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Golgoth Studio Revamps Toki with Torque

by Deborah M. Fike · 11/05/2009 (7:24 pm) · 19 comments

Many of us fondly remember our classic video game roots. Developers often begin their budding careers by thinking about those old games and how they could be made better in the age of better graphics and technology. (Hint: Anyone out there want to remake M.U.L.E. for XBLA, and I'd be your both your best friend and biggest fan rolled into one!)

Enter Golgoth Studio. The year for us is 2009, but Golgoth is looking back to 1989, when Michael Keaton was Batman, Pete Rose was ousted from baseball, and a game called Toki was released into the wild. For those of you not familiar with the original Toki, it was a classic platformer/shooter game made by the TAD corporation. And while Golgoth isn't interested in revitalizing Keaton's or Rose's respective careers, they do want to give Toki a second chance at life in the 21st century.

Check out Golgoth's side-by-side video of the old Toki versus their new version:

Anthony De Sa Ferreira, Director of Golgoth Studio, provides insight below on the company's goals and aspirations for Toki Arcade Remixed. Enjoy!

Who are Golgoth Studio and what is your role in the company?

After losing my job as a business-to-business Commercial Director, I was looking for a new one. However, it was really difficult to find something interesting to work on, especially as an expensive skill-based employee. Most companies were focused on trying to survive rather than recruiting people. So I turned to my hobby as a potential job. I am a self-proclaimed hardcore gamer. Each day I studied game industry news and charts in order to analyze the video game market. During that research, I saw an opportunity in digital platforms. In June 2008, I met the talented 2D artist Philippe Dessoly and explained my idea about creating a studio that would develop games only for digital platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare and the Playstation Network. By September 2008, we were working on the game design for Toki.

Since we are a small company, I have many roles and duties on the team, including:

  • Producer (on Toki and one other title). I work with the team each day to check roadmaps, make decisions, and contact publishers.

  • Marketing. I send emails to websites and magazines all over the world to inform them about our studio and make some noise about what we do and our skill set. That sometimes means I manage interviews or prep articles. I also answer fan inquiries, trying to give them relevant and quick responses. I created our official Facebook page, manage our Twitter account, and oversee our YouTube channel. And, last but not least, I manage the design and development of our website.

  • Licensing. I try to sell our rights to other companies to publish our game content in different channels (for example, toy manufacturing).

  • Business Development. I contact companies to finalize new game development contracts and ventures.

  • Administration & Accounting. I manage company culture as well as books, new hires, etc.
Sometimes it’s difficult, but the beginning of a company is always like that. Later you joke and remember everything you did in the past.

Why remake Toki and not another classic arcade game?

First, it's a natural fit since our Art Director was the lead designer on the Amiga port version of the original Toki. But beyond that, Toki is the kind of game everyone enjoys. Many of us on the development team played this game when we were children. Everybody is really excited particularly to develop this new version. Our small development team can handle it from start to finish without a lot of additional help. So it was really an ideal game for us to start with for our new studio.
This new Toki incorporates a complete graphics rehaul, as shown in these side-by-side images of old (on left) versus new (on right)

What was it like securing a license to an old game?

It was difficult to find a contact. TAD Corporation and Data East were closed before this new century. So my search started on the internet and eventually went to an IP international search database. I found that Data East's IP catalog had been sold to many different Asian companies such as G-mode Ltd., Paon Ltd., Digisoft Ltd., Majesco, etc. I contacted each company and made contracts and agreements where necessary. We used a lot of lawyers to track down who might own even part of the Toki license. It's difficult with such an old license to know who really owns the IP.

What has your development process been like so far?

First, you need to know that Golgoth Studio and Toki development are currently self funded by me only. Publishers were not interested in funding the project when we started it since we are an unknown company. Oftentimes, we would contact the major publishers of the world to talk about our Toki remake project, and we would never receive a reply. Banks also did not want to take a risk on a game developer with a producer who has never made a game before, in the middle of the financial crisis to boot. So I started Golgoth Studio with my own 20K Euros. This amount could appear like a joke in this industry.

Given our financial situation, I searched for ways to allow this project to start, but from the beginning, I knew it was going to be an adventure:

June '08 - [Started project] Philippe Dessoly and I seriously discussed starting work on a Toki remake. He had a busy summer schedule, so we decided design work wouldn't start until September. However, I start going after the Toki license. I finally find who I think owns the license and set up a royalty agreement for the right to remake Toki.

September '08 - [Started Design] I made an agreement with our Art Director, Philippe Dessoly, to work on the Toki project. He agrees to work the first half of each day on Toki, with the rest of his day devoted to work as an independent artist. In exchange he receives royalties upon the game's release.

January '09 - [Started Programming] In the beginning I searched for an independent studio that could take full charge of our programming needs. I finally found one in Belgium that was impressed by our new Toki art. They had their own multiplatform engine and said they could develop a PC demo version in only two months. This was perfect for me, so I signed an agreement based on royalties. Development started in March. Unfortunately, after several months I discovered that this independent studio didn’t really have an engine, but were, in fact, developing it alongside the game. At this point, the demo was far from finished and even basic features had not yet been implemented. We decided to halt the contract and start development from scratch again, only this time by ourselves directly. It could not have come at a worse moment because...

July '09 - [Contract] By complete chance, I landed an outsourcing contract with a Japanese company to develop a game demo based on another old Data East License. You’ll hear about it soon if the demo is approved. The good news, though, is that this new contract allowed me to recruit two full-time programmers for Golgoth Studio.

October '09 [End of Demo] After almost two months of crazy work, our demo of the Toki remake was finally finished! We sent the PC Version to Microsoft for approval. The other Data East game demo was also finished and debuted at the Tokyo Game show. Both jobs finished at the same time, and I need a vacation!
The current Toki demo was developed at the same time as Golgoth Studio completed another Data East license contract for a Japanese video game company.

Why choose Torque to create Toki?

After ending our relationship with the Belgian independent studio, we knew we could not create a 2D game engine from scratch. A 2D multiplatform engine takes years of work. So I decided to search for a commercial engine, more specifically a 2D engine that could also allow us to easily port from PC to consoles in case publishers wanted to approve it.

I started using search engines, Wikipedia, and everywhere possible for solutions. I found an engine comparison chart on a random website, and Torque sounded like exactly what we were looking for. I went to this website and took into consideration the most important deciding factors, such as price, condition of use, and (a very important point) community.

I was really impressed by this last point. The community here is great. Someone is always here to answer to your questions. It was very important for us to be sure that if we met problems, we could get answers fast. The condition of use was also perfect: no royalties. I also appreciated the fact that indie companies such as myself got a discounted price on the engine.

So for us it was the opportunity to use a powerful multiplatform engine without financial risk. With all my preselected conditions satisfied, I decided to buy it and we were not disappointed!

How do you plan on publishing your game?

Today it's easy for me to answer this question. Two weeks ago, we sent our Toki Demo to the Microsoft XBLA Team with an approval document, so we are awaiting an answer now. We received a confirmation by Microsoft that our game demo will be studied soon, so in that channel, we just need to be patient. For the other channels, after we released our first trailers, we received some publisher interest. We're actually negotiating our game rights on some platforms to fund the development of the studio. I think we’ll get more news and confirmation on this topic in the next few weeks. Even though things are looking good, this is really the worst moment: waiting to see if all your hard work will be accepted or rejected on your demo.

If you had to do it over again, what would you change?

Maybe this is strange, but even with all the problems we've encountered and all the challenges and terrible moments, this is part of my story and the Golgoth Studio story. When I started to work in this industry I already knew that it would be difficult, but today I’m really happy to see that we have support with gamers and the gaming press around the world.

Any advice you'd give for others out there wanting to start a studio of their own?

The only advice I can give is this: if you read my story, you can understand that anything is possible, even if the path is complicated. You won't unlock every closed door, but if you believe in what you do and work very hard, you can do almost everything you want.
Golgoth Studio has submitted their demo to the XBLA team and is negotiating to have Toki released on other platforms.

The Torque team wishes Golgoth Studio luck in its publishing paths and hopes to hear more news on Toki as game development unfolds!

For more stories like this, check out the Torque Developer Interview series.

11/05/2009 (7:30 pm)
Well done, this is one of my favorite games!
11/05/2009 (7:43 pm)
Am I the only one who has never heard of Toki?
11/05/2009 (7:50 pm)
Is there a way to port from TGB to Xbox 360 without re-writing the code in C# (Torque X)? I mean the kind of portability that Torque 3D provides for Windows/Mac.

The only way I can think of porting a TGB game to Xbox is through Torque X 2D (which is great). Are there any other _even_ easier options?

From what I know, Torque Powered Games only offer the engine "Torque 360" for the Xbox 360, and it is 3D only.

PS: Am I lazy or what? ^^
11/05/2009 (8:01 pm)
@Diego: Actually, Torque 360 is an older integrated version of TGEA and TGB combined together. It supports both 2D and 3D from our C++ engines.
11/05/2009 (8:02 pm)
"Am I the only one who has never heard of Toki? "

No... I hadn't either. And I thought I'd pretty much heard of or played every game out there :)
11/05/2009 (8:07 pm)
That's some really nice artwork!

The whole IP hunt thing sounds fascinating ... if frustrating.
11/06/2009 (2:59 am)
Wow I love it! The art is amazing!
11/06/2009 (3:16 am)
That's superb.

@Deborah Fike
Will GG have a ready solution for porting T3D(1.0+) for XBOX and Playstation ?
11/06/2009 (4:29 am)
Congratulations for reaching your goal !

That shows us that this business can be done from everywhere with everyone.

Nicolas Buquet
11/06/2009 (4:34 am)
Quote:Will GG have a ready solution for porting T3D(1.0+) for XBOX and Playstation ?
Torque 3D is already available for Xbox 360 deployment. We're still working on PS3 and talking with early adopters about licensing.
11/06/2009 (6:41 am)
I've not heard of it either, but it looks epic!
11/06/2009 (10:23 am)
Debora actually just a heads up. The Programmers Daughter decided to go back and recreate Archon and M.U.L.E. etc. since they still hold the rights. Check out some of their work at:
11/06/2009 (12:21 pm)
MULE is one of the best games ever....played many times on a C64....great classic.
11/06/2009 (2:43 pm)
@Jesse: Holy cow, awesome! I'll be checking that out. Thanks for the link!
11/07/2009 (3:16 pm)
I don't know why... But I watched that video 8 times, and I don't know what I see... Something about the graphics is... Too good looking.

How did you make those? I've been trying to make ones that look 1/10 that quality but I still fail!
11/08/2009 (3:29 pm)
Looks very good. Your artists have done a great job bringing the 16 bit imagery into hires.
11/10/2009 (12:01 am)
Why did a handful of comments get deleted?
11/10/2009 (2:13 am)
I think I just wet myself o.o

I'm actually considering working on an open-source M.U.L.E. clone for XBOX Live! Indie Games with XNA. Doesn't seem all that difficult a game to put together, from a programming standpoint. Graphics will be hell, though - I have the artistic talent of a mule (heh... no pun intended, I swear), and I rarely seem to be able to find any interested artists.
11/10/2009 (10:16 am)
I sent you an e-mail about the removal. The comments were taken to e-mail rather than a public blog.
11/11/2009 (4:01 pm)
I shown this page to my bro and he instantly remember Toki from our Amiga Gaming days I didn't play a lot of platform games but he did. We fought between one Amiga 500. It had a whopping external 20mb drive and 8mb of Ram. Good times Goooood times :)