Australia-based developer Tantalus Interactive scored a hit last year with the crazy off-road antics of MX vs. ATV Unleashed: On the Edge for the PSP, but its newest game is decidedly more sedate. Tantalus' next project is the kid-friendly Pony Friends for the Nintendo DS, which will let gamers care for their very own stable of cute horses. We spoke to Tantalus CEO Tom Crago and director of development David Giles about how work on Pony Friends was progressing and what else was on the company's slate.
GameSpot AU: One of your current major projects is Pony Friends for the DS. How is work progressing on that title?
David Giles: Really well. We are in the polish stage of the project and are just fixing the final bugs at the moment. It has been nice to have been working with a schedule that has allowed a period of polish.
Tom Crago: Pony Friends has been a great project for us. It's the biggest title we've done to date on the DS and the first game we've done with Eidos. The fact that it's an original concept is nice too. It's great to be able to take a concept all the way through from idea to execution. It never turns out quite the way you anticipate, but the creative journey is always stimulating.
GS AU: Pony Friends looks to be aiming at the same market that lapped up games like Nintendogs. Why do you think that market has latched onto the DS?
DG: I think it's to do with the portability and that the DS enables the player to have a much more hands-on experience using the stylus and the voice input. These types of games are designed to be played in short bursts over many weeks. Perfect for the DS. I also think there are a lot of young girls out there that own a DS that are always on the lookout for games that interest them.
TC: Obviously the Nintendogs games are a great reference, and certainly they have enjoyed great commercial success, but we are trying to do something a little different with Pony Friends. We looked very closely at Nintendogs and at some of the criticism that those games had received, amidst all the praise. We've tried to make the player experience more satisfying with Pony Friends by giving more options and creating a more immersive universe.
GS AU: When can we expect Pony Friends to hit the streets, both in Australia and globally?
TC: No official dates as yet, but you can expect to see it in the next few months.
GS AU: Can you tell us what else you're working on at Tantalus?
TC: Actually at present we have two unannounced titles that we're working on in addition to Pony Friends. More details will be revealed in the next couple of months, and you'll see them first at our Web site. It would be fairly safe to assume that we're continuing to work with our primary publisher partner THQ and that we're continuing to support both the DS and the PSP. We've also started work on the Wii.
GS AU: The company has been focused mainly on developing for handhelds recently. What advantages does working on handheld titles give your company?
TC: We started in the handheld space on the GBA, largely because we developed some amazing driving technology for that platform. That tech became Top Gear Rally, and from there we went on to produce seven successful GBA titles. When the PSP was announced we were immediately interested, as we'd done several PSX games and obviously already had the handheld acumen from the GBA. And then when the DS came along it was once again a natural progression. So we really just kind of evolved into a handheld company. That said, since we've been doing handheld, we've also released a number of console titles, including Unreal 2 on Xbox, which was one of the biggest-selling shooters on that platform in the year it was released and the first-ever online console game developed in Australia. Looking to the future, we'll continue to do handheld, but we'll also do console titles. We shipped a mobile game last year--Payload on N-Gage--so we may even get back into that at some stage.
GS AU: You experienced good success with MX vs. ATV Unleashed: On the Edge recently. Can we expect more games in that franchise?
DG: That would be telling, wouldn't it.
GS AU: Will you be moving into next-gen consoles at all? Do you have any plans for the Wii, the Xbox 360, or the PS3?
TC: Yes, we've already started Wii development at Tantalus. I'd expect that in time we'll also produce games for the PS3 and the 360. Maybe we'll start with some electronically distributed titles.
GS AU: How big is Tantalus now? Are you looking to expand further in 2007?
TC: We're steadily approaching the 50 mark here, and we're recruiting artists at present. We could even reach 60 by the end of 2007, which I'd say would be about right for us.
GS AU: Thanks for your time.