The coming week is already confirmed to include some highly promising download content, and one that's certainly caught our eye is FreezeME. Heading to North America on 4th February at a launch price of $9.99 - then $13.99 after its first week - it looks a cut above the usual 3D platformers that are seen on the eShop.
It's the début release from Rainy Night Creations; with FreezeME having already arrived on PC late last year it comes to Wii U as its first home console, with some special features also thrown in. We caught up with the studio's Walfrido Abejon Garcia to learn about its sources of inspiration from the N64 era, the similarities to Super Mario Galaxy and more besides.
First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself and Rainy Night Creations?
My name is Walfrido Abejon, designer of FreezeME and founder of Rainy Night Creations.
Although Rainy Night Creations is just me. For the development of FreezeME I got the help from some people, like Case Portman for the music or Mathias Aubry who helped with some animations.
And of course a bunch of awesome testers that helped me out with the final touches of the game.
Work on FreezeMe began in 2012, so has it been a full time endeavour or was it a part-time project around other work?
It´s been a long journey. It began in September 2012. For two years I worked on the project in the evenings after work and weekends. In September 2014 I quit and went full time up until now.
In marketing materials you reference N64 3D platformers, though in many ways it seems particularly reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy, in terms of some gameplay effects (spherical environments, gravity manipulation) and the main character's moveset - did the Wii title provide primary inspiration?
When I think of the differences in the core gameplay of SM64 and SMG (excluding gimmicks and power up), for me is about freedom and guidance.
When you enter a level on SM64 you have multiple paths available and little help as to where the final objective is, which brings a lot of exploration into the game.
Also, In SM64 there weren't any tutorials, nor many situations on the levels where you were forced to use for the first time a move so you could proceed further.
This is especially noticeable in the boss fights in SMG, once you begin a fight with a boss you immediately know how to defeat it because the whole level has been training you on the specific move you should use to beat it.
So I wanted to create game where exploration was an important part of the gameplay, and also where tutorials were scarce. This is a preferential choice of mine, most games nowadays go heavy on the tutorials but for me the less information a game tells me on how to proceed the more rewarded I feel when I figure it out.
There are some faux gravity objects in the game, but they are very few (excluding Level 3) and are presented as quick isolated puzzles to solve. On level 3 most of the elements use faux gravity but this is more of a visual effect and has very little implications on the gameplay.
What other titles do you consider key reference points that inspired you to develop FreezeMe?
There are bits from a lot of games of my childhood.
A lot of inhabitants in FreezeME will ask for your help in return of some collectibles. That was inspired by Banjo Kazooie.
The boss battles are more on the Zelda side than on Mario. It will take some time to figure out what hurts them.
And then, there are bits and pieces from other different games and genres, like for example there is a collectable you will have to get by infiltrating a complex as if you were Snake.
3D platforming seems like a relatively tough genre to tackle for your first game; do you agree it is a particularly big challenge, or has the process felt natural and instinctive for you and the team?
If I would have known beforehand…
For sure it has been tough, way more than I originally anticipated. A lot of times some weird thoughts went through my mind, like "why did I get into this?" or "why didn´t I try a simple mobile game first?" or "why am I just making games I could have a way better income and healthy life doing something else?".
But that´s what I wanted to do since I was a kid and I don´t enjoy playing mobile games, I wanted to make a game I would enjoy playing!
And last but not least, I woke up one day overly excited and full of hopes and I told my girlfriend "you are going to be the main character on a videogame" (R, the main character and the main gimmick of the game is based on my girlfriend and her photography passion).
I could not bail out after that!
FreezeMe arrived on PC in December last year. How would you describe the success or otherwise of that launch and player feedback so far?
Colourful 3D platformers are not the most demanded games for PC and I knew that beforehand. But nowadays every major game development engine works primarily on PC and then you port it to any desired platform. So basically no matter for what system you are developing, with a few modifications you can get it running on PC.
On top of that, PC is the less restrictive market. You are free to release anything at any stage and nobody will prevent you from doing that.
With that in mind I released FreezeME on PC last month. The sales are in line with was I was expecting and the comments from the people are positive. Also got a lot of feedback that helped improving both the PC and the Wii U version.
What was the core motivation to ensure the Wii U version arrived so promptly after that PC release?
The main idea was to release both at the same time (Actually the Wii U version was done before the PC version).
But then I submitted to Nintendo and they found some small issues they wanted me to fix. The problem is that console development (all consoles, not only Nintendo) is very bureaucratic. So I had to wait 3 / 4 weeks to get those results and even though I could fix all those issues in an afternoon and I had to prepare all the paperwork to resubmit again and wait for a similar amount of time.
On PC, once I fix something, there is no paperwork and I can have it live in less than an hour.
So that´s the only reason the PC version was released slightly before Wii U.
The launch trailer shows off the freezing mechanic on the GamePad screen: can you talk a little more about how that came together in development, and can players also use other controllers and the freezing mechanic solely on the TV?
At the beginning I thought about using only the GamePad, first I thought about Freezing using the gyro in first view. I gave it a try but all the moving around and then coming back to the normal view was a bit disorienting. So then I tried the touch screen to Freeze and I think it works great and is pretty straight forward!
I published some footage of me playing with the GamePad and people immediately asked "What about the Wii Remote + Nunchuk". So then I thought, ok, I have to give that I try. It was challenging because I guess people were thinking about Mario Galaxy when they suggested that, but on FreezeME you have the option to move the camera at any moment, but in Galaxy that doesn´t happen.
In the end you can use the +Control Pad to move the camera, but you can also set it to Automatic and will always turn to show you were R is looking, in case you don´t want to mess with it.
And again, when I announced the Wii Remote+Nunchuk was supported, people immediately asked "What about the Wii U Pro Controller and the Classic Controller". So I guess you know what happened next!
Then at the end of the process, by mistake was found that you could still use the Wii Remote + A button to Freeze while the GamePad functions were still active, so I thought hey, that´s cool now I can have a mini-coop game!
As this is your first project on Nintendo hardware, can you talk about the experience so far? Have you found it easy to work with Nintendo, obtain dev kits and so on?
Nintendo is just great. I´m no one and they allowed to enter their community and get a dev license.
Once you are in they have all the tools and plenty of documents available and if you get stuck or have problems with something there is always someone ready (by email or on the forums) to help you out.
As for the devkits, it was easy. They have reasonable prices and they don´t ask you to have a super secure office to keep it.
Having worked with the Wii U hardware, what do you consider to be its biggest strengths and weaknesses?
I cannot disclose much of the hardware information here as it would be a NDA breach, you can do really cool stuff if you invest the time on it.
I guess the main problem with consoles (not only Wii U) and especially if you come from PC development is the CPU. Average PC CPUs (not GPUs) are way more powerful than consoles, so you are a bit spoiled if you develop on PC first and then move to consoles.
I was a bit scared at first thinking it would be able to handle the size of the levels and all the things going around, but it did so I´m pretty happy with the hardware.
Do you have plans for the European release of FreezeMe at this time?
Oh yes I do! And Australia too. The game is ready, just missing the PEGI, USK and ACB ratings that should come any time soon. Once I get that, as mentioned earlier, from the time I submit until is out on the eShop should be around 3 / 4 weeks (provided they don´t find any errors).
Also I´m in current negotiations with some Japanese publishers, so I might get it out there too.
Are you confident that the Nintendo eShop audience will be particularly eager to play FreezeMe?
I´m hoping so! I think FreezeME is a perfect fit for the Wii U, something they didn´t have in a long time, and is REAL, is not "coming Q2 2017", "TBC", "we are considering it". FreezeME will be available for download on the eShop February 4th.
Do you have any final messages for our readers?
Thank you for reading and hope you have the chance to play and enjoy FreezeME as much as I did developing it!