Interview with Dahku Creations, behind Rotund Takeoff!

Hello everyone! It’s time for another interview! While the initiative is still in the works and the big blowout isn’t ready, I did get another one finished, that I figured I’d share with you all: Here we have Dahku Creations, makers behind Chubbins and the recent remake, Rotund Takeoff. I decided to ask them several questions, and they decided to answer! Per usual, people are designated by color, with Orange being for me, and Blue being for Dahku.

Q1: What inspired you to reboot this original platformer, of all titles? Was a sequel ever considered as your comeback game?

A1: As a matter of fact, we actually did intend to make our comeback with the sequel, Rotund Rebound! However, we also had plans to revisit Chubbins eventually. When RR grew beyond its original vision and was taking super long to develop, we decided for a number of reasons that it made more sense to do the first game first.

Q2: What inspired the original game of Chubbins to begin with, and why was it even named, Chubbins? Is that the main character? if so, is he still named that in Takeoff?

A2: Our cousin dabbles in game dev and made a tiny little bouncy platformer around 2010. We loved its gameplay concept and saw a lot of potential, and the simple nature fit well into our heavily-pressured schedule back then, so we went for it.

Chubbins was once an affectionate nickname in our family, and it seemed very appropriate for a cute fat rabbit. He’s since been renamed Chubbit though, as the sequel will see him as part of a group of friends that all share the naming convention of a plump word combined with their animal name (chubby + rabbit, in this case). The word “chubbin” also turned out to have some unfortunate slang definitions that we were completely unaware of, giving rise to enough juvenile snickering when Chubbins released that a change seemed wise.

Q3: How was development of said original, being for the Wii U hardware, and during the very early dawn of the floodgates of indie games?

A3: Nintendo loaned out their Wii U dev equipment on a 6-month trial basis back then, so we were on the clock and development was pretty intense. When we first ran a build of Chubbins on Wii U, it turned out that the shaders we were using weren’t supported, so 99% of the screen was neon pink. There were also audio glitches caused by Unity on Wii U (which, despite working with Nintendo to fix, can still happen in the final release), and so on. Regardless of the bumps in that road, we’re lifelong Nintendo fans so it was a very exciting time for us.

Q4: When I converted my old forums into a review forum, it was mainly for several factors, the biggest being that indies on Wii U were going from like 6 a month to multiple in a week, so the usual sites I visited wouldn’t review many of them, so I decided to try my hand at all. Did you have any trouble finding reviewers for the original chubbins due to that factor? In comparison, how is Takeoff faring in terms of attention, since the Switch eShop is arguably considered even harder to stay focused on due to the sheer quantity of titles.

A4: The original Chubbins actually fared quite well in its news coverage and review count, probably just early enough in the deluge that Wii U games were still relatively scarce. It only gets harder to stand out over time, so despite Rotund Takeoff being of much higher quality and value (and releasing worldwide instead of only in North America), it’s been pretty thoroughly ignored by the press. It’s a shame, but given the state of the industry it hasn’t been a surprising outcome for a pixel precision platformer made by obscure devs.

Q5: Originally announced for the 3DS back in 2018/2019 (has it been that long?!?), I remember noting that I was concerned the game wouldn’t do so hot due to being on hardware that was sunsetting, and I assume that was why it was moved to Switch: did the 3DS version have any unique ideas or features that got left behind? Perhaps touch control, a tilting stage, or maybe even 3D?

A5: The Rotund games were always intended to release on Switch eventually, but in 2018 we also thought 3DS would be a fun home for them despite it sunsetting. Rotund Rebound grew too big and took too long though, and 3DS officially died along the way. We didn’t have any specific features in mind, though its screen size was an early influencer in development.

Q6: Looking back at Chubbins on Wii U, i’m kinda surprised to say that despite my thoughts on a lot of my early reviewed titles not holding up well at all, Chubbins still honestly looks pretty alright for a 2.5D game. Still, pixel art is a big trend these days, and I really admire the work that was put into the makeover on Switch: what inspired that look, and is it based off any particular system? It gives me early Saturn/PS Mini vibes to me.

A6: Thank you! A lot of folks really didn’t dig the 2.5D, and in hindsight we felt that it may have added to how difficult most players found the game to be; straight-on 2D with clearly defined outlines definitely helps in precision platforming. Though we didn’t aim to capture the style of any particular era, the retro pixel aesthetic seemed a natural choice for hardcore games made with old-school values.

Q7: I think I remember you posting a few times about wanting to make a Mega Man Legends inspired project many many years ago, and I always was curious, have you ever wanted to do that, and if so, is that still a dream? perhaps a Rotund game as a cute 3D adventure platformer?

A7: Mega Man games in general are favorites and huge inspirations for us. In theory we’d love to do commercial projects of that nature (and in fact took a stab at one with Prism Queen in 2017), but in practice we’re not sure there’s enough of an audience these days to justify the time and budget. Likewise, though we have wondered a bit at how Rotund might translate to a full 3D platformer, we don’t see that happening. We’re pretty sure Rotund Rebound will conclude the series.

Q8: Of course, being that a lot of Switch indies are picked for limited physical prints, is there any hope that Rotund Takeoff will get a physical switch version? Either from Super Rare, 1Print, Premium Edition, Limited Run, or someone else? I wouldn’t mind buying a physical copy of the game that started it all for me, especially if it was on other platforms like PS4/XSX too.

A8: We aren’t sure what’s involved in getting a physical run, but if respectable sales are in any way related then it probably won’t happen. We’d definitely jump at the opportunity though, being physical-inclined console gamers ourselves. Maybe we’ll dig deeper into this when Rebound is finished, and we could consider a full-series collection with Rotund Takeoff, Rotund Rebound, and Rotund Zero (currently available exclusively to our Discord members).

Q9: Speaking of which, do you feel you succeeded in what you aimed to do, by adding QOL and a makeover to your original game, or do you still feel that more could have been done? Would you consider this the true final version of Chubbins, or is there a potential for yet another expansion/remake later on?

A9: Definitely the true final version of Chubbins! Updates could always happen down the road, but we have no plans to do so at present. We’re very happy with how Rotund Takeoff evolved and improved on the original while remaining faithful and maintaining a simple scope.

Q10: What do you feel about a Rotund 2? Would it be a possibility, to see if this remake spurs an all new title with new bosses and levels to enjoy, and maybe even a new gameplay style? I’d be estatic to try a metroidvania from you guys!

A10: Rotund 2 (Rotund Rebound) is definitely happening, and it’s going to be a platforming adventure of epic proportions! It’ll have loads of new content as well as many more levels and bosses. The core gameplay remains the same, but fresh play styles are also a thing with each level having 3 types of medals to earn, acting as difficulty modes of sorts. We’re especially excited about the “easy” equivalent, which really shakes things up by giving you a set number of hits like an energy bar. This opens the door for more casual play, and the replay value goes through the roof when improving your rank times by figuring out where to plow through spikes and enemies, intentionally taking hits for crazy shortcuts!

And thank you! Rotund Rebound is on track to release by Q1 2022, at which point we can finally decide where we want to go from there. We’d certainly enjoy trying our hand at a metroidvania, so who knows?

Q11: Pretty exciting to hear that the game came back as a prelude to a sequel! I’ll look forward to it, at least. Is there any plans to perhaps include alternative characters in Rebound? I’m unsure if multiple playstyles would work in this sort of game, but I know stuff like the bonus levels in Takeoff are pretty enjoyable.

A11: Yes, Chubbit’s group of friends that we mentioned earlier have been kidnapped and you free them one by one. Fundamentally, the animals all move and play the same, except each one has a unique special ability that adds more variety to the gameplay. They’re subtle, but highly useful in the right situations. For example, Chubbit’s ability temporarily expands his size by 50%. That makes him a bigger target for enemies, but it’s also easier to cross wide gaps or sometimes reach blocks above you that you otherwise couldn’t. There are six pudgy pals in all!

Q12: About the release timing: it’s awfully close to when the wii u original launched, though by a few weeks. Was this intentional for the port, seeing how steam came out earlier, or not so much?

A12: Yes and no. We’d hoped to initially release the Switch version soon after the PC launch, but we were delayed by technical difficulties. Once we had no choice but to go for a later date on Switch, we did specifically aim close to the June release of Chubbins.

Q13: Speaking of said steam port, one aspect I noticed when looking up info about Takeoff is that a small community of level speedrunners exist: this along with the speedrun clock, world marathon mode, and time focus makes me wonder if this game was made for speedrunning in mind? You mentioned the sequel having multiple hits as an alternative thing, so I was curious if the levels were made with speedrunning in mind, or if it came into mind later.

A13: To add replay value to Chubbins, we included a clock system and kept track of players’ best times at each level. It wasn’t until after the game released that we (and others on Miiverse) came to realize just how much fun the game was to speed through, and in the years following, we found we greatly enjoyed watching speedrunners tackle all kinds of games. So yes, in both the sequel and remake, this was definitely an aspect we wanted to fully expand on and incentivize. We also feel that, because these games don’t require lots of complex button combinations or anything like that, it makes them perfect for average players to try their hand at it and find the fun in speedrunning.

Q14: Rotund Zero is a new one for me! Is this planned for some sort of bonus feature in Rebound, perhaps? Seems like it could end up on Switch that way, if it’s just a brief side game.

A14: Rotund Zero is its own thing that released in spring 2020, serving as a fun and free little PC exclusive for Rotund series Discord members. Each play only lasts 5 minutes, in which you go for score as opposed to times, gaining a point for each micro-level cleared. We may eventually update it with more content, so it’s not out of the question that it could turn up elsewhere.

Q15: Last but not least, any other future ports in mind, either for this game or Rebound/Zero? It would be pretty neat to see a XSX/PS4 version, or even a iOS port as a nod to the first game?

A15: Xbox One has been planned for Rebound since years back, so it’s likely we’ll port Takeoff there as well. We’d love to complete the console set with PS4 eventually, but we’ll have to see. Turns out console porting is as difficult as everyone says, even for a pixel game.

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