Scientifically Proven Entertainment is a studio which has its fingers in many pies. It produces award-winning apps, content for TV and — possibly most importantly — video games. Speaking of which, it gives us great pleasure to exclusively confirm that the company's next project — Blood of the Werewolf — is bound for the Wii U eShop. An action platformer with a particularly dark atmosphere and some punishing old-school gameplay, the title has already been confirmed for PC, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. The Wii U eShop edition will launch this June.
Operating out of the Metro Detroit area of Michigan, Scientifically Proven was established in 2009 by talent from the likes of Activision and Electronic Arts. We sat down to talk with CEO and founder Nathaniel "Than" McClure about the forthcoming game, as well as his background in the industry and his studio's future plans for the Wii U eShop.
Nintendo Life: Unlike a lot of indie Wii U developers who are just starting out, you've got quite a history in the industry. Can you tell us a little bit about previous projects you've worked on?
Nathaniel McClure: I had the privilege of working on the Call of Duty series during the most expansive time in our industry's history. I started in QA on the first Call of Duty and I was hooked. I worked my butt off to move into production so I could continue to work on and contribute to the series. My first six years in the industry were working on some of the biggest shooters out there, like Wolfenstein, COD 1, COD: United Offensive (my personal favourite), COD 2, COD 2: Big Red One, COD 3, and COD 4: Modern Warfare. I bled Call of Duty and loved almost every minute of it. During that time I got to work with some remarkable studios including Grey Matter Interactive, Infinity Ward and Treyarch.
NL: What did you learn from working at a huge company like Activision?
NM: Big publishers were the best and safest way to explore the industry — at least back then. The independent development track is brutal; anyone telling you otherwise is lying or incredibly lucky. At Activision I could explore every single aspect of games from pre-development to final retail consumer engagement. I was exposed to so many facets of our industry, along with some amazing talent. My day would start with a marketing meeting with the top brand people in the industry, in the afternoon I would be discussing retail opportunities with the largest retailers in the world and then I would finish my day off at one of the incredible studios planning the next iteration. I never understood why people complained about the "big machine" of corporate from an employment and educational perspective; it would be similar to going to a major university and then being annoyed that they offer too much.
NL: What made you want to strike out and start up your own studio?
NM: I was working on COD 4 after shipping COD 3 on all platforms in 10 months. I could not remember the last day I had off and I averaged somewhere around 70 hours a week at the office. It was 4AM and I woke up at my desk after falling asleep on my keyboard — I spent at least 2 nights a week at the office during most of COD 3. I got up and walked around corporate. Here I was at one of the world's largest publishers working on the world's biggest game brand and I was the only one there. I spoke to my VP the next day and told him that I have to try applying everything I had learned to my own endeavour. Reluctantly he understood, and a few months later I was filing paperwork to start my studio.
Six years later and we have closed deals on, developed, and delivered (or published) ten titles over 20+ SKUs — including a platform launch title, an IGN nominated Wii Shooter of the Year, and a "Best App Ever Award for Kids" Game of the Year. That said, we are not there yet. We continue to learn and we strive to make each opportunity better. The overarching goal of the studio is to continue to establish a great workplace while hopefully developing fun titles. While we all rely on our efforts to pay the bills this isn't a job any more, it is a way of life.
"The overarching goal of the studio is to continue to establish a great workplace while hopefully developing fun titles"
NL: What's the storyline behind Blood of the Werewolf?
NM: You play as Selena, one of the last of the Wolf Clan. Her parents, both refugees from the werewolf genocide in Europe, taught Selena to keep her abilities secret from the world in order to survive. Still, fearing that their enemies would follow them to America, Selena's father Nicolae taught her to fight.
When Selena turned 13, as is tradition for the Wolf Clan, she killed her first prey. She was presented with the Wolf Clan Sigil, which she wears on her side. Selena married Marko, another member of the Wolf Clan, and together they moved from the city to a small farm house away from others. Here, they were free to release the wolf within. Soon after, Selena gave birth to a son, Nickoli. They were a peaceful, happy family — but that peace was not meant to last.
The story opens with Selena coming home one evening to discover her husband Marko brutally murdered and her infant son missing. The game takes place over a single full moon night as Selena journeys through the city that is controlled by the three major houses; Frankenstein, Jekyll, and Dracula. She must encounter and overcome many minions, obstacles, and bosses to find the last of the wolf line, her son.
Selena is voiced by the talented Erin Cummings (Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Bitch Slap)
NL: Blood of the Werewolf looks an awful lot like a Castlevania game - was this series an inspiration?
NM: All of us at the studio are big fans of the Castlevania series. The atmosphere and gameplay in that series is incredible. The team played through lots of different classic platformers when developing this game, but because of the supernatural monster theme of Blood of the Werewolf, we obviously referenced the Castlevania series quite often.
"All of us at the studio are big fans of the Castlevania series...because of the supernatural monster theme of Blood of the Werewolf, we obviously referenced Castlevania quite often"
NL: The game also seems to have been influenced by other classic 2D action titles. Is this one of your favourite genres?
NM: Definitely. Mega Man, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Strider...there are literally too many to list. Everyone on the team has grown up playing these games, and when we aren't working on Blood of the Werewolf, we are playing and studying these classics. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What can we learn from them? They have become more than our favourite games, they have become our master class in platforming perfection. We study the level layouts, enemy behaviours, skill progression, learning curves and even the music. Honestly, school has never been so much fun and we hope that we can pay proper homage to our favourites.
NL: When did you become an approved Wii U developer? How has development progressed since then?
NM: We were approved for Wii U development earlier this year. Development is coming along great and we are very excited to take this game to market in June 2013.
NL: How will Blood of the Werewolf function on the Wii U? Will it make use of the GamePad screen in a unique way, or will you simply mirror of the main screen on the controller?
NM: This game is not a casual platformer. Blood of the Werewolf is a brutal white knuckle experience that will test you and push your platforming skill. We are currently working on a few unique Wii U GamePad features that highlight that classic swear-inducing experience, including leaderboard and friend tracking elements, level maps, and "secret area" indicators. The GamePad is a unique and welcome design challenge.
NL: What's it like working on the Wii U eShop compared to WiiWare?
NM: So far it has been great. We were lucky enough to develop a WiiWare launch title — Critter Round Up — so we had quite a bit of experience with WiiWare. Honestly I am not sure how much is public but I will say that I am incredibly excited about the future of the platform. Nintendo is taking some great steps to reach out to devs to bring a wide variety of content to their consoles.
NL: Do you think Nintendo is more welcoming towards indies now?
NM: Yes. In our five years of independent operation we have had some great experiences with Nintendo, like the release of our Wii Shooter of the Year nominee, Real Heroes: Firefighter. But those experiences all had to be handled via a traditional publisher which meant that the studio never made any money off of the titles, even though they sold well. Nintendo is expanding their relationships to include more independent developers so indies may also reap the rewards of their work.
"I am incredibly excited about the future of the platform. Nintendo is taking some great steps to reach out to devs to bring a wide variety of content to their consoles"
NL: Do you have any other plans for the Wii U eShop after Blood of the Werewolf is completed?
NM: Yes. We are working on an awesome tower defence game called Get Off My Lawn. You will play as an old man trying to keep the rascally trouble making neighbourhood kids off of your lawn throughout the year by utilizing a multitude of seasonal lawn ornaments.
We are also working on a sequel of sorts to Firefighter. It will be an Unreal Engine-driven, episodic action-packed shooter. As a player you will fear for your life in the same familiar fashion as the big cinematic shooters but driven by some new unique mechanics — the destructive fire enemy and the ever changing, choice-driving, destructible environments. The first person mechanics are the same as what you are used to, but the harrowing life and death experience in the face of a 1500 degree wall of fire or a collapsing city tower is something totally unique and new. The Wii U and its dual-screen ability on the GamePad make it a perfect fit. We think you will love it.
Thanks to Nathaniel for taking the time to speak with us!