UK-based indie studio Opposable Games has just confirmed that it is planning to bring its unique real time, second-screen strategy title Salvaged to the Wii U eShop, should the game successfully reach its Kickstarter goal of $125,000.
We caught up with Design Director James Parker to chat about the influences behind the game, the potential of Wii U and how the studio is pushing the concept of second-screen gaming in exciting new directions.
Nintendo Life: Can you give us a little information on the talent behind Opposable Games?
James Parker: Opposable Games is a combination of experienced console and mobile game developers. On the art side we have 3D artists, illustrators, and UI/UX experts all rubbing shoulders, so it’s a really great mix. In a lot of ways it’s the perfect blend for making a game like Salvaged which requires so many different skills to come together.
Nintendo Life: James Cameron's Aliens is clearly a big influence on the game's setting; what key moments, situations or emotions from the movie are you hoping to emulate here?
James Parker: The big moment for us has always been the scene where Gorman is leading the marines from the safety of the command vehicle and they first encounter the xenomorphs. The tension created by Gorman’s lack of control, the instinct and composure that Ripley brings to the situation and the limited information that everyone gets from the helmet cams all combine to allow the viewer to experience that dichotomy of control and chaos that runs through the scene.
Nintendo Life: Have you been influenced by other things, be they books, games or films?
James Parker: Gameplay wise, our big influences are classic '90s Amiga and PC games: obvious things like Captive, Space Hulk and Hired Guns right through to things like Syndicate, the original XCOM and Rainbow 6. But then we’re also huge fans of games like Frozen Synapse and the up-to-date XCOM; structurally things like FTL: Faster Than Light and Spelunky are big influences. Visually, we're going with classic sci-fi: grimy corridors, gleaning space marines and vicious looking aliens.
Nintendo Life: Can you give us a rundown of the story behind Salvaged? What's the premise behind your team boarding these massive, wrecked space ships?
James Parker: In the game you play as the commander of a Remote Interstellar Salvage Crew – you are hired by corporations to discover how and why their ships became lost out in space. You're responsible for getting the black boxes of those ships back and in return you can keep whatever else you can salvage from the ship while you're in there. The idea is that you're one of many rival salvage crews all operating in the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and with a randomly selected crew and procedurally generated wrecks to explore, the story of the game is very much your own.
Nintendo Life: What will be your main responsibilities as the commander of the squad?
James Parker: You’re responsible for making all the strategic decision between missions, what you spend you salvage money on, which crew you take into a mission and how you equip them. Then when you go into game, you’re the tactical one; you tell your team members where to go and explore and how to work together.
Nintendo Life: Although the game is presented in real time, you have no direct control over your team. Are you worried that this might put shooter fans off?
James Parker: I think pure shooter fans are already quite well serviced by the games industry! What we're hoping to do is pull some of those people over to a more tactical game by using similar shared visual language to an FPS and a really clear and streamlined interface. We think we can give a deep and strategic experience to all players but show it off in a new way that makes it really exciting, and actually is built around doing something that no particular genre has ever really done before.
Nintendo Life: How smart are the squad members? Will you have to constantly monitor them, or are they clever enough to know how to react in certain situations?
James Parker: They will do a certain amount on their own; unless told otherwise, they will pick targets and shoot and they will try not to get killed. But it’s your job to make sure you don't put them in situations where they will get in trouble, and the more you interact the more effective they will be.
Nintendo Life: Can you tell us a little about "Focus Time"?
James Parker: Focus time is a way to give the player a little bit of breathing space. As you play you'll build up focus time, which you can use to slow down all the action so you can issue orders and check out the situation if things get hectic. You'll only have a certain amount so you'll need to use it wisely.
Nintendo Life: You've mentioned that the game will feature randomly generated levels and teams — how will you maintain the narrative given these random elements?
James Parker: There will be particular story strands that you can pick up as you play through the game — these will be in the form of text or audio downloads which give you information about where to go next to discover more about that particular strand. These are kind of optional side missions though, you can chose to ignore them and make the whole story about you and your actions.
Nintendo Life: Aliens present one threat, but will you also be facing off against other salvage teams in the game? Will we see multiplayer modes, with two players pitting their own teams against one another?
James Parker: There is always the possibility that you'll encounter another RISC team looking for the exact same black box as you, and they will be as organised and well equipped as you so will prove a dangerous threat. Multiplayer is something that we're really keen on adding, but it might have to wait until a future update.
Nintendo Life: The unique dual-screen play is perfectly suited for the Wii U. Are you excited about working with a console which has this type of second-screen functionality built-in, rather than having to rely on additional hardware, such as a phone or tablet?
James Parker: Absolutely, the Wii U is the perfect fit for the game — not only in terms of having the hardware capability to deal with the game but also having an audience who already understand second-screen gameplay.
Nintendo Life: What has it been like coding the game in Unity? What advantages does it offer?
James Parker: Unity is a really great development environment for a team like ours — it means everyone can work together using the same tools, and we can be really flexible in how we develop the game. It also deals with most of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating multi-platform (and indeed cross-platform) games like ours.
Nintendo Life: The second-screen powers of the Wii U have arguably been underused by many developers, Nintendo included. As a team which is working with this type of play, do you have any thoughts on why this is the case? Is it hard to fit second-screen play into a lot of games?
James Parker: I think there’s two things: firstly multi-screen play really has got to be designed in from the ground up rather than an afterthought, because otherwise it’s never going to be an integral part of the experience. And secondly it’s actually quite a difficult thing to design for; you need to understand how the player is going to be reacting and interacting with both screens and you need to make sure both really need to be contributing to making the game better. I think we're in early days with these types of games and both developers and customers are finding their way a bit.
Nintendo Life: Have you had chance to mess about with the Wii U from a developer's perspective yet? If so, what are your thoughts on it?
James Parker: Unfortunately under the terms of the Nintendo NDA, we're not allowed to talk about what it’s like to develop on the Wii U or specifics about the hardware or performance. Sorry!
Nintendo Life: Finally, when Salvaged is complete will you be looking to create more second-screen experiences?
James Parker: Absolutely, second-screen and multi-screen play is very much what Opposable Games does, and we're learning new lessons every day that we will be putting into Salvaged and indeed whatever comes next.
Thanks to James Parker for taking the time to speak with us, and to Natalie Griffith of Press Space PR for arranging this interview.