Games, Nintendo, Switch

10 Questions with…Jaako Maaniemi from 10 Tons Games

Welcome to a new column for 2018 in which we sit down and ask 10 questions of somebody within the world of games, movies, tv…or ya know, whatever nerdy stuff we feel like.

Since 2017 introduced me to my favorite indy game studio in 10 Tons, I thought it fitting that the first interview come courtesy of them.  They just released Azkend 2 today on Switch, and you can check out our reviews of King Oddball, Tennis in the Face, and Spellspire, as well.

So, without further ado, our first victim is none other than their PR guy.

Here are your 10 questions:

1. For the record, please state your name, title, and tenure in the industry:
I’m Jaakko Maaniemi, PR Coordinator and developer at 10tons. I’ve been a developer 7 years now, and before that I was a games journalist for 8 years.

2. How did you get into the gaming industry? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I didn’t always want to be a game developer, in fact the idea started to take shape as late as when I was graduating from high school despite gaming having always been my primary hobby. So after high school I took on games journalism as part time work for the period of proper studies, and I worked full time in games media for a year after graduating. Then I landed my first designer job at a studio founded by buddies I knew from school, but the timing wasn’t right so I switched to 10tons after about a year.

3. How many people on your team and who decides what game gets made?
There’s ten employees at 10tons, and we have two or three teams/productions going on at all times. Ultimately production decisions are made by Tero and Sampo who are the owners and founders of 10tons, but everyone participates in the discussions that take place before it’s time to make a call. The team must be excited about the project, and everything needs to look achievable in a reasonable amount of time.

4. I’ve gotta ask, what was the inspiration behind “Tesla vs. Lovecraft”?  Did drugs or alcohol have anything to do with it? 🙂  And was it trickier making a game (loosely) based on historical figures?
Tesla vs Lovecraft is the result of quite extensive concept tuning. The game originally started as a mage or wizard themed shooter, then evolved to feature scientists instead. That, in turn, was fairly rapidly distilled to Nikola Tesla being the protagonist, and H.P. Lovecraft was selected as the antagonist at the same time. Basically for clarity, but it didn’t hurt we got a badass title for the game too! The game isn’t exactly based on any historical accuracy of the characters more than Tesla being an extraordinary scientist and inventor, and Lovecraft having the mind for conjuring up really really freaky stuff, so we definitely didn’t feel creatively constrained in any way.

5. Your games are pretty diverse, from puzzles to shooters to bizarre physics-based games — what criteria are most important when deciding if a game idea is worth developing?  What is the development process like?
The most important criterion for a new game by far is that we, or at least the development team, must be excited for the project. At least that’s the way we’ve always rolled. Secondly, we need to have a pretty good idea what the end product will be and how the development will go down, broadly speaking. A couple of times we’ve started working on a game on enthusiasm and ideas alone, without firm enough grasp of details and production schedule, and it always spells some trouble down the line. Nowadays, when more indie games are coming out than ever, it’s also becoming more important to have strong ideas about how the game will be marketable, and which bits of tech, IP, or content we might be able to reuse from our previous work to shave off some production cost. How JYDGE was spun off from Neon Chrome is probably the most extreme example of that, but the idea started from very distinct feedback from Neon Chrome. Well, the feedback basically was the idea, as a lot of people let us know that they like everything about Neon Chrome except the roguelite structure, so we were like “So what you’re saying is you’d love a game like Neon Chrome without the roguelike bits. Hmh, only if there was such a game…”

6.  What game are you playing right now?  (for fun)
Over the holidays I completed Tiny Metal. I must say I was a bit disappointed, as the AI turned out to be very basic. Then again, getting that Advance Wars experience all over again was a tall order to begin with.

7. If there’s only one thing you want players to take away from your games, what would that be?
It’s a difficult message to get through, but it’d be cool if more gamers realized not every game is intended exactly for him or her. It’s pretty prominent in our games, as we have very different titles for very different audiences.

8. Your website shows 40+ games on 10 Tons’ resume.  That’s an awesome accomplishment!  How many more can we expect before you slow down?
We’re celebrating 15 years of indie development this year, so we’ve been at this for a while now. We don’t have any plans of slowing down, in fact it’d be great to grow a tiny bit more so we could solidify that three ongoing projects at all time thing!

9. Anything new on the horizon that viewers can look forward to playing, either on the Switch or another system?
Tesla vs Lovecraft! It’ll be out in Steam in January and on consoles a month or two later. Including Switch!

10. Would you ever consider working with a game reviewer/blogger to design and create a video game?  I have a great idea I’d love to talk to you about…
Hehe, we get this a lot, as I’m sure all developers get. The thing is, we and all developers already have a huge pile of our own ideas we’d like to work on. Designing new concepts is probably the most fun part of game development after all. So no, unfortunately, we can’t accept pitches from outside the company.

As always, I appreciate your time.  Keep up the good work!

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