Interview | Cubed3 Chats with Two Tribes About RIVE

By Gabriel Jones 11.10.2016

Cubed3's Game of EGX 2015 was Two Tribes' RIVE on Wii U eShop, and whilst that version is still up in the air, maybe being transferred to NX, the highly intense space-shooter-cum-action-platformer has landed on PC and PlayStation 4, and it certainly has not let anyone down. It is the classic shooter many were hoping for. For such a special release, Cubed3's Gabriel Jones decided to catch up with the team to talk about it in more detail, and see what the future might hold.

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Cubed3's Gabriel Jones: For your last game, what led you and the team to decide "Okay. We're going to make a hardcore shoot 'em-up"?

Niels 't Hooft, RIVE's Writer: Our previous game, Toki Tori 2, didn't sell as many copies as we'd hoped. This meant that we had to let a lot of people go and continue as a much smaller studio. I think it's fair to say that there was some frustration about this. One idea that kept coming back was that we'd always tried to make something that'd appeal to everyone. But apparently we failed… So we decided that for our next game, we'd make something that would appeal first and foremost to ourselves. And for that, we'd return to the games of our youth. From this idea, RIVE has grown.

Cubed3: There are some in-game references to games such as Gradius and R-Type. What classic game would you say most influenced RIVE?

Niels: Anecdote - I first met Martijn and Collin, the co-founders of Two Tribes, 16 years ago. They just got started and were making Toki Tori 1 for Game Boy Color. I was actually a games journalist interviewing them! One of the things they said was: "We really wanted to make a shoot 'em up like Parodius, but we decided to quickly do Toki Tori first." Well, the game took a lot more time, and it set the company on a path of puzzle games. When development of RIVE took shape in early 2014, Parodius came up again. For those who don't know: it was a Konami shooter in the vein of Gradius, that parodied other Konami games. It was a very silly game in which nothing really made sense. We decided not to go as far: our characters are somewhat silly but the game world is quite serious. The game references make sense within that world.

Cubed3: Is Roughshot's tank an homage to Sophia, the vehicle from Blaster Master?

Niels: The Spider Tank has been compared to the vehicle from Blaster Master a lot and to the Tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell, as well. All these comparisons are fair. We definitely tapped into the shared history of nerd culture with this game. However, I think that our artist, Meinte van der Spiegel, mostly took his inspiration from nature (as he often does in his work). So more than anything, the Spider Tank is based on actual spiders!

Cubed3: This is your first platformer/shooting game. How did your team adjust to working on a new genre?

Niels: Like a lot of games, RIVE was developed with a scrum-like process. So every two weeks we delivered a working build of the game that we'd then test, which we based the planning for the next build on. This way, the game took shape quite organically, step by step. We definitely had to shed some of our puzzle design instincts, as some more puzzle-like stuff ended up in early builds. However, as RIVE came into its own, it became easier and easier to decide what belonged in the game and what didn't. By the way, the very first build featured Toki Tori shooting in 360 degrees, so we had a lot of time to get used to making a shooter!

Cubed3: What's the most difficult part of developing an intense action game? (e.g. making it challenging for the player, but not unfair - that sort of thing).

Niels: The most difficult part was something way more subtle than balance. One of the best things about RIVE is the 'dance of destruction' that happens when you're on a roll: you jump over a wave of enemies, grab a special attack, fire it right away, dodge beneath another enemy wave, hack a gun turret… all while trying to hold your machine gun steady. There's a flow and a rhythm to it that works amazingly well, and it's the kind of thing that you can't really design for; you just can't force it on a game. Instead, it has to simply 'emerge' at some point, after endless iterations of design, testing, refinement… There may not be any other way create a core gameplay loop that's unique and endlessly fun.

Cubed3: Is there a sequence in the game that you're especially proud of? (a boss battle, the "rising lava" segment, etc.)

Niels: The final boss was finished last, when we were at the peak of understanding our own game. On top of that, we tried to make it a combination of everything you'd learned up to that point as a player, including a surprising application of one particular enemy. I also feel we were able to weave the narrative into the boss battle in quite a fun way. We usually keep action pieces and story encounters separated, but here the two blend a bit more. If RIVE 2 ever happens, I'd love to delve deeper into this type of storytelling.

Cubed3: Do you have any advice for the players that are pursuing the hardest achievements? (such as clearing the entire game on a single life)

Niels: Well, we've never beaten the Single-Credit campaign ourselves, so you should probably ask the legendary few who've already been single-crediting the game, as well as setting speedrunning records. In general, though, off the top of my head: never stop moving! Dare to take risks! Prioritise smaller enemies (for the health and ammo drops), and use the special attack as often as humanly possible!

Cubed3: While this is a bittersweet end for Two Tribes, it's been quite a journey. Is there anything you would like to say to aspiring indie game developers?

Niels: This is a cliché that can easily be misunderstood, but: follow your heart. Living the indie dev life can take quite a heavy toll on you… so you better work on something you have a special connection with. Happily, this'll improve the odds that you create something unique and worthwhile! By the way, this doesn't mean that you should throw all business sense out of the window. Definitely take the business part seriously! Finally, speaking of the heavy toll: this is a marathon, not a sprint, so keep to healthy working hours. Meet people in the evenings and weekends. Enjoy art. Travel. Your game will be better for it, too.

Cubed3: Are there any plans or ideas for the future that you would be willing to share?

Niels: Our artist Meinte is already working at another studio. Designer Collin is currently packing his backpack, as he's going to travel the world for a year or so. Engineer Martijn and myself will be actively working on RIVE for at least the next six months. It's hard to go into details at this point, but we'll do everything we can to keep the game great for everyone, and to make it reach as many people as possible.

Cubed3: RIVE on Wii U eShop was Cubed3's "Game of EGX" in 2015. Will Nintendo fans still be able to play your excellent game?

Niels: We promised in July that we'd try to get it to run well on Wii U, and that we'd look at an NX release otherwise. This situation hasn't changed since then.

Cubed3: We still can't believe that Two Tribes is shutting up shop! What will happen to the rights of your games? Are you selling them onto the highest bidder so re-releases and remakes can be made in the future? And maybe even a RIVE 2

Niels: The current plan is to keep the company running to support RIVE and our previous games. But interested parties can always give us a call *winks*

Cubed3: Will we ever see a RIVE 2?

Niels: When we announced that RIVE would be our last game, we weren't kidding. Our message back then was that Two Tribes would continue as a company and fully support RIVE, yet wouldn't start any new projects, and that's still 100% true. Of course, one could invent all sorts of incredible near-future scenarios in which events occur and parameters change so that a RIVE 2 could somehow happen. I'd personally love that as I have a notebook full of ideas ready!

Box art for RIVE

Two Tribes


Two Tribes


2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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