Interview: KinifiGames on Bringing Imagine Me to Wii U, Small Studio Challenges and Getting the Call From Nintendo
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
"Think of Spelunky mixed with Zelda"
There are a number of intriguing projects on the way to the Wii U eShop, though not all have featured at expos or in Nintendo Direct sizzle reels. Imagine Me by KinifiGames is one such game, a title that was Kickstarted over two years ago for PC, Mac and Linux, and has now emerged as another experience bound for the Wii U eShop.
We wanted to learn more about Imagine Me, so caught up with KinifiGames founder Chris Figueroa and level designer Alex Rhofer for a brief chat to learn more about the game and how it came to make the move to Nintendo's home console.
Nintendo Life: Imagine Me initially raised a little over $5000 on Kickstarter back in 2011, with PC and Mac as target platforms. With over two years passed and the Wii U eShop listed as the key platform, are you still delivering to other formats for those original backers, or is it exclusive to Nintendo's system?
Chris Figueroa: Yes, I am a huge PC gamer and personally it's my favourite platform to develop for so it will be on PC, Mac, Linux.
NL: Has the relatively long development period caused you any issues with Kickstarter backers?
CF: Yes/No. Some people want everything right away. The moment that Kickstarter clock ends, they want everything right away. I had to explain to them that life got in the way and that I'm not giving up. I just need time. A lot of them have been super supportive. I think everyone can relate when you say "Life is just so busy I can't even think."
NL: Are you still happy, in hindsight, that you utilised crowdfunding?
CF: Of course I am! I learned so much from that experience! We have a small fan base already waiting!
NL: The KinifiGames team has grown since you started, so has that been an expected progression or has it caught you off guard?
CF: It was really weird when Nintendo called me. I applied a while back in March at the Game Developer's Conference and thought it would never happen. So the moment I was approved I hit the ground running! I come from a background of Q.A. at Activision so I called up some friends that I know could help me and we got working on it!
NL: Imagine Me is described as a platforming dungeon adventure — can you outline the general style of this game for our readers?
CF: Think of Spelunky mixed with Zelda. Rooms that make you solve puzzles that are randomly generated. Of course there is a boss room but you don't know when that is going to happen!
NL: Your website states that Nintendo contacted you in September, can you tell us more about how that happened and your emotions at the time?
CF: I mentioned this a bit before but it was really weird. I applied at the Game Developer's Conference and didn't hear anything for months. Then I get a call from Washington and it's Nintendo. I was so happy! Working with Nintendo is a great opportunity!
NL: Has work on the Wii U version begun, and if so how are you finding the development process on the Wii U?
CF: Development has been super smooth. I hope I didn't just jinx myself by saying that! I think one of the main reasons development has been so smooth is because I worked at Activision and did QA for all 1st party consoles. I know from the start what not to do and what to do.
Alexander Hofer: Having worked with the Wii U in the past, I'd agree development is going super smooth. Nintendo has gone to great lengths in making development as easy as possible for indie developers.
NL: We've had some developers explain that it's a "no lose" prospect to publish on the Wii U eShop, especially if using the Unity engine. Do you agree with that, and can you tell us about the tools you've used for the porting process to date?
CF: Nintendo provides us with everything we need and more. I couldn't believe how helpful they are. I can't comment on if we are using Unity3D or not.
NL: Has Nintendo been active in its support, and does it generally reply quickly when consulted?
CF: Nintendo has been great with support. I can call someone and they can help me through anything. Even if I'm having a technical problem they will help me out.
AH: Every time I work with Nintendo they are extremely helpful and quick to respond to any questions we may have. Sometimes even before I realize I have a problem.
NL: You mention GamePad features in your promotional material, can you expand on how you'll be utilising the controller?
CF: In Imagine Me you will be discovering rooms in a dungeon. The GamePad will be used for your map so you can always have it displayed. You'll need it when you start to get down deeper!
NL: Is this going to be a relatively short, affordable title in terms of its volume of content, or wider in scope?
CF: The scope is small. I want it to be a fun short experience for the main story but after, you can jump into a randomly generated dungeon. This allows the game to live on longer and have experiences the story didn't provide along with deployability.
NL: What have been the biggest sources of inspiration or influence for this title?
CF: This is hard because I'm inspired by so many indie devs and their games that I can't even list them all!
NL: Is there a target release window at the moment?
CF: February is our date with Nintendo. The PC version will be larger so it may take longer. I want to have give the community more control over the game.
NL: You say the PC version will be "larger" and come later, is there scope for the Wii U version to be expanded in future with that additional PC content?
CF: The PC version will be larger in the respect that I can add content monthly. If Nintendo allows me to add multiple updates then I'll be more then happy to do those on the Wii U version also.
I hope this clarifies everything!
NL: What's your overall opinion of the Wii U, its market position and prospects right now?
CF: I don't have any really. I know a lot of people say its not good but they are trying to run a full business, I'm just doing this because I love making games. I just want to make a fun game for people to play and tell their friends about, if I happen to make decent money on it then I'll continue to provide what the community asks for.
NL: Are you happy with the progress of the Wii U eShop to date, and what do you think of the lineup of titles confirmed to be on the way?
CF: The indie titles coming out of the gate are amazing. Teslagrad looks really great!
NL: Have you considered working on the 3DS eShop?
CF: I'd love to but right now that's not in the cards. I've always loved my 3DS and if I was ever given the chance to bring Imagine Me or any game I make to 3DS I would.
NL: We've seen various platforms introducing indie-friendly policies, so can you tell us where you think Nintendo stands in comparison to the competition?
CF: Nintendo stands along side the rest of them. I think the problem is they didn't know how to market the Wii U when it came out in America so people have a weird feeling about it. In all honestly it's a great platform and people need to just give it a shot and they'll see it's what they were looking for.
NL: How prominent a role do you think download-only, indie titles will play in the upcoming generation of home consoles, including Wii U?
CF: Download-only is huge for everyone. It makes it much easier to provide games, updates, and DLC; developers don't need to deal with packaging and stores.
NL: Do you have a final message for Wii U owners, on why Imagine Me should be on their radar?
CF: Imagine Me is a game about discovery. I want this game and the development process to feel like we are working together and making something together. Come be a part of development! Check us out at imaginemegame.com and talk to us on Twitter or Facebook.
We'd like to thank Chris and Alex for their time.