Coinciding with the release of Fish’em All! for Wiiware in Europe this coming Friday, comes our chat with Nacho Garcia from the Spanish developers Abylight. So sit back, relax, and open the floodgates of knowledge which shall pour forth from the minds of Abylight!
Nintendo Life: Can you tell us a little bit about Abylight?
Nacho Garcia: We are a small European developer and publisher since 2003. Despite Abylight's recent founding, the four founders have been working in the videogames industry since 1988. We have been involved in about 50 published videogames, most of them for Nintendo platforms such as NES or GameBoy/Color/Advance, but also for 8 bit computers and even arcade coin-op.
When we decided to start a new company 6 years ago we had been developing games for Game Boy Advance for quite some time. It was complicated for us to continue working on consoles due to market circumstances, so we started making games for wireless devices. We developed eleven games, some of them with great success. We started working for Nintendo platforms again last year with a Nintendo DS title, "Elite Forces: Unit 77".
As it's nearly impossible for a small company like us to publish games on a physical media like DS or Wii disc, we jumped onto WiiWare as soon as we finished our DS title, hoping to be a consolidate publisher for this platform in the future.
Nlife: Who makes up the Abylight team?
NG: We have a staff of 11 persons working at Abylight right now: three graphic artists, three coders, one main designer, one level designer, one musician, one manager and one administrative. We have also some occasional staff for tasks like testing, being involved in the latest stages of the project.
Nlife: Why did you decide to develop for WiiWare and what made you gave you the idea for Fish’em All?
NG: We started thinking about WiiWare six months before starting the development of Fish'em All, while "Elite Forces: Unit 77" was still being developed.
Being Nintendo Wii fans ourselves, we understood that what WiiWare offers is the chance to develop fresh games, in a way less risky than developing big budget games for Wii-Disc.
As Wii users we wanted to play small but intense, very well finished games. Something like the great old arcade classics, but in an innovative way, specially using the possibilities of the Wii.
We considered dozens of game types, and we found a "playability kernel" in an unpublished game made by ourselves in 1995. The goal was to take a very simple concept (move right - left, jump, catch that fish) and work around it until it played just great.
Nlife: What kind of game is Fish’em All?
NG: First, what it's not. Fish'em All! is not a fishing game. Yes you must catch fish, but it's not a fishing simulator or anything like that. It's a pure arcade game, just like the coin-op classics. If you changed the fish to colour balls and the net to a hammer, everything would work the same way.
This is the kind of game you enjoy more as you improve your skills with the Wii Remote, and you discover the playability layers and tricks.
When you realize that you can catch exactly the fish you want, in a very precise way with a constant 60fps movement, the game begins to bring a very enjoyable experience just in the same way of those coin-op classics, where you start playing like a newbie but you end playing like a Ninja!
Nlife: How do the Wii Remote controls work exactly?
NG: Fairly simple. You can use the Nunchuck to move the character around and the wave the Wii Remote from left to right, or right to left to catch fish with the net. Jump is performed with buttons A, B or Z. You can also control the character using only the Wii Remote and the D-Pad. We are used to provide several control methods so the player can find the most comfortable one. Providing several control methods in our games is something we started to do in our wireless games, long time ago.
Nlife: Ninja-Rats, Sumo-Toads, Dragons – where did all these ideas come from?
NG: Well, all this is just the wrapper.
Keeping in mind the playability kernel, we found a Japanese game for kids (a 'real life' game) called "Kingyo Sukui" which is something like "Scooping Goldfish", where you must catch some fish from a pool with a net.
This was funny, and because we have also a lot of Japanese influence in videogame design, in a sense of "Japanese playability", we made out that crazy fusion between the banjo music and oriental characters.
We honestly think that characters like the sumo-toad and the ninja-rat are hilarious. It's good to have some laughs while playing.
Nlife: How long has Fish'em All! been in development?
NG: It was about seven months, with ten persons involved. The game was completed in about five months, but we needed three months to adjust the controls and the level design. This game is made of pure playability and pure love. Each one of the thousand of fish were placed by hand, with a carefully studied purpose.
For each level the designer was confined in a deep cave, fed only with rice and green tea, until he started to see floating fishes and decided where to put each one in the game.
Nlife: What are some advantages/disadvantages to developing for the WiiWare service as opposed to a retail release?
NG: If you take a look to the history of videogames you will realize that we have nearly lost something on the road. Most past games used to provide immediate entertainment without the need of long introductions, elaborated stories, tutorials, or complex controls. They were truly “plug and play”. The success of Virtual Console games reassert this fact.
Nowadays most games are huge, and this may seem good but it's not. They require immense budgets to be done, and this is something that only very few companies can do. Also, the amount of money required to duplicate and distribute disc games is too big. So in the end the variety and innovation from emerging developers is lost.
The WiiWare platform allows small companies like us to make innovative games, more focused to immediate entertainment, as they used to be. The customer can also play more games for less money. You can buy a different game each week without breaking the bank.
Being realistic, we could have never released a game like Fish'em All for Wii-Disc, so without the WiiWare platform it wouldn't have existed at all. What a pity, you wouldn't never had the chance of being crushed by a Sumo-Toad while catching fish with a net!
Nlife: Do you already have plans for another WiiWare game or will you see how sales for Fish’em All! are before committing to anything?
NG: Yes indeed, we are already working on our next WiiWare title, which I should say it's absolutely different from Fish'em All! It will be released at the end of this year.
Nlife: What do you think of the DSiWare service so far? Are you considering putting a game out for the service in the future?
NG: DSiWare is a very interesting platform for us. We have very good ideas for DS games and we are eager to bring them to life, but right now we are focused on WiiWare.
Nlife: Do you have anything you'd like to tell our readers in closing?
NG: Yes of course. Support the WiiWare platform so we can continue making innovative games, and enjoy Fish'em All!
To conclude here are three videos which Abylight kindly prepared for Nintendo Life to demonstrate the different gameplay modes on offer:
Fish’em All! will be available for download from the Wii Shop in Europe from 29th May for 800 Nintendo points.