In an era where forced studio closures are unfortunately common, Collin van Ginkel and the rest of Two Tribes Games made the surprising decision to exit game development voluntarily, on their own terms. The studio best known for the Toki Tori series decided during the development of the bullet hell platformer, Rive, that it would be their final effort.
They decided to close the studio after the release of the game, and van Ginkel planned to leave the industry entirely. Van Ginkel told us how he would down his studio, and passed along tips for other developers who find themselves in a similar situation.
Deciding to pull the plug
“There were a number of reasons for Martijn Reuvers and myself to call it a day, some personal, some business related,” van Ginkel says. “When we had to lay off our staff in 2013 due to lower than expected sales of Toki Tori 2, we started afresh with the idea of learning from our past mistakes and plotting a new course for the company."
Two Tribes set out to make a smaller game with a smaller team, hoping this would allow them to increase flexibility and the pace of iterations. “Apparently it's not in our DNA to make games quickly, and in the end it took about two and a half years to complete Rive," he says. "During that time, we noticed that we weren't in tune with the latest developments anymore.”
Van Ginkel mentions a developer he knows who has created an Android clicker game that's feeding people into his Twitch stream, where he's livestreaming development of his next game and living off of the donations he gets from viewers."He's having a blast and is very successful," says van Ginkel. “But I don't like clicker games, I don't get Twitch, and live-streaming my every move feels weird to me."
"In short, we didn't see options anymore," he says. "That meant it was time to move on.”
Designing a swan song
For van Ginkel, the decision to make Rive his final game project was liberating. Suddenly, the looming pressure of finishing so they could embark on the next game was lifted. “It freed us from having to think of the future too much, and enabled us to just go all out on our final game," he says. "We don't have to support the next game with this one, so we took our sweet time instead of worrying too much about the financial implications of delaying.”
Rive is not a game that eschews difficulty for player-friendliness. Cheekily, the only game mode available to new players is Hard Mode. “We don't call the experience a 'dance of destruction' for nothing, you really have to learn the Rive dance in order to successfully beat the game's battles.”
Van Ginkel is quick to emphasize that support for Rive will continue into the foreseeable future. “We won't be making new games, but we will of course support our existing customers and partners. It's a weird time, that's for sure.”
What comes next
When asked what his years in game development have taught him, and what lessons he would impart to new developers, van Ginkel's advice is simple.
“Stay healthy! Don't fall into the trap of thinking it's cool or necessary to work until you run out of steam. I now know it's better to be smart about where you spend your time and resources than to just throw time at your project and hope for the best. And this realization came the hard way, after several herniated discs and way too much stress. Healthy people make better games, trust me!”
If anything, van Ginkel seems energized by his decision to move on from games, and optimistic about the future.
“After 16 years of making video games I'm looking forward to seeing what else is out there, what else I'll be able to achieve in perhaps a totally different setting and capacity," he says. "I am embracing the fact that I don't know where I'm headed, but I want to make the best informed decision, so the first course of action is to literally travel the world. I am very much looking forward to that!’”