Allied Kingdoms Interview - Planet Pachinko
Posted by Darren Calvert
The WiiWare service originally set out to be an outlet for indie developers to share their small budget gems with the world. So far we have seen too much of that as most games released are from established development studios with the occasional indie such as 2D Boy finding success.
Enter Darren Wilson from Allied Kingdoms, his company is a true start-up and he’s boldly bringing Planet Pachinko to both North America and Europe - and it's not another puzzler!
Intrigued by this mysterious upcoming game we pestered Darren to break from his busy schedule and answer our probing questions...
WW: Can you tell us a little about your background and why you decided to go indie and form Allied Kingdoms?
DW: Well, I made my first game in the 4th grade – a dice-based goblin-killing RPG that played like a modern slasher RPG – and it was a big hit with my classmates. I made a few scrappy games on BASIC a few years later, and discovered the power programming gave you to create your own worlds. I kept making paper and computer games through high school. After getting my degree in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, I started working for one of the major game companies. I soon realized that programmers had minimal influence on the game design. I felt I couldn’t reach my full potential where I was at, and decided I had all of the prerequisite skills to make a game on my own.
WW: Where did you come up with the idea of the Pachinko theme for you game? Are you a personal fan of the Japanese parlor games?
DW: I was making a slightly different game - a platformer that was more like a side scrolling shooter. Remembering a standard pachinko video game I played obsessively on a friend’s arcade machine, I made a bonus level that had the characters inside of a giant pachinko machine. After discovering how addictive the gameplay was, I decided to make the entire game based around those mechanics.
WW: Can you give our readers an overview of what Planet Pachinko is all about?
DW: Frantic destruction. Endearing characters. Silly dialogue. Catchy music.
WW: Can you describe the game mechanics? What control schemes are supported?
DW: It’s a fast paced game. You control characters that move very smoothly, with a variety of powerful weapons at your disposal. You’re under a constant barrage of pachinko balls and the enemies that they spawn. You have two ranged weapons and a melee attack. Certain weapons, when fired together, result in a special combo weapon.
You can use the Wii Remote™ horizontally, Wii Remote and Nunchuk™, or Classic Controller™. This way, players familiar with the 8-bit control schemes, current control schemes, and everything in between can be comfortable playing the game. I prefer Wii Remote or Wii Remote with Nunchuk modes because shaking the Wii Remote allows you to melee attack, which is more intuitive and immersive than just pressing a button.
WW: What other games would you say might be similar to this game? Is Super Smash Bros.™ Brawl far off the mark?
DW: I think fans of that game will like this one because they are both quick and chaotic. But instead of being one on one, Planet Pachinko is a case of one versus very many. Very, very many. There is a greater emphasis on ranged attacks over your melee attacks as well.
Take a 2D platform character, give him powerful weapons with unlimited ammo, and pit him against one of those 2D space games where objects are flying towards you from all over. So both fans of platformers and shooters could really enjoy this game.
WW: What game modes are on offer? With two players in co-op mode how does the game differ? Is a Vs mode available?
DW: There is single player and two player co-op. The game doesn’t differ much during single player, because you can be awarded bonus assists where you control two characters at once. I’ve decided to save the Vs mode for a tentative sequel or spin-off so that I have time to do it right. I’d rather have no Vs mode than a bad Vs mode that you play once and never touch again. The co-op can get slightly competitive because health drops give you lots a points when you have full health, so there are some shenanigans that can go on.
WW: How long has Planet Pachinko taken to develop? How many people have been working on it?
DW: Well, I spent a few months getting a demo running on PC. Using that previous version of the game as a starting point, it took about 10 months to get the pachinko physics right, levels made, and get the game almost ready for release on Wii™. I’ve contracted a lot of people - another programmer, 2 sound designers, a writer, and several artists have contributed to the game. Everyone has really done an awesome job.
WW: What inspired the characters Ops, Deenee, Dozey, Vile Vill, Eevin and Oddie in your game? What different properties do the characters have?
DW: I designed a lot of characters and chose the six best. I just drew some characters up and the personalities came in later. Each character has a different speed, jump, and melee attack properties. They also have a special ranged weapon, usually their best weapon, which is unique to them and relates to their personality. They each have four ranged weapon options to choose from (for their two weapons you can fire at any given time) and each has three combo weapons. Combo weapons result from pairing the two specific weapons and firing them at the same time. You can change what weapons you are using live during gameplay, as certain weapons are more useful depending on how the arena is set up.
WW: On the game’s website you hint that some gamers might find this game very challenging. Would you say this game is aimed more at hardcore gamers?
DW: It’s one of those games where the mechanics are different from what you are used to. So you have that initial hump, but once you’ve figured out the basics the game is pretty simple to play. What balances out the difficulty of the pachinko arena is how smooth the character controls are and the effectiveness of your weapons. Hardcore gamers will get it more quickly and enjoy the destruction at their disposal. Casual gamers will enjoy co-op mode.
WW: When do you think this will be available for download on WiiWare in North America? Roughly what price point should it retail for?
DW: To be announced.
WW: Do you have plans for a European release?
DW: Yes, and the game will support German, Italian, and possibly Dutch as well. The North American version already supports French and Spanish. As a small operation with this as our first title, I wanted to deal with as few bugs as possible and get the game out the door. Fewer languages mean fewer bugs, so I went with North America first.
WW: What WiiWare games have been some of your personal favorites to date and why?
DW: There are several that I have enjoyed. The one I’ve played the most number of hours is My Life as a King, because I enjoy strategy games and RPGs.