Interview: DrinkBox Studios On Bringing Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition to Wii U
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
We learn about what's new and the inspiration for that title
The Wii U eShop is rapidly becoming a go-to store for keen Wii U gamers, with an improving library of diverse titles. One that's evidently not far away, based on the "coming soon" comment of its developers during a Nintendo Treehouse E3 appearance, is Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition. As the name makes clear this is an expanded, improved version of a title that developer DrinkBox Studios previously released on platforms such as the PS3 and Vita.
The inclusion of the Wii U, alongside PS4 and Xbox One, is undoubtedly welcome, and represents the company's first foray onto Nintendo hardware. A bright, colourful, humorous beat-em-up action platformer, it can certainly be argued that the Nintendo audience could be one of the most receptive to the title's charms, too.
Keen to learn more ahead of its release, we caught up with the title's level designer Jason Canam to learn more about what's new in this version, what Wii U players can look forward to and, of course, the origins of that title.
First of all, can you introduce yourself and DrinkBox Studios to our readers?
I'm Jason Canam, Level Designer on Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, I designed and built the game's new levels.
DrinkBox Studios in an independent game development studio in Toronto, Canada.
Are there any particular sources of inspiration for the art style and setting?
The inspiration for the setting in Guacamelee! really was put forward by our animator, Augusto. He’s originally from Mexico and showed the studio the vibrant colourful world he grew up with. After seeing the huge amount of great material it was a no brainer for the studio to embrace the Mexican-luchador-world.
Is this a title that you consider to be a relatively simple beat-em-up platformer, or do you feel it incorporates enough depth, combos and unlockables for skilled players?
Guacamelee! is a combat-focused action platformer, but it is also a non-linear character development based progression game, more simply known as a "Metroidvania" game. One of the key game design elements of Guacamelee! is that the combat moves that the player learns also function as traversal abilities. When the player learns the Rooster Uppercut, for example, they obtain a valuable combat ability, but they have also obtained an ability that allows them to reach higher ledges and platforms. This gives the player access to new areas they couldn't explore previously. This means the player has to think of multiple uses for each ability they learn.
As far as the game's combat is concerned, the combat is designed to be as simple as possible with as few inputs required as possible. To perform a special move, you just have to tilt the left stick in a direction (Up, Down, Left, Right) and press the A button. It's that simple. This means that most players should be able to perform special moves simply and when they want to without having to memorize complicated inputs. But, for more advanced players, there are advanced techniques like dodge-cancelling that can expand their combat (and movement!) possibilities exponentially. There's a lot of freedom and expressiveness to the game's combat.
Three new areas have been added to the game. One of them was previously available in some versions of the game as optional DLC, but two of the new areas are brand new and HUGE!
Can you outline some of the key differences between this version and the original?
The biggest difference is the game world. Three new areas have been added to the game. One of them was previously available in some versions of the game as optional DLC, but two of the new areas are brand new and HUGE! These two brand new areas are incorporated into the existing game world, so they are part of the progression and each features more secrets than any other part of the game.
There are also new enemies to fight and new abilities to use. The most important new ability is INTENSO. INTENSO allows players to supercharge themselves and amplify their speed and strength for a limited period of time. This ability can be used to help players get through tough sections, but can also be used by advanced players at just the right times to improve their speedruns. It's a tool that's useful for players of all skill levels.
There is also a new villain character with his own backstory and motivations and players will see how this character fits into Calaca's plans.
Aside from just new content, some of the game's mechanics have been tuned and tweaked slightly to make things flow easier and for combat to feel more smooth. These changes are very subtle, but we think they make the game easier to play and hopefully more enjoyable.
A lot of work went into making Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition the definitive version of the Guacamelee!.
That name's inspired by Street Fighter II, right?
Haha! Not at first, actually. It began as just a burst of enthusiasm and exuberance. When discussing what the title of this new and improved version should be, I said in the meeting: "It should be like Guacamelee! Mega, Excellent, Superb, Awesome, Amazing, Impressive, Spectacular, Turbo Edition!"
At what stage did you decide to bring this title to Wii U?
Pretty early on. We were slowly working on a Wii U port of the game engine as a side-project around the time we finished the original Guacamelee. That work progressed in the background, and around early summer we had things playable. Once we decided to make STCE we were pretty sure we'd release it on Wii U.
Can you tell us about any challenges or surprises in producing this title for Wii U alongside PS4 and Xbox One?
Maintaining, testing, and releasing the game on four different platforms at once has been really challenging organizationally. The various consoles have different capabilities, different rules you have to follow, and they all require their own special attention. Each platform holder — Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft — has their own way of doing things, so there were a ton of things to keep track of.
Once we had the game sort of running we worked with Broken Rules, who released Chasing Aurora on the Wii U, to finish it. Given the scope of the work, I don't think we would have been able to ship the WiiU version without their help.
Most of the Wii U-specific work had to do with making sure we were using the second screen in a useful way.
Do you use a bespoke development engine, or something like Unity?
We have proprietary in-house developed tool that we use to build the game. It's really versatile and has allowed us to develop for multiple platforms, which is why we're able to bring the game to as many platforms as we can.
Are there any features on the Wii U that are different from the other platforms?
The main difference in the Wii U version is use of the second screen. You can play the game on the second screen, or you can show the map. With the map turned on you can see a level's fog of war uncover as you run around, and it's generally a bit faster to check where you're going. Naturally, you can also touch the second screen to to scroll the map.
How have you found the development process for Wii U, in terms of working with the hardware on a technical level?
Actually, it was like a mix of different platforms we've worked on — a bit of PC, a bit of PS3/X360, and a bit of next gen. So really nothing too surprising on the hardware-side. Most of the Wii U-specific work had to do with making sure we were using the second screen in a useful way.
What are your thoughts on the Wii U eShop platform?
The content on the eShop is good, and is getting better all the time. I recently purchased Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes on the eShop and have been playing that on my Wii U, and I am just dying with anticipation for Shovel Knight! Both NES Remix games are really great, and are also something completely unexpected, which is cool. I'm a big fan of downloadable games, and have been getting a good selection from the eShop. (And don't even get me started on how much I love Virtual Console!)
Do you plan to be active on Miiverse once the game launches?
I'm definitely looking forward to checking in on the Miiverse once the game launches!!!
As the Level Designer, it's really important for me to see how players are feeling about the levels. Seeing where they get stuck, seeing which secrets they found the most difficult, which bosses were too hard/too easy. All of that is super fascinating to me, and very important to me as I continue to create new game worlds.
The absolute best for me will be seeing Guacamelee! STCE's Miiverse become a great place for players to share speedrun techniques! That would make my day!
Are you personally pleased with the lineup of games (retail and download) for Wii U, and do you think it'll boost sales?
There's been a lot of recent announcements that make the future of the Wii U look very promising, which makes me very optimistic. This year has a lot of titles that I'm looking forward to, including Bayonetta 2, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and of course, Smash Bros for Wii U! I think we'll see the sales of the Wii U continue to grow, especially at the end of this year and into 2015. I think it's always the same story for every console: it always comes down to the games.
Do you have a final message for our readers?
I hope everyone who plays Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition enjoys it and good luck getting 101%! Luckily, having the area maps on the Wii U Gamepad helps a lot!
We'd like to thank Jason Canam for his time.