We had a long chat with ToeJam & Earl co-creator Greg Johnson at GDC and naturally the talk focussed on the on current Kickstarter for ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove.
"I've been wanting to bring them back for years," says Johnson. "As you know it's been decades and I've had a constant stream of requests from fans over the years saying when are they coming back."
"I've had this windows of opportunity in between the games I am doing to consider doing it and I've actually tried a few times. You may have read about that in past years where I've gone to various publishers and tried to pitch ToeJam & Earl. I haven't had a whole lot of luck and a lot of publishers that I approached said 'oh, we think it's kind of a dead property and there aren't enough people out there who would want that'."
The interview also touched on things like the co-op (now four players) and roguelike elements and influences. But perhaps most important is the music element.
"Clearly music is a big part of ToeJam & Earl," says Johnson. "Everything is funk this and funk that. And so I work with some very talented people doing the music. Burke Trieschmann of Open Door Studios did almost all of the audio for all of my games over the last 20 years including ToeJam & Earl III and he's going to be working with me on this again too. But also John Baker who did the original music. Mark Miller too, but probably more John who's working full-time now. He's going to do a few songs and I've got a whole variety of other people kind of coming at me from all directions, some fans who are just mindblowingly talented who are offering to do music and I just want to have kind of a mix of different talents in the game. And in terms of how that translate into the game we're going to have rhythm matching just like we had in game two."
When asked about the expected delivery of the project Johnson had a lot to say:
"It's funny you know when you go to Kickstarter you want to get people excited and show them as much as you can. So we've been kind of killing ourselves over the last couple of month to try and get a prototype ready as fast as we can and show as much as we can. The downside to that is people look at that and go 'the game is almost done' and we're like 'oh, no it's sort of all stuck together with scotch tape' and like that flying sequence you see with Toejam and his Icarus wings we've got one animation of one character flying sideways and we stuck that in there. You can't open any presents, you can't fly anywhere else. That's all that is. And the Earthlings chase you, but they don't really damage you. There's nothing. And their AI is barely there. So it's not close to being playable yet. All that was was sort of a way to communicate visually where we're going and let people kind of get a sense of what the game might look like and even that was so early."
"This might sound like a lot of excuses and I'm sorry cause I know everyone would love a definite answer to this question and like when will we get it. The reality of it is if people want the best game possible and I know they probably want that even a little more than they want it fast then the answer is I need time to experiment, try things, play test it a lot and that means I don't know exactly. If I put myself on a very strict schedule just like you are on a publisher 'hey, you're going to kick it out the door this date regardless' then you have to hit all the milestones. You don't iterate much cause you just got to keep blazing forward and you get what you get. When you're an indie that's why I want to be an indie you get to say 'no, I'm going to pour my heart and soul into this game and I'm going to make the game I want to make and the game I desperately want to play myself and I'll let it out there when it's ready'. And,of course you've got to find a balance. You can't spend 3 or 4 years making a game so to give you a little bit of a real answer I would say two years at the outside I would say between 1.5 to 2 years."
With ten days to go $296,882 of the $400,000 goal has been pledged, so things are looking fairly good considering most campaigns tend to have a decent finish during the last few days. Of course, nothing can be taken for granted.
Since the interview stretch goals for further console support has been added (PS4 at $600,000, Xbox One at $700,000 and Wii U at $800,000) as well as a stretch goal to add Latisha, Toejam's cousin, and Earl's mom as playable characters ($500,000).