13AM Games and Dadako Bring 8-Bit Nostalgia in Pirate Pop Plus

MonsterVine recently had the opportunity to visit 13AM Games to interview the CEO and COO of the company, Alex Rushdy and Dave Proctor, about the Toronto Indie scene, and Dadako and their newest content-packed arcade game, Pirate Pop Plus. Spencer also managed to nab a high score on the studio copy of Pirate Pop Plus:


Spencer: To start, can you give a small description of Pirate Pop Plus?

Alex: Pirate Pop Plus is a retro Gameboy-Style score-chasing game featuring pirates and bubbles, and gravity, and machine guns, and all sorts of wacky stuff.

Dave: Coconuts!

Alex: Coconuts! Gameboy customization, fake stickers, chiptune music, it’s great.

Spencer: So this was originally made in Japan right? And you guys localized it and added onto it from the original version?

Alex: It was developed for a Jam by Hawken King, who lives in Tokyo. He developed the original Pirate Pop in a Gameboy Jam in 2015, and he was planning to maybe release it for iOS. We met with him, played the game at TGS 2015, said this is great, and so we wanted to talk about it. We brought the game back to Toronto, showed it to the 13AM Team, and we all agreed that it was the perfect title for our publishing company, called 13AM Shipping Solutions. More people needed to play it, and it was perfect for the 3DS and Wii U.

Spencer: An opportunity to get it out there for people to experience it.

Alex: Exactly. And there were some ways to expand on the original, so we thought it was a perfect bite-sized game.

Dave: We worked with Hawken on growing the design a little bit, and we came up with some ideas, and he came up with some really cool ideas, then we did the porting here.

Spencer: So what do you think of the Toronto indie industry?

Dave: Terrible! [Laughs]

Alex: Trash! [Laughs]. Nah, it’s awesome.

Dave: We’re standing on the shoulders of giants here. There are studios here that were founded by people who have been in the gaming industry for nearly 20 years. They taught us a lot about how to start, and even beyond that, there are lots of companies who have made some really great stuff. And if they haven’t made something you’ve heard of yet, they definitely will. We have plans to do some really cool stuff.

Alex: One thing I really like about the Toronto indie scene is that there are bigger indies, like DrinkBox and CAPY, but there are also all these small groups of people all over the city who are making crazy games. Just wild, wacky stuff, and it’s so fun. It’s such a fun group of people, with tons of societies, organizations, and Game Jams. It’s just a great city to be a developer in.

Spencer: What are some of the major challenges that come with Indie development?

Alex: Well, money.

Dave: [Laughs]

Alex: We worked for free for six months when we started, and that’s really the reality of it.

Dave: We crossed the line where we didn’t have to do that anymore, which was really good. Getting a team where you can spend all your time on something, and we have such a passionate team of people, it’s amazing. We’re lucky to be in the company that we’re in.

Alex: It’s always a challenge, because as a small company, you have to juggle six projects at once. I didn’t have grey hairs when I started this company. [Laughs]

Dave: You have grey hairs? I had more hair when I started. [Laughs]

Alex: It’s long work days of sitting at a computer. We go to the gym at least three times a week, and finding new things to do outside of work that aren’t screen-related, finding joy in doing something that isn’t digital.

Spencer: So what made you want to develop video games?

Dave: I wanted to be rich and famous. [Laughs]

Alex: I initially didn’t ever plan to go into video games. I was going into film, but after finishing my undergrad and working in video production for my year, I had to re-evaluate. I’ve always loved video games with a passion, and I had a keen eye for what I liked and didn’t like in video games, and someone pointed out that I should work in the game industry, so I did it. As far as games that made me want to do it, mostly games from Treasure. They have such simple but beautiful builds, it’s amazing.

Dave: I’m a writer, and I like doing audio and video work. It’s all stuff that I enjoy, so I end up doing them one way or another in games. I had been taking in a lot of information of the art and industry of video games, but then my Xbox 360 bricked. I wondered about if I was done with games forever, but my wife said it wasn’t a good idea, because it’s who I am and what I do. Then I got a new 360, played Alan Wake, and I was like ‘this guy’s a writer, and his writing’s pretty good. Maybe I can do this’. I couldn’t think of anything else. And we all come from different backgrounds. Game development schools, computer engineering, industrial design, that sort of thing.

Spencer: What are your favorite games of all-time?

Dave: Secret of Monkey Island is one of my all-time “can always go back to” games. Super Meat Boy is up there.

Spencer: Super Meat Boy is so good.

Dave: Brutal Legend, I really love. It’s a great not-great game. It has its problems, but it’s executed very well around them.

Alex: Okay one of them is Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2. It’s the sequel to the Japanese version of Elite Beat Agents. It’s the perfect game to me. It ties the narrative directly into the gameplay, it uses the DS in a way that no other game does, it’s a rhythm game that isn’t trying to just ape an instrument, it’s got a great selection of songs, and it’s even non-violent. It’s just about going around and helping people, so you feel really good after playing it. And it’s one of those games where replaying a song is still fun, because you want to get that “Perfect”.

Dave: The way the beats hit in that game make you feel great.

Alex: I love fighting games as well. The two top ones are The Last Blade and Tatsunoko vs Capcom.

Yes! Someone else who loves Tatsunoko vs Capcom, haha.

Alex: Yeah, it’s my favourite VS game. I also like Altered Beast. I don’t think it’s really good, but it was really important to me. As a kid, I was scared of it. [Laughs]

Spencer: So to close this out, what do you want to tell people about Pirate Pop Plus, or anything else?

Alex: For Pirate Pop Plus, play Hyper Mode!

Dave: That’s my number one tip for people who want to get good at the game. And look forward to the Steam release!

Alex: Also Runbow is still out, and it’s still good! And if you don’t have it, Runbow Deluxe comes out for the Wii U with all the DLC, so it’s well worth it! And Runbow Pocket releases next year, there’s lots of cool stuff coming up.

Dave: We speak frequently on our Facebook and Twitter, and our tumblr blog, so those are worth following for updates and teasers!

Alright! Thank you for the interview!

To learn more about Pirate Pop PlusRunbow Deluxe, and 13AM Games and Dadako, check out their official website here.

13AM Games and Dadako Bring 8-Bit Nostalgia in Pirate Pop Plus
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