News Article

WiiWare Focus: Interview with Nnooo (Pop)

Posted by Damien McFerran

Our coverage of the upcoming WiiWare service continues with this exclusive interview with Nic Watt of Nnooo, the small indie studio behind the promising Pop. We caught up with Nic and grilled him on this forthcoming release - here's what he had to say...

WW: How did the concept for Pop come about?

NW: Since the Wii was announced I have been thinking a lot about the sorts of games I could make for it and how it could change peoples relationship with games. In particular those new to video games. Pop itself came about when thinking about what the Wii is suited for, how the controller works and how best to approach our first game on the Wii.

Having played a lot of Lumines, Tetris and Geometry Wars and also watching my partner play games I was thinking a lot about how you could bring these sorts of games to a wider audience and still keep some of their core philosophies. The idea of bubbles came to me as I think that everyone enjoys popping them as a child and games for me are in part about returning you to that child like inhibition and sense of fun.

However I wanted to ensure that the game was not just about popping bubbles as all games need something to keep you interested, a sense of progress. So we introduced a lot more elements to the game which layer the complexity. Systems like chaining, multipliers, waves, badges, power-ups and the pump up system all add elements to the game to keep you playing and discovering more.

For me any game should be a system which for the player is initially easy to pick up and play but has a lot of content below the surface which they can experiment with and discover. Games like Mario Galaxy or 64 and Ocarina of Time give you things which are fun to play about with even when you are not 'doing what the designer wants'. For example in Ocarina of Time you can hook-shot into a lot more than just the normal mission objectives e.g. trees, walls etc and so Nintendo evoked a sense of play and discovery. In Pop we are no where near as complex as those games! But we are trying to facilitate that sense of play and discovery.

WW: Could you give us a quick summary of what the game entails and how it plays?

NW: At its most simple Pop is about the fun of popping bubbles. We have focused on making this really enjoyable and so have a lot of player feedback to make it satisfying, these include rumble, a great audio sound which comes out of the remote's speaker, nice particle effects and so forth.

Once you 'get' how to Pop bubbles the player needs to learn that missing is bad as it deducts time and can also break your chain and remove your multipliers. For a beginner player it should be enough to get that missing is bad the subtleties can come later.

As you are on a timer big bubbles will reward a lot of time when you pop them but smaller bubbles will reward less, conversely smaller bubbles are worth a lot more points (they are harder to hit!) while big bubbles are worth less.

To get the really high-scores you need to learn how to chain. Chaining is where you pop the same colour of bubble sequentially. As long as you keep popping the same colour your chain will grow and you will be awarded a multiplier, the more in your chain the bigger this multiplier. The risk with chains is that your time and points are being held in a tally until you break the chain. This means that your timer is getting smaller all the time. When you break a chain the tally is added to your score and timer and so you gain more time and points. The real benefit of chains is the multipliers which will multiply the amount of time and points you get so if you chain 20 bubbles you will score a lot more time than if you popped those 20 by themselves.

Now the bad side to chains is you can break them in good and bad ways. A good way as I mentioned above multiplies the points and time in your tally, and adds it to your total score; while a bad way will remove the multiplier and only add the base points and time. Good ways to break your chain are to pop a different colour of bubble or to wait for the chain to time out (similar to Project Gotham's Kudos system). The two bad ways are to hit a skull powerup or to miss (hit the background) both of which break the chain and remove 3 seconds!

On top of all this Pop has 3 main modes: Normal, Advanced and Chill. Normal is the standard game and has 16 waves which you can play through. If you reach wave 16 the game will loop and return you to wave 1, the score will also loop so if you get above 9,999,999 it will reset to zero just like the old Game and Watch classics! Advanced mode is much harder and the only way to record a high score is to get to 9,999,999 where the game will end and record the time it took you to get there. Finally Chill allows you to forgo points and timers and just play the game, it will still transition between waves and such but you have no time or points pressures.

WW: How will power-ups impact on the gameplay?

NW: Power-ups add another layer of interest and skill to the game. Both single and multiplayer feature power-ups of some sort:

  • Skull: This is bad so try to avoid them. Popping a skull acts exactly as missing and will therefore break your chain, remove your multiplier and deduct 3 seconds
  • Nuke: Pop a nuke and like pumping up you create a shock-wave which destroys any matching coloured bubbles it hits
  • Grow: Makes your cursor double in size making it easier to pop bubbles but harder to pop just one (avoid these when trying to create chains)
  • TimeWarp: Pop this and time will slow down making it easier for you to pop bubbles and in particular create chains. In multiplayer this stuns your opponents so only you get the benefit!
  • Torch (multiplayer only): Pop this and the screen goes black except for an area around your cursor. Now you control the action!
  • Shrink (multiplayer only): This will shrink you opponents cursors making it much harder to pop bubbles
  • Shock (multiplayer only): Pop this and you become electrified now you can hit other players cursors and stun them!

These power-ups add a level of strategic depth in single player and increase the competitive aspect in multiplayer.

WW: How will the single and multi player modes of the game differ?

NW: The single player mode is much more about you focusing on trying to get through the waves, getting a high-score and/or unlocking more badges. While the multiplayer is interesting in that it can be approached with different mind sets. You can play it co-operatively and try to get as far through the game while working together or you can play it competitively and try to score higher than the other player(s).

The great thing about our multiplayer mode is that it can change at any time. When the timer is running low people often start to work together to build it back up but once they feel safe from the timer they then focus on nobbling the other players or trying to score high. It should also be mentioned that friends can join in at any time so if you have been playing single player for a while and a mate arrives you don't need to reset they can just turn on a Wii remote and start playing!

WW: You've said that Pop is aimed at both casual and hardcore gamers alike - how will the more skillful player keep themselves entertained? Will the game have different difficulty settings?

NW: As I mentioned above there are two difficulty modes with which 'core' gamers can get stuck into. We also have online high-score tables for single player so once you have mastered the game you can work on getting to the top of the leader-boards. I also think that there are enough systems in the game for core gamers to start experimenting with the best tactics to score high.

You can pump a bubble up by pressing A while pointing at it then shaking the controller up and down. When it reaches its maximum you can position it and let go of A. The pumped up bubble will then explode setting off a shock-wave which will destroy any matching coloured bubble it hits. This creates chains also! Experienced players can then use this feature to start a chain and can also practice setting off one chain reaction while pumping up another bubble to keep the chain alive.

We feel there are a lot more of these examples waiting to be discovered.

WW: You've mentioned "aiming for worldwide high scores". Will you be supporting some form of online leaderboard?

NW: Yes, we are hard at work integrating this just now and hope that you will be able to see the top 10, your wii friends and the 10 closest to you after each game.

WW: Did any particular game inspire you to come up with Pop?

NW: As I mentioned above Lumines, Tetris, Geometry Wars and EveryExtendExtra all influenced and inspired me. Pop was also directly inspired by the Wii as without it I do not think it would be the same game.

WW: What feature of Pop are you most proud of?

NW: We are really proud of the pump up mechanic as it has added a lot to the game, particularly the wealth of tactics it offers in both single and multiplayer. On the audio side we are also really proud of the way the music changes and builds as you create bigger chains.

WW: Do you have any other WiiWare projects on the horizon?

NW: As we are self funded we are hoping that Pop will be a success so that we can move onto our next game. We have several game ideas we would like to work through with each one getting a little more complex so that as our understanding of how the Wii works grows so do our ambitions!

WW: What attracted you to the concept of WiiWare?

NW: The simplicity and the self-publishing. It is very hard for a new start up to get a publishing deal these days and most games take over 2 years and cost millions of dollars. For me I wanted to start small and really learn the craft. Previous game designers have had to work on simpler systems and so really learn their craft, now with all you can do on the latest consoles it can be overwhelming and game designs can get too bloated. Going back to basics for me has been really great as I think we have really had to focus on what is fun.

WW: Do you have any idea of what price point the game will be?

NW: We are aiming for somewhere between 500 and 800 Wii points but nothing has been confirmed yet.

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User Comments (29)



brooks83 said:

This game does sound cool and I will probably buy this to help support this new company. I hope this game is a success and they will be able to make more games!



Kelvin said:

I really like the look of this one. I hope it's got good music though, as this kind of game benefits from a top soundtrack. I could see some nice ambient FSOL style stuff working well.



tnk4god said:

I agree kelvin, but I was thinking maybe mp3 compatible, and let us stream our music into the game.




Hmm. Looks like it could be fun. I agree, this game is gonna need some good music. I will be keeping an eye on this one.



Damo said:

TBH this is the WiiWare title that I'm most looking foward to now. The fact that Nic named Lumines, Tetris, Geometry Wars and EveryExtendExtra as inspirations proves to me that he's on the right track with this.



ChocoDK said:

This game looks very interesting and kind of addictive with the right music. Happy Valentines Day everyone!



Dark_Jinjo said:

I just hope they don't expect to charge more than 500 points for this title. Having seen some of the games coming to WiiWare featured on this website it seems all or most of them plan on hitting the 500 point spot. This game seems great but without the depth of some of the other titles (like Eternity's Child) it seems like they can't be charging more for a simple bubble popping game. I haven't always been impressed with the pricing model on Live Arcade but at least it is mostly consistent. I am a little worried that Nintendo will let the developers kind of go crazy with their pricing and I would at least like to know that they will have some basic pricing tiers based on things like amount of content or game length. That being said I have a feeling that some of the best games of this generation will soon be found on WiiWare for precisely the reason that Nintendo is being very hands-off with developers and letting them create the content they want and put it out for the price they want. Let's just hope that some of the great Live Arcade and PSN titles like Everyday Shooter and Castlevania SOTN will make their way to WiiWare soon. I can't wait for this service to be up and running. Happy Valentines Day!



superduper said:

i think the fact that any developer can create any game will make the quality of the wiiware go down a nudge. i mean, compare this bubble game with the final fantasy crystal chronicles. i hope i'm wrong because i love the wii.



Dark_Jinjo said:

Certainly there will be a lot more junk on WiiWare than on XBLA or PSN, but at the same time I think we will see the best downloadable games of this generation there as well due to the more open development atmosphere.



KhaoShar said:

Whee! Now I feel like popping bubbles while flying as a butterfly over a fantasy town I built all myself in a cute RPG!

Happy Valentines Day, everyone!

::big love::!!!



Clayfrd said:

This game looks better than the first time I heard about it (here). The online leaderboards is a great feature. I hope the multiplayer is engaging.



Boredom_v2_2 said:

This is one of the Top titles that i want! I'm hoping Pop is only 500 wii points because i have 2500 wii points right now and i'm saving them for Pop, Gravitronix, and FFCC Little King. If Pop really does have online support, then OH YEAH!



Boredom_v2_2 said:

So far, you guys at VC:R have had an interview with companies that made:
Butterfly Garden
Brusier and Scratch
and Pop.
Any plans on who you're going to interview next? Just wondering.



Tides_of_Chaos said:

This game seems a lot better than I thought it was going to be but until I know the price and the VC:R's final review comes, I'm going to remain semi-skeptical.



Tim said:

I think all the background info behind the game is intriguing. I too liked popping bubbles when I was a child. But, I have since than grown into an adult and bubbles can't keep my attention for longer than 5 seconds anymore. I'll pass on this game unless the final product is as addictive as Dr. Mario.



Pegasus said:

Pop sure sounds a lot more attractive now. On first mention, I thought it was going to be way too simplistic, but it sounds like they're heading in the right direction. It's definitely worth keeping an eye on.



Valien said:

Dazza - great work on the WiiWare interviews. There is a lack of good updates on the 'net and I'm glad to see you guys covering this stuff in detail!

Can't wait to read your review/interview on Twist N Paint! That game looks good!



agent_lime said:

wow, who would have though you could have gotten an interview that long for a game based on popping bubbles...
It seems sorta ok, but 500 points is asking too much in my opinion, because something like this would get old after an hour or 2, but I could be wrong and it might be the greatest bubble popping sim ever!



Steviis_Father said:

The sad thing is? Despite the alloted budget that has been set aside by Nnooo to make this game, there's a danger for simple games of this nature to pop up right after- it's only a matter of time 'til a free flash game pops up on the net that allows the controls to be mapped to the Wii remote, and you can play it for free. And what's great for us gamers, but even sadder for them, is that you don't have to pay a cent to play a game like this. Don't tell me having your remote's speaker used makes this purchase worth it. Who're you kidding? Besides, so many webgames are already available, and have their controls mapped fine to the Wii remote, and using the internet channel (500 points mind you) just serves as the single key to open up an entire world of free web games. Sure there is rubbish out there, but imagine being a small-studio flash artist, adept with great programming... and you see this game. Simply create a game about "bursting" balloons, call it "Burst", integrate a chain system, powerups, and then post it up on a free webgame site. Presto! A great game, and not a cent to pay for it.

Which is why WiiWare titles that have awesome graphics, complex physics systems, and deep gameplay mechanics will thrive on the WiiWare library - not casual games like these. (Not unless WiiWare titles like these will sell for that's a different story..)



The_shoemaker said:

when I first herd of this game, I thought wiiware was gonna be a wast of time and no one would take it seriouly. But now reading all of the reviews of these wiiware games, I'm finally excited, and now i know wiiware will have some great games on it. POP looks interesting. I don't know how much I'd like this game though. I have a feeling that some day i'll end up buy thing game but I would probably look at it's reviews first.



Objection said:

500-800 pts sounds fair. I may pick it up, especilly since it has drop-in multiplayer.



supermario2 said:

I might wait for DYC instead it sounds if that could hold my intrest for longer but actually I am all for Nnooo and hope they come up with more ideas but lostwinds 2 might be coming out soon, so I have a real dilemma.



SRPirate said:

i got this game first day it came out, and it is an awesome game, well worth the 700 points.

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