Developer Interview: WaterMelon On Kickstarter, Nintendo And Bringing Pier Solar To The Wii U

"Working with Nintendo is much easier than one would think"

We reported last year that WaterMelon's 16-bit RPG Pier Solar would be gracing the Wii U in the near future, having secured funding for a HD remake via Kickstarter.

The team is busy working on the HD version as we speak, so we thought it would be a good time to get in touch and talk about bringing this epic project to Nintendo's new home console. Speaking to us were Tulio Goncalves and Gwénaël "Fonzie" Godde.

Nintendo Life: Before we get onto recent events in the life of Pier Solar, can you give us a little background on the project? This has been a pretty lengthy labour of love, right?

Fonzie: It has started as a fan-made Sega CD/Mega CD game named Tavern RPG, around 2004. It was a homebrew game made by Sega fans. When the project start growing beyond the community we rewrote the plot, and switched to Genesis/Mega Drive cartridge for technical reasons. And that's how it became Pier Solar. Then years of hard work to complete the game happened and it finally got released in 2010 as the last and biggest 16-bit RPG!

NL: Pier Solar has been reprinted on the Mega Drive a few times, so what made you decide to bring it to other formats and not keep it on the original console?

Fonzie: We got many requests along the years to get Pier Solar ported to other system and it took a few events to decide we would do it. Then we needed a certain budget to make it right, especially considering the game size, that's how the Kickstarter campaign came in.

NL: Now the dust has settled on the Kickstarter, what are your thoughts on the response from the public for the Pier Solar HD project?

Fonzie: The response has been positive. There has been lots of feedback gathered to ensure the HD version of the game will really be as good as it can. We also want to interact more with Kickstarter backers to show progress and gather some more feedback, which should happen next month.

NL: Will the Wi U version be a retail release or a digital download on the Wii U eShop?

Fonzie: We can't disclose any specifics at the moment, but a digital release seems like a safe bet.

NL: What's it like developing for the Wii U?

Fonzie: Although the main game logic in modern platforms share the same code, some features are exclusive to each platforms. Wii U has many interesting features and we want to be able to make good use of them. Hopefully, it will be a great surprise.

NL: Do you plan to make use of the Wii U GamePad's unique functions?

Tulio: Yes of course. Wii U feels like a "TV version" of Nintendo DS, and as we've seen in the handheld, many possibilities can be explored. However, we've got to be careful when designing those functionalities. As everyone knows, one of the great features of Wii U is the ability to switch gameplay from the TV to the Wii U controller screen; in that case it has to behave just like as if you were playing with the regular controller, so those functions have to be non-vital functions to the game.

Fonzie: An interesting fact to note is that the Dreamcast version shares some of the Wii U gamepad features thanks to the VMU (Dreamcast's memory card, that has a small screen & plugs on Dreamcast's gamepad).

NL: Have you had any contact with Nintendo regarding the port as yet? If so, what has it been like working with the company?

Tulio: Working with Nintendo is much easier than one would think. But beyond that, at this time we can't disclose any more details, as you may imagine.

NL: Is there any chance of bringing the game to the 3DS, perhaps in its original standard definition format?

Tulio: The 3DS resolution doesn't favor the original resolution and aspect of the SD version of Pier Solar. If a port gets made it will be the HD version scaled to 3DS resolution.

Fonzie: Either way, having PS HD in 3DS would be great. However, first we must focus on all the platforms that we announced on Kickstarter. We have lots of motivation but we're still a small dev team!

NL: Pier Solar is arguably the game that WaterMelon is most famous for, but do you have any plans for any other games? Wii U or 3DS exclusives, perhaps?

Fonzie: We are working on a few other projects at the moment through the Magical Game Factory. We got one Mega Drive beat 'em up and RPG project and one Super Nintendo action-adventure project, as well as few surprises!

NL: What's happening with ProjectN at the moment?

Fonzie: It's under development, programming, character design, and pixel art too! It took a while to find - with the help of the Magical Game Factory fans - how we could do something that's not a Zelda clone. It's a new game so it's important that it feels new not just by release date, but also by concept. So yes, It's going to be a unique action and adventure game.

NL: Where do you see WaterMelon being in five years?

Fonzie: I'd like to say "on Mars" but I know we're still earthbound for quite a lot of generations to come...ha! Jokes aside, we've got plans, but our future and success always depends on the reception of our games and how we can make our team grow with talented people. For a simple and realistic answer, in 5 years, we want to see WaterMelon doing great games and the players around the world playing and enjoying our games.

Thanks to Tulio and Fonzie for speaking to us.