Interview: Collecting Smiles - Colors! 3D

Take a look at the upcoming 3D painting app along with the first two screenshots

The 3DS eShop is slowly gaining steam, but most will admit that the download service doesn't quite have the robust library we might hope for four months in, especially when it comes to third-party software. That's set to change soon with the help of Colors! 3D, an art application with homebrew roots in the indy title Colors! available on the DS and other platforms. We sat down and talked with the founder and Director of Collecting Smiles, Jens Andersson, about the upcoming application that will let you create in the 3D realm.

Nintendo Life: Can you tell our readers a bit about Colors! and Colors! 3D?

Jens Andersson: Colors! is a cool little drawing and painting application that gives you everything you need to create artwork of incredible depth with very simple, touchscreen-based tools. With just one basic interface that takes less than ten minutes to learn to use, you can do anything from aimless doodlings to super-detailed landscapes. Colors! was created to harness people’s creativity on the go, and we often refer to it as a mobile sketchbook.

Colors! 3D takes the concept a couple big steps further. We added a collaborative painting feature that our community has been asking for, which will enable up to four people to paint together on the same canvas in real-time. But most importantly: you get to paint in 3D, and we think this is pretty much a first for the world. It’s scheduled for release in the last quarter of 2011.

NL: The original Colors! is a homebrew DS application. What's it like going from that development process to that of a "legitimate" eShop title?

JA: The whole Colors! development has been a fantastic journey. What started as a hobby project is now available on multiple platforms, with a bunch of people across the globe contributing to it. The original Colors! was pretty much our open beta prototype and we’ve learn so much from that that which we’ve used to refine what Colors! is and should be. Along the way, Nintendo has been incredibly helpful and supportive in helping us make this into a real product. Now that we are finally targeting a proper release for the 3DS, it really feels like Colors! has grown up.

"Just playing with painting shapes on different layers in 3D feels very interesting. Seeing each layer on a different depth on the 3D screen makes it really intuitive to jump around and try things out."

NL: What's the advantage of the Colors! programs in comparison to other, similar ones like Flipnote Studio and Inchworm Animation?

JA: Colors! has always been about painting, and really trying to hone in on that. Rather than being feature packed, we’ve tried to keep things really focused, fun, and pleasurable to the touch. Way too many programs out there try to do too many things and end up being unnecessarily complicated for it. Keeping it focused has been especially challenging, as Colors! has been developed alongside our very active community. You basically get as many feature requests as you have users, and while you really want to please everyone, you need to stay true to the product’s roots. Otherwise, people get confused, and they move on. We've stayed popular for a long time because people know and trust what Colors! is about.

Speaking more about the advantages though, Colors! 3D has a bunch of features we think make the app special. Apart from the refined painting experience, and the ability to play back any painting that you see, you can tell how very excited we are about the ability to paint in 3D. We didn’t exactly know what would come out of prototyping this feature, but it has ended up being way cooler than we imagined.

NL: How will drawing in 3D change the experience? Does it require greater skill from the artist, or does the software apply a 3D effect automatically?

JA: Painting in 3D is our stand-out feature and we’ve really worked on making sure it doesn’t become anything else but painting. We tried a bunch of things to get there, and some of those things were way too technical. The result we have now is layer-based painting where each layer has a separate depth.

It might sound a little bit abstract, but it’s really super-simple and fun. Just playing with painting shapes on different layers in 3D feels very interesting. Seeing each layer on a different depth on the 3D screen makes it really intuitive to jump around and try things out. There hasn’t really been an easy way to create 3D paintings before, so we are very much looking forward to see what people will do with it.

NL: It does sound really cool. Can you tell us more about the real-time collaborative wireless feature?

JA: The collaborative painting is a new feature that will allow up to four players to share the same canvas. It’s really one of those features are there just for the fun of it, and I can only guess how it’s going to be used. I expect everything from highly detailed works of art, to people using to play Pictionary and Tic-Tac-Toe. We’ve even heard from a game designer that he’d love to use the feature with his design team, as a quick way to collaborate on maps together. And I’m sure the community will come up with something cooler than I could even guess!

NL: Will that work for anyone to connect to anyone worldwide, or will it be local multiplayer only?

JA: It’s for local multiplayer use.

NL: Are you planning to incorporate Download Play for this feature?

JA: No, not at this time.

NL: In what other ways have you utilised the 3DS's online connectivity, perhaps taking advantage of the established Colors! community?

JA: Absolutely. Colors! 3D will hook into the Colors! Gallery and our fantastic Colors! community. We recently surpassed 50,000 paintings in our gallery, and it’s always such a boost for me as developer to visit the gallery and see the amazing things people do there. In a similar way, the gallery is often used by our users to learn from each other; both by watching painting playbacks as well as giving and receiving feedback. The gallery will be fully integrated directly into Colors! 3D, allowing you to interact with the community directly from your 3DS.

NL: Wow, that sounds great. But we've got to ask – are you or Nintendo worried that paintings of a too, ahem, adult nature will make it onto the gallery?

JA: Hehe. Well, we’ve definitely had conversations with them regarding things like that. We do have a moderation process in place, where we can tag paintings as what we call “18+”. These paintings only show up for people who have logged in and opted-in to see those. But as with any user-generated content it’s hard to make everyone happy and we will warn users that that is the case when they connect to the gallery. The integrated gallery was definitely one of the things that we were afraid would not make it into Colors! 3D, but Nintendo has been very supportive of this feature and helped out to make sure it will work well on the 3DS.

"The gallery will be fully integrated directly into Colors! 3D, allowing you to interact with the community directly from your 3DS."

NL: Very cool. Are you planning on taking advantage of other 3DS-specific features, like StreetPass, SpotPass and the like?

JA: I’m a fan of how StreetPass and SpotPass can be used on the 3DS, and we’ve been considering if and how we should implement support for them. In the end though, we’ve realised that most of the things we would like to use them for are very similar to the things that will be available through the gallery, so there is where our focus will be for now.

NL: Are you implementing the touch-screen's pressure-sensing function for Colors! 3D?

JA: Pressure-sensitivity would obviously have been my top feature request from Nintendo, but we won’t be able to do that in Colors! 3D as it’s not available on the 3DS.

NL: Will Colors! 3D support the implementation of audio in players' creations?

JA: Nope. Interesting idea, though.

NL: You said you thought Colors! 3D should be available in the last quarter of the year. Any thoughts on how much you'd like to charge for it?

JA: Yes, we are aiming to release it before the end of the year. And as for price, we can’t yet say either, but our intention is to make it as affordable as possible.

NL: How have you found the experience in developing for Nintendo's 3DS eShop?

JA: It’s been really fun to develop for the 3DS. It’s a very cool platform, and Nintendo has done a good job with the tools for it. Working with the 3D screen has had some interesting challenges, as you really need to run things on actual hardware to really see how things work.

NL: Nintendo has stated that it plans to continue improving its online functionality. How do you think that it can do so with the 3DS and Wii U?

JA: The online space in general is moving so quickly, so it’s hard to see far into the future. Since it’s Nintendo we are talking about, you never can be too sure how they are going to proceed. They have a habit of surprising everyone with fresh thinking, and I think that will extend to the online space as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Nintendo announce something major soon – something really massive, online only and built into their platform. Sort of like what Sony’s is trying to do with Home, but with that special Nintendo touch. And in a typical Nintendo way, it would probably be something different and we won’t really be able to understand yet. It that seems like one of those things Nintendo would do, since they are known for building hardware around their games.

For small developers like us, digital distribution is really the key. With the eShop now up and running and having the chance to our games there, I think we’ll see a lot things happening very quickly. And for us to be able to have a large part of the Colors! experience online is really all we can hope for.

"We didn’t exactly know what would come out of prototyping [painting in 3D], but it has ended up being way cooler than we imagined."

NL: Do you have any plans down the road for future games and applications on Nintendo platforms?

JA: Sure! As a tech-geek with too much time spent developing two to three year long AAA games, it’s great to be able to work with on smaller projects and really make use of the hardware. And with digital distribution getting going on Nintendo platforms, it is definitely something we hope to do more with.

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

JA: Thanks so much for listening in. We can’t wait until we can get Colors! 3D in your hands and see what you can do with it. And if anyone wants to stay up-to-date on when it’s going to be released, please sign up for our newsletter. See you in the gallery!

Nintendo Life would like to thank Jens for his time. You can sign up for his newsletter to stay informed.