Wayforward Interview - LIT

Wayforward Technologies has gained quite a reputation for their quality titles during their years in the video game industry, creating such acclaimed titles as Shantae for the Game Boy Color system as well as Contra 4 for Nintendo's DS system.

Now the team is getting set to release LIT, their first WiiWare title, and we thought it would be a good time to check in with them and try to find out a little bit more about their upcoming WiiWare offering. Of course no interview with Wayforward Technologies would be quite complete without at least one question regarding the possibility of a new Shantae title, which we happily tossed in for good measure.

The director of LIT at Wayforward Technologies Adam Tierney was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions and you can find out what he had to say to Nintendo Life in our exclusive interview below.

Nintendo Life: What is the basic storyline in LIT?

WayForward: The game follows Jake, a typical high school kid who finds himself trapped in his school after everyone has been replaced with dark creatures. Also trapped in the school is Jake's girlfriend Rachael. The player must guide Jake through each classroom in the school in order to defeat dark faculty members and reunite with his girlfriend.

NL: Can you tell us a bit more about the actual gameplay? The light and dark gameplay mechanics sound intriguing.

Wayforward: Jake can safely tread anywhere that light spills onto the ground, but stepping into darkness causes him to get pulled under by dark students. To get Jake through each room safely, the player must turn on any light objects that Jake can reach (lamps, televisions, etc.) to create paths of light that get Jake to the exit. Some of the light objects are pretty complicated, and either move around or turn off on a timer, forcing the player to not just figure out the correct path to each exit, but also be on their toes about how quickly they move Jake around. There's also a light meter at the top of the screen. Having too many electrical lights turned on at once will burst this meter, shutting off all lights and forcing the player to start that level over.

WW: How did the idea for LIT come about? How much does it owe to survival horror games like Resident Evil?

WF: LIT's development team had previously worked on a horror demo for the DS, so there was a lot of interest in continuing that genre on console when WiiWare was announced. Although the game does pay homage to horror classics like Silent Hill, its gameplay is more similar to puzzlers like Adventures of Lolo or Sokoban. We wanted to create a very classically-styled puzzle game, but wrap it in lots of atmosphere and dark visuals.

WW: How many levels are there in total? Can we expect boss fights?

WayForward The game features 25 puzzle classrooms, plus 5 more boss classrooms. The goal of each puzzle classroom is to reach the exit intact, but in boss rooms the player must assault the boss with light in order to defeat them. The gameplay in those rooms still relies on puzzling mechanics, but bosses are generally pretty aggressive toward Jake which ups the difficulty. Each boss has its own weakness, so figuring out what that is, and what light objects are available in the room, is a big part of the challenge.

WW: How did you come to work with Singaporean comic book artist Foo Swee Chin on this project?

WayForward I've been enamored with FSc's art for years now. I was fortunate enough to work with her on a mobile game project (that was never finished) several years ago, and since then I've kept an eye out for any projects where we might be able to collaborate again. Since our game dealt with dark, distorted versions of school faculty, she was an obvious choice to handle our creature designs. Anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of encountering FSc's art (or even those who have) should check out her wonderful illustrations here.

WW: What is the control scheme like?

WayForward The game requires both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk attachment, so as the player runs Jake around with the Nunchuk's control stick, they also control a reticle onscreen by aiming the Wii Remote. This reticle is essentially Jake's point of focus, and determines where he fires projectiles, shines his flashlight, and so on. This dual control scheme also allows the player to pull off some complicated actions such as running backwards down a beam of light while tossing a cherry bomb in the opposite direction. These kinds of actions are required to complete later levels of the game. In addition, we tried to take advantage of as many Wii-specific control opportunities as possible. So the player makes a throwing motion to toss a cherry bomb, strikes horizontally to light a flare, shakes Jake's rechargeable flashlight when it's out of juice, and so on.

WW: Does the in-game camera support both overhead and third person views?

WayForward The game offers three different camera views that can be alternated between by pressing different directions on the +Control Pad. One is the default tilted view, one is a closer variation of that, and one is a pure topdown view (like a chessboard). We found through development that different players had their own preferences between these cameras, and I personally tend to alternate between all three as I play through the game, since each camera view has its own strengths depending on the current situation. There's also an RE4-style over-the-shoulder camera view that's used for slingshot aiming and any other actions the player would prefer to perform from that perspective.

WW: Was there any specific aspect of LIT that proved unusually challenging during development?

WayForward Something that required a lot of thought was exactly how to blend survival horror mobility with classic puzzle layouts, and not end up with a total Frankenstein of a game. It was important that Jake move around very loosely, in order to add challenge and make him feel like a vulnerable, human character. However the light paths he travels on are more rigid in their shapes and movement. So finding a good balance between those two elements was something we put a lot of focus on. If we'd made Jake move only on a grid, we lose his humanity and the game is much easier. If we'd made the light patterns totally organic, the puzzling would have felt sloppy and opened up too many possible solutions.

WW: How long has LIT been in development?

WayForward Initial designs and ideas go back a while, but active development of the title started earlier this year.

WW: Will there be any WiiConnect24 features?

WayForward Not on this game, although we'd like to support this on a future WiiWare title.

WW: Has a release date or price point been finalized yet? Are you planning to release in Europe soon after the US launch?

WayForward The game will be released in North America first. We're looking into the possibility of releasing it in other regions as well. Release date and price point have not been finalized yet (this is something that's decided between the developer and Nintendo), although the game is complete so we expect it to be available in the not-too-distant future.

WW: Do you have any plans for additional downloadable content?

WayForward This release of LIT is a standalone version of the game. However, we do have a few ideas for future versions if this one sells well.

WW: Normally you develop games for other companies such as Contra 4 for Konami. How have you found doing the publishing yourself this time around?

WayForward It’s a lot of work. Fortunately we don’t have to deal with manufacturing like our publishing partners usually have to deal with. It’s great to captain our own ship every once in a while, but it definitely sheds light on what our publishers have to go through.

WW: Can you confirm or deny the rumor that you are developing a Shantae remake for WiiWare?

WayForward We’ve taken a very conservative approach with Shantae’s development on WiiWare, and are still hesitant to make an official announcement, although the plan has always been a sequel rather than a remake. With DSi on the way, it raises a few questions about her future home, so for now our focus is entirely on LIT.

WW: Do you have any other WiiWare titles in development at the moment?

WayForward Not officially, but we’re bursting with new ideas. We need to see how LIT performs first before kicking off the next thing. So please buy a copy when it releases! We would like to continue this tradition of originality on WiiWare.