Enthusiastic download gamers making the most of the Wii U eShop will most likely have heard of both KnapNok Games and Nifflas. The former is the studio behind quirky party game Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party, which used the GamePad as the primary display and recreated humorous activities with Wii Remotes. Nifflas is the man behind Knytt Underground; the adventure game arrived late last year and was published by Ripstone.
When we spoke to Nifflas last year, he told us that he was a fan of the GamePad and its dual-screen potential, and that he was working with KnapNok Games on a project "really exploring what you can do on the device". That's now emerged in the form of Affordable Space Adventures; with funding from the Danish Film Institute, it seems to be blending Nifflas' eye for mysterious, captivating environments and KnapNok's eagerness to experiment and utilise the Wii U and its unique capabilities.
Speaking to Gamasutra, Nifflas explained how the user interface on the GamePad — used in real time and seemingly similar to ideas such as those in ZombiU — will be vital to the action on the TV, while explaining how the dual screen setup can accommodate single player and local co-op.
It'll be important to pay a lot of attention to the UI. You also get lots of information from it about dangers. There will be some shortcuts, but the aim isn't to not have to look at the UI. We aim to design puzzles that can be executed elegantly by only changing the ship's configuration at safe locations with no time pressure. In occasions where actions need to be made while flying, the player should never have to jump between two different sub-menus.
...Luckily, things seem to balance itself in a pretty neat way here. It plays nicely in single player, but it will be quite difficult as the player will both have to keep track of the ship's systems while flying the ship. In local multiplayer, puzzles will potentially be a bit easier to solve since you are two people who can talk about them, but to execute those solutions both players needs to be coordinated and agree what to do and how, which instead results in a different sort of difficulty. The way we can make sure both work is as always to do lots of playtesting and iterate!
The choice to release exclusively on Wii U also goes beyond the multi-platform approaches of most download developers, but both KnapNok Games and Nifflas are prioritising having the correct hardware over hard-nosed business decisions. Lau Korsgaard and Dajana Dimovska of KnapNok said the following.
Korsgaard: I think we have seen very few games, also from Nintendo themselves, that actually uses the GamePad in a meaningful way. Hopefully we can show that the Wii U is great, and it can give you experiences you can't get anywhere else as long as developers dare to design something exclusive for the hardware.
I don't mind multiplatform releases; for some games it makes sense. Nevertheless, as long as we try to make our games work on all platforms we will limit ourself to a subset of the possible interactions and mechanics. It is a special feeling playing a game designed specifically for the hardware, such as Frobisher Says for PS Vita or GoldenEye for Nintendo 64. These are games that are defined by the hardware, but at the same time games that define the hardware. We, the players, treasure these games because they reassure us why we have invested in this particular piece of machinery.
Dimovska: We like to challenge the traditional way of designing games. Technology and interfaces evolve, and game design should eveolve with them. New platforms and interfaces give an opportunity to think and design novel games, and we love that approach to design. Wii U is one of these platforms; the combination of motion controllers, secondary screen, touch screen, camera, thumb sticks and buttons gives so many opportunities for new and creative designs.
We never design a game and then just try to somehow fit it to a platform. We take each platform serious, and we try to design a game that really tries to embrace the advantages of the platform itself. We had that approach when designing Spin the Bottle, and we are doing the same when designing the Spaceship game.
Porting Spin the Bottle to another platform is not a straight forward procedure, all the minigames will have to be redesigned and new [ones] will have to be designed. The same is the case with Affordable Space Adventures: porting to a different platform than Wii U will require redesigning the game interface and potentially some of the mechanics.
Korsgaard: ...[If] we wanted to earn money I guess we shouldn't be in games. It is really hard to make any sensible business rationales in this market. Yes, there are not that many Wii U consoles out there, but does it matter if there are 5 or 10 million units sold when we just need to sell some 10-20-30 thousand copies to be happy? As long as we keep our cost low, I think it is much more important to work on a platform that excites us than to work on the stuff that everybody else is doing.
You can see the reveal trailer and a host of screenshots below. Check them out and let us know what you think; are you looking forward this title's arrival later this year?
Thanks to Razzle for the tip.