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Feature: Sitting down with a panic button, the Nintendo switch's main third-party studio



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No, you do not suffer from déjà vu; This article originally appeared on the site in July of this year, and we publish it as part of our "Best of 2018" series celebrating what we feel was our best feature over the past 12 months. Enjoy!


There is a good chance that many of you had not heard of Austin-based studio Panic Button before the switch came out, but did not feel discouraging; The company had flown under the radar before the release of Nintendo's latest console, and obtained a handful of Wii and Xbox 360 exclusive before finding its niche as a sought-after port power plant. But there is much more to the Panic Button than just being an outfit that is repeatedly entrusted to major conversion duties; This is a company that has deep technical roots and has mastered the complexity of the switch in the way few others have managed, beyond Nintendo itself.

"Panic Button was founded eleven years ago, in late 2007," said Adam Creighton, Panic Button's Studio General Manager and Director of Development. "Two of the founders, Craig Galley and D. Michael Traub, are still with the company and are active, hands-on technical directors and developers. They made tool development at the time of their second company, [and] they wanted to recover back to working with games, they founded the Panic Button. "At the time of the company's birth, the Wii dominated the world console, and the Panic Button ̵

1; like so many other companies – identified Nintendo's platform as the one that provided the greatest opportunity for commercial success.

  Go Play Lumberjacks was Panic Button's first team to master motion-based games
Go Play Lumberjacks were Panic Button's first staff to master motion-based games

"It was a completely different focus for developers who came from working on the other consoles or on the PC, where you basically had the same interaction capabilities, "explains Panic Buttons technical director, Andy Boggs. The experience, however, was ultimately good, and laid the foundation for the future's success at Switch. "It was a weapon race for power and graphic fidelity," continues Boggs. "On the Wii, you had to go into it as targeted for a different look and performance profile, but you also had this great, unique challenge in motion controls. We spent a lot of time-lapse input – you might write some input code that felt good to you, and then handing it over to another person and it would fall apart. Interpretation of the user's purpose through motion controls, in a way that works for each person, was – and still is – very challenging. "

2009s Go Play Lumberjacks was followed by We wish you a Merry Christmas in the same year and then Attack Of The Movies 3D in 2010; The latter title also appeared on the Xbox 360. The Swords were the company's final contribution to the Wii library before moving to another challenge – but one that was at least thematically related to the motion-based gameplay seen on the Wii. "After spending a lot of time working on Wii 's motion controls, Kinect looked like a natural step," says Boggs. "There was only one new way of interpreting the user's purpose. After looking back, I think everyone who developed for Kinect was not prepared for how difficult it was to do it. Looking at a rough overview of someone's skeleton and trying to evolve Real-time gameplay with this data was just massively complicated and difficult. "

  The Xbox Main event in Hulk Hogan posed a real challenge to the team
The Xbox Kinect release Hulk Hogan's main event constituted a real challenge for the team

In 2012, Panic Button launched the path that has given the most success although Creighton suggests that it was a case of heart-ruling head, at least in the first place. "I guess we made a gate in 2012 – Ms. Splosion Man – but that project was more about working with good Austin people and a good game, he says (the original developer, Twisted Pixel Games, is based nearby). Nevertheless, this was the first step in what has proved to be a very rewarding process. Panic Button has since worked with features such as Injustice: Gods Among Us Disney Infinity and Octodad: Dadliest Catch but it is the company's efforts at Switch who have designated it as a studio in demand.

Rocket League was the first title to make the public aware of the company's talents; A secured conversion job that effortlessly retained the core mechanics of the original game, but allowed players to take the experience on the road thanks to excellent portable performance. The fantastic conversion of the ID software's FPS masterpiece DOOM followed, but not before the Panic Button launched its own original Switch eShop game, Astro Duel Deluxe . As we all know, the company's last effort – Wolfenstein II – caused jaws to drop all over the world in the same way DOOM did, and this year it will also carry over the popular online shooting Warmere to Nintendo's console.

  The amazing gates of the Rocket League made Panic Button world famous
The amazing gates of the Rocket League made the Panic Button world famous

It is therefore easy to see why Panic Button has achieved such a solid reputation in the development industry. In Creighton's opinion, the studio as a whole pulls together to get these projects to sing, and a solid project has a habit of leading to another. "What makes this work wonderful, wonderful people. From technical chops to business and soft skills such as context swapping and collaboration. We've included projects that are explicit, strategic, and mutually beneficial. We worked with Disney at Disney Infinity and after having done Disney Infinity 2.0 we did a thing to put the whole game on PS Vita, which was our first big and challenging retargeting, we did the Xbox One version of the Rocket League from the great, great Psyonix people, and then we set up and made the PS4 Pro version, then we set up and did the Nintendo Switch version, we did DOOM for the Nintendo Switch, which is a technical and thematically challenging game, and then we did Wolfenstein II for the Nintendo Switch, and that game is more technical and thematically challenging – it was not "serendipitous" or "lucky". "

Creighton adds that a key reason why the company's Switch ports have proved so great r th One way in which the company works closely with the original content makers to ensure that the end product is as credible as possible. "We all like our things to be cooperative," he says. "I don't like" throw-over-the-wall "projects. For things like DOOM, Wolfenstein II and the Rocket League, we are actively working on development teams and publishers. They do, and they do well – we do well and especially for the hardware we are responsible for. "

  The studio's port of DOOM was not so far from jaw release
The studio's port of DOOM was not jaw-dropping

Panic Button has worked wonders on Nintendo hardware, but Boggs is eager after emphasizing that it is rarely a cakewalk when it comes to bringing AAA titles to Switch, despite the studio's past successes. "The bar has been set so high for what is possible for Switch and so optimizes games for performance and keeps things looking good in handheld mode, it's always quite difficult." Finally, the effort is worth it. "There is still something magical about having this gaming experience on your TV, which you can transfer to a handheld and take with you. We see it evolving, and it's still exciting every time." And the level of satisfaction of Panic Button's current customers? "It's a great question for them!" learns Creighton. "I want to say they say they are happy. And we almost always do more than one project with them, so … hopefully?"

It is tempting to suggest that the company's work does more to enrich the perception of the switch in the eyes of the game game than Nintendo's own first-party software; games like DOOM, Rocket League and Wolfenstein II have a general appeal that is capable of attracting new players, perhaps even more so than the adventures of Mario, Link and Samus, all of which presume to satisfy the needs of Nintendo fans first and foremost . . "The people of Nintendo are good platform partners," Creighton replies diplomatically. "I hope Panic Button is part of expanding the appeal to its big platform and bringing the franchises like DOOM and Wolfenstein to Nintendo players – for some people, maybe for the first time."

  Panic Button performed the same trick with Wolfenstein II on Switch
Panic Button performed the same trick with Wolfenstein II on Switch

. While Panic Button has created commercial and critical successes with its first salvo of Switch ports, all of these titles have first appeared on competing console hardware that now comes to the end of their lifetime. Given that Switch is still a relatively young system, is there a shrinking window with opportunities for these platform sports? What happens when Sony and Microsoft release their next hardware and the bar is raised dramatically again? Can swap and panic buttons possibly continue? "I think there's plenty of room for good games on good platforms," ​​Creighton says. "Personally, I shouldn't talk or guess about future hardware. I think it will continue to be opportunities for passionate, talented developers like the folks at Panic Button who can and will do amazing things on any kind of hardware, because games they are passionate about."

Warframe is up next, and Creighton reveals that more information about the port will come this year. "Digital Extremes have been good at letting people know the public, they are exploring every opportunity for people to play with and with the Nintendo Switch," he says. "I personally dig the game and the hardware, and I'm happy with what is being developed for new and existing Tennos." But does the Panic Button have any other ports in the works right now? "Maybe, yes," replies Creighton. It is reasonable to assume that the company – which has limited resources so that we do not forget – is flooded with requests for ports these days, so how is it possible to decide what to put on? "[We’re] always, always selective," Creighton replies. "Personally where I am, I want to make good games with good people. For me, I speak hard to take projects that we are passionate about, who make strategic sense, are challenging, and are surprising and exciting – without me Do you have to tell people, "Hi, this is surprising and exciting!" "

  Warframe is Panic Button's next confirmed port, but the studio seems to have other titles in the works, so look at this room ...
Warframe is Panic Button next confirmed port, but the studio seems to have other titles in the works, so look at this space …

Panic Button has found its niche after a decade of experimenting with motion-based gaming. However, the said Astro Duel Deluxe shows that the desire is still there to create original content. "I am a portfolio guy, so where I am, I want to make sure that the company I am involved in, does interesting and exciting things, grows and takes care of everyone who helps make it happen," Creighton explains. "I think most developers will make their own original game, and I want to say that we are not different. Where we may be different, we will not" bet the farm "on a new game, and if that fails, the company has gone So, original IP is an explicit part of the portfolio strategy, we are creative about how we do it, and we don't want to risk the company on it. "

In the past decade, the Panic Button has grown from a relatively unclear indie to a technical power plant that commands respect for large publishers and is constantly in demand thanks to its talent for transferring large name titles to challenging hardware. But where should the studio be for another five years, when the console's strokes have changed and Switch may have been replaced by other groundbreaking platforms? "Hopefully, we have several great people and continue to work on challenging and interesting games. Maybe even our own?" replies Boggs. Creighton's answer is very similar. "If there are the same people we're working on right now, I can only see ourselves" more "and" bigger "and grow and care for and be successful with this wonderful, passionate fan base that has decided they like it we do it honestly, there is something that makes any game successful. "

Here's another decade of panic button – we can't wait to see what the company achieves at Switch, and beyond.


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