Always Nintendo Interviews Matt Raithel of Graphite Lab; More Hive Jump Information Revealed

Hive Jump Interview

A few of Always Nintendo’s staff (Maanav Goyal and Jelani Thompson) got the chance to speak with Executive Producer at Graphite Lab, Matt Raithel. Throughout the course of the discussion, we talk a lot about Graphite Lab’s upcoming title, Hive Jump and talk about their future plans…

Maanav Goyal: Thanks for taking the time out to interview us. Lets get started!

Matt Raithel: You bet! Happy to share!

Jelani Thompson: First of all, can you tell us a bit about the history of the Hive Jump team and what your role is in the development process?

Matt Raithel: You bet! As for the team, we’ve been around as a team since 2009 – many of us coming from other development backgrounds. Some of us come as far away as Houston TX working on games like Wolfenstein, then there are guys like me who have been in the St. Louis area making games for over 10 years, but doing mostly licensed titles. So we’re coming together to make Hive Jump as our first collaborative effort to bring NEW brand to gamers.

As for my role, I’m the director which is part executive producer, part designer. I make sure the vision for the game is set, and then (hopefully) met.

Hive Jump Kickstarter

Maanav Goyal: What was your biggest obstacle when developing Hive Jump?

Jelani Thompson: Also, a question on my end: being part designer, did you have any role in coming up with the art style in this game? It’s absolutely fantastic!

Matt Raithel: We’re still in development – so I would say we have some fair obstacles up ahead still to overcome. But one thing that is very different for us is getting people aware of the game to begin with. Our portfolio is packed with development expereince making games for teams like Cartoon Netowrk and others – but games for something like say Adventure Time – will already have a following right?

Hive Jump Art

So the biggest obstacle so far hasn’t really been development, but rather the part that is new to us – getting the word out. The art style has been a collaboration – I provided the initial concepts, then passed the work off to our Sprite artist Ben Severs who convereted them all into pretty pixels!

Hive Jump Wii UMaanav Goyal: What made you decide to go for a more pixelated style, as opposed to a more 3D style?

Matt Raithel: Stragely enough, two memebrs on the team (me and Matt Stevens our animator) are both have degrees in 3D art.

However, we felt like this game could blend some of those learnings with the classic sprite styles we grew up with – SO that is where you see our interest in the 3D lighting, which uses normal maps and other traditionally 3D techniques, but applies them to 2D pixel sprites.

Maanav Goyal: It definitely came out looking great!

Matt Raithel: Thanks!

Jelani Thompson: Sounds like a lot of effort when into this for the visual department! Could you tell us what the gameplay is like in Hive Jump?

Hive Jump Coop

Matt Raithel: Indeed – kudos to our art team Ben Severs, Matt Stevens and David Greenfield there… Good stuff.

Gameplay wise, we feel like there is a bit of classic run-and-gun action, with some added focus on team play.

So think about Contra in that it is action packed gameplay, but with a bit more purpose around working as a team to survive. As long as one memebr of the team is alive, you can continue to respawn, so it places more pressure on team survival in that respect

In Hive Jump you have to transport the transponder backpack to the queen room in order to nuke the place – but the backpack is detectable, so you can throw it to a teammate if you are getting eaten up – and they have run with it only to have you beam back later – some of it you have to play to really understand how fun it can be!

Jelani Thompson: Sounds fun!  I’m glad Contra has had the tiniest bit of influence on this project. Can we expect the difficulty to be around the same level?

Matt Raithel: We love Contra for sure! As for difficulty, we see Hive Jump as being a tough game, but one you can certainly get better at – there are upgradable weapons as well, which can even the odds, and certainly having teammates to jump with makes it more fun.

Maanav Goyal: Before you stated that the game heavily relies on teamwork. Do you think you would be able to take this concept and bring it into a single-player mode?

Jelani Thompson: To add on to Maanav’s question, will voice chat be an option to aid in teamwork?

Matt Raithel: We did focus on multiplayer first, but have been working on single player as well. You may have some greater challenges jumping alone, but we’ve enjoyed it as a single player jump just as well.

We’re working on local co-op at the moment so we’ve not yet jumped into the voice chat portion, but it would certainly be a huge boost to the expereince.

Maanav Goyal: Do you have plans to create public servers, possibly featuring different game modes such as capture the flag?

Matt Raithel: Right now the only additional mode we’ve considered is the base defense-style survival. Doesn’t rule out others, but we’re wanting to replicate the “you vs the swarm” expereince where tons of aliens are attacking and you’ve got to hold out with whatever firepower you can muster. To clarify – thats the only mode we’ve talked about at length.

 Jelani Thompson: All of those features sound quite exciting! Do you guys have any post-release content planned?

Matt Raithel: We were just talking about that earlier in the week actually. Give us a few weeks to annouce that.

Maanav Goyal: Why did you decide to bring the game to Wii U as opposed to other consoles?

Matt Raithel: Like a lot of other gamers, I grew up on Nintendo platforms. I have a pretty fierce loyalty to the console that got me (blissfully) addicted to this industry as a gamer and also as a professional – I started my career making games for the GBA.

So it was always a desire of mine to see Hive Jump on a Nintendo Platform – but when Unity and Nintendo announced their partnership that made it financially possible for us to make the jump to the platform. We are planning to partner with friends of ours at Black Lantern Studios who still do a lot of work on the Wii/3DS to help us make that transition.


Maanav Goyal: You mentioned that you grew up on Nintendo consoles. Is anything preventing you from bringing the title onto the Nintendo 3DS?

Matt Raithel: Nothing explicitly, but we would want to make sure that we drafted a version of the game that was meant for the device, vs just being ported when going to a handheld.

Jelani Thompson: Yeah, I know what you mean. Whelp, that wraps things up for our interview I guess! Is there anything you’d like to let the fans out there know?

Matt Raithel: We’ll definitely be giving fans an opportunity to get in on the development by backing through Kickstarter later this month. Will be lots of opportunities to back the project early getting early bird pricing, original concept art or event a chance to help design some weapons and enemies or meet face to face with the team at an upcoming PAX.

Till then, they can follow on facebook/hivejump or Twitter @hivejump !

Jelani Thompson: Thanks so much!

Maanav Goyal: Thanks again for taking the time to be with us!

Matt Raithel: Back at cha! Thanks for helping spread the word!

What are your thoughts on Hive Jump? Are you looking forward to the online multiplayer?

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