Interview with Devolver Digital - GRIS / Pikuniku / My Friend Pedro
Day one of PAX Australia was a hectic day, and we were lucky enough to get an opportunity to speak to some fantastic indie developers. One that we’d like to highlight is Graeme from Devolver Digital, as we discussed three new games coming to Switch, including:
- My Friend Pedro
Edit: Unfortunately we have had to temporarily take down the video interview, but we’ll reupload as soon as we can. In the meantime, we have the transcript below. We apologise for the inconvenience.
Alex: Hey everyone! Alex from Switchaboo here and I am here with Graeme from Devolver Digital. We’re going to talk about a few games that will be coming out some time later this year and early next year, but we’ll get into more of that later on. First off, I’d like to talk about Pikuniku. That game looks quite interesting – really nice graphics, really nice aesthetics – can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Graeme: We met the team behind it about a year ago. One of the guys worked on another game called Reigns which is an Android/iOS game (recently released on Switch) and Arnaud (the artist), if you look at Reigns, the art style that he developed for it is really really cool. So when they pitched this Pikuniku, we kind of knew from the get-go that the art style would be quite interesting. And he was thinking about Switch from the very beginning, it’s not a game that’s coming to Switch after the fact, so they designed it with the Switch in mind. From how the game looks, you could almost mistake it for a kids game, the art style is quite simple, but it’s a dystopian nightmare and you are playing to solve that for the universe in which you play. It’s one of those games that doesn’t look like what it is about. It also has couch co-op which plays really well.
Alex: That was a question that I actually did want to touch on. With the story aspect, we noticed in the trailer that there were a couple of conspiracies going on there. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Graeme: No… I’m not allowed. Arnaud would kill me.
Alex: (laughs) No, no fair enough. But it’s basically deeper than you’d expect, though?
Graeme: Yeah it is, and again I like how he’s gone for a simple set of mechanics, and there isn’t obviously a huge amount of dialogue but it also tells quite a deep story. So that’s really interesting that they’ve managed to combine a visually minimalist game and not a great deal of explanation, but somehow you just get it. It’s a really cool design.
Alex: Yeah, so it’s more of a show not tell approach.
Graeme: Yeah. And I think that’s why we don’t really want to talk too much more about it, otherwise we’d be giving it away.
David: That’s the conspiracy itself…
Graeme: Oooohhhh! (Laughs)
Alex: I just want to touch upon the co-op again, the developer had the Switch in mind straight away. So I’m assuming they wanted to do co-op to ‘Share the Joy’, that was something that was considered from the get-go?
Graeme: Yeah, I mean there are a lot of us, but they are very specific Switch and Nintendo fans, which kind of shows.
Alex: Yeah, especially with the graphical aesthetics as well. What does Pikuniku mean?
Graeme: I have no idea!
Alex & Graeme: (Laughs)
Graeme: It kind of sounds cheerful when you say it quickly. It kind of makes you smile, I never actually thought to ask. Sorry…
Alex: (Laughs) No, that’s OK. Because I saw in the trailer that they actually have it written in Japanese Katakana, so I thought that it might’ve had some kind of meaning.
Graeme: It may well do. I should go and ask.
David: We have a theory… we think that the ‘niku’ part is referring to meat. But then when we looked up what ‘piku’ means in Japanese, it means twitchy. So, twitchy meat?
Alex: It kind of looks like that a little bit.
Graeme: I kind of hope that it isn’t what it means.
Alex, Graeme & David: (Laughs)
Graeme: I mean, we named our company Devolver and then found out that in some parts in Spain it means to throw up. So, there you go.
Alex & David: (Laughs)
Alex: So last question on Pikuniku, When can we see it on Switch?
Graeme: Well the game is pretty much almost done now, so I believe it’s going to be some time around March, so pretty soon.
Alex: So like first quarter, awesome! Well thank you for that. Now we’ll go on to GRIS, and now this game looks beautiful!
Graeme: It is!
Alex: GRIS is absolutely stunning. I guess tell us about the gameplay first off and then we’ll go into the aesthetics of it.
Graeme: Well, it’s a game that is dealing with grief, which is not necessarily a topic that you’d associate with video games. Gris is a hopeful young girl lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life. So that’s the manifestation of her state of mind. So for the gameplay itself, the art style is absolutely beautiful and the soundtrack that goes with it, especially when you play with headphones on, it’s like you’re completely in. There is no text in the game, other than the brief UI and how to play, it has zero text. So it is a game that is evoking emotion in the visuals and the sound. And the animation on the main character, it’s very minimalist, but it’s very beautiful.
Alex: So once again, going for more show rather than tell?
Graeme: Yeah, and it’s coming to Switch and that’s the only console it’s coming to.
Alex: So PC and Switch?
Alex: Awesome! So is GRIS a timed exclusive?
Graeme: No, we just think that that’s the right place for it to be, and that’s coming out I think December, either the 4th, 5th of 6th.
Alex: So very soon. I was looking at the gameplay from the trailer and a lot of the world seems to unfold as you are exploring it. What can you tell us on that?
Graeme: Well, there is no signalling rather it is how you feel as you go throughout the game. This is not a hard game to play. It’s a game that’s very contained, it’s very simple to learn, because this is a game that it is vital for you to get to the end. You need to get to the end to understand the whole narrative. So it’s designed with that in mind as well.
Alex: So it’s very story-based. So you touched on the release date for GRIS, but just to reiterate, December 4th was it?
Graeme: Yeah somewhere around then, it’s in that week.
My Friend Pedro
Alex: That’s really exciting! Last one, My Friend Pedro, what can you tell us about that?
Graeme: Victor who makes My Friend Pedro is very tall, he’s very Swedish and he likes bananas.
Alex: Yeah, I noticed that.
Graeme: He’s blown our minds with just how much one person can do and how quickly he’s been adding levels and content. Each time we get a new build of the game, there will be something else that’s appeared, like some other form of combat. I mean, what other game can you use a saucepan to kick into the face of your enemies as a distraction technique and shoot it. It’s insane. And I asked him, “Why a banana? Why not an orange? and he said ‘I like bananas!'”.
Alex: No more explanation needed.
Graeme: Yeah, he just likes bananas. And again, it’s coming out in the first part of next year and the only console it’s going to be appearing on is the Switch.
Alex: So again, Switch and PC, that’s really cool!
David: Can you tell us a little bit about the response to My Friend Pedro because I’ve noticed that in indie game developer groups, I’ve noticed that every time it comes up on there it gets hundreds, sometimes thousands of likes.
Graeme: Yeah I mean if someone could explain the internet to me, I’d really appreciate that. It’d be really helpful. People just seem to respond so well to what Victor releases with little snippets on YouTube and sometimes a game is so ridiculous in its context I mean, what can you say?
Alex: Yeah it’s just the creativity of the developer.
Graeme: It is! And despite the fact that the game is pretty much a martyr simulator, it just makes you laugh. There’s just something that’s very cheerful about it and there’s a degree of slapstick to it. So, I guess that just comes across really easily in short video form.
Alex: I think it’s the banana that does it.
Graeme: Yes, I’ve reassessed my relationships with them.
Alex: (Laughs) So there are quite a bit of maneuvers you can do in the game. Like you said before, you can kick the frying pan and shoot at it to ricochet bullets off of it.
Graeme: Yeah I mean there are skateboards that you can use to kick it into the enemies, the saucepan you can use to fire bullets at it which then hits another enemy and distracts others, it’s just really kinetic and I’ve only touched on a few things. There are so many other things that you can use in the environment to cause chaos. In one regard we’ve said to Victor, “You’ve done enough now, you don’t need to keep on adding!” but he just wants to keep on adding.
Alex: Yeah I guess it’s a passion of his as well so he just wants to keep on doing it. Is this Victor’s first game that he’s created?
Graeme: I actually can’t tell you that, it’s a tough question. It’s certainly the first game that I’m aware of that he’s bringing to a console. I mean a lot of these developers do a lot of Game Jams which has a lot of content on it and things like that, so I don’t want to say that this is his first game because I don’t want to look like an idiot, or more of an idiot than I already look like.
Alex: (Laughs) And I guess just to reiterate, is there a rough release date for My Friend Pedro?
Graeme: I think that’s headed towards May next year, somewhere around there.
Alex: Cool! So three games coming to Nintendo Switch all from Devolver Digital, looking at between the next six months.
Graeme: Oh, we’ve got more than that!
Alex: I don’t doubt it. Thanks mate!
What do you think of Pikuniku, GRIS and My Friend Pedro? Will you be playing them on Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the Comments section below.
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