Nnooo Interview - Pop Plus: Solo
Posted by Damien McFerran
Nnooo's Pop was one of the very first WiiWare releases and has gone on to become something of a poster child for downloadable gaming.
Since the Wii launch we've also see an iPhone version, and the Aussie developer is putting the finishing touches to a DSiWare variant called Pop Plus: Solo as we speak. Keen to find out more about this, we got in touch with Nnooo head man Nic Watt and posed a few questions:
Nintendo Life: Pop has now been released on WiiWare and the iPhone. Are you pleased with the critical and commercial performance of the game?
Nic Watt: We are really pleased with both the performance of the game and peoples reception to it. As our first game as a company Pop and although a relatively simple game for us it is a real milestone, both in terms of technology and as our first step on the road to bigger things.
We have already paid off our initial investment in Pop for WiiWare which has been great and allowed us to fund the iPhone and DSi versions of the game. The iPhone version has also already won a few accolades not only was it a finalist for 6 Best App Ever awards it also received a coveted Pocketgamer silver award too!
NL: What issues did you encounter when porting the game to the iPhone?
NW: The main difficulty was the screen size and how big a person’s finger are. Obviously because you are tapping the bubble to pop them it can be easy to obscure the bubbles. We had to ensure that the bubbles were of good sizes to pop while not being too big or too small.
Other than that most of the issues were technical in nature, IE getting used to the way the iPhone works and so forth. Apple like Nintendo provide a pretty good foundation to build software on so none of it was stupidly hard more time consuming.
NL: Can we expect any embellishments for the DSiWare version of Pop, or is it based on the iPhone version?
NW: Like the iPhone version over the WiiWare one we are adding balancing improvements to make the DSi version more accessible to new players. As mentioned in our press release we are also adding in two brand new modes Adventure with its boss battles and Challenges as well as 2 new bonus rounds and many more badges.
In fact if you are upgrading from the WiiWare version you will be going from 4 modes to 8 on the DSi and 1 bonus round type to 5 so it is quite an improvement!
NL: Can you tell us the difference between Pop Plus: Solo and Pop Plus: Versus?
NW: Pop Plus: Solo is single player only. In it you are competing against yourself, or swapping with your friends to take turns. We have focused the modes and price on the Solo version so you can have great fun battling bosses or taking on timed runs. As we have mentioned Pop Plus: Solo will feature 8 modes, 5 bonus rounds and plenty of badges.
Pop Plus: VS is planned to be a multiplayer follow up to the Solo version. This will feature just Multiplayer gameplay. The player will be able to create challenges as well as take part in multiplayer matches in Normal, Advanced, Adventure and Challenge modes. VS will be strictly local play and ideally we will have single cart play so if you have Pop Plus: VS then you can play with up to 3 other people by sharing the game with them. Cleverly DSi owners can share like this to both DS and DSi consoles so not all your friends need to have upgraded to take you on in multiplayer!
NL: Will there be any new modes which the WiiWare and iPhone versions did not feature?
NW: Yup, as I mentioned above there will be 2 new modes, Adventure and Challenges as well as 2 new bonus rounds Focus and Sequence.
Adventure sees the player battling through 16 waves with new obstacles in the form of jets to push the bubbles about and mines which can be detonated. Bosses will make their presence know to attack the player and prevent his or her progress. If you defeat a boss you will be able to take on a bonus round and then continue your journey. Defeated bosses can also be replayed without having to play through Adventure mode each time.
Challenge mode allows users to create their own custom challenges to test the abilities of themselves or their friends. By choosing a wave, time limit, score limit and more the player can create a challenge to save and try again and again.
The new bonus rounds we hope are an added diversion with similar levels of fun to the existing Defend, Detonate and Machine gun ones. Focus tasks the player with only popping bubbles of a particular colour, failure results in a swift game over! Sequence on the other hand requires the player to memorise a sequence of bubbles and then repeat it (our little brain training mini-game!).
NL: All three versions of Pop will be using a slightly different interface – the WiiWare version has the IR pointer, the iPhone version uses the player’s finger and the DSiWare version will be using a stylus. Although these three methods are generally the same, did you have to make any special considerations for each edition?
NW: Yes we do. The most noticeable difference will be the rate the bubbles move and spawn in. We have found that using the DSi stylus makes popping really easy and immediate so we have had to adjust some of the balancing accordingly. The iPhone is the second easiest as you just touch what you want while the WiiWare one is slightly harder as you have to align your hand to your eyes.
NL: Because you’ve taken the digital distribution route, you have the ability to add new elements to the game. For example, you’ve updated the iPhone version of Pop since it was first released. Can we expect any further updates and will these been rolled out across all three platforms?
NW: We would love to do that however the structure of each service is different enough not to really allow that. For example Nintendo are not big on the idea of patches so we would need to offer it as downloadable content, something currently not possible on DSi (at least not that I am aware of) and also something the Wii version was not designed to make use of. Apple allow, for better or worse, iPhone applications to be patched and updated. This makes it much easier for us to add new content.
There are pros and cons to this. On Wii and DSi we have to ensure that our game is good and finished before we release it which is obviously very good for consumers. On iPhone however some companies are pushing out software and if it sells well adding content, if it doesn't they leave it alone. For us we love the idea of adding new content to games and it is something we are really looking towards for the future. However as a small company we have to start with the battles we can win!
NL: The versions of Pop released so far are a variation on the main theme, but do you have any plans for a fully-fledged sequel that will introduce new gameplay elements, or are you focusing on new projects?
NW: We consider Pop Plus: Solo a sequel as it is adding so much new content. It is a bit like Tetris which never really has a proper sequel as intrinsically Tetris is Tetris. We do have some great new game ideas and are hoping to commence work on them next.
NL: Do you intend for Pop to be released in the launch window for DSiWare? Are you aiming at a budget or mid-range price point?
NW: We really hope we can get Pop Plus: Solo out as close to the launch as possible. As big Nintendo fans we know what it is like when you buy a new device and want to get loads of software to try out on it! So ideally we would love to help Nintendo increase the initial library of titles available to its users.
In terms of price we hope we can offer Pop Plus: Solo at about 500 points which considering the WiiWare one sells for 700 we think it great value for money, not least as the DSiWare version has 8 modes and 5 bonus rounds!
NL: Can you tell us a bit about your proposed Pokémon MMO concept? Do you intend it to be a full price Wii game, or a WiiWare release?
NW: Our concept for a Pokémon MMO would be a disc based game with disc based expansions. The central concept we have at the moment is really making the player feel what it is like to be a Pokémon trainer. We have some great ideas on how to make interfacing with the world and Pokémon much more fluid. In particular we love how in the cartoons Ash and his Pokémon wander around together and he shouts out commands to them. This is something we feel we have a solution for and would really bring the Pokémon world into the fore.
NL: Assuming for a moment that Nintendo doesn’t accept the proposal, is there a chance you could run with the idea but without the Pokémon branding?
NW: Yeah we have some other game ideas which we hope to start working on on WiiWare and DSiWare which could grow to become something similar to our MMO concept for Pokémon.