Interview with Mimimi Productions’ Co-Founder and Creative Director Dominik Abè – Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

Shadow Tactics

Regular readers will recall that we were due to interview Mimimi Productions about their new RTS game Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun just before Christmas but scheduling conflicts didn’t allow that to happen.  If you didn’t know that and don’t know what the game is about I would suggest you go back and read our preview article for a brief overview.

As promised we have now been able to catch up with studio Co-Founder and Creative Director Dominik Abè to tell us a bit more about Mimimi and their Edo set, hardcore tactical stealth game.

Hi Dominik, thanks for speaking with us!  So firstly, can you tell us a bit more about Mimimi Productions, your past projects and your role at the studio?

We’re a small games development studio based in Munich. We founded the company in 2011, and have since grown to a core team of 19 people. I’m Co-Founder and Creative Director.

Your most recent game was The Last Tinker – a colourful, vibrant 3D platformer; before that you made daWindci – a colourful, vibrant puzzle game.  Shadow Tactics seems like something of a departure from previous form; is this an intentional move to show diversity or has Shadow Tactics been something that has been in the background for a long time?

Kind of, but it was more of a lucky coincidence. After we finished The Last Tinker we had a bunch of ideas lying around, one of them being a Commandos style game with Ninjas. We were pitching them to different publishers, and Daedalic immediately saw the potential.

We knew the genre change would be challenging, but we learned a lot from developing The Last Tinker, which gave us the confidence we needed. That, and we’re all huge stealth game fans. Getting the chance to revive the old Commandos formula was kind of a personal dream project for me.

Shadow Tactics

Shadow Tactics is being published by Daedalic Entertainment – a publishing company best known for point and click adventure games like Deponia – given your game is very much not a point and click adventure game, how did that come about?

I can’t speak for Daedalic directly, but I think they want to expand their catalogue. Before they signed Shadow Tactics, they had released the two Blackguards games, which are turn-based tactical RPGs. They’re not afraid to take risks, and we are very grateful for the trust they put in us.

Since your founding you have evolved from casual to core game development – how did that come about and, as a studio, what does that mean on a day to day basis?

Our goal was always core games, you know, the kinds of games you play as a kid and that make you want to make games in the first place. We started out with casual games because it allowed us to form a team fresh off our studies.

You learn something from every project you work on, and we were pretty lucky to work on many very different games over the past five years. Sure, there’s always that unease you have when do something you’ve never done before, which can lead to hour long discussions in the design team. As I see it, there’s no way around that, you just have to sit down, do your research and iterate, iterate, iterate until you find something that works for everyone.

Ok so on to the game itself!  I can’t think of too many games that are set in Japan’s Edo period – Total War: Shogun perhaps? – why go with that setting?  Or have I answered my own question!

We love Commandos, but we’re not big fans of the WWII setting. I remember years ago, I was thinking: “You know what would be awesome? Commandos with Ninjas!” Everything else evolved from there. We chose the relatively peaceful Edo Period because we wanted to focus on more social settings, like the peaceful farming village or the bustling city.

There will be obvious comparisons made to real time tactics games of the past like Commandos – which you’ve mentioned yourself – and Desperados; do you welcome those comparisons?  As you’re fans of those games how have they informed how you’ve gone about making Shadow Tactics?  How have you evolved this game type?

We are huge fans of classics like Commandos and Desperados. With Shadow Tactics, we wanted to bring back the Real Time Tactics genre that we missed so much. We really wanted to get it right, so we were always careful to keep the basic core intact.

Still, we ended up adding and tweaking a lot of tiny things, mostly to improve accessibility. We also put a lot of effort into perfecting the core selection of skills, making sure that none of them overlapped or were vastly more important than others, which is a problem the older games had.

Shadow Tactics

As a follow up to that last question – did you feel like there was a hunger in the gaming world for a new entry into the genre?  Why do you think we haven’t seen any high profile stealth RTT games in the last 10 years really?

These games were always is pretty niche, one of the reasons being their famously brutal difficulty. I think that several developments over the last years allowed less mainstream these to become find a broader audience. For instance, challenging games have become more and more popular, especially after the success of the Souls-series (which we are all huge fans of).

The most interesting game mechanic I’ve seen so far is “Shadow Mode.” I noticed on a forum discussion people were weighing up the merits of “tactical pause” within tactics games and – although Shadow Mode is not a pausing effect – people were somewhat unsure as to how it would actually work. Could you describe how it works and why it enhances the gaming experience?

Shadow Mode allows you to save one action per character and then execute all actions at once with the press of a button. It’s a tool that helps you set up coordinated strikes, which is very useful, but never required to finish the game.

We consciously decided against giving players the ability to pause the gameplay and plan actions, because we wanted to emphasize the real-time aspect of our game, which sets it apart from games like X-COM. Both planning and execution are vital parts of the challenge in our game. Shadow Mode helps you with both if you choose to use it

Shadow Tactics.

You are releasing the game on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux; most of the time when we talk to indie developers and small teams they are bringing their games to PC first (possibly Mac/linux also) and later to console.  It seems incredibly ambitious to launch your game across all these platforms – I guess I’m wondering how you managed such a feat!?

We haven’t quite managed it yet. There is a small time window between PC and console releases, and our code team is currently hard at work to meet the deadlines. Like you said, cross-platform launches take a lot of time and resources. What we could do is make sure that the design works for every system, which is why you already have full gamepad support in the PC version.

Perhaps this seems a bit premature but do you hope Shadow Tactics will be the beginning of series?  Do you have any unexplored or unused ideas for a sequel?  Is it too early to say?

Well … I can’t say much right now, but we might have something in the works already!

Shadow Tactics is available on Steam for £34.99/$39.99 with Xbox One and PS4 versions incoming.  In the meantime you can keep up to date on everything Mimimi Productions is doing on their site, Twitter and Facebook and, as ever, right here on Orange Bison.

Talker, unrepentant chancer and self-confessed geek, Stephen has been a gamer for nearly 30 years. You might think he’d have outgrown comics, movies and games but you’d be very wrong. Having worked in PR and marketing, games retail etc he is now trying his hand at game development and writing and (in a completely unrelated area) property development.

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