Paying homage to and updating the classic platforming/3D adventure formula developed during the Nintendo 64 era, A Hat in Time aims to "re-create that feeling of exploration and excitement". A Wii U version is a possibility, with the team currently in talks with a potential publisher.
We caught up with Jonas Kærlev to discuss the A Hat in Time, the game's mechanics and how the project came to be.
Cubed3: Please introduce the team at Gears for Breakfast for our readers.
Jonas Kærlev: We're eight developers from all over the globe! We're working on the title A Hat in Time for PC/Mac and we're working towards getting the game on the Nintendo Wii U as well.
Cubed3: What other projects had the team worked on before coming together for A Hat in Time?
Jonas Kærlev: None! We've all been working on our own independent projects. Some of us, like Trey Brown and I have worked on projects together, but in most cases this is our first collaboration!
Cubed3: Please tell us a bit more about how the project came together with the team being located around the globe.
Jonas Kærlev: It started out in August 2012. I had begun messing around in the Unreal Development Kit and found it incredibly fun! As I continued to work on the UDK project, it started to take the shape of a platformer, and then it snowballed from there. As the project picked up pace, Trey Brown, whom I had previously worked with, joined the project, then William, and very quickly it became the team we are today.
Cubed3: A Hat in Time looks great, congratulations on achieving the initial Kickstarter and stretch goals! Please explain a bit more about the concept.
Jonas Kærlev: The game takes roots in the old Nintendo and Rare titles on the Nintendo 64, like Banjo-Kazooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day and Super Mario 64. The genre is called "collect-a-thon", and it hasn't seen the light often these days. We want to bring it back!
Cubed3: Please tell us a bit more about the A Hat in Time story.
Jonas Kærlev: Hat Kid is a time traveller who needs to collect Time Objects to save her friend, Tim the CEO of Time. Moustache Girl is also collecting Time Objects, but she's using them for her own evil ways… Hat Kid is now in a race against Moustache Girl!
Cubed3: What classic platformers and adventure games have influenced the project?
Jonas Kærlev: Definitely Banjo-Kazooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day, The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario 64!
Cubed3: Whilst these classic setup the core platforming experience, what aspects from modern games are you inspired by?
Jonas Kærlev: We are primarily focusing on the older platforming titles we know and love, but there are several modern games we have been inspired by, such as Psychonauts and Alice: Madness Returns.
The characters in Psychonauts are really well designed and interesting, so we've taken that philosophy and applied it to our characters to make sure they are memorable! We are also particularly fond of the combat system in Alice, which feels smooth and fun to use!
Cubed3: Please explain briefly how the more integrated combat system works in the game?
Jonas Kærlev: One thing we wanted to do with A Hat in Time was to make combat more meaningful. In these kinds of games there is rarely any incentive to kill enemies other than "you have to" or "they're in the way". In A Hat in Time, enemies drop goodies, and you can use these goodies in various ways to earn new combat abilities. There are also multiple combat mechanics, and some of them work well on some enemies, not so much on others!
Cubed3: The time travel aspect sounds interesting, can you share a bit more on this gameplay feature?
Jonas Kærlev: We're not making the next Braid or Portal or anything so time travel isn't a core gameplay feature. Time travel is used to create sequential mini stories throughout the game. If you help someone poor out in early times, you'll be able to travel to the future and see that same person as a rich duke! Or, if you let loose the Fire Spirits in the Subcon Forest, they might later set the forest ablaze!
Cubed3: Co-operative play looks and sounds really exciting, something the genre has lacked. Will there be any game-play specifics with two-player in mind?
Jonas Kærlev: For co-op we're re-designing the puzzles while keeping in mind that the players can be in two different spots at once. We're also working on cooperative move-sets, but nothing I can confirm at the moment unfortunately!
Cubed3: The art looks absolutely sublime! How did the design of the Hat Kid, enemies and the opening worlds come to be?
Jonas Kærlev: Hat Kid has gone through several iterations. She used to be yellow and have face paint! Now that paint belongs to her co-op partner Timmy. For the Mafia of Cooks, we knew we wanted something quirky, and it just suddenly came to us overnight. The idea of the clash between Hat Kid and the Mafia of Cooks has grown to be this giant city, with a lot of different characters!
Cubed3: With the Wii U version a possibility (hopefully), how would you use the GamePad controller?
Jonas Kærlev: We would definitely experiment with the features the GamePad offers. For example, several people suggested the idea of allowing one player to use the TV and the co-op partner to use the controller screen. We could even use it to allow players to select certain abilities or tools
without the hassle of bringing up a menu screen.
As the game gets further in development I'm sure we'll have more polished ideas for the GamePad controller but at this stage it's still too early to tell!
Cubed3: Would you consider other platforms like Nintendo 3DS or Playstation Vita?
Jonas Kærlev: We're primarily focusing our targets on the PC/Mac and Wii U but we'll try our best to get it on as many platforms as possible - I certainly wouldn't mind playing the game on the train!
Cubed3: If you could work on any Nintendo game, what would it be and why?
Jonas Kærlev: Not sure if we'd want to work on a Nintendo game, we really like the flexibility we have as an indie team! The thought of having higher-ups regulating your work is a bit scary!
Cubed3: What are your plans for the future - do you see A Hat in Time becoming a franchise?
Jonas Kærlev: Maybe! It's too early to think about a sequel at this point, though!