JoJu Games Interview: Mart Racer

Since we don't have a lot of information regarding the upcoming shopping spree-infused racing title Mart Racer from JoJu Games, we decided to get in touch with the company to try to find out a little more information on the game. Lead Development Director Juan Gril was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to take part in an exclusive interview for WiiWare World and here's what he had to tell us...

WiiWare World: Can you tell us a little bit about JoJu Games?

Juan Gril: We started Joju 3 years and a half ago. We are mostly guys and girls who've been raised playing videogames. A lot of us had a lot of fun playing games during the golden age of Arcade games. So we love simple and fun games, especially when we can play against each other.

WW: How long has Mart Racer been in development?

JG: It's been in development for 10 months, plus 2 months at the beginning where we had to work on developing our own engine for the Wii, as well as learning how the console really works.

WW: How did you come up with the idea of Mart Racer in the first place?

JG: A usually common theme across our games is humor. And generally in the game industry you have all these "macho" racing or combat games. Which are fun game mechanics, but they are always obscure and "badass". But how about if there would be a game where what you do is just funny? We remembered when we were kids and were racing our carts inside the supermarket.

At the same time, we wanted to create an arcade game that was more accessible to anybody, so you could have core and casual gamers playing together. We created a Wii Style control specific for the Wii so we can get those who don't play videogames to play this game as well.

WW: Can you tell us a bit more about the actual gameplay in Mart Racer?

JG: We are in the process of uploading a new video where we'll show an entire match. Stay tuned! But basically it's not a linear race, your goal is to get the items before anyone else does. But items only re-spawn every minute or so, so it's faster for you to grab power ups and take those items away from your opponents.

WW: How many levels are there in the game?

JG: 12 different supermarkets. Each one has its own theme and layout. All of them are available locally as well as online.

WW: What aspects of Mart Racer make it stand out from other racing title available on the WiiWare service?

JG: We have two alternative ways of controlling the game, and both are well balanced so there is not an advantage of playing one over the other. And the other aspect is the Wi-Fi Connection support for up to 4 players.

WW: What do you think of the Wii Remote as a controller and what does it bring to the table as far as game development goes?

JG: I think it's really interesting. It can be used well, as well as it can turn into a complete disaster. Gesture based moves are fun, but not every game needs them. You also want to not tire the player. I disagree on using the Wii Remote as a pointer device at all times. I play with my Wii from my couch, and it's really tiring to play games where I have to continously lift my arm and point to the screen.

There are two recent examples of the use of the Wii Remote I really liked. One is the use in Wario Land: Shake It!, where you are mostly using a traditional style control (with the d-pad and the buttons), but every so often you shake or rotate the Wii Remote in order to do a particular action in the game. I thought that was very clever, and it made my son laugh! The other example is in Art Style: Orbient (which I just bought two days ago). The game is only controlled with the A and B buttons, so I can just sit comfortably with the Wii Remote in one hand and play the game.

We Game Designers need to think about these things. Ergonomics are becoming an important aspect in Game Design. So I'm looking forward to see what people come up with in the future.

WW: Did you find it challenging to stay within the 40MB WiiWare file size limit?

JG: No, not really. It's not a problem with current compression technologies, and the fact that you are making an small game after all. People sometimes expect of WiiWare the same type of experience they get with retail games. I feel WiiWare is about gameplay, not fancy graphics. Going back to Art Style: Orbient: the graphics are minimal and the game is great.

WW: What are some of the advantages of developing a game for the WiiWare service as opposed to doing a full retail title?

JG: They are two different experiences. I don't think there are advantages of one over the other. Some games have this fun game mechanic and they don't need zillions of art assets or the length of a retail game. Some games are fun for just a few hours, and that's it. You pay for what you get, as long as it's a good game of course.

WW: Will there be any additional downloadable content made available for Mart Racer?

JG: Not on Mart Racer, but our future WiiWare title will!

WW: Does Mart Racer support online play or other types of online functionality?

JG: Yes, we support Wi-Fi Connection, where you want to play against anybody available, or friends. We support Friend Codes.

WW: When can we expect a US or European WiiWare release for Mart Racer?

JG: Hopefully pretty soon. We are in crunch mode fixing all the bugs in the game. We'll keep you posted.

WW: Aside from Mart Racer, what is your personal favorite WiiWare title to date?

JG: So far that would be Gyrostarr. But I just loved Art Style: Orbient, and I still have to play Cubello and World of Goo. Other titles I liked are Toki Tori, Groovin' Blocks, and Megaman 9.

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

JG: Yes, actually we have another game in the concept stage right now. It's nothing like Mart Racer, but it's going to be multiplayer too.