Lukasz Szczepanski, producer of Furry Legends at Gamelion Studios in Poland, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for WiiWare World. You can find out what he had to say to us in the interview below.
WiiWare World: Can you tell us a little bit about Gamelion Studios?
Lukasz Szczepanski: Certainly. Gamelion was founded in 2002 and currently employs around 100 people in total, across all departments and two main production studios in Poland. Although most of our work in the past was done for mobile devices (including iPhone), we always were working with a multi-platform approach and entering the Wii-market was a natural move for us. Begining this year, we’ve been also approved by Sony for PlayStation development and you can also expect later this year games from us on those platforms.
WW: How long has Furry Legends been in development?
LS: The game has been in development since fall 2008. We’re building everything from scratch, without using any third-party middleware, so it’s a complicated process, as we’re learning new things all the time.
WW: How did you come up with the idea for Furry Legends?
LS: We were doing some brainstorming for our first WiiWare game. We wanted something simple, something we could learn on. We had a lot of ideas, some were more complicated, some less. We have a lot of experienced players, and the genres people came up with often exceeded our project scope. We went with “Furry Legends” as we had some of the technology for it ready, and it looked the most promising out of all our ideas.
WW: Can you give us a brief explanation of the game play in Furry Legends?
LS: Gameplay in Furry Legends is pretty simple. It’s a platformer, but instead of walking around, you’re rolling. This creates some new gameplay mechanics, as well as a new twist on the genre. In addition to regular platforming, you will find environmental puzzles, which will make use of the physics engine we have in the game.
WW: Can you tell us a little more about the physics engine used in the game?
LS: The physics engine takes care of everything that is happening in the world. Objects can bounce from one another, we can create seesaw weights, bump and kick things around, stuff like mass, friction and speed plays a role in the game when interacting with the environment. There’s a lot of potential here, and we hope to surprise the players with some our inventions.
WW: What about Furry Legends makes it stand out from other WiiWare puzzlers?
LS: It’s not a puzzler per se, really. It has puzzles in the sense that you will need to figure out how to use some mechanism in order to open the door, or generally progress further in a level. Sometimes you’ll need to push some key element from another place in the level, or you’d need to figure out the order in which to press buttons.
WW: You've mentioned that Furry Legends contains lots of humor. Can you tell us a little bit more about that aspect of the game?
LS: Humor is a hard thing to grasp, many people view it differently, some things are appealing for one audience, but not for another. In general – we’ll make sure that all the characters in the game, the main character(s) as well as the enemies are fun. You can’t see that from the screenshots yet, but they will have their unique mimics, they’ll make faces and noises to give players that funky-wacky cartoon feeling. In addition, as everyone on the team is an avid gamer, you can expect quite a few easter eggs hidden here and there, all weaved into the world, so they won’t be obvious from the fist glance.
WW: What controllers are supported in Furry Legends?
LS: Currently we support Nunchuk and Wii Remote Controller, and I think it will stay this way
WW: What was it like developing a game that makes use of such a unique game controller as the Wii Remote?
LS: Interesting, very interesting. We spent like a month time trying to figure out the controls for the game. We were prototyping a lot of things to make the experience unique and fun. However, as much as Wii Remote Controller is unique, its uniqueness cannot be used everywhere. At some point you need to think about the user experience and ergonomics. For instance, one of our prototypes was to make circular movements in order to spin the ball in a chosen direction. However, after some tests we came to a conclusion that this is tiring for the player, and in the long run not very fun. In the end we went with the regular ‘arcade’ controls, where you control the character via Nunchuk, and perform special stuff with the Wii Remote Controller.
The other facet of this is the sensitivity of the controller. Sometimes the game would detect motions that weren’t intended, but were just parts of general human behavior. For instance, when you swing your hand it goes along with the inertia, which makes the controller detect a movement opposite to the one you have intended. Not to mention that people can attempt to do the same motion in many different ways, which doesn’t make it any easier. Generally, motion sensing is a very complex matter and requires effort and time we cannot afford at this time.
WW: Did you find the 40MB limit of the WiiWare service limiting as far as what you want to do with Furry Legends?
LS: Yes, it is limiting. At every point of the development we need to remember about the size limit. Whether it’s the levels, models, textures, sounds, anything, really. We create our technology and assets around these limitations, so we’re not caught in the cold while assembling everything together. Currently with the scope of the game and our internal deadlines, the size is not limiting us that much. However, in the original design it was a major concern for us.
WW: Will any downloadable content be made available for Furry Legends at some point?
LS: We do not plan any downloadable content for this iteration of the series.
WW: Will Furry Legends feature any type of online gameplay or leaderboards?
LS: Unfortunately, not. Online is something we didn’t look into yet.
WW: What are some advantages/disadvantages to developing for the WiiWare service as opposed to a retail release?
LS: The biggest advantage is that we’re our own publisher. This means that we can make exactly the game we want to, and we do not need to give in to publisher’s pressure for a feature or setting, or deadline for that matter. The second thing is the lack of physical media, which makes the development cycle a bit easier, and we don’t need to code around DVD seek speeds and other things like that. Removing those limitations is very liberating for us as developers.
WW: How many Wii Points will Furry Legends retail for when it's released?
LS: That’s not something we’re at liberty to discuss. The final price is set by Nintendo, after the game passes all the necessary procedures.
WW: When we can expect a Furry Legends release in the US and Europe?
LS: It’s good to underline that we’re releasing in both US and EU markets. Additionally we are in talks with publishers to bring the game also to Japan. We’re aiming for second quarter of 2009 with the release.
WW: What do you think of the WiiWare service and the releases we've seen so far and do you have a personal favorite?
LS: I think WiiWare is great. There are however things that are limiting its expansion. The most known is the storage space of Wii, of course. The other thing is the percentage of consoles actually using WiiWare, which is sometimes discouraging for bigger players. I think WiiWare at its current state has something to offer for all players. There’s a lot puzzle games and action games. They come in all kinds of quality and prices. That’s a good thing in general, some people do not care for quality, but they like to have a new experience every so often, so low priced titles fill this area nicely. On the other hand, more ‘hardcore’ players love quality and immersion, this is where titles such as Final Fantasy come in. As for my favourite, well, I’m pretty afraid to say it, but I guess that would be Lost Winds
WW: Do you guys have any other WiiWare projects on the horizon?
LS: Yes, we have a couple ideas, a lot depends on the initial reception of Furry Legends, which is our pilot project. From there we’ll be thinking forward.
WW: Do you have anything you'd like to tell our readers in closing?
LS: I’d like to thank all and every single one of you for your feedback. It has been a hard, and eye opening dose of reality. We certainly hear your concerns, and we’re already hard at work to address these issues. The most common thing here is similarity to Lost Winds. While we were certainly inspired by Frontier’s work, it is not our intention to copy it in any way. A few things overlap here, we have pretty much the same graphical effects, which makes the two games very similar at a first glance, compared to other (more or less competitive) products, which are either 2D or do not use shading and lightning very well, if at all. The second thing is the environment; you can create a forest and caves only in so many ways. However, we do admit its scarily close to Lost Winds, because of the vibrant colors, setting, oversaturated lighting and so on.
Your comments were certainly an eye opener for us. We have stepped back and saw that while we’re doing a totally different game, the striking similarities took us by surprise. I hope to show you a totally different setting in our GDC trailer. Some common denominator elements will still be there, but you cannot make a 3D platformer, without it looking like a 3D platformer.
Keep the feedback coming, and visit our blog and twitter for weekly updates on the game. Hopefully I won’t be doing these interviews very often, as there won’t be any material left for the blog, judging by the size of this interview.
We'd like to take a moment to thank Sebastian and Lukasz from Gamelion Studios for taking the time to do the interview with us. We look forward to seeing more of Furry Legends, as well as their other projects, in the future.
Be sure and keep an eye on the Gamelion Studios Blog for current updates on Furry Legends game development!