Posted on November 14 2018 by Andy Spiteri
Hello folks, and welcome back to Inspired By Zelda! This month was originally going to focus on a creepy 2D Link’s Awakening-esq game named Anodyne, but as time was a scarce resource this month, so unfortunately, that think-piece will have to wait until next month. To make it up to everybody, I had a chance to chat with the Lead Developer of Stranger Things: The Game Dave Pottinger about the game, and I’m here to share that with you! We talk about what it was like working with Netfix, why he chose the “Zelda genre”, and more! Check it out below!
Thanks for the time Dave! Let’s jump right into things – how did putting together Stranger Things: The Game come about?
[DCP] The game industry is a pretty small place. We knew some folks over at Netflix. We got to talking about the idea of doing a game after the first season of Stranger Things came out. Our excitement level was through the roof; we were smitten with the series. When the opportunity to work on the game got to the point of saying yes/no, it was a VERY easy choice.
Did Netflix have a say in how development was going, or were you guys pretty free to do your own thing?
[DCP] We had a terrific time working with Netflix/everyone involved throughout the entire project. I give Netflix a ton of credit for the leeway and freedom they gave us. They displayed a great deal of trust. I think BonusXP did a great job diving in all the way the franchise and giving it a lot of love. Of course, we had all the expected approvals to go through, but they were pretty painless, to be honest.
Obviously, Stranger Things has become a pop culture phenomenon. Were you guys fans of the show beforehand? And did you feel any pressure adapting such a beloved series?
[DCP] Yes, we were absolutely fans. When the show came out, it took over our office. We had to divide lunch into “had seen it” and “hadn’t seen it” groups for a while. We hadn’t done any work for licensed projects before; I’m still a little surprised we were that excited about it. But, when I brought the idea up with the team, it was clear that we needed to go do this game. I think the pressure was there, but we typically put a lot of pressure on ourselves anyway. We made a game that we love for a franchise that we love. That’s a pretty good recipe.
Anyone who’s ever played a top-down Zelda game can immediately see that Stranger Things has taken some inspiration from games like A Link to the Past. Was your team fans of the Zelda series, and what made you decide that this was the best style of play for your game?
[DCP] Yes, hardcore, lifelong Zelda fans, too. For several of us, making a Zelda-style game has been on the bucket list for a long time. When we got to talking about ideas for the game, the match just immediately fell out. The show is about exploration and mystery. To me, that’s the allure of Zelda, as well. Solving puzzles while also not knowing everything about the game, or even where you’ll end up when it’s done. The two fit really well together from a motivation and mood standpoint.
I thought the ensemble cast for the most part being all playable characters was really cool! Was this always the plan to feature as many characters as possible?
[DCP] Mostly, yes. The show is clearly an ensemble cast, so we knew that everyone needed to make a strong appearance. When we looked at how we could marry the show with the overall collection gameplay, we originally talked about collecting different items/weapons like a typical Zelda game or any RPG. The light bulb moment was to unify those two things to make rescuing each kid also earn you another ability. Once that was mentioned in a discussion, there was no going back. It quickly became the identity of the whole game.
Most free to play mobile games are caked with ads or other mood-killing distractions. How did you guys get away with creating a completely ad-free game, and was that always your goal?
[DCP] I’m not sure I’d say “got away with”. The game was always envisioned as a free thing for fans. We weren’t really sure how many people would even want to play it. As it turns out, quite a lot wanted to play it. It’s massively exceeded our install expectations. And, let’s be honest, the whole thing is sort of an ad for Season 2 in its own right. It’s just a REALLY good ad that’s also a REALLY good game [laughs].
Is this going to stay strictly a mobile game, or would this game finding an audience on the Nintendo Switch and other major consoles ever be a possibility?
[DCP] This one is going to stay as a mobile game.
As Season 2 of Stranger Things approached on Halloween 2017, the game was updated to feature Maxine as a playable character. Will there be any sort of updates ahead of Season 3?
[DCP] I don’t think there will be any updates to this game for Season 3.
It feels like there’s a lot of material left that could be saved for a sequel. Are there any plans to produce a follow up title?
[DCP] Unfortunately, I can’t comment on that. Even if there were plans, I couldn’t comment.
What was your favorite part about making this game, and what’s next for BonusXP?
[DCP] For me, I loved taking a beloved gameplay style like Zelda and adapting it for mobile. I’ve been dying to make a Zelda-style game for a long time, so there was some personal satisfaction there. But, I do think we did a darned good job bringing that gameplay to mobile and really making it fun on mobile. As for Bonus, we have a couple of games in the pipe. The next big game will come out in the middle of 2019, so look forward to that!
I can’t wait! Thanks for taking the time to chat! For anyone that hasn’t played it – go check out Stranger Things: The Game on Google Play and the App Store! It’s free, there’s no ads, and best of all, it’s a great game!
A big shout out to Dave and the entire team behind Stranger Things! That’ll do it for this months Inspired By Zelda, but next month I’ll be back and talking about Anodyne! Until then friends!
Andy Spiteri is the Editor-in-Chief of Zelda Dungeon. He’s pretty heartbroken Season 3 of Stranger Things was delayed a year. Cheer him up by following him on Twitter!
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