WiiWare Focus - Steel Penny Interview

WiiWare World recently caught up with Jason Hughes, president of Steel Penny games who are one of the earlier third party development studios out there to put their money where their mouth is and develop something new for Nintendo's new WiiWare service.

With their pedigee as former Naughty Dog veterans we are hopeful that their first WiiWare venture Bruiser and Scratch will set the benchmark for games to follow. Whilst we don't know many details at present we are confident that this is no simple Flash game port to cynically jump on the WiiWare bandwagon and make a quick buck!

Here is some of what Jason had to say on the project:

WW: We know very little about Bruiser and Scratch - Can you tell us anything about the gameplay yet?

JH: We can't tip our hands too much at the moment. All I can say is that it's a puzzle game with cute characters, probably some unlockable characters as well. The puzzle quality is in the same league as Mahjongg in terms of complexity, but substantially easier than chess. And that it's technically a single player experience, but from our own play experience, people in the room will have a hard time not getting involved.

WW: When do you expect the game to launch on WiiWare?

JH: Mid-2008 is our target, but being a new service and our first Wii game, that's a guess.

WW: What advantages are there publishing this on WiiWare as opposed to the more established XBLA?

JH: The main difference is that Nintendo is not aggressively controlling the content, and as such it is far easier to become involved with WiiWare by smaller developers with lower budgets. In fact, Nintendo's professed goal is for the service to carry very small budget games. So, while there may be a few really top notch games for the service, given the developer sweet spot they're aiming for, I would expect more experimental gameplay and watch out for new game genres being born there. Contrary to the notion bandied about that "anybody can develop for WiiWare", realistically, the Wii is still a console platform and requires talented people on all sides of the development equation to build a compelling product. And Nintendo does have some standards that developers must meet. But in terms of hoops to jump through, there are fewer, and thus far seem fairly neutral towards developers and publishers in general. In all fairness, XBLA and PSN are set up the way they are for practical business reasons, so the jury is out on how sustainable the WiiWare development model will be for both Nintendo and early adopter developers, such as ourselves. It's a brave new world, so to speak.

WW: How easy is the WiiWare platform to develop for?

JH: It's three shingles more than a peacock. To answer your question requires something to contrast it with, and I simply won't go there. But I will say that the Wii is an exciting platform because of the unique controls, the wide demographic audience, and the anticipated WiiWare downloadable service--together that packs quite a punch. However, the Wii due to its uniqueness provides a set of challenges not found elsewhere in game development. In truth, no console development is "easy". All good games take time, patience, and skill to make a serious effort at entertaining people, and the development kit involved frequently is not the obstacle. When developers complain about the difficulty in using a platform, I chuckle. Many times, these are people who have not created a game for a platform, but chosen a platform for their game. The difference in focus is subtle, but important.

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