MyGamer Exclusive Interview With the Publisher Behind Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure 3D
Founded in the early 2000s, Mastiff has made a name for themselves by publishing a series of hunting/fishing titles such as the Outdoors Unleashed games and even partnered with the Remington and Shimano licenses. They also worked with the Heavy Fire series, a number of FPS lightgun-like shooters. But outside of these simulation titles, Mastiff also brought two other unique titles to handheld systems: the original DS release of Moon, developed by Renegade Kid, and Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure, developed by Nihon Falcom, on PSP.
Originally released in early 2007 on Sony’s Playstation Portable, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure was a hit among critics and fans. At the time, the PSP’s library was still growing and developers were trying to figure out how make use of the system’s limitations, specifically the single analog nub. Gurumin was one of those earlier sleeper hit games that gave PSP owners something to get excited about. Fast forward about eight years later, Gurumin was ported to Steam in 2015 with hopes of finding a new audience. After being exposed to a significantly wider PC user base, Gurumin pleased gamers willing to take a chance on an almost unknown colorful anime IP.
Coming off the playable demo at PAX West, Mastiff announced that Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure will be hitting the Nintendo 3DS eShop on October 13, 2016 for $14.99.
The myGamer staff had a chance to speak with Bill Swartz, President and CEO of Mastiff about this anticipated release, other Mastiff titles, and what the future might hold for this determined publisher.
MG: How did Mastiff originally get involved Gurumin back in the PSP era? Did Falcom approach you and ask if you might be interested in their game?
Bill Swartz, President & CEO of Mastiff: We’ve always had deep roots in Japan. In fact, one of our very first hit titles was La Pucelle: Tactics from Nihon Ichi Software. Read the reviews of Gurumin, played it, fell in love, cold called Nihon Falcom, somehow they agreed to sit down with me, and the rest is history.
MG: What has it been like working with Falcom? They have been around since the mid-80s and probably best known for the Ys series, Popful Mail, Brandish and many other games. Were you excited to be working with such a prestigious company?
Mastiff: NHF is fantastic to work with. Smart, organized, supportive, no-nonsense with a good sense of what matters. As you can imagine, NHF is incredibly busy but they always found time to help us when we asked either an arcane game play/game design question or needed some guidance on an old piece of code.
MG: What has the localization process been like for Gurumin 3D?
Mastiff: It wasn’t really a localization so much as a port or a remastering. The process went like this:
- June 2015: Hey!!!! This guy I really respect just said Gurumin is basically Mario with short range weapons and some Zelda tossed into the mix. You know, he’s right. We need to get this in front of a Nintendo audience. And with all the jumping and topographically rich (mountains, canyons, box piles ect) maps it will work great on 3DS. And we can sell it on the eShop. This will be awesome! And since we know the code really well and have all the data already localized, how hard could it be? Yea, exactly. Famous last words!
- August 2015: Got the dev group fairly well lined up, began basic planning, production to start in September
- September 2015. Uh. Another project is taking a lot of resources. Programmers do a few animation tests on Gurumin 3DS characters but not able to focus on project
- December 2015. Production is rolling. Realize we are heading towards a 1+ gig download file. After all PC games can be (almost) infinitely big. WAIT. NO. THIS IS INSANE. A 3DS eShop has to be small enough for a quick download.
- January-March 2016: Whole team cranks double time on reducing program size. Rewrite huge chunks of code, use every trick we could come up with, get it down to about a third of what it was. OK. We now have a game small enough to reasonably download. And it only cost us 3 (pretty much unplanned) months!!
- March-May 2016: Hey, it’s running on the 3DS!!! Yea, too bad it crashes constantly!!!! And sound cuts out!! And environments tear. And it’s slower than molasses in January. Oh, and 3D is a bit iffy. But other than that, it’s great!
- June 2016: Crashes rarely, sound works, and environments behave like they are supposed to. But it still feels slow, and now that the game is really playable it’s obvious that controls aren’t crisp. No Problem!!! A week or two, and it will be perfect!!!
- July 2016: Doesn’t crash, 3D looks good, speed is better but still a bit too slow so controls don’t feel crisp and responsive. “HEY- NOT OUR FAULT. THE GAME WAS BUILT FOR PCs, WHERE MEMORY IS INFINITE. BUT. WE COULD MAKE IT FASTER IF WE JUST DID IT IN 2D” said one group, briefly. “WE AREN’T SHIPPING A 2D GAME, AND WE AREN’T SHIPPING UNTIL CONTROLS FEEL REALLY CRISP” said another. The second group won. Also revised the in game help screens and tutorial and began testing different control layouts.
- July-September 2016: Crash project to improve speed. Used a lot of tricks, though the most important was Fulstrum Culling, which is a fancy way of saying be super smart about not drawing anything in memory that won’t appear on camera. Showed the game to Mr. Kondo, now president of Nihon Falcom and one of the original designers of Gurumin. He nodded his head and said “OK, good job.” And I knew we had finally arrived.
It was a long, hard march but I’m really proud of what we are crossing the finish line with. And watching regular people at PAX pick up the game, figure out how to play, and then not want to give it back was a hugely satisfying experience.
MG: To be honest, the idea behind Gurumin is unique but also very risky. Here is this game that features a little girl in a pink outfit, who makes friends with monsters in a colorful world, and uses an oversized drill as a weapon. Why did Mastiff want to get involved in what would assumedly be an uncertain game with a concept that might only appeal to a small but dedicated user base?
Mastiff: Primarily because it is a fantastic game that we truly believe in!
MG: Can you talk about the porting process from PSP, to PC and now to 3DS? Any technical hiccups going from a portable system, to PC, back to a portable system with 3D support?
Mastiff: Oh Yes!! End of the day, a PC has pretty much infinite memory and infinite processing power, so the original game wasn’t built to be computationally efficient – which was fine, that allowed the developers to focus on being fun and attractive. But on smaller systems with limited processing resources it’s all about efficiency.
MG: Besides the stereoscopic 3D support, are there any other features or content unique to this 3DS version?
Mastiff: We support the C-stick for camera controls, redid the in-game tutorial and help system, and tweaked and improved the camera just a bit. Gurumin 3D is all about that wholesome Gurumin goodness, don’t see any value with us messing with it too much.
MG: After many years, why did you decide to bring Gurumin from PSP to Steam? Have the fans been requesting a PC port since the original PSP release?
Mastiff: We loved Gurumin, wanted as many people to see it as possible, and Steam makes distribution to a large audience possible.
MG: As of this interview, Gurumin 3D has not yet been given an exact release date as you are still finalizing details with Nintendo. But can you talk about the price of the game and perhaps its file size? This way gamers can make some room on their SD cards ahead of time and purchase some eShop credit ahead of time!
Mastiff: Most definitely. We recently announced on September 30 that Gurumin 3D will be released in North America on October 13 for the shortcake sweet price of $14.99. Gamers will want to set aside about 4,000 blocks for the game and save data.
MG: What do you think the future might hold for Gurumin? I know it is a hard quest to answer but might we ever see a sequel?
Mastiff: If Gurumin performs well at launch you can believe I’d have that conversation with Nihon Falcom!!!
MG: Parin’s adventure seems like it would make for a great Saturday morning cartoon. Here’s a little girl that plays in a world filled with monsters that only she can see. What do you think about a potential Gurumin anime or some other offshoot? And if Shovel Knight can do it, what do you think about a Gurumin amiibo perhaps?
Mastiff: I think that’s an awesome, awesome idea!
MG: Once Gurumin 3D launches, what is next for Mastiff? Anything in the hopper you can talk about?
Mastiff: A couple of things floating around, but unfortunately there’s nothing that I can talk about right now.
MG: Working in the game industry, we can only assume you guys are fellow gamers. What games are the Mastiff staff currently playing? What are some of your favorite games?
Mastiff: My personal all-time favorite is the first Half Life. I remember starting the game and not being able to stop, played all the way through in two sittings – something I’d never done before or since. We’ve also been playing a little Guilty Gear Xrd: REVELATOR and Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PS4, and can’t escape from sneaking in some Granblue Fantasy on mobile.
MG: Now that Mastiff has worked with Falcom and Renegade Kid, what other developers or game franchises you would be a dream-come-true to work with?
Mastiff: I want to do the myGamer game! Just like Penny Arcade produced its own title, I’d be honored to do one with you. The possibilities are near limitless!
MG: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Gurumin 3D or about Mastiff?
Mastiff: Do not be fooled by Gurumin’s cuteness. Think of it as a beautiful vase containing some beautiful flowers that just happen to be carnivorous. And yes, Parin may have pigtails and big, cute anime eyes, but she’s one mean malefactor. Give her a shot! Oh, and those who purchase Gurumin 3D on the Nintendo eShop from October 13 through Halloween on October 31 will receive a free 3DS theme. It’s a small way to say thank you for the support. We’ll also have several other themes available to purchase from the Theme Shop on the 3DS too.
MG: On behalf of the entire myGamer staff, we thank you for your time and we are looking forward to Gurumin 3D!
Mastiff: Thank you! I had a great time!
To learn more about Mastiff and Gurumin 3D: A Monstous Adventure, visit their website.
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com