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Interview: Nifflas Takes Us On An Affordable Space Adventure

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Learn more about the collaboration with KnapNok Games and progress so far

The Wii U eShop is gradually expanding its horizons and bringing us more innovative projects. Two developers that typify a creative, in some cases artful approach, are KnapNok Games and Nicklas Nygren, the latter better-known as Nifflas. The former brought us the innovative, at times peculiar, Wii U exclusive Spin The Bottle: Bumpie's Party, while the prolific Nifflas is behind NightSky (3DS eShop) and the more recent Knytt Underground. All are either impeccably designed or, perhaps in the most recent examples, intriguing experiences available on the Wii U.

News of the collaboration between the studios on Affordable Space Adventures got the attention of download gamers, then, and we recently had a chance to go hands on with the title, taking on a number of stages in co-op with Nifflas. We'll bring you those impressions soon, but first we have an interview on the game, in which we discuss the working relationship between the two studios and the concept behind the title.


To start off, how did the collaboration between you and KnapNok Games start?

Basically I met them at a game jam where they were showing this game called Dark Room Sex Game.

Ah, I remember that got some attention!

Yeah. To most of the Swedes they were like, I guess, weird people, with a weird sex game. For some reason I thought it was hilarious, so we just made friends. I went to visit them again then for about a week.

So, basically, it was like we were friends first, then just we happened to finish Knytt Underground at the same time as they were finishing Spin the Bottle. They were looking for a new project and so was I. It was very natural that we just started to talk about doing something together.

So was that last summer you started doing that, or a bit earlier?

Oh, yeah, about last summer when we started thinking about what we could do together.

So this kind of strikes me - and I was hoping you could correct me - that maybe you’re the creative force behind the world design, whereas these controls with the GamePad and the Remotes are very much the speciality of KnapNok Games, as they showed with Spin the Bottle. Is that the case, or is it more of a blend?

I am like the game director. I mean it’s my idea in terms of the ship computer and the way you modify the ship.

A lot of how it’s implemented is KnapNok’s part right there, I haven’t done the interface design. KnapNok did all that. So where I design the systems and did some of the programming for them also, they make it understandable.

So, how does the collaboration work? Are you working together in one space?

So it’s an office. Dajana is like a producer. She tells us, like makes sure everybody’s on the same page, or what each other are doing. Then we’ve got Heino who’s just an excellent programmer. He’s like the structure programmer. So he builds the framework for the game, like all the cursors and how things connect. So where I’m more involved is in implementing ship systems, like individual systems I usually build. Then we’ve got two 3D animators who also do interface. I just do a bit of everything. I kind of jump between tasks. Probably like everybody has a specific area, where I don’t have a specific area, I just jump.

Obviously in this build, they’ve been split up into levels for this demo, but in terms of the final game, will it be like Knytt Underground where it’s one large world you’re exploring, or is it going to be split up into set stages?

It will just be split up in levels. It's got a level base, but it doesn’t have level titles. It still should feel really smooth.

How many local players does it support? Is it two players? Because we were playing two-player.

Three, max. So the third person can be like the flash light/ the scanner and so on.

Right, so the more players you’ve got, the more you delegate?

Yeah, exactly.

So rather than flashlight and scanner, I’d just be on the touchscreen and you’d be driving.

It’s interesting how the difficulty changes. The puzzles get a bit easier to figure out when there are multiple people, because then you can talk about them and figure out together how to solve them, but executing them becomes much harder because then everybody needs to be on the same page about what you are doing.

Is it the kind of game you’d want people to ideally play through both in single player in which you’re doing everything, and also when in a team?

Yeah. I think a lot of people will have different opinions about which mode is the most fun, but I would recommend multiplayer.

The thing is because when I’m developing it and I’m testing it so much on my own, whenever I get a chance to play with somebody it’s like a different experience for me, and just maybe that’s right, but I really think the multiplayer is very fun.

Is it being designed so that if you’ve got players of different abilities, say someone who’s not particularly used to games, there’ll be a role? Like, for example, with a third player, would they just be controlling the light? That would be the easiest for them?

Yeah, I would say the easiest is probably to be the pilot to fly the vehicle.

So the hardest is definitely to be the system manager, especially when you have to figure the ship out yourself.

Yeah, even with your guidance I was making a mess of it initially! Is that a concern at all, accessibility?

We will make an easier mode in the game.

So there will be these two modes, but, yeah, we still have to name them. We don’t want to do easy and hard names. Maybe we’ll call it like technical and casual, or something like that. Like the technical mode, just so people will think, “Do I want the highly technical, complicated game or ...?”

Yeah.

So we’re starting with a hard mode, or technical mode, and testing it on gamers that are really into hard, technical stuff - then we will get a new test group less into really difficult games, so that we can scale down the difficulty, and then we will have our thoughts.

This feels like something that was always, from Day 1, setup for the Wii U, because you’ve got the controllers plus a touchscreen. Was that the case, or was it an early experiment on something like PC that you decided would be a good fit?

No, actually the funny thing is, the story of how I came up with the idea right from the start was there was game the Steel Battalion for the Xbox, where that came with this huge custom controller, right, and l really want to make a game that has like a crazy controller where it can modify systems. I started to think how would I make a spaceship game around something like that, but I realised this is not what’s going to happen because I can’t make an Indie game and ship it with a custom controller. Then, luckily, the Wii U was announced at exactly about the time I was like thinking about this and I just realised that, oh, with this, that game could actually really work.

So, yeah, just a console happened to show up that had what the game needed.

Then it just happened to work. Yeah, so this idea is actually older than Spin the Bottle. Yeah, so like I guess like a couple of games. I was still working on Knytt Underground when I had this idea. So basically that was when.

A bit of serendipity then, you have an idea and a console shows up.

Yeah.

Has the project progressed quite far so far then? Or do you still feel there’s a lot of work to do in terms of structuring it all into the final game?

I think level design is mainly done now. There’s a few more levels we want to add, but there’s a lot of polish - there’s all these small details and there’s so many of them that we really want to work into the game just to make it feel really nice.

I assume the levels in some of the examples will have more controls and things to do, with some pretty tough levels?

Yeah, but there’s also so many small things about how the ship handles, like just to make the ship feel more alive also, so, yeah, add even more which will be about what is happening in the ship and stuff like that.

Do you expect this to be a pretty big game then? Because Knytt Underground was fairly sizeable and, on the flipside, Spin the Bottle is a minigame collection. It's an interesting fusion of studios.

Yeah, we’re going for smaller and instead trying to make it just a really tight game. That’s the plan for this one. So it won’t be super big, but we want everything that is there to be really good.

Brilliant, thank you. I’ll let you get back to the Shovel Knight demo...


We'd like to thank Nifflas for his time, especially as he was rather keen to continue playing Shovel Knight at the event. Check back tomorrow for our first impressions of Affordable Space Adventures, and our thanks to Nintendo UK for arranging this interview.

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User Comments (36)

NbaJunkie

#3

NbaJunkie said:

This has an Atmosphere like abyss ..but this game has a more casual I feel I could sink my teeth into.

gage_wolf

#4

gage_wolf said:

Game looks great, but that title... Why not just make the price affordable instead of literally putting "Affordable" in the title.

LittleIrves

#6

LittleIrves said:

One of my most anticipated games. Love the atmosphere and concept. And why haven't more people used the touchscreen as a "make-your-own-controller" like they explained? Steel Diver on 3DS does something similar, but it seems like there's so much more that could be done. Hopefully this motivates other indies to get crackin'.

Smug43

#7

Smug43 said:

holy crap this looks incredible!! looks like spelunker with a space ship.. day one for sure!!!!!!!

Kaine_Morrison

#8

Kaine_Morrison said:

Had no idea about this game until just now. It seems great and it's a 3-Player!
Insta Buy for me when it is released!

HAL9000

#10

HAL9000 said:

This game epitomizes the cooperative nature that is possible only on Wii U. Insta-buy for both my home and my school video game club.

sinalefa

#11

sinalefa said:

Interesting that for this cooperative made game they are encouraging cooperative play. Nice also to hear how the Gamepad was the perfect fit here.

I have all three games mentioned here as well. I plan to get this one too.

Frapp

#12

Frapp said:

My most wanted game that doesn't have Zelda or Monster Hunter in the title. Thanks for the interview. Are they still roughly on target with regards to release date?

Emblem

#13

Emblem said:

Day one for me, love the concept and execution of this game. I hope its as fun as it promises to be.

JaxonH

#16

JaxonH said:

@Frapp

Monster Hunter.... yeahhhhhhhhh

People just don't know do they?!! So few Nintendo fans have discovered the motherlode exclusive that patiently awaits them on their console. I used to be one of those guys. Used to think "eh, Monster Hunter, not for me". Until my friend talked me into hunting with him. And the rest is history.

sinalefa

#17

sinalefa said:

@JaxonH

I must be the only person in the world to think "eh, Monster Hunter, not for me" after playing the games. Played Tri for 100 hours, never came back to it. Got bored of all the grinding and the punishing late monsters. Guess the game is enjoyable only if you have a regular, dependable hunting pack

HAL9000

#18

HAL9000 said:

Monster hunter is MUCH better with friends, that is how it is meant to be played.

luke88

#19

luke88 said:

Huzzah, so pleased to see this game getting coverage; I've been so excited about it for a long time now and am happy to see people in the comments here, that hadn't heard of it, getting excited. Looking forward to the upcoming first impressions piece.

Razzle

#24

Razzle said:

After Knytt Underground this is a day 1 buy for me - I like the cut of this guy's Jib.

jariw

#25

jariw said:

I've followed this game closely since the first announcement of their collaboration. Extremely promising game and a good interview.

JaxonH

#26

JaxonH said:

@sinalefa

Well, I suppose not everyone is going to like it, but I think a lot of people would if they actually tried it.

In your case, the game on Wii U is vastly superior to Tri on Wii> just playing with gorgeous textures and high definition makes a world of a difference in immersion, and the online is always populated with hunters and open lobbies listed by the monster being hunted.

I started out by myself, put in about 5 hours, and lost interest. Never really made it past the mushroom gathering and early tutorial quests. So much to learn- it was a very steep learning curve. Then later last summer my friend finally bought a Wii U (told him I'd buy his first game if he got a Wii U, and pre ordered Wonderful 101 for him, so he ended up buying MH3U on a 50% off sale on the eShop). He'd been rambling on for a month about how he just wanted a Wii U so he could play some Monster Hunter. So, I told him I'd hunt with him online, but that I was a noob and he'd have to show me how to cook meat, what to bring on quests, etc.

I remember the first time I saw his character, and he was wearing this G Jaggi armor while I was in basic leather. And I felt a little jealous lol. I wanted me a better armor set. So we went out and hunted Qurupeco until we both had enough for a set. Next night we play again, and I'm feeling good in my Quru armor, and he coming strutting up in RATHIAN armor! So I'm like, well I gotta get me some of that! So we went out and hunted Rathian all night. Next night we got Lagiacrus armor, then we moved on to Diablos armor, then we were high rank and fighting the sub species like Pink Rathian (to this day I DESPISE the Pink Rathian, it's got a mean barrel roll tail spin!).

After that I started hunting on my own, until I hit G-rank and needed help. He had quit playing because he wanted to wait for HIS friend to get a Wii U so we could all hunt together, and I wasn't in the mood to wait. So I started hunting online by setting up my own lobby and letting others join in. The rest is history. 600+ hours into the game, got an awesome armor set and rare talisman> High Grade Earplugs, Evasion +2, Evade Distance, Sharpness +1 and I can tell you right now, that's one of the best sets I've ever personally seen.

Man I love that game! I think playing it on Wii U might change your perspective, not just that but playing online on Wii U. It's so much faster in a group of four, where everyone has a purpose. I main a long sword solo but in a group I bring my hunting horn and buff everyone up with Wind Protection, Earplugs, Attack Up Large, Unlimited Stamina- whatever the hunt may call for ya know? You ever buy MH3U and I'll hunt online with you!

JustinH

#27

JustinH said:

This might be my most anticipated indie game yet to come on the console. Very excited!

Action51

#29

Action51 said:

@sinalefa, @JaxonH -

I'm somewhere between. I bought Monster Hunter 3 on Wii, and I put in a bunch of hours playing and getting new armor, fighting new monsters, and doing quests.

I thought it was pretty fun, but very repetitive and there was poor feedback as to whether or not you were actually harming these monsters or not with your attacks...it has the same problem I feel Dynasty Warriors has but in reverse.

I would have picked up a whole brand new iteration of Monster Hunter on Wii U to see if they made any major overhauls, but I wasn't interested in an upgraded version of a game I already owned and had become kind of bored with.

Now Capcom is releasing Monster Hunter 4 on 3DS only...and again I'm going to pass because that's not a game I want to play on a small screen or CAN play in little chunks or turns.

JaxonH

#30

JaxonH said:

@Action51

Ah man, that's the best part about the game! Is reading visual and auditory cues to decipher how hurt the monster is. That's what makes it fun. Is battling a monster close to the time limit, and then you cut off it's tail, have both horns broken, they're limping so you KNOW they're close to death, and wondering if you're gonna be able to take them down in time!

Watch this- it's the opening scene of MH3U on Wii U. Notice the monster in the volcano during the second half of the cut scene:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bFSrsUlRAU

I remember the first time I fought Brachydios (new monster not in Tri, the one in the opening scene), and he has this explosive slime on his body. He pounds the ground everywhere leaving slime that explodes moments later. I was fighting him with my buddy online, and he had to leave all of a sudden to take his girl to get some bandages and gauze (she accidentally cut herself), leaving me to fight him all alone (mind you, this was my first encounter with him, so I was not high enough level of armor and weapons to be fighting him solo yet). I fought that beast for a good 40 minutes solo- cut off his tail, broke his explosive arms, everything> but he wasn't quite yet limping, so I didn't think I'd get him in time. My friend came back during the LAST 5 minutes and we took him down with only moments remaining. Got him limping, sprung a trap and voila!

MH3U is a far leap from Tri. There's just SO much more content and monsters, new areas, new weapons and armor... and the online play is really where it's at. There's no reason to be hunting alone in that game. Lobbies are always open, and you can open your own lobby at any time and just put "Low Rank looking for HR" and there's always people who are also low rank looking to level up their HR with you.

Think they said MH3U has 73% new content. That's like an entire game, compiled on top of a game! As for MH4U, bust out the 3DS XL and Circle Pad Pro- no reason to play in little chunks or turns.

Sean_Aaron

#33

Sean_Aaron said:

Wow I didn't know multiplayer was going to be in there and the way you can delegate functions makes it sound like it will be a blast regardless of skill level.

Given how creatively KnapNok used the Remotes in Spin the Bottle I'm not surprised to see this kind of thought being put into another one of their games. That's a studio I can see having a continuing Wii U presence.

WiiLovePeace

#34

WiiLovePeace said:

I'm really looking forward to this game. I'm going to play it in single player. It looks so pretty! :-D

Tritonus

#35

Tritonus said:

@JaxonH Can anyone explain to me what the point of Monsterhunter is? I tried the demo on Wii U and was left cold.

Also, I'm not someone who has 600 hours of time to invest in one game... Should I even bother trying then?

JaxonH

#36

JaxonH said:

@Tritonus

Thank you for asking and please, allow me to answer that for you.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a game with a high learning curve. It's menus run deep, and you won't learn the mechanics of the game over night, and certainly not in a demo, that's for sure. The demo doesn't do the game justice, because the addiction of the game is not in randomly fighting some enemy with some random weapon and not really knowing what you're doing. The addiction comes from KNOWING what you're doing.

The point of Monster Hunter is to of course, hunt giant mythical monsters, some breathing fire, some which rain down electricity, etc. The game starts off slow because there are a lot of mechanics to learn. How to gather, for example (the game is centered around crafting, whether that be for weapons, armor, or items used during the hunt like healing potions, antidotes, traps, tranquilizer bombs, smoke bombs, large barrel bombs, well done steak for stamina, etc). It takes a while to find a weapon that suits you as well. I always recommend avoiding slow weapons to beginners, and avoid ranged weapons because the required gunner set armors only have HALF the defense. Not good for noobs.

It's a very deep and entralling RPG. If you stick out the one and two star quests, which should only really take an hour or two, tops, you move on to hunting REAL monsters. The fun is in the hunt. Finding the monster, chasing it, knowing its hit zones and weaknesses (elemental and zone damage, head vs tail, etc), and reading visual/auditory cues to know when they're near death, in rage mode (certain attacks won't work on enraged monsters), etc. There are items that reveal monster locations on the maps, but once you play for a while you learn the areas they frequent, and finding them is second nature (just like the naturally learned skills of a REAL hunter).

Once you start hunting monsters, the fun is from fighting them, cutting off their tail, breaking their horn(s), breaking their face, etc. You get drops from your kills and trapped monsters, and the more extremeties you break the rarer the drops you get. So, certain items might only drop at 3% rate, but if you cut the tail off you get a 20% chance, so there's incentive to strategize your attack.

Progress is all about the armor and weapons. That's how you "level up". You can increase your Hunter Rank (HR), but it doesn't make you stronger, per se. It just opens harder quests with tougher monsters. In order to hunt those tougher monsters, you're going to want to have suitable armor/weapon strong enough to take them on. So you hunt monsters, and craft more powerful armor and weapons from the drops. The rarest drops go into making the most powerful weapons/armor. And the stronger the monster, typically, the better the weapon or armor you can forge from them.

So the fun comes from hunting a monster a few times, making a complete armor set and weapon, then moving to a slightly more powerful monster. The fun is in fighting them, and you're crafting more powerful weapons/armor as you go, so you're always sporting the hide of your most recent kill. But you also REALLY want to acquire skills. Armor has 5 pieces, each piece having a few skill points for different skills, maybe say, +2 evasion and +1 dive distance, +3 hunger. All 5 pieces have various points attributed. The skills activate at intervals of 10, 15 and sometimes even 20. So once you have 10 evasion skill points, you get the skill EVASION+1. If you get 15 or more evasion skill points, you get the skill EVASION+2. There are also negative skills, and usually complete armor sets comes with 3 fully activated skills, and one activated negative skill, so -10 in one area. You get extra skill slots in your armor though, so you can usually craft a +1 gem in that negative skill and take it up to -9 from -10, thus de-activating the negative skill, since skills only activate at -10 or 10.

The thrill is in the next hunt. Always the next epic hunt and crazy monster boss battle you're going to be tried and tested in. You don't HAVE to play 600 hours to enjoy the game. It's just that most people get so addicted to it they CHOOSE to put in 600 hours lol. How much you play it is of course completely up to you. But you'll want to sink in a good 5 hours before writing the game off. It DOES take a little time to get the wheels turning, but once they do you better strap in, cause you're in for one heck of a ride!

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