Of all its announcements at E3, Splatoon was arguably the biggest hit for Nintendo, perhaps aside from obvious blockbuster efforts such as The Legend of Zelda. It generated a lot of hype, seemingly caught the imagination of the Nintendo Life community and has been praised in numerous previews.
All of this is doubly surprising due to its status as a new IP, challenging the assumption that Nintendo sticks with the familiar too often. That can be argued as an unfair accusation, but regardless it captured the imagination.
Nintendo didn't necessarily set out to produce a new IP, however, but rather a new idea. Producer Hisashi Nogami and co-director Tsubasa Sakaguchi have spoken to Game Informer about the creative process that brought the game into being. It began with a team of 10 being brought together to produce a new game, and a concept that was subsequently pitched was a two-colour black and white ink-based shooter, a territory game — after various pitch meetings it was given the go-ahead to become a full release.
In an interesting segment of this interview that focuses on the creative process, it's explained that it wasn't first decided that teams of human/squid hybrids would be the centre-piece for a new game, but rather the decision was driven by the concept. In other words, various other characters and even existing IPs were considered.
There was actually a huge period of time between where we started thinking squids might be a good idea, to the point where we actually decided to go with squids. That process might be more interesting.
Even at the time of that prototype, there was the ability to hide in the ink – squash down in it. At that time, we weren’t describing it as diving into the ink. You just kind of got squashed down into it. But then, in order to make the hide in your own ink ability more useful, we started adding other abilities, like the ability to move very quickly through the ink. That was the kind of thing that started to make us think maybe the squids would be better. That’s where we kind of came up with this concept about making the game about switching between the person and being a squid. When you’re a person you can shoot the ink, everyone can see you, and you’re moving a little bit slowly. When you’re a squid, you’re fast and you can hide, and you can charge up your ink, but you can’t do any attacking.
When we decided to make the game about switching, we got a really good reaction and we were having a lot of fun playing the game. While we were thinking about the mechanics and player abilities, our art director was coming up with assorted character designs. We had – right from the beginning – all these different ideas, the squids being one of them. We had robots, different animals, macho men, and Mario – existing IP. Right from the start we had all these different choices.
The art director was making lots of different sketches and designing lots of different characters. As we were adding more and more abilities, everything came to a head with the visuals that we were thinking of and the abilities we were giving the players. We realized: squids! And that allowed us, in terms of world building, that to explain things to the player in a different way. It used to be, when you were in the ink you just moved fast, but now we could explain it as you were swimming. Before, the player just sort of squished down into the ink, but now we could have them dive in. From there, the sound directors and the people working in the graphics were able to add the sound effects and the wake you leave behind while swimming that make it the game you see today.
Rather than the squids being the first domino – the new game, the new IP – it was more like we were creating the whole way and the squid was a piece over on the side, and it became the final piece we put in.
For those also curious about this title's release platform — ie as a download, free-to-play product or full retail game — the following was clarified. It looks like it'll be more than an online-only eight-player game.
Ultimately, we’re looking at getting Splatoon out as a full retail packaged software in the first half of 2015. Our plans are to create, maybe for the benefit of the people who cannot connect online, a single-player mode and a local one-on-one mode.
...We’re still wrestling with exactly how we want to do it, but it will probably be one person on GamePad, one on pro controller.
Some interesting info on one of the most talked about reveals from Nintendo at E3. Let us know what you think about the squid concept and the prospective retail release, while you can also see what we thought of this one in our Splatoon first impressions.