Gyoza Games was founded by John Nagle, former CTO of Phaser Lock Interactive (which created Final Approach), and John Sommer, who served as Art Director for five different game companies in the last 15 years, including Zynga, and most recently, Electronic Arts’ mobile division.
Nagle and Sommer were kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedules to tell Tom’s Hardware a little bit about the small Austin-based studio and its upcoming Vive title, Inbound.
Nagle told us that VR has sparked a passion in him that he hasn’t felt in a very long time, and running his own shop allows him to pursue those ideas unhindered. Sommer said he felt the same way.
"In the beginning, I was 11 years old--this would've been 1979--and I was on my TRS 80 color computer with 4k of memory and no storage. (My older brother Dusty eventually figured out how we could save programs onto a RadioShack cassette recorder) When I was 12, I moved up to a Commodore 64 and spent many happy years building games for that. It truly was a magical time," said Nagle.
Gyoza Games was founded shortly after Nagle’s departure from his former company, Phaser Lock Interactive. He wanted to start a studio that would deliver “delicious” games. The Gyoza name and the company tag line--"Incredible fun, irresistibly delicious"--were inspired by Nagle’s favorite sushi dish, Gyoza (a pan fried dumpling appetizer). Nagle and Sommer want to make games that inspire that same feeling. They are big fans of games that you can get enjoyment out of in just a matter of minutes, but that keep you wanting to play for hours on end, such as Space Pirate Trainer.
Gyoza Games is focused on VR, and in particalar on building fun, arcade-style games for the platform. Nagle told us he wants to grow the studio organically; that is, he’s not interested in large sums of capital funding that inflate the value of the company. The studio is starting small and will grow with the market. He feels there’s a moral obligation there, too: The VR market isn’t established yet to guarantee a return for a venture capital firm. Nagle seems adamant that he doesn't want to be beholden to anyone else in this venture.
The company’s first title, Inbound, is a twist on the classic missile defense games that were pioneered in the '80s in arcade cabinets. You play as a defense commander, and your task is to defend against incoming space attacks. You will have an array of weapons to fight off the incoming barrage, including missiles and phasers. In addition to incoming aerial assaults, you’ll have to contend with mechs attacking from the ground.
Your perspective in Inbound can be described as “god mode,” which is similar to Final Approach’s view. Nagle and Sommer said the game is designed to take advantage of the Vive’s wand controllers, allowing you to target your enemies directly with precision. Sommer said the game will eventually make its way to the Rift when the touch controllers are available, and to the PSVR later this year, but Gyoza is not writing off 2D screens. Nagle said the install base for VR is still too small for a studio to survive solely on VR game sales. The company will explore bringing its titles to wider audiences in the future, but for now its focus is on virtual reality.
Gyoza games has existed for only about a month, so it will probably surprise you to learn that Inbound will already be shipping next month. Nagle and Sommer credit their decades of collective experience in the industry as the main reason they manage to get Inbound shipping so quickly.
Nagle said his passion for VR games has fueled his drive, though--a fact he emphasized in January in the Valve Developer Round table discussions. He said he’s been so inspired by the work he’s doing that “days turn into nights, and nights turn into days.” Both founders have been working long hours to push their game out the door, but that doesn’t seem to bother them. Nagle said he feels like he did when he was a kid building games on his Comodore64. The hours mean nothing; it’s all about the final creative outcome.
Gyoza hasn’t locked down a shipping date or the price for Inbound, but the founders are confident we’ll see it in June. They also said the game will likely be $15, but that may still change.
Nagle and Sommer are eager to move on to the next project. They said the ideas never stop rolling in, and they have several projects they're eager to tackle.