It’s been an amazIng year for the Dreamcast. We’ve seen two shooters in Dux and Last Hope: Pink Bullets released, both to positive reviews. Rush Rush Rally Racing was also recently released, but we haven’t received our review copy yet. Now independent publisher and game store The GOAT Store has announced the fourth Dreamcast game for 2009 in Irides , a matching puzzle game. Not bad for a system that’s been out for ten years and effectively dead for seven of them. As the resident Dreamcast reviewer here at Diehard GameFAN, I managed to sit down with Dan Loosen, Co-Owner of The GOAT Store and publisher of Irides to learn more about it.
DHGF: It’s been an amazing year for the Dreamcast. We’ve had Last Hope: Pink Bullets, Dux, and Rush Rush Rally Racing. Now you’re bringing Irides to the table. Is it just good timing that this is being released on the anniversary of the Dreamcast’s release or was this planned?
Dan Loosen: I can’t speak for any of the other games that were released, but for us it was just the way that the timing worked out. We’re an independent publisher for a console that hasn’t been supported in the market for about seven years, and we don’t have any of the development teams in house. The development teams usually work on their games as a second job or as a side project to express their ideas in a non-high risk format to see how they work. We’ve had great success with this and our past developers, who have been offered industry jobs from the work they did with us.
But anyway, because of this reality, we just work to release the games when we feel they are done and ready to be released. Every game that we do, both Gary (the other GOAT Store Co-Owner) and I personally play for hundreds of hours to look for bugs, to balance the gameplay and ensure that the game is going to live up to the standards that people expect from our games. We’ve moved thousands of units of our titles worldwide now, and rarely have we ever heard someone who didn’t enjoy a game that we have published. More often, we’ve been contacted by people who bought the game on a whim, and then became totally surprised by how high of a quality release it was.
Our plan isn’t to stop publishing games unless there is nothing left worth publishing. The Dreamcast is in a unique situation still to provide developers with a creative output to test new ideas on a shoestring budget, and both Gary and I are big fans of the console and unique games, so we enjoy helping quality projects like Irides: Master of Blocks see the light of day!
DHGF: Describe the gameplay of Irides for us. What kind of puzzle game can we expect?
DL: Irides was ultimately created because the developer Florian had seen pictures of Lumines and thought it was an interesting concept, so he decided to start building a clone of it. After he started, someone I knew suggested that I look at Irides, so I did and I thought it was really cool. I was curious to see how it compared to Lumines, so I bought a copy of that game and honestly couldn’t stand it. We found that the things that had been done because we weren’t sure how the game played we thought really improved the game.
After this point, I made some suggestions and the developer took them and ran with them, adding in tons of power blocks, different goals and lots of different stuff. The upgrades that he created based on the ideas that we had were amazing, and the game is an absolute blast to play.
What you’ll basically get is this — the block matching of Lumines, combined with a combo system that rewards making larger combos as quickly as possible, while having to contend with multiple, multiple Power Blocks that change the functions in the game, as well as giving you different and varied goals, such as creating shapes or eliminating all of a single color.
On top of that, there is a Co-Op mode that functions much like the Tengen version of Tetris on the NES, where players will have to work together to complete level goals, and a multiplayer mode where people will face off against one another to try to become the Master of Blocks. It’s a great overall package that will keep any gamer busy playing it for a long, long time!
DHGF: On your website, I notice the Irides mentioned both online codes and also multiplayer battle. Is there a chance an online multiplayer then so I can finally use that Dreamcast broadband adapter I have?
DL: Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that to establish the critical mass to make an online multiplayer battle possible is probably not achievable with any releases for the Dreamcast any more. I actually did a study a couple years ago when we were trying to determine the feasibility of doing an online multiplayer game using the modem, and between factoring in how many people don’t even have land lines any more, how many people from around the world play our games and making a guess at how often they would opt for online multiplayer games, we figured that the effort simply wasn’t worth the additional hard work, and we have instead put that hard work into polishing other parts of the game.
The online codes is something that we did to sort of make up for it. You’ll be able to take your high scores that you get in the game, go to the game’s official web site and input those scores to see how you rank against other Block Masters from around the universe. Also, for every block that you eliminate you’ll get a point and you can use that point to go to the site and we will have unique content available only to those who have played the game to more or less “purchase” with their points earned. It’s a much better solution than the online player because it doesn’t matter when you play, your scores will rank against others always!
The multiplayer mode is a different type of mode. It gives up to four players the opportunity to play the game against each other with special, unique multiplayer blocks. The better you play, the more offensive / defense blocks you accumulate, which you can dump on the other players to try to gain an advantage. It’s a real fair way of doing multiplayer, extremely competitive, and we expect gamers will really enjoy it!
DHGF: Tell us a little bit about your history as an independent game publisher. What other games have you published and what is it like being a small publisher in today’s market?
DL: We’ve published four other games not including Irides. The first game that we did was Feet of Fury, a head-to-head dancing title which was released in 2003. Feet of Fury did a lot of unique things including the use of the keyboard for the “Typing of Fury” mode, and it was by far our biggest seller of any game that we’ve done. A year later, we released two titles — Inhabitants, a unique puzzle title and Maqiupai, a new twist on the game of Shanghai. Then, in 2005, we released Cool Herders, a
spectacular arcade-ish game about herding sheep.
I would say that being a small publisher in today’s market would be absolutely brutal if it wasn’t for the real reason that we do this. The reason that Gary and I enjoy releasing games so much is because we started online originally planning to do that ourselves, for a different console. To make a long story short, circumstances changed and we started the GOAT Store to sell games and consoles to collectors, but we never lost the itch to publish games.
When the first opportunity with Feet of Fury raised itself, we said that the game was simply too good to not publish, so we got into contact with the developers and convinced them to look into publishing it, and so we did it. The rest of the games have just been us finding developers or the developers finding us, and it being a good match. We work with the developers to basically take a plan for their game, help to develop ideas into a marketable product, help finalize the product itself and then create
a publication and distribution plan tailored toward each individual developer so that they can do exactly what they want with their game.
I think we’re very much unlike any other publisher that I ever dealt with when I was on the other side, because we really do look at everything from a developer standpoint. Our contract is very much geared toward them having full control of their rights at a moment’s notice. The biggest word that I would say makes us a success like this is teamwork. We don’t just come in at the end of a game’s development cycle and say, “Yeah!” and publish it. I consider us all a team that works together to ensure the
best possible product at the end of the day.
I think the games really benefit from this partnership and we’re happy to do it. Having said that, I couldn’t believe that anyone who was doing just publishing on a small basis like this could make it. If it wasn’t for the GOAT Store (which we co-own) to help us fund, promote and distribute the games, there simply wouldn’t be any profit whatsoever in it for us.
But man is it gratifying when you have someone who writes you and says that they have a new favorite game for the system, or they really love whatever… or hearing that a developer was offered to do a game for a modern system due to their work, or they get offered industry jobs. So from that standpoint, being an independent publisher like we are is all that is cracked up to be and more!
DHGF: As a pre-order bonus for Irides, gamers will receive an iPhone version of the game. How does this differ from the Dreamcast version and will the iPhone version be available to gamers who sadly don’t have a Dreamcast?
DL: The iPhone version of the game is actually already for sale at http://www.iridesgame.com/ The main differences between it and the Dreamcast version is all of the multiplayer and co-op options, the packaging, the online leaderboards, more music… It’s sort of like a light, portable version of the full game with only modes that you would play for shorter periods at once. The Dreamcast version has a lot more content.
DHGF: Tell me a little bit about the limited edition version of Irides and how it will differ from the standard version of the game.
DL: With the release of Irides: Master of Blocks on what we are calling “Block Day” or 12/12, we are creating 144 Limited Edition versions of the game. These 144 copies will have special packaging — different cover and back art, a 16 page instruction manual in color (compared to our usual 2 page manual in black and white), different disc art to denote the game as the Limited Edition version, a special mini-poster individually numbered and signed by the developer, and an individually numbered, 2″ Irides collector’s coin. The Limited Edition version will be exclusive to the GOAT Store, LLC. We are also planning on holding back a certain number of copies of the game to sell at this year’s Midwest Gaming Classic event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Limited Edition version of the game will only be produced this one time, and after it is we will never produce the Limited Edition version again. Both it and the standard edition will start shipping on Block Day to anyone who has pre-ordered.
DL: Irides is already available or will be available with all of our distribution partners. We’re confirming all of the distribution channels now, and expect to have another announcement about the release and where else Irides: Master of Blocks can be published by the end of the week. Our goal is to have at least one major outlet in the US, Europe and Asia, and we have greatly exceeded that goal in most cases already! We’re also always looking for new outlets to distribute our games in, so if you know of a store that you’d like to see carry Irides or any of the other Dreamcast games that we have published, contact them and ask for it or contact us and tell us who your favorite retailers are, and we’ll do our best to work something with them out!
DHGF: Do you have any plans to publish any other games after Irides?
DL: At one point in time, we announced that we had a bunch in development, but then things came up for people, and most of the games that we had announced never made it to completion. Because of this, while I can say that we absolutely do have plans to continue to publish games, and we have some other specific titles in the works, until we have a final release candidate in our hands, we don’t like to announce them. Keep watching though, as we’re doing our best to keep publishing great ideas on the
Alexander Lucard was the Editor-in-Chief of Diehard GameFAN and Director of Operations for the InsidePulse network. He has since retired from writing, but clearly shows up now and again. He has worked in video game journalism since 2002 and was also a paid consultant for Konami and The Pokemon Company. Alex has previously written for Tips N Tricks, Gamespot, White Wolf, TSR, Wizards of the Coast, Eden Studios, 411mania, Not a True Ending and more. His writing could also be found in the monthly periodicals Massive Online Gamer and Pokemon Collector Magazine.