NL: Your two other releases on the 3DS eShop, Bomb Monkey and Planet Crashers, also represent fresh diversions and new genres for the studio. In terms of Bomb Monkey, what was the motivation behind that project?
Jools: The puzzle design of Bomb Monkey I have been kicking around for many years. The original design/theme was Warehouse Willy, where you controlled a blue-collar worker in a warehouse blowing up crates. In the end, Monkeys and bombs won out. For me, the challenge was how to adapt the building blocks of Tetris and present it in a different way, and with more personality. Tetris proved that a never-ending supply problems to solve, which inevitably ends in your demise, is apparently quite fun when done right. Who would have thought that? My hope was to present that same concept in a different way.
NL: Is Bomb Monkey in the works for a release in Europe?
*Jools: No, unfortunately Bomb Monkey is not in the works for a European release. Sales of the game in the US have been less than OK.
NL: Planet Crashers is your only download release to date published by a third-party and, arguably, had a slightly disappointing critical reaction. As an early move into the RPG space, were you happy with the final release, or did some of the harsh reviews make fair points?
Jools: Planet Crashers was a work-for-hire project where our proposed budget was cut in half by the publisher. Not a good start to the development of a game. In the end we did our best with what we had, which was very little. There are some elements of the game that I am very happy with, but I can’t say the harsh reviews are unfair.
NL: With that in mind, aside from dealing with ratings and paperwork, what are the biggest benefits, from your perspective, from self-publishing games as opposed to work-for-hire projects?
Jools: Having complete control over the content of our games and deciding ourselves when a game is ready to ship is simply wonderful. Also, being able to orchestrate the PR effort of our games is another area I am very fond of. We are gamers making games for gamers, so being in control of how our titles are presented to our audience is very important to me. Instead of bombarding the press with 20 screenshots that all look the same, I prefer to send out three screenshots that each tell a different story or at least reveal unique aspects of our game.
NL: ATV Wild Ride 3D is nearly here, so how will it compare to the original retail DS release? Can you outline the improvements and extra content that are included?
Jools: Yes, I am extremely excited that ATV Wild Ride 3D is nearly ready for release. We have been working on the 3DS version for quite some time now. In terms of raw content, it is the same as the DS version with 24 tracks, 6 locations, multiple game modes and a slew of different riders and ATVs to choose from.
The biggest addition to the game is online multiplayer and online ranking to determine who’s the best wild rider in the world. Local multiplayer is still a supported feature too. Other areas of improvement include increasing the resolution of the textures by 200% and in some cases 300%. We have implemented directional lighting with shadow maps on the race courses with real-time entity lighting that affect the riders as they enter the shadows. We have added specular highlights to materials such as the rider’s racing helmets. Our engine also supports mip-mapping, which smoothens far-away textures to avoid “sparkling” or “dancing” pixels. All of the audio is of a much higher playback quality, and in stereo. A significant amount of time was spent on adding suspension physics to the ATVs, which really helps improve the feeling of the vehicles.
Anyone who is familiar with the original DS release will notice that we have rebranded the game with a much cooler image and logo. This is more in line with how we originally wanted to present the game. I wanted us to focus more on the casual riders instead of the professional riders. Seeing a guy flying through the air wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and a backpack just seems cooler to me than a guy wearing pro gear. I suppose it seems more “extreme sports” and fun than just an organized sporting event. This game is more about just having fun than being a simulation, so it seems to fit better.
NL: Overall, your studio has been very loyal to Nintendo's systems so far, though do you anticipate more multi-platform releases in the future after your experiences with Mutant Mudds?
Jools: We certainly plan on continuing our support of the 3DS and Wii U. They’re great platforms, and Nintendo is great to work with. We will also continue to explore other platforms, which is more important than ever for us as we continue to venture into self-published territory.
NL: What's your overall view of the 3DS eShop to date, in terms such as its library so far and Nintendo's policies for encouraging developers?
Jools: I love the 3DS eShop. I wish there were more great games coming out, but it has been a good run so far. Let’s hope more are to come. Nintendo has made incredible strides to improve the eShop and continues to adapt as the market does. It is a very exciting market to be a part of.
NL: Wii U has, arguably, had a tough 2013 so far with a fair amount of bad press; how do you see the console's future and prospects for success?
Jools: I am certain the Wii U will have an excellent future. The writing is on the wall. It is an excellent console. Nintendo has some amazing titles lined up for future releases. Even though Q1 2013 may have had some issues, I predict that the 2013 holiday season will be huge for the Wii U. Nintendo’s campaign for the Wii U has only just begun.
NL: We understand that you're returning to the FPS genre for your next 3DS game, are you able to tell us any more?
Jools: Yes, I am very happy to be returning to that genre. It has been too long. Even though the game is not a sequel to Dementium or Moon, our new FPS for the 3DS will have a familiar flavor that I think fans of our previous FPS titles will enjoy. We will be showing an early build of the game at PAX East this March in Boston – as well as revealing more details.
NL: In producing those three FPS titles for DS, you obviously made extensive use of stylus aiming. With the 3DS featuring a single Circle Pad and making stylus aiming a likely option once again, can you share your thoughts on this control scheme? Are you in the camp that wished for dual-analogue in the 3DS hardware, or do you like the focus on touch screen aiming?
Jools: I know the stylus control in our DS first-person shooter games was either loved or hated by players, but personally I loved it. The stylus control option will definitely be supported in our new FPS. I also see the benefit of using two Circle Pads, so we'll be supporting the Circle Pad Pro too.
We’d like to thank Jools Watsham for his time and, of course, we’d like to know what you thought of what he had to say in the comments below.