Once in a great while we find an indie game that looks incredible. We found that title, and it looks like an insanely fun co-op brawler. We had a chance to talk with Togglesword Games, the developers behind the chaotic, yet brilliant HIRT.

Question: What got the team into game development?

Answer: The original two designers of HIRT have met as students of the Zurich University of Arts while studying Game Design. We both come from a strong visual background and started our studies with a lot of drawing and digital painting. The studies in Zurich have made us put a strong focus on Game Mechanics though and more and more, we became Game Dev Generalists. After finishing our Bachelor with HIRT, we decided to go further with the project and actually publish it.

Question: Is there other projects the team had before this? I know many studios have a few test builds before deciding what to go on?

Answer: HIRT started out as an early prototype in our year before graduation, when we were asked to create a multiplayer game. At that point, it was fundamentally different though, so you can consider it a different project altogether. Before this time we also spent a week in the Swiss Alps, crafting a little simulation of a human-nature relationship on a mountain side. It probably could count as our first step into the world of systemic games. Our love for this gameplay approach eventually led to the creation of HIRT as it is now.

Question: Coming from Switzerland, how do you feel the gaming landscape has been over there? I’m personally not very aware of all the developers over there, as I only know of EA Geneva which they’re mainly just background stuff like PR and Brand Management, not development.

Answer: Switzerlands gaming industry is definitely on the rise. We are currently seeing no big studios with 500 employees, but the Indie scene is quite remarkable by now and there are more and more studios and projects popping up. Some of them also gained a lot of international recognition. Given the passion the people have in our scene and the long tradition Switzerland has in the creative fields, we think that there will be a lot of projects worth of attention in the future. Furthermore there are several universities in Switzerland offering Game Design related studies. This helps the development of our medium a lot.

Question: What was the largest inspiration for Hirt?

Answer: That is a difficult one to answer. HIRT takes a lot of inspiration from a lot of things. And we say things, because obviously the main setting for example is not game inspired at all. We took the sheep idea along from an earlier prototype we made for a multiplayer game. Also one of our designers was attacked by a black sheep when crossing a pasture, so that potentially stuck around in our heads. During our Bachelor we kept on researching on shepherds (that is btw what the title means in German) and found interesting facts we could use to construct some melee brawler mechanics, like grabbing sheep with a hook like staff or carrying them on the shoulders and of course dogs. On the other hand, we had this vision of systemic gameplay, which means that a lot of things and features in the game work as their own kind of systems that can communicate with each other, independently from the players. There was some attention for systemic games recently, with titles like BoTW jumping aboard, and having played some of them, we definitely knew we wanted to go in that direction.

Question: Seeing players turn into sheep to attack your foes is quite hilarious, and certainly dangerous on their end if hit. How does transforming into something rather then a human help you win the fight?

Answer: So the basic fight loop of HIRT offers you two options: Be human/ shepherd or be a (fake) sheep. As a shepherd, you can pick up grazing sheep and any other weapons you can find. That is the only way you can attack. But if you are a sheep, it offers you a chargeable ramming attack, which you can use at any point and you have the ability to blend in with the other peaceful animals. The only problem with this: The weapons the humans unleash often offer more hard to evade attacks and being a sheep means you can be picked up and be thrown off the islands. So it is not turning a sheep which leads to victory, but knowing your tools and switching between the two states. React quickly, understand the systems and attacks and make the right decisions and your shepherd or sheep will be the last survivor in any battle.

Question: Creating an environment that is on a small island is tricky, especially when playing with sheep that like to ram. Is it typical to fall off the map easily? Is it something that was purposely put in to make sure gamers are paying attention to what they’re doing and strategize?

Answer: HIRT always has been developed with fast paced action in mind. One thing that helps to establish this is the level design of our islands. Every map is laid out in a way that it fuels conflict and makes players confront each other. The danger of falling into the water prevents a lack of precision with the ramming attack, but also ensures an aggressive playstyle, as every attack is an instant kill and hiding and running away are seldom options. On the other hand the ocean also allows for some pretty epic moments, like when you dodge an approaching player and they end up in the water or casually throwing in one of your friends, because they dared to be a fake sheep in your reach.

Question: Besides sheep, will other animals be in the game in a gameplay sense as a special ability?

Answer: The two states players can find themselves in will surely remain between sheep and human, as it is one of our central game mechanics. There are dogs though, which can be picked up by the players and used as weaponry to create huge stampedes.

Question: I see macOS is something you guys are developing for, most developers steer clear from that OS. What made you go over to Apple’s side instead of prioritizing another version of the game like console or mobile?

Answer: We are currently developing for PC and Mac. The latter, because some of our devs are working on that OS and we believe supporting more than PC is the right choice. With the new update Apple released though, Catalina, we first have to look into it and see what it takes us to support that version of the OS as well. Mobile was never an option because we are making a controller based game, which is currently played in local multiplayer mode with a classic splitscreen layout.

Question: Will PC and macOS gamers have the ability to use Cross-Play?

Answer: Since we are not at a stage where we even have one-platform online multiplayer, we can’t answer this question right now. But should we ever delve into online multiplayer, this is certainly a feature we will keep in mind.

Question: Do you foresee Hirt coming to PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo platforms in the future?

Answer: As we are completely controller based, that would be surely an option in regard of the platforms. But answering with yes or no is not possible right now, as there are too many questions that long for an answer in that regard. Because we plan to go Early Access and consoles traditionally do not support this kind of publishing, it would be talking about something far off in the future too.

HIRT is in development for PC and macOS.

The Jack of All Controllers Indie Game Program is a weekly initiative we have that puts the spotlight on a particular indie title we thought deserved your attention. The world of gaming is flooded with so many different titles that its oftentimes hard to figure out what to look out for, so that’s why we created this. Each week you’ll see an interview with the team for the game of the week, a gameplay video or trailer featuring said game in all its glory, and a full rundown page as if it was a new announcement, diving deep into the game.

Interested in showcasing your game? Give us a message – Indies@JackofAllControllers.com

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