Dr. David's Indie Spotlight: La-Mulana 2 interview with publisher Playism
Indie gaming fans were buzzing this week at the announcement that the treasured indie hit La-Mulana was set to get a sequel. Aptly titled La-Mulana 2, the upcoming title will star a new protagonist, take place in a different setting, and even feature a thematic shift. I had the chance to sit down with publisher and localization studio Playism's Joshua Weatherford, who shared details on the upcoming title's development, changes, length, launch plans, and more.
GameZone: How far into the development process is La-Mulana 2?
Joshua Weatherford: Yeah, so it's kind of started in development. They're definitely going to make the game, and I think even if the Kickstarter wasn't successful, they have other funding options. They've been approached by people who've said, “Hey, we'll fund you. We'll help you to make it.” But [NIGORO and Playism] kind of want money with no strings attached, so we decided to go to Kickstarter instead.
It already has a playable prototype. That one is only using original La-Mulana assets and the same engine, so it's not a full alpha. So they already have that put together, and they already have the main character. The world view has been thought about, and there's been a document for it. For years and years, they've been thinking about the sequel, so it's not something that came out of nowhere.
GZ: You were telling me earlier that the developer originally didn't want to make a sequel. Could you share some details on that?
JW: I mean, it was mostly that they spent so many years on La-Mulana. The original version [came out in] 2005, and we're now in 2014, and they've basically been working on that on and off — like reiterations of it, or the WiiWare remake, or PC port, or just trying to promote the PC version — so I think they were just a little burnt out at the end of 2012.
After GDC, they were pretty positive about working on La-Mulana 2. It just kind of sparked [creator Takumi Naramura's] imagination, seeing how people used Kickstarter to help projects get funded — and not just funded but to develop them, because there's always been a philosophy about using your community to help design the game with La-Mulana.
GZ: What's the general reaction been from the fan base? I remember reading on the Kickstarter page that people who played the remake who were fans of the original release kind of wanted something newer.
JW: Yeah. So far the reaction's been great. The only bad feedback we've gotten is about how a lot of people wish the console porting stretch goals were closer and easier to hit. But it really comes down to the fact that Kickstarter is a PC platform, and we did a lot of research, and if you put too much emphasis on the console stuff, it is kind of detrimental. So we want to make sure that the stretch goals add content and gameplay to the game. And then after all of that is done, and it's still successful, then console ports.
That's something that could always happen in the future anyway. We have interested parties that would help us even if the Kickstarter didn't reach those goals. So it's not out of the question. If those Kickstarter goals are hit, then we can handle it ourselves and guarantee it's going to happen. Otherwise, it's been great feedback. Everyone's on the forums giving great ideas.
GZ: Ideally, do you expect to release La-Mulana 2 on consoles at some point?
JW: I hope so. I really do wish it would hit those stretch goals. I definitely want to see it on consoles, especially Vita and 3DS, and I think that's been the most common request, for both of those or either one. I think taking some of the revenue from the original profits can help with the console ports, because getting it to more platforms is just good for everybody — developers want it, we want it, and the fans definitely want it.
GZ: One of the bigger things that people noticed is that there's a new protagonist. Can you explain the decision to go with a new main character? What makes her stand out?
JW: This is one of my favorite things to talk about. So basically, Lemeza from the first game finds the secret of life, takes it out, and gives it to the world. As he gets out, the ruins collapse, and he's now a criminal and on the run because the world's blaming him for destroying this world heritage site.
So what happens is that the elder has basically sold out at this point and turned the entrance to La-Mulana into a tourist trap. He tries to send a message to Lemeza because they find out that there are ruins behind La-Mulana. It's even more evil and disturbing and crazy, and monsters are causing trouble around the entrance, so he tries to get Lemeza's help, but since he's on the run from Interpol or whatever, the daughter finds the note — she's somebody's daughter, because it's not even clear whose daughter she is — and she comes out to help him.
If you read the description, it's not even [specified] if she's actually Lemeza's daughter, or a daughter from another marriage, or the illegitimate child of his father. There are some weird family issues.
GZ: Mechanically, will Kosugi play differently from Lemeza?
JW: It's going to be pretty close. I'm pretty sure that because of the stretch goals to add more characters, she's going to have different weight physics, but we're not even sure how differently she'll control or what kinds of weapon setups she'll have.
GZ: Are there going to be significant changes to the La-Mulana formula? Anything different that'll stand out?
JW: It's definitely going to use the same engine; they're just going to make new assets. So it's going to be very similar. This time it's going to have widescreen support, so it's going to be a little more modernized. The other thing is more gameplay. We're going to try to make it more intuitive without bringing the difficulty down. Naramura's already said that he wants to at least make it a little easier to lead players to where they need to go.
GZ: Is the dev team planning on making the game bigger than the original?
JW: It probably will be. It's going to be the same if not longer than the original game, especially if we hit that character switch goal, because depending on who you play, the story will change a little bit. Overall, there's going to be at least the same amount of bosses, maybe a few more.
GZ: Would you recommend people go back and play the first La-Mulana if they haven't already before jumping into the sequel?
JW: I think so, because it's going to be a completely different kind of experience. The original game has a lot of Mayan and Aztec architecture and philosophy. This one's going to all be Norse mythology, so the story's based around Ragnarok and Yggdrasil. It's going to be very interesting but a very different approach, I think.
I do think that understanding the entire history of La-Mulana will add to the history of La-Mulana 2 because the ruins are connected. The lore of La-Mulana is an important part of the experience, so I think playing the first game should be a must for most people.
GZ: Lastly, when are you hoping to launch La-Mulana 2?
JW: If we hit a stretch goal — for example, the character-switching, which means we have to create a whole other character — we have to adjust for that. But we're aiming for December 2015, so basically, a two-year development cycle.
GZ: That should give people enough time to play the first game if they haven't already.
I'd like to extend a thank you to NIGORO and Playism, and to Josh for taking the time to answer my questions in great depth. Watch out for La-Mulana 2 at the end of 2015. You can help fund the game's development directly on Kickstarter.
Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.