“It’s crazy,” he adds, explaining that he’s not slept more than a handful of hours in the last three days. “It’s all pretty standard, though,” he says – I’m not entirely convinced.
It’s been over two years since the first Joe Danger hit the PlayStation 3, and since then the Xbox 360 version has seen an updated, refined and content rich semi-sequel in Special Edition.
And the same console’s getting first dibs on a completely new entry into the series with the all-new Joe Danger: The Movie. For a team of four, they’ve been pretty busy.
“Yeah, two whole years,” laughs Sean, “which is crazy when you think about it. It’s been such a busy time for us, that time has just flown. Now when I look back, and think about everything that’s happened, it seems like a long time. If you know what I mean?”
The reaction to the first Joe Danger was great, I reply, and then ask how was it working with Sony? “An absolute pleasure,” says Sean. “They really just let us get on with things, make our own mistakes, but are there to help when we need them.”
One misconception is that Sony published the first Joe Danger. They didn’t – Hello Games self published the title entirely. “It’s a lot different for us to what it is for most indie developers,” explains Sean. “Sony treat us exactly the same way they treat Disney, EA or whoever. We’re a publisher with Sony, so they are pretty hands off.”
“We come to them when the game is done,” he adds. “If we never finished our game, or never released it, they wouldn’t necessarily even know. They aren’t cracking whips or anything. Which I like!”
I ask Sean how he thinks PlayStation 3-only gamers felt when the remixed Special Edition came out a year later for the Xbox 360, and only for the Xbox 360. “I think if I look through my emails, comments and tweets on average, most of our fans wished us well,” Sean replies. “[Sony gamers] had already had the game for a year, and loved it, and they were happy to see an indie studio doing well.”
Not everyone, though, I remind him. “Some people were annoyed though for sure, and I understand that,” he replies. “PS3 owners and gamers really made the game a success. We made some additional content that would have been really difficult to retro-fit onto PS3.”
“When we were given the opportunity to go back and revisit Joe Danger,” Sean explains, “we couldn’t resist tweaking and changing lots of stuff, things people don’t normally do when porting. Like we removed levels that we never liked, we added those Pro Medals, which changed progression, changed scoring. Then we realised we just couldn’t do all that in the PS3 version, not just as some extra DLC. That’s our own stupid fault for doing too much,” he says, “we haven’t set that right yet, but I hope in future we will.”[drop2]I mention the “playtesters” comment he made in an interview with Eurogamer when Special Edition was first announced. Was that a mistake?
“Oh god! Yes! Look, you know I shouldn’t be doing this. You know I’m not media trained or whatever. None of us indies are generally, and we just ramble and talk. I’m told what I’m supposed to do is talk in soundbites, so that things can’t be taken out of context.”
“One day maybe Hello Games will have someone who is good at this stuff…”
Sean goes on to qualify what he meant. “We watched hundreds of thousands of people play our game on PS3,” he starts. “We saw every problem with the game, we learned so much about what people like and what they don’t. We saw there was one level, where about 20% of people gave up on the game. So when we came to Xbox, we removed that level, and it felt good. I hated that level.”
“We did lots of that [focus testing and revising] with our first patch for PS3 too, to be honest,” he adds. “I remember at the time saying all that to someone, and saying that the PS3 players were more than players, they were playtesters.”
“Obviously looking back, that was a stupid thing to say. I get why people would be angry, but I totally didn’t mean any offense, I hopefully meant it in a positive way.”
So why’s the fully fledged sequel – Joe Danger The Movie – only announced for Xbox 360, I ask?
“That’s a really tough question to answer,” comes the reply. “There’s so many things that go on behind the scenes, that I wish I could explain to people. Sometimes I wish we were a bigger team, so that we could do more, and keep everyone happy at once.”
“Ultimately, most people assume that we were published by Sony, or that we got bags of cash from them. That’s not true, which is a shame, because I’m a fan of bags of cash. Like I was saying, we’re the publisher, and really they don’t take an interest until we have a finished game. We don’t have a problem with that at all, we love it. Equally, most people would assume that we got bags of cash from Microsoft, and again that’s not true. We actually make huge sacrifices to stay independent, and keep control of our games.”
“One thing I’m keenly aware of is the support that PS3 users have given us,” he says, sincerely. “I hope that we aren’t going to let them down.”
“Can PS3 owners assume that they’re still going to get some Hello Games loving down the line, then?” I ask in response. There’s a pause. “I know you’ll sneakily love me to announce something!” Sean finally says with a wry smile. “Look, what I’d say is that PS3 owners gave us a start, and we haven’t forgotten that. You have to realise that we have a lot of fans on 360 too, and we try our best to keep everyone happy.”
“I understand that people could be upset with us for that now this week, but that’s the real short term. In the medium and even long term, there is so much more going on. If people only knew, I hope they’d forget that upset, and be excited instead.”
We’ve been playing The Movie for a little while now, and it’s really, really good. So whilst for this week it looks like the only way to play it will be on 360, Sean and the Hello Games team are clearly wanting to please everyone.
Joe Danger: The Movie is out today, 14th of September, for 1200 Microsoft Points.