Toki was a platforming shooter developed by TAD Corporation that released in arcades in 1989. As an ape, players traverse the terrain shooting projectiles from the simian's mouth.
While the game is somewhat obscure compared to other arcade classics, Toki was popular enough back then to warrant ports to home consoles.
Newly-founded French developer Golgoth and its small team didn't forget about about Toki, and 20 years after the release of the original, plan on launching a completely updated, high-definition version of the 2D platformer on Xbox Live Arcade.
Golgoth Studios' Anthony De Sa Ferreira tells Gamasutra about the adventures of developing within a small team, tracking down obscure Data East titles, and the worry that comes with waiting for Toki to emerge from the Microsoft XBLA approval process.
When was Golgoth Studio set up, and what's the background of the members? How big is the studio?
Anthony De Sa Ferreira: Currently we are six guys. I started Golgoth Studio on impulse in September 2008 after meeting Philippe Dessoly during a professional rendezvous regarding art. Before working for Golgoth Studio, I was the commercial director for a company who crashed during the financial crisis in 2007.
So after some months without a job, I decided to invest my own funds and make my hobby my new job. It was difficult at the beginning because no one in the game industry wanted to believe in our skills and motivation. I've been a hardcore gamer since I was a little boy. I thought I knew the industry well, but I was wrong, and it's a little like a select club where you need to be known to enter.
Philippe Dessoly, a.k.a. Golgoth 71 is a veteran of the games industry. He was the lead designer of the Amiga version of Toki , and the creator of the Mister Nutz character and Game on SNES, published by Ocean a long time ago. More recently he worked on many Nintendo DS titles for publishers such as Ubisoft as an independent designer.
The rest of the team is composed by Farouk Kout and Fabien Tessier as programmer. These two guys worked before at Vivendi Games Mobile in Paris on titles like Crash Bandicoot and Urban Strike. After the fusion of Vivendi Games and Activision, they lost their jobs. So after that, we met these two great guys during our search for a programmer, and they became part of the Golgoth Team.
The two last guys are Paolo De Sa Ferreira, my twin brother who works as project manager, and Raphael Dessoly, who work as sound designer.
So you can imagine that our studio is small. We can probably be considered as "indie." We give each other a high degree of motivation and we want to allow Golgoth Studio to enter the video game industry through the small door. We try to do our job as well as we can.
Why pick such a cult title as Toki to remake? What was the motivation?
AD: Philippe Dessoly was the lead designer on the Amiga version of Toki and our goal was to develop a 2D game for digital platforms. Working on Toki is logical for us. I really like 2D games, and I grew up with this kind of game. When we started the Toki project, our first motivation was to provide a true remake -- not just a simple port to the digital platform. Our wish is to bring something fresh to the 2D world with an old license.
Was it easy to find the correct contacts to license the game, and how did that come about?
AD: Finding Toki's licensor was really hard -- finding it was like an RPG. Firstly, all of the companies that worked on or managed the license -- Tad Corporation, Data East -- closed a long time ago. So after many internet searches and intellectual property detective work, we finally learned that Data East recently sold its IP catalog to some Asian companies called Paon Ltd, G-mode, Digisoft, and probably some others.
After contacting each one of them, we found the contact. It appeared that Digisoft was the actual owner. So we signed an agreement with this company. Now, I think if this company was not the correct contact, we would have definitely already received an email or letter to advise us.
What engine are you guys using, and why did you decide to use that?
AD: Due our small team, it was impossible for us to think about creating from scratch a new multiplatform 2D engine. It would be a financial risk and actually, as we are self funded, we can't take that risk.
So after comparing different engine features, we decided to move with Torque Game builder from GarageGames to develop the demo of the PC version of Toki. I think it's a good strategic choice, taking our time and money into account, to start our project. If our demo is approved, we also could move to the Torque Engine console version easily and fast.
Have you decided what platforms you are targeting with this title yet?
AD: When we started this project, in my mind it was going to be for Xbox Live Arcade for consoles, and Games for Windows. That doesn't mean the game will never release on other platforms later. But due to our small team we can't develop a multiplatform game from the beginning. So as we feel closer aligned with the policy of Microsoft.
Toki's demo is currently in the approval process with Microsoft's XBLA staff, and now we're awaiting an answer. It's probably the worst and most worrying moment for us. We're waiting to find out if all our work is a waste time or the beginning of something else.
What's exciting about working on a project like this?
AD: Working on Toki project is really exiting for different reasons. Almost all players know what a traditional 2D game is. So we are excited -- and worried -- to provide something fresh in a 2D world. Also Toki is our first game, so our studio will be judged directly after the release of Toki. So it's important for us to show what we can do with a small team.
After opening our dev blog a few days ago, we received huge support from the player community and professional industry from everywhere in the world to congratulate us on our work. So when you work on a game that so many people follow, it's very exciting, and you don't want to disappoint.
Toki is not an original game, but it's also always exciting to do a remake with your own vision.
Do you have plans for other Data East game licenses, going forward?
AD: Yes -- when we were looking for Toki's licensor, one of the Japanese contacts told us they have other IP from Data East. After studying each license, we signed an agreement with the Japanese company G-mode at the beginning of the year to develop another title. It's also an old Data East license.
I can't really say the name of the game right now. We only have the new design of the principal characters. To give a little hint about this license, it's a co-op platformer game. But I can't say more yet.