Sometimes the best accidents end up being what makes your game so distinguished, or at least that’s what happened to Bertil Hörberg, the man behind Gunman Clive. The most recognizable thing about the game is its unique art style, which Hörberg happened upon while experimenting with shaders. Also, the final release of the game on smartphones and the 3DS is leaps and bounds away from the original version that was crafted as a homebrew project for the Wii. Read on the find out how it evolved, as well as whether or not fans of the game will likely see another adventure staring Clive.
Multiplayer: What drew you to set the game in the Wild West?
Bertil Hörberg: It's a setting that isn't done very often in games, especially not in platformers so I thought it would be fun to try. But actually the game didn't start out with the Wild West theme. It started with robots and colourful graphics, but eventually I felt the game lacked identity. I did some experimentation with the artstyle, and about at the same time I had tried putting a Stetson on the main character just for fun. Somehow, a cowboy rendered in this style just felt right, so I went for a full western theme. Of course I kept some of the robots as well.
Multiplayer: How did it evolve from a homebrew Wii game?
Hörberg: I first started developing the game years ago. I was tired of my job and left to take some time off and did some hobby coding. For some reason that I can't really explain I ended up coding a 3D engine for Wii homebrew, and alongside it the game that would eventually become Gunman Clive. I toyed with the idea a bit back then to start up a company and try to get a developer license and eventually release it for Wiiware. But I took a job at another game studio instead and put the project on hold for several years. In the end I'm glad I waited. I don't think I would have been ready back then and the game as it were then would not have turned out nearly as good.
Multiplayer: Where did the art style come from?
Hörberg: It's mostly the result of experimentation and a bit of luck. I didn't have any clear target, or solid references in mind. I had done some test with similar sketch-like shaders before, and tried applying them to this game. But I forgot to change the textures to work with the new shaders before running it, and the result was a bit different from what I planned. Somehow I really liked the way it had turned out, and that gave me the seed for the game's art style.
Multiplayer: The game’s trailer is pretty unconventional when compared to most game trailers, why did you decide to be so honest in it?
Hörberg: I was trying really hard to come up with proper, impressive sounding tag lines and bullet points for the trailer, but it sounded forced and I just felt a bit silly about it. So I took it in the other direction instead.
Multiplayer: What was the thinking behind including Duck Mode, an unlockable mode where you play as a defenseless duck?
Hörberg: A lot of people that I've shown the game to have commented on how cute and harmless the ducks looked, and thought it was funny that they were in fact dangerous. Despite their simplicity I think they turned out to be one of the more memorable enemies in the game, so when I was thinking of extras to add to the 3DS version I thought it would be fun to do something with ducks. I also wanted a character that added a bit more diversity. Playing as the girl didn't really add that much to the gameplay, but I'm really happy with how Duck Mode turned out.
Multiplayer: How did you get the 3D to work so well?
Hörberg: To be honest I'm somewhat surprised that people like the 3D feature so much in Gunman Clive. I was a bit unsure about the way this art style looked in stereoscopic 3D throughout the whole production, and kind of figured most people would play it in 2D. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive. So I really can't say what the secret is.
Multiplayer: There are plenty of subtle homages to classic games worked into Gunman Clive, what are some of your favorite nods to the past that you included?
Hörberg: There's lots of things, but the one I had most fun doing was probably the third boss. A few years ago I worked at a company called Grin and was part of the team that made Bionic Commando Rearmed. I was responsible for programming the player controls (among other things). Recreating some of that and doing all the animations and stuff myself was a lot of fun.
Multiplayer: What made you decide to bring the game to the eShop after releasing it for smartphones?
Hörberg: After having released a few titles for smartphones I felt ready to try to branch out a bit, and out of the big gaming platforms 3DS eShop seemed to be the easiest market to get into, and the best suited for my games. I have a much easier time designing games with a traditional controller in mind than a touch screen, and feel more at home on traditional gaming consoles/portables than on smartphones in general. I also have a special love for Nintendo handhelds, as some of my first gaming experience was on the original Gameboy. I wasn't sure at first whether to port Gunman Clive or jump directly to developing a new game for the platform, but as I was porting over my engine I got the game to run pretty much perfectly in a matter of weeks, so it seemed a wasted opportunity not to release it.
Multiplayer: What advantages or disadvantages did the 3DS offer you over smartphones?
Hörberg: The obvious answer is of course buttons, and it makes the game much easier and more fun to play. Also working with a fixed hardware takes away a lot of the headaches. The screen resolution is much lower than on most smartphones though. I was a bit worried about that for Gunman Clive, where the art style can look extremely pixelated in lower resolutions, but was able to compensate by using antialiasing.
Hörberg: It's a bit embarrassing to talk about that game to be honest. It's a silly thing that I made in a few weeks on my spare time, and not much of a game really, and certainly not a very good one. I had a lot fun making it though, and I might never have gotten started doing smarthpone games if not for that game. It started with me doing some code experiments on how to animate clothing, just for fun. Then a while later I was talking to a friend who was trying to talk me into coding for Android, and at some point during the conversation the idea to use my animation tech to pull off clothes with the touch screen popped up. The idea just seemed too silly to pass up, so I immediately installed the android SDK, started porting my engine, simplified the tech to run on mobile platforms and tried to turn it into a game somehow. When I eventually made the iOS version though I had to change the game quite a lot to get it approved by Apple.
Multiplayer: Can we hope to see more from Clive?
Hörberg: I want to make something else first, preferably something with a bit more colour, but yes I will very likely make a sequel eventually. The reception has been incredible and I can't afford to waste this opportunity when the players want more. I'm also quite interested to see how much further I can take the faux-handdrawn art style with a bit more time and possibly with more powerful hardware, if I were to make a console version.