Daniel Coleman of Semnat Studios was kind enough to take time out of his busy development schedule to sit down with WiiWare World for an exclusive interview. You can read the entire interview below to find out what he had to tell us.
WiiWare World: Can you tell us a little about your background and why you decided to form Semnat Studios?
Daniel Coleman: Robert DeMaria was the first to get into the game thing. He was making this little top-down strategy game and I offered to do some art. I did some crappy art for it and we had a nice crappy little game of sorts. We quickly abandoned that. We talked a lot about making games, and the little hobby turned into this massive undertaking. Over the past five years we've been learning how to make videogames, basically. We started getting better and it was around the time that we were working on the Torque version of the game (the last PC one) that Ian Bowie came on board to assist us. His main job was to do animations but since then he's been working on levels with me as well as various other tasks.
WW: Are you the artistic one of the team then? What line of work were you in prior to this?
DC: I started off in that first project doing art, yeah. But now I'm the director of the game and co-level designer. In addition to the art. My line of work before that was doing poorly in high school. I've been working at this job with the university since high school. It's not a high-paying job but it pays the bills, right. We've put all of our energy and effort into making games, so that we could get to the point where we can do this full time.
WW: Quite a brave step, why did you choose to develop for WiiWare instead of XBLA or PSN?
DC: One of the devs that made Roboblitz suggested that I get in contact with Nintendo and Sony about their upcoming downloadable games services. Sony's PSN team was impossible to get in contact with, but Nintendo immediately responded to us. This guy at NOA was very supportive. We had several phone conversations about what would become WiiWare, and eventually we became licensed developers. It was amazing for us. There's no exclusivity contract and I'd love to work with MS or Sony someday, but right now the best opportunity was with Nintendo.
WW: What do you think of the competition on WiiWare at present? Are there any games over the last 7 months that have seriously impressed you?
DC: World of Goo and LostWinds in particular, yeah. But the service is still so young. I imagine there are some great games yet to come. I mean we started development very early on, and we're only coming out with our game right now. I'm interested to see what games take advantage of motion+
WW: Yes, at the moment we are seeing lots of games offering Balance Board support. What ideas do you have for the use of the next big thing, motion+ ?
DC: We have some ideas. But our future entirely depends on how well Eduardo sells. Basically if it sells well enough we can make more games. I don't know much longer we can keep up this multiple-jobs thing. It's been quite strenuous. I have too many ideas that I want to see made. We're all determined to succeed one way or another.
WW: What jobs do you guys do when not working on Eduardo?
DC: Robert finished school so he works as a programmer at the university, and can work fewer hours at his day-job. He spends the greatest number of hours working on Eduardo week to week.
WW: Awesome, so you are regular Joes with a dream to make a game? Does this quality help you understand the desires of the gaming community do you think?
DC: Yeah, I think so. We're regular gamers that have been working towards becoming professional game designers. Though I'm sure the same could be said for professional developers out there. Making games, even at our level, does give you a new perspective on the medium, the industry as a whole. You really learn to appreciate how much work goes into this stuff.
WW: OK moving on to your game... did you guys have too much cheese on your pizza when you came up with the idea of a samurai toaster?
DC: Haha. No, it was just a ridiculous random idea. Just randomness. The samurai part is easy, since I'm really into chambara movies. But the other stuff, it was just silly randomness. I'll just say that my sensibilities today are different from when I came up with Eduardo. All of my other game ideas involve human characters. I am happy about the Eduardo part though. We need some more diversity in games.
WW: How similar would you say Eduardo is to other off-the-wall run 'n' gun games such as Alien Hominid?
DC: Well it's in the same genre as that and Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes, but once we show off video I think people will realize that it is unique within that space. I hate to hype our game up too much, though I know that's what I'm supposed to do. But I'll let the video, and later the final game, do the talking.
WW: What are some of your personal favorite old skool run 'n' gun games?
DC: My all-time favorite is probably Gunstar Heroes. The Metal Slug series is excellent. I grew up on contra.
WW: Great choices! All these games are fast, furious and quite hard for novices. How do you feel this fits in with the causal Wii audience?
DC: There are a few difficulty options, so you can play it nice and difficult or you can relax in easy mode. For a game made with a console in mind and not the arcade, it makes sense to give players that choice. You'll also be able to select which level to start instead of having to go through the entire game each time. After you've beaten each level, that is.
WW: Can you tell us more about the 4 player co-op play? Is there any interaction between the good guys?
DC: Oh yes. Interacting with your teammates is a huge part of what sets Eduardo apart from other games in the genre. You can throw any enemy, teammate, or projectile in the game. You can throw enemy projectiles at your teammate if you want. You can throw each other off of rocket packs and scooters. There have been times during testing where we've spent several minutes in one single spot just messing with each other. If you've played the Four Swords games you'll get a rough idea. We were inspired by the interaction in those two games. There are also little "meta games" that come from that. Like tossing a timed-explosion durian at each other in a game of hot potato. Not mini games, but unplanned interactions that happened during gameplay.
WW: With this emphasis on multiplayer are you worried a solo player might feel lonely or did you toy with the idea of AI buddies?
DC: AI buddies would be great, but we simply don't have the resources to do that. Or online play. Though I'm not sure it would be as fun with AI partners. The fun comes with interacting with your friends right next to you.
WW: The idea of pastry pickups to upgrade your firepower sounds great! What more can you tell us about this?
DC: In the previous versions of Eduardo each pastry enemy represented a single shot. And each pastry enemy type became a different kind of projectile. That didn't really work when Eduardo became a run 'n gun game, but the various pastry enemies still drop weapons pickups much like in other run 'n gun games. They will only drop a pickup of their type.
WW: The artwork in Eduardo is striking and unusual to say the least. What more can you tell us about the design choices and how the graphical style took shape?
DC: Yeah, that's a result of experimenting with assets over the last four years. I pushed myself more and more, and was able to try different things as time went by. I'm not satisfied with everything but I see that as a good thing, that I've learned from the work I've done so far and can be certain that if given the chance I'll create much better assets for future games. In particular with character and enemy design. I don't know if I'm that great at the cartoony stuff to be honest.
WW: Don’t be so hard on yourself, it looks great to us so far. Has the same love and attention been given to the music and sound effects in Eduardo too?
DC: Well I appreciate the kind words. None of us are sound effects guys, so we got all of our sounds from various game effects sites. But we did put a lot of effort into getting the right kinds of sounds. For music, however, Raymond Gramke has been working with us over the years, making excellent music for us. He too has really improved over time. It's really interesting to see that progression. What I found was that the more he made music just going by his own instincts rather than my direction, the better music he makes.
WW: When do you expect that Eduardo the Samurai Toaster will be unleashed on WiiWare and how much should it cost?
DC: We hope to be able to release it before April. As for cost, we don't know yet. We'd like it to be as affordable as possible.
WW: Do you have plans to release in Europe at a later date? What challenges does this present?
DC: We want to release Eduardo in all territories. But we simply don't have the cash to get a PEGI rating yet. zero budget.
WW: Don’t forget OFLC and USK!
DC: Geez, yeah. I wish all of the game companies would get together to at least settle on one universal ratings system. One territory. Fat chance, but it's nice to imagine.
WW: What languages does a North American release require?
DC: French, English, and Spanish, but we don't have much text in the game. We need to translate the manuals
WW: Would you consider a deal like 2D Boy did with RTL Games so you could get Eduardo into Europe?
DC: I have no idea. If some publisher approaches us, we would certainly consider it.
WW: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
DC: Yes, please save your pennies to buy our game so that we can make more for everyone.