Interview: Mastiff Games CEO Bill Schwartz Details Bringing Gurumin To The 3DS

We catch up with Mastiff’s Bill Schwartz to talk about the work that went into bringing Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure to the Nintendo 3DS


Gurumin 3D: A Monsrous Adventure, the charming action-adventure title from Ys developer Nihon Falcom made its way to the Nintendo 3DS earlier this month. Hey Poor Player’s Kevin Chapman recently had the chance to talk to Mastiff Games’ CEO and President, Bill Schwartz, to discuss the publisher’s work in localizing the game for western audiences.

HPP: What led to the decision to port Gurumin to the 3DS? How did it end up coming to fruition?

Bill: It started more or less by accident. I was talking to a journalist who said “you know, Gurumin is kind of like Zelda with some Mario mixed in” and it struck me… we had to get the game in front of a Nintendo audience. And the game, with all of its bright colors, jumping, and topographically rich levels (towers, mountains, canyons) was just a perfect match for the 3DS.

Once we decided to do it, we pulled together a team and the rest is history.

HPP: Given the 3DS’ limited hardware capabilities, what sort of challenges did you face with the porting process? Did you have to pull some clever programming tricks off to make things work?

Bill:  Gurumin, as you know, started life on the PC. That means it was built for a machine with (essentially) infinite memory, infinite speed and infinite storage. The 3DS is just the opposite. The game had to be small enough (under 500megs) to allow for a fast download, since it was going to be in full 3D it had to run not in just 30FPS on hardware less powerful than you’d find on a PC, but essentially at 60 FPS since you have to draw each screen twice, once for each eye.

So…first problem was making the game small enough for easy download. This was a hard problem just because of the amount of voice data and movies in the game. In the end, it was a process of removing duplicated data, recompiling the movies, where possible replacing identical movies with different text with a single movie and programmatically displaying text over them, and compressing everything.

The bigger problem was dealing with the lack of memory and processor speed. Essentially, you have only so many processor cycles with which to read the controller input, do game logic (for example, figure an enemy’s next move) and play an animation. That means if there aren’t enough cycles (which means you aren’t using what you have efficiently) you can have slow animation and squishy controls.

One idea was to simply do the game in 2D. That one lasted for about thirty seconds, which was the amount of time it took to run out of stuff to throw at the suggesting party. Obviously, we felt that on the 3DS we really had to be 3D. But from a dev perspective it wasn’t a totally unreasonably perspective – it would have turned the project from really hard to pretty easy.
To make the game run smoothly in 3D we essentially followed two forks. The first one could be called: Don’t Be Stupid and the second Be A Little Smart.

For Don’t Be Stupid the team looked for inefficient stuff that would make no difference on a PC but all the difference on a smaller device. For example, the program was constantly redrawing inventory, even when it hadn’t changed. It would update every alpha-numeric character, even if they hadn’t changed.

Be A Little Clever was mostly about making sure (almost) nothing was drawn in memory that wouldn’t show up on the screen. This is far harder than it sounds since you don’t know where the camera is going to point. The primary technique was what was called Frustum Culling, which more or less says if an object is too far away or blocked by another object, don’t draw it. Sounds easier than it was.

HPP: As far as developers go, Falcom is one I respect the most. How involved were they with the porting process? How are they to work with?

Bill: Falcom was great.

They didn’t get involved in the nuts-and-bolts of porting, but they were always ready to answer obscure gameplay questions, and at least once, were able to find some really old code for us that had been used to generate data in the game, saving us much pain and time.

HPP: The PSP and Steam versions of Gurumin have proven to be pretty popular, and that’s due in part to your stellar localization work. What do you hope to have newcomers to Gurumin, and Falcom as a whole, take from the experience?

Bill: Thank you recognizing the effort we put into localization. It is something we put our heart, soul and wallet into!

We want the world of Gurumin to be fun and different, and spending time in a different fun world should be pleasurable and enriching.

HPP: The prospect of a physical copy has been a pretty big talking point on social media. Though Gurumin 3D being limited to the eShop is understandable, how realistic are the chances of a physical copy coming to light based on how well this port is received?

Bill: I think it has a decent shot of happening. We’ve done a ton of physical goods over the years, so it’s very much in our DNA.

HPP: Can you share with us what you have planned for the future? Do you intend on attempting to localize any other Falcom titles?

Bill: We love Falcom, had a great experience with them, would love to do more of their stuff. We have a few projects kicking around the hopper, but nothing I can discuss right now.

HPP: Thank again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions for us.

Bill: Thanks again for your support!

Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure is available now for the Nintendo 3DS via the 3DS eShop. To read our full thoughts on the game, be sure to check out Kevin’s full review here. To keep up to date on what our friends at Mastiff are up to, be sure to visit their website.

Kevin has been serving in the USAF for 10 years as a jet engine mechanic. He's married to Susie, and they have five cats and a dog together. His hobbies are almost too numerous to list, but his favorites are video games, electronic music, drawing, Gundam models, food, and turning wrenches. His favorite video games include the Ys, Yakuza, and Senran Kagura series.

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