Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Dave Welch of Experimental Gamer Studios, who discusses his new RPG headed to the Nintendo Switch, Boot Hill Bounties.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Dave Welch: The concept originated after a winter of replaying a bunch of classic RPGs with my roommate about ten years ago. We wanted to create an RPG with two important elements: 1) it should be in a unique setting not often seen in RPGs and 2) it should have easily accessible co-op so you could go on the adventure with friends.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was your role in the game?
Welch: I worked on the design, programming, art and direction. Just about everything except for the audio elements. The music is by Jake Kaufman who also composed music for Shovel Knight.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How did you get involved in the industry?
Welch: Like a lot of indie developers, I simply had a love for games and wanted to create something I was passionate about. At the time, a lot of indie games were coming out and showing people that creating something yourself was possible. Those pioneers really opened the door for the rest of us.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was development like?
Welch: It had a lot of ups and downs. Development was very rapid at first but things like having multiple independent menus with a real-time combat system were very challenging. The port to Nintendo Switch was also time consuming because it was brand new territory for me.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Welch: Boot Hill Bounties wears its retro influences on its sleeve, but it’s not meant to perfectly simulate the retro experience. Rather I asked, what is it I like about these games? But also, what else would I like to see? So it’s a combination of traditional retro elements and fresh innovation.
Other things I would point out are the non-traditional setting, the up to four player co-op, and the frenetic real-time but command-based combat. Personally, I am most proud of the amount of detail put into realizing the setting of Bronco County which is full of unique residents, local culture and other small elements (newspapers, shops, schools, restaurants) that give the place so much of character.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Welch: Mostly what I call, ‘classic Super Nintendo RPGs’ like Final Fantasy 6, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. Although there is a healthy amount of influence from modern RPGs as well.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Welch: There were definitely some scary moments! But I think my favorite moment is when I first brought the game to PAX East very early in development. Once one person started playing, soon others would hop in. Then, people were getting so excited playing co-op that it was drawing a bigger and bigger crowd. It was very nice to get that kind of positive
feedback so early in development.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Welch: There are so many lessons learned. One is to be very careful not to underestimate how long things may take, something every developer probably has to learn maybe multiple times. Also, you can never do enough bug testing for these kinds of games.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Welch: Not at all, unless the purpose of the new game is to recreate an experience of an older game. I think older games
should be revisited to understand what about them worked and why they are so memorable. But that doesn’t mean
there can’t also be new innovations.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Welch: When I was a kid I rented Secret of Mana for the SNES. I started a new game and played for a while but then noticed a late-game save file from someone else. I opened that save file and called Flammie and started flying around the world. It was mind blowing to see how vast the world was with so many possibilities. At the time I actually thought there must be hundreds of towns and places to visit. That wasn’t true, but it was still amazing.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Welch: I’d like people to remember the characters and small story moments. There are a lot of campfire scenes where you can just chat with your party members and learn more about them. I like things like that.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Welch: Boot Hill Bounties is the second game in this series and Switch players are going to wonder where the first game is. So I definitely want to focus on bringing that to Switch as well. Then I want to make a third game to complete the saga.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Welch: I wish there was a way I could easily explain how much there is to see and do in this game – like farming, cooking competitions, newspaper side quests. So please check out the Corral Countdown on my website where I talk about these things: http://www.experimentalgamer.com/boot-hill-bounties-2/corral-countdown/