Pumpkin Jack developer Nicolas Meyssonnier and Headup Games’ Mark Aldrup speak with GamingBolt about the upcoming platformer.
There’s a very big and devoted market for 3D platformers out there, so any new game that falls in that category automatically grabs attention. And when that game takes inspiration from the likes of Jack and Daxter and MediEvil the way the upcoming Pumpkin Jack does, it intrigues us even more. Solo developer Nicolas Meyssonnier’s upcoming platformer looks like an intriguing take on classes 3D platformers, and recently, we had a chance to talk with him, and with Mark Aldrup – chief technical officer of publisher Headup Games – about the title. You can read our conversation below.
"During my childhood, I played a LOT of Jak & Daxter and it greatly impacted me and what I wanted to do in the future. I’m still very nostalgic about this era and how impressive platformers were, how they managed to have multiple and innovative gameplay systems coupled with great stories."
Pumpkin Jack’s influences from MediEvil and Jak and Daxter are clear to see, but what would you say it is about those kinds of experiences that has driven you to make something similar?
Meyssonnier: During my childhood, I played a LOT of Jak & Daxter and it greatly impacted me and what I wanted to do in the future. I’m still very nostalgic about this era and how impressive platformers were, how they managed to have multiple and innovative gameplay systems coupled with great stories. I’m also a very big fan of everything around Halloween and spooky related things, and when I saw MediEvil managing to mix platformer and spooky at the same time, I just knew that I had to create my own game and create my own universe and style!
Can you tell us about any other games or media that have served as inspirations during development?
Meyssonnier: I was working in a video game studio, I worked on several games and was able to talk with a lot of people in the industry who all had something new to bring me to improve my game. Other than that, several 3D platformers such as A Hat in Time were released while I was developing the core of Pumpkin Jack, and seeing how they reinvented this classic style inspired me and most importantly, made me avoid mistakes that would have lessened the enjoyment.
What can players expect from the game in terms of the range and variety in weapons, and how much they will differentiate from each other?
Meyssonnier: While playing, you will unlock weapons which all have a very different playstyle, and which are to be used in different situations. They vary a lot in terms of design and gameplay, so you will never get bored of fighting and choosing the right weapon at the right time will definitely be a challenge!
How do Jack’s companions play into the combat and the puzzles as far as gameplay mechanics are concerned?
Meyssonnier: In Pumpkin Jack, you will travel the Boredom Kingdom with the Crow and the Owl, who both have unique personalities and usefulness. The Crow will be the one helping you all the time, whether it is for fighting or as Jack’s moral support. The Owl will play its part in guiding Jack along the way and presenting the puzzles, so the player never gets lost during the game and won’t search for the objective pointlessly.
"Each puzzle is designed to be unique and very different from one another. The goal is to have a challenging time in a puzzle designed around the atmosphere and level it is playable in."
What’s been your approach to Pumpkin Jack as far as designing puzzles is concerned? Is variety in puzzles something that Pumpkin Jack focuses on?
Meyssonnier: Definitely! Each puzzle is designed to be unique and very different from one another. The goal is to have a challenging time in a puzzle designed around the atmosphere and level it is playable in. Other than that, I take inspiration from other platformers and most of the time manage to recreate something new and really enjoyable. When I can’t find any idea, I just try harder and after several deletes, the perfect idea pops up in my head!
How much of an emphasis does the game put on exploration and traversal? Are the levels large enough to encourage players to wander about and look for optional stuff and secrets?
Meyssonnier: The levels are designed in a way the player doesn’t get lost, and therefore are pretty linear. However, the levels are not tunnels and while not being open-world or particularly big, you will still have to wander around them to find all the hidden collectibles. I also encourage players to take their time to go through the levels, as one of my wills is to create interesting sceneries to discover pretty much everywhere you can go.
Roughly how long is an average playthrough of Pumpkin Jack?
Meyssonnier: An average playthrough of Pumpkin Jack should last around six hours, and even more if you try to look for all the collectibles. The game is also speedrunner-friendly, and I can’t wait to see how fast the community can go!
With next-gen approaching, have you given any thought to bringing the game to the PS5 and Xbox Series X?
Meyssonnier: We actually hope to bring our game to next gen consoles, too. On PC it already features ray-tracing and it would be a blast to see that on the upcoming consoles, too. But first we focus on delivering the game in time on the initially planned platforms, PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
Will the game feature Xbox One X and PS4 Pro-specific enhancements? Is 4K/60 FPS on the cards?
Aldrup: Seeing how the game runs well on a medium computer, I think it should run very well on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. I think 4K/60 is definitely doable.
"Seeing how the game runs well on a medium computer, I think it should run very well on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. I think 4K/60 is definitely doable."
There’s been a lot of talk of SSDs, which the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are both confirmed to feature. What’s the biggest impact it’s going to have on development, according to you?
Aldrup: Those incredibly fast SSDs will actually make development of bigger environments way easier. Until now developers had to develop quite complex structures of streaming in content and making sure to keep loading times as low as possible while also offering a high degree of details. With the new SSDs a huge amount of data can be streamed from “disc” with a very high speed which makes a lot of these techniques obsolete.
Speaking of next-gen hardware, something else that the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are both going to have is a Zen 2 CPU- how big of a leap is it over current-gen hardware in your view, and how is it going to help development?
Aldrup: It is quite a leap and will be especially useful for AAA titles. For most Indie developers the changes to GPU and HDD are probably going to be quite impactful though, but both PS5 and Xbox Series S CPUs are definitely power horses which will offer some very interesting opportunities especially for AAA developers.
The Xbox Series X also features GDDR6 memory- what’s the impact it will have on games in conjunction with the other advancements we’re going to see in next-gen consoles?
Aldrup: That super-fast RAM is a perfect addition to the new SSD and should make the console feel extremely responsive even at high workload.
Backward compatibility is something else both new consoles are banking on quite heavily. How much of an impact do you think it will have from the perspective of both, developers and consumers?
Aldrup: For consumers, backwards compatibility is always great. It offers new adopters a very big catalogue of beautiful titles available right at launch. It’s also very good for developers as older titles can be made available to that new target group without the need to develop a “Remaster” of the game targeting the new platforms.
"For consumers, backwards compatibility is always great. It offers new adopters a very big catalogue of beautiful titles available right at launch. It’s also very good for developers as older titles can be made available to that new target group without the need to develop a “Remaster” of the game targeting the new platforms."
What’s your take on the PS5’s haptic-enabled controller? Do you think it’s something that can significantly add to an experience, or is it just going to be a novelty?
Meyssonnier: This could become quite interesting in case we will bring Pumpkin Jack to PS5 one day. I didn’t have the chance to try this yet, but in theory those new haptic features might become very helpful to increase the game’s immersion, by providing a different feeling for each of Jack’s weapons and also while roaming through the game world.
The Xbox One X features 12 TFLOPs of GPU. How will this impact video game graphics?
Aldrup: Gaming is going to look very beautiful. AAA studios are going to create some incredibly detailed worlds and also Indies will be able to quite easily create some wonderful visuals with that powerful hardware.