Interviews: Bit Boy!! - Bplus

Bplus talk about their upcoming WiiWare retrorama!

We've recently seen quite a bit of new information being released regarding Bplus' upcoming WiiWare release Bit Boy!!, but there were still a lot of unanswered questions floating around that needed some answers.

We recently caught up with Bernd Geiblinger, Art Director at Bplus, and he was kind enough to sit down and answer some of our burning questions. You can find out what he had to say in the interview below.

Nintendo Life: First off, how long has Bit Boy!! been in development?

Bernd Geiblinger: You know, creating a game requires tons of graphics, sounds and code. Developing literally six of them simultaneously was an enormous challenge for Daniel and me. We worked day and night and put much love into Bit Boy!!. In the end we were able to stay in our tight time frame pretty well.

But let's put it in another way: The 4-bit version of Bit Boy!!, simply called 'Bit Boy', could have been released in 1975. 'Bit Boy 2' might have come out in 1984, with 'Super Bit Boy' following in 1992, 'Bit Boy 3D' in 1995, 'Bit Boy 64' in 1998 and finally 'Bit Boy Wii' in 2006. When viewed like that, Bit Boy!! has been in development for nearly 35 years – we just didn't know it until recently.

NL: How did you come up with the idea for Bit Boy!! in the first place?

BG: Since the announcement of the Virtual Console for Wii, we've dreamed of retro-style successors of the games we loved so much. When we came up with the idea to do a retro game ourselves, we were suddenly in the difficult position of deciding in which graphical style the game should be realised. We know that every true gamer has a special place in his/her heart for the style of the games they started with – and that's what Bit Boy!! is all about. We wanted the game to spark true retro feelings in all gamers, regardless of age, so we decided to send our one-pixel hero Kubi on a time journey through the whole history of video games.

NL: Are there any specific classic video games that inspired you during development of Bit Boy!!?

BG: Certainly, there are games in each generation that were absolutely outstanding and had a huge impact on all other titles of that gaming era.

In the 4-bit era, we were inspired by games that were so big before the great videogame crash of 1984, released for consoles like Atari, Intellivision, ColecoVision. Of course we know that all of these consoles were technically 8-bit, but we wanted to give them a special part outside of the NES/Master System era.

Inspirations for the 8-Bit era were the early NES games like Mario Bros., Ice Climber and Tetris. In 16-bit, we pay homage to Super Bomberman, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Final Fantasy. The 32-bit section takes place in solid 3D dungeons that were heavily influenced by the semi-realistic, yet pixellated look of the original Tomb Raider. The 64-bit era is totally different than all others in terms of visuals, because it is presented in the cute and colourful look seen in Super Mario 64, Chameleon Twist, or Banjo-Kazooie. For the 128-bit era, we chose to use a rather realistic setting by using high resolution, photographed textures and some neat Wii graphic effects to bring the fantasy world with all of its dangerous monsters to life.

NL: Was there one specific aspect of the game you were particularly focused on during development?

BG: Our main goal when creating Bit Boy!! was to recreate the look and feel of all the classic generations as accurately as possible. We even went as far as to incorporate the exact NES palette into the 8-Bit era.

Another focus was to make Bit Boy!! accessible to ALL gamers. Naturally, some very young gamers may not understand the passion 'older' players have for their favorites from the past. With Bit Boy!! featuring all of the different generations, everyone can experience and learn to love the feeling of retro gameplay.

NL: Can you explain the actual gameplay of Bit Boy!! in some detail for our readers?

BG: Bit Boy!! features classic, arcade-style gameplay.

During his journey through time, Kubi visits increasingly complex dungeons that not only look, but play distinctively different thanks to varied level designs. As Bit Boy!! is a very old-school, arcade-style action game, your main aim is to get the ultimate high score by rescuing friends, eating fruit and defeating monsters that roam the levels.

From the 8-bit era on, Kubi can use special attacks to defeat monsters and later in the game he gains the ability to jump onto objects to hide himself from enemies. They change tactics in each level, so be sure to use the limited number of attacks wisely.

We intended that the Bit Generations are not too long, because we wanted to give everyone, even new gamers that generally lose interest quickly, the chance to unlock all of them. If you cannot wait to see the next generations, you can really rush through the game, but that way you will never see your name on the top of the high score tables. Finding out the right tactics for a super-duper score to can be really tough, you have to survive to collect all of the fruit and defeat as many monsters as possible. As a nice reward, the top score of each bit generation is displayed on the title screen, so try to get your name there!

Warp Mode

You can unlock the Warp Mode for every Bit Generation you complete. This is an endless mode where your main aim is to collect as many time diamonds as possible. When you bump into a monster, you just get warped to the next level! You can also play together with a friend and compete for the most time diamonds.

When you finish the game, a special surprise awaits you.

NL: Can you go into a bit more detail about how the changing bits effect the game in terms of visuals, sound, and gameplay?

BG: While the main aim always stays the same, the feeling changes not only with every generation, but with every single level. Each and every dungeon incorporates a special theme that is reflected in the way the level is designed.

As mentioned before, Kubi also gains the ability to attack and to jump onto objects (or even over monsters) during the game, which adds much more depth to the experience.

Of course, the visuals are different in every bit generation, changing from simple bunches of pixels to 2D sprites to lively 3D models, from blurry or pixellated textures to sharp photos and from simple shapes to very complex and detailed ones.

Since we're so in love with retro sounds, we decided to beautify the whole game with beepy sounds and classic Game Boy-like chip tunes that get more complex and funky with each generation.

NL: Is there one particular aspect of the game that you're especially proud of?

BG: We put very much love and effort into the different bit generations and we are very proud that when you play Bit Boy!! it really feels as if you're playing on the old consoles, completely forgetting about it being a WiiWare game. It was our main aim and I think we accomplished that quite nicely.

NL: What controllers are supported in Bit Boy!!?

BG: Choose between two modes: Classic +Control Pad Style, with the Wii Remote used like an NES controller and Retro Joystick Style, with the Wii Remote simulating a classic arcade joystick using the motion sensors.

NL: Are you finding the actual game development becoming easier now that you have a few titles under your belt?

BG: Yes, of course! Every game includes many things that players aren’t aware of. Things like processing error messages, system configurations, initialising video and sound modes, dealing with controller input, home menu implementation, various calibrations, a lot of byte movement through main memory, accessing flash memory as well as reset and power functions cost many months of development time and there is no getting around them, because Nintendo is checking all these things very strictly.

Thanks to our previous games, we now can reuse most of the procedures and basic engines, so we can put our focus on things that really matter, like fun and fan service. Now that we understand the Wii's internal workings better and our knowledge increases, we can make our ideas reality in a much better way.

Of course, we always force ourselves to find new things to try out – create new engines and try what we can do that no company has done before – like the FlipControl in Vektor Tank and the 6-in-1 retro package you find in Bit Boy!!.

NL: If you had to describe Bit Boy!! in one word, what word would that be?

BG: Come on Corbie, please let us cheat and give us two words: Pixellated Retrorama

NL: Have you completed development of Bit Boy!! and when can we expect to see the game released in the various regions?

BG: Currently, the lovable guys at Nintendo are checking every single bit of our game, so it could be released very soon.

NL: Has a price been set for the game yet?

BG: Yes, but it's ultimately Nintendo who have the last word on that. What we can say is that it will be well under 1000 Wii Points.

NL: Do you currently have any other game titles under development at Bplus and could you possibly shed a bit of light on any of them?

BG: There are some projects in early stages I cannot talk about yet – and there is of course Vektor Tank where our main focus currently lies.

We are very committed to fan service and open-minded on hearing what you want to see in our games. I invite everyone to come over to our forum and share with us all the incredible things you want to see in our next game! We also have open ears for any gobsmacking 'thing' you might come up with for our upcoming Vektor Tank title.

NL: Is there anything you'd like to say to our readers in closing?

BG: We read nearly every single comment that is made from users about our games online. We cut a caper for every nice comment, are happy about every constructive critic and we are absolutely disappointed and sad every time we read a disrespectful bashing.

We love all of our fans, especially the ones who were with us since our first WiiWare game PLÄTTCHEN – twist 'n' paint and we will continue trying to make ALL OF YOU GAMERS HAPPY. =D

NL: Bernd, as always, we thank you and Bplus for your time and candidness.

BG: Thank you for the great questions and for the opportunity to share our thoughts on Bit Boy!! with your readers.