you’re holding a camera and take pictures of any creature in the game. It all ties into the back-story we have for the game, but I cannot elaborate on that yet.

VGB: Will you be adding any exclusive touches to the Steam version to give that fan base a little something extra to call their own?

CVG: We’ve announced the use of Steam Workshop for the creation and sharing of levels, which we think is going to give players a lot of value for their money. As with Toki Tori and RUSH before it, we expect to be updating the game very frequently with new content, features or tweaks.

VGB: How will the level editor vary between Wii U and Steam as far as the interface and community integration is concerned? Specifically for the Wii U version, were you able to accomplish the goal of having the touchscreen edits appear on the TV in real time?

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CVG: For Steam we are expecting to release the in-game level editor we use internally with some minor tweaks. For Wii U we have to redo the interface, because we cannot work with keyboard and mouse but have buttons and a stylus as input. At the Nintendo Press event in Frankfurt and Firstlook in the Netherlands we had a proof of concept build of the editor. Basically whenever you let go of the touch screen, the game will have made a newly skinned level on the TV . It works really well and proved to us that it makes sense to pursue this feature on Wii U.

VGB: With Toki Tori 2 taking advantage of the Wii U’s ability to run games directly from the GamePad screen, we’re curious to know, from the development side, if this is a challenging feature to implement. Did you have to significantly adapt the game engine to work with this new technology or was it a fairly seamless transition?

CVG: It is not difficult technically to implement it. The most challenging part of getting the game running on the Gamepad is to get the design right. Games that rely heavily on HUD’s and text will have a harder time going to the gamepad, because the resolution is lower than that of a TV. For Toki Tori 2 we don’t use any text or HUD elements, so that made it easy for us.

VGB: Will Toki Tori 2 also support Wii Remote & Nuncuk and the Wii U Pro Controller or is the GamePad required?

CVG: We are currently planning on only supporting the GamePad. It’s included with every system, and it fits the game very well.

VGB: Going from WiiWare with the first Toki Tori to the eShop with the sequel, what can you tell us about developing for the Wii U in general and how the technology and overall digital distribution structure has evolved from the Wii?

CVG: We’ve been constantly surprised at how easy it has been to get things up and running on Wii U compared to the Wii. The Wii was a very different machine compared to the other consoles or PC’s at the time, but with Wii U there is a shared baseline off of which we can work for all versions.

As for the eShop, all the signs point in the right direction for us but I can’t talk about the specifics at this point.

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VGB: According to Nintendo’s Wii U launch lineup, Toki Tori 2 is going to miss a day-one release but should be out in November. What’s the latest word on the release target for the game? Is the plan to launch on PC/Mac and Wii U simultaneously or will they hit at different times?

CVG: We’ll be announcing more information on the game’s release soon, we still have some things to figure out before we can safely promise a date.

VGB: What does the future hold for Toki Tori 2 after it hatches on PC and Wii U? Are any long-term goals in place for further platform expansion, perhaps to console digital download services or the mobile marketplace (iOS, 3DS, Vita, etc)?

CVG: If you’ve been following us, you know we are not against porting our games to platforms where it makes sense, but for now our sights are firmly set on Wii U and Steam.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!