Eximion Interview - Cube: Gardens of Zen
Posted by Corbie Dillard
With the recent announcement of Cube: Gardens of Zen coming to the WiiWare service, we wanted to get in touch with its creators to find out a little bit more about the game and what we can expect from the WiiWare release.
Chris van der Linden, Creative Director at Eximion, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to take part in an exclusive interview with WiiWare World. He was also kind enough to provide a promotional code that will allow everyone to try out their unique web-based game titles. You can find out what he had to say to us, as well as the promotional code, below.
WW: Can you tell us a little bit about Kalydo?
Chris van der Linden: Kalydo is your virtual console. The online platform enables you to play console quality games in your web browser. At this moment it is for the PC, tailored to work at 95% of today’s mainstream systems. You don’t need a monster computer to play our games.
The idea behind this was thought up by Doki Tops, our CEO. Most of us at the studio have a background in shooter games. When we started our own company, however, we wanted to do something new and be independent. Online web-based gaming was a strong upcoming market so we steered away from the hardcore genre.
Note: Kalydo is actually the name of the online game platform. The company behind the platform and the games is called Eximion. You can find out more at www.eximion.com including development blogs, photo streams and more.
WW: How long has the WiiWare version of Cube: Gardens of Zen been in development?
CvdL: Well to be honest, the WiiWare version is still in a very early state. Cube was designed and developed primarily for the Kalydo platform, on which it has been released just a week ago. What happened was that early demos of the game resulted in so much positive response we were actually ‘encouraged’ by our fans and partners to bring it to the Wii. So we started looking into it and decided to do it. Then word came out and we were overwhelmed again with another wave of positive reactions.
WW: How did you come up with the original idea for Cube: Gardens of Zen in the first place?
CvdL: The game concept was created by one of our graduates Bobby Kwakkernaat. He did the initial game design, which was quite a lot different at the start. Together with Doki Tops (yes, our CEO occasionally does design work) they worked it into the extremely streamlined format it is now. The fact that it is so simple, yet evocative, is what makes it work.
Bobby wanted the game to have that colorful cartoon look many people associate with Nintendo games. The Japanese ‘Garden of Zen’ theme was my idea and provided the base for the game’s story line: Find the answers to life.
At first this game was actually more of a side project with only one game programmer assigned to it one day a week. Bobby worked hard with the rest of the team to make this game tick. Very quickly it started to show its big potential and Rob van Gulik (Game Tech Director) started to work on the game three days a week besides his management tasks.
WW: What made you decide to bring your game to the WiiWare service as opposed to Xbox Live Arcade or the Playstation Store?
CvdL: Well, we are not ruling out the other platforms because they are great for our games. However, the visual style and game play just makes Cube a perfect match for the Wii. It’s a style a Wii player will like very much and judging from all the responses so far, we are right in thinking so.
One of the aspects of the Kalydo platform is that we are targeted at a wide audience and have little violent or ‘hardcore’ games. This is something that rings true for the Wii as well. I know there’s a lot of Wii fans that love action/shooter games as well and it’s the same for Kalydo. So fear not, we won’t be publishing ‘kiddy’ games only.
WW: Can you give us a brief explanation of the game play in Cube: Gardens of Zen?
CvdL: Sure. It’s a little bit tricky to put to words so I invite everyone to watch the video review by Josh Thomas of WiiFolder.
Cube is a game set against a Japanese/Oriental backdrop and features the young hero Cub. One morning Cub wakes up and wonders about the meaning of his life. Why is he just a Cube? Is there more to life than being a Cube? He sets out to find Sensei and adventure enrolls…
In Cube – Gardens of Zen you control the Cub character. The goal is to collect all the Wisdom Scrolls on the sides of the Cube shaped world. Cub can roll around and land on other sides of the cube. The trick here is that in order to safely get to another side of the cube you have to land on something. This can be a tree, rock, character or breakables such as mushrooms, snowmen and more.
WW: The control scheme in Cube: Gardens of Zen is very simple and easy to pick up. Was there a conscious effort to make the game easy for anyone to pick up and play quickly?
CvdL: The control scheme is as basic as it gets. Our games are meant to be easy to pick up for everyone and be immediately enjoyable. The seasoned gamer can find a range of additional game play elements as an extra challenge, but this is not necessary to finish the game. The famous credo “Easy to learn, hard to master” is one that rings true for our games.
WW: What about Cube: Gardens of Zen makes it stand out from the other WiiWare puzzle-style releases?
CvdL: I think Cube stands out as a puzzle game because it doesn’t focus on being a puzzle game. To me it’s much more an adventure game really, which puts a smile on your face. Of course the game revolves around finishing the stages set across the four seasons, which often requires all your puzzle-solving skills. At other times it’s a heartwarming, witty and absurd story which makes you want to talk to all the characters in the world.
Hot tip: The game features ‘Shrines’ for each person that has worked on the game. They are a great way to find out funny things about the development team.
People have commented a lot on the visual style of the game which is very unique. The Japanese theme in combination with Cube has resulted in memorable characters such as Sensei, Gorf, Pandum and the Cinja’s. We have gone to great lengths to make everything in the world unique looking in its ‘Cube kind of way’.
WW: What controller will be used for Cube: Gardens of Zen and will there by any type of motion controls added in to take advantage of the Wii Remote?
CvdL: The control scheme for the Wii Ware version of Cube – Gardens of Zen has not been finalized. Our primary concern the past months was to get the PC version ready. After all this is going to be what the Wii Ware version will be based upon. Luckily the controls needed in the game are very basic so we will have no trouble getting a smooth control scheme on the Wii. Our focus will be on ease of use and ‘control’ as the game is very rigid in a way, rolling the cube around. Personally a zoom function is one of the additions I would love to add.
WW: Will the WiiWare version of the game feature any new content or other additions?
CvdL: The Kalydo version of the game is heavily tailored towards smooth web-based performance. This means that we had to work on a strongly limited graphic and audio budget. This is something that has been commented upon by the WiiWare users, but realize what you see in the video is the game at Kalydo which is only 10 MB in size. We believe, and people agree, the game already looks great the way it is. Nonetheless, you can expect us to amp up the whole audio/visual aspect some more to make use of the increased firepower of the Wii.
The major new feature that we will work hard to include is a level editor which can be used to create custom levels. The PC version has this level editor but it was originally only meant to be used for our artists.
WW: Will there be additional downloadable content made available for Cube: Gardens of Zen at some point such as additional levels?
CvdL: We would love to release additional content such as level packs. A level editor would be better so people can make their own levels so we will work hard to get this done.
WW: Will the game feature any type of online play or leader boards?
CvdL: This is a little bit to early for us to comment on right now. At Kalydo we work with high score tables so chances are that we will do the same for the WiiWare version. We still have to look into this, so in time we can give more info on this.
WW: How many Wii Points will Cube: Gardens of Zen retail for when it's released?
CvdL: We are trying to go for about 1,000 Wii Points, which amounts to about $10 - This is the same price as we charge at Kalydo. We have looked at other Wii Ware titles and feel comfortable with this price range.
WW: Any idea when we can expect a Cube: Gardens of Zen release in the US or Europe?
CvdL: As said, we are still pretty early in the whole process, but we are targeting a late 2009 release. This greatly depends on how everything evolves from this point on. Its our first time developing for the Wii. While we have almost six games under the belt for the PC, the Wii is something new for us.
WW: What do you think of the WiiWare service and the releases we've seen so far and do you have a personal favorite?
CvdL: I think it’s great. I do not really favor it above any other of the aforementioned services. I just really love this new way of gaming and publishing in general. It enables smaller developers to make creative products for a rewarding community. Generally I feel the WiiWare (and similar services) users are much more appreciative towards game developers. Every time a new shooter game is released it's welcomed with about as much credit as dirt. This is one of the reasons I love being in this ‘casual’ game space as opposed to the hardcore game market.
I don’t get much time to play games and my severe RSI restrains me from playing almost anything really. One game I really love on the WiiWare is Lost Winds. It looks stunning and that’s something I look for as Creative Director. It's won the best new IP award and is just fantastic.
WW: Are there any plans to bring any of your other web-based games over to the WiiWare service? Can I put in a request for Oggo's Odyssey?
CvdL: Haha, sure yeah Oggo’s Odyssey would be a match made in game heaven. We are trying to find a publisher for more of our games indeed. So there you go: If there are interested parties, just drop us a line. We have a great game catalogue and a lot of them are ideal for the WiiWare channel.
WW: Do you have anything you'd like to tell our readers in closing?
CvdL: I would love to thank everyone for the great response. We are looking forward to being on the Wii and being part of this great community.
In addition I would love to invite the readers of WiiWare-World to play Cube: Gardens of Zen at Kalydo. Enter the word WiiWareWorld in the promotional code field when signing up to receive an additional amount of free eCoins (similar to Wii Points). Everyone receives free eCoins when signing up, so there’s absolutely no reason not to try it.
Thanks Corbie and Darren from WiiWare World for having us. It was great talking to you guys!
We here at WiiWare World would like to also thank you Chris for taking the time to do the interview. We look forward to hearing more from you in the future.