NightSky dev on Japanese game critics, ditching the term 'indie'

Tyrone Rodriguez with NightSky developer Nicalis explains that contrary to some opinions, not all Japanese games suck, adding that the industry should can the term "indie."
[John Polson of Gamasutra sister site, chats with Tyrone Rodriguez of NightSky developer Nicalis, who explains that contrary to some opinions, not all Japanese games suck, adding that the industry should can the term "indie."] Nicalis' Tyrone Rodriguez has a keen eye for publishing indie titles, and the creative talent to make his own. His company developed and self-published indie puzzler NightSky, in addition to localizing and enhancing popular platformer Cave Story for PC and almost every console in 2011. The studio ended the year on a high, releasing Terry Cavanagh's highly-acclaimed VVVVVV on the 3DS eShop. While 2012 has not yet seen any major reveals for Nicalis aside from bringing Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya's Ikachan to DSiWare, the company's focus on Japanese titles is notable. After an Indie Game: The Movie screening at Game Developers Conference earlier this month, Western-focused developers such as Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish expressed their distaste with most modern Japanese games. Speaking on the topic of Japanese indie titles he finds interesting, Rodriguez says he personally wishes popular doujin series such as Touhou "would just go away." Pointing out great indie titles from Japan (aside from Pixel's) was a little difficult for Rodriguez, so I asked for his thoughts on modern, mainstream Japanese games. "What's modern?" he asked. I couldn't recall the specific period of time in Japanese games that Fish and Blow were referring, but Rodriguez listed Omega Boost, Vib Ribbon and Parappa the Rapper as good Japanese games. For even newer games, he listed Demon's/Dark Souls, Super Street Fighter IV, The World Ends with You, Final Fantasy XII and Armored Core. I agreed when suggested Nintendo and other major companies that are still making good games. However, at the mention of Konami, he quipped, "Konami doesn't make good stuff." He says in particular that Metal Gear Solid developer Hideo Kojima should stop making games and start making bad movies (ironically, Kojima just might). "He's terrible at making games. Metal Gear is good in spite of him. I haven't enjoyed a game of his since maybe the original Metal Gear Solid, maybe." He feels the recent ones are tedious, riddled with bad writing, bad story-telling, and bad control. Rodriguez feels Japan doesn't do certain genres justice and that it "comes down to a big cultural difference. If you like FPSes, anything from Japan is going to suck." Most of the games Rodriguez likes to play are much smaller in scale nowadays. That's how he said he found and fell for Cave Story. While some games could take hours of his time each day, he just doesn't want to be that kind of gamer anymore. He encourages AAA and indie studios to make shorter blockbuster experiences to accommodate that on-the-go lifestyle and short attention span that modern technology has fostered. "I would totally pay $60 for a three-hour game that was balls off the wall incredible for three hours. Instead we get these games that promise 30-60 hours of content. They don't have to justify the price; they have to justify the quality." In terms of the indie gaming scene, Rodriguez explained, "I'd like to see them sort of realize their potential. They think really small and it seems like there's still a lot of angst. For instance, I saw indies get mad that they weren't going to be at E3 (IndieCade). It seems to me like, 'oh we'll be part of the mainstream game industry when we want to be.'" "The main thing I want to see from indie developers is to stop calling themselves indie developers. You're either a game developer or you're not. Indie has nothing to do with it. It's like this cool buzzword now. Do you make games? Okay, then you're a game developer." Rodriguez goes so far as to say that he thinks developers are devaluing and belittling themselves by self-labeling as indie. "And there's so many great ideas coming from all these designers. Once we eliminate the whole indie, non-indie thing, it can go a long way." He further states that the word indie is "kind of irrelevant now. You get companies like EA who start indie sectors and Activision starting indie competitions; how indie is indie anymore at that point?" Rodriguez believes that PC is a good place for new developers to start, echoing some of Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski's sentiments. He says that XBLA has created a barrier of entry with requiring publishers, and that Microsoft asking for exclusivity can lead to a loss of sales on Steam and PSN. For the average indie person, the barrier of entry is certainly is lower with PC, but he thinks it really depends on the type of game being made. Nicalis seems to be doing fine in both the PC and console market. Cave Story has made it to Steam, WiiWare, DSiWare, and a retail 3DS release. Nicalis's own internally-developed game, NightSky, is also set to release soon on 3DS's eShop, after selling on Steam. "It's not always about the money," Rodriguez says, especially with recent developments for Cave Story+. The new content the company is making for the game is not paid-DLC: it adds new challenges and online leaderboards update to Steam. It's a decision he's making because he's a fan of the game, and he thinks that's an awesome thing to do. At this time, he wasn't sure if he could comment on any eShop-facilitated updates for Cave Story. He's doing more publishing now, too, even on the iOS. To that extent, I asked about Pixel's underwater Cave Story-like, Rock Fish. Rodriguez doesn't think it will be ready in 2012. [Photo source]

Latest Jobs

Manticore Games

San Mateo, California
Senior Software Engineer - Mobile

Sony PlayStation

San Diego, California
Sr. Online Programmer

The Walt Disney Company

Glendale, California
Associate Marketing Manager - Walt Disney Games

Insomniac Games

Burbank, California
Accessibility Design Researcher
More Jobs   


Explore the
Subscribe to
Follow us

Game Developer Job Board

Game Developer Newsletter


Explore the

Game Developer Job Board

Browse open positions across the game industry or recruit new talent for your studio

Subscribe to

Game Developer Newsletter

Get daily Game Developer top stories every morning straight into your inbox

Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more