With Halloween approaching there are some appropriately themed discounts currently on offer for eShop fans. Ectoplaza, though, is an award winning upcoming arrival on Wii U that's perfect for the season - it's exclusive to Nintendo's system and features chaotic multiplayer action, with sling-shot mechanics at its core. Though there's no final date as yet for Europe the title is coming to North America on 27th October, with a price tag of $7.99.
Many likely saw Ectoplaza for the first time when Nintendo of America included it in its 'Spring Partners' video showcase earlier in the year. With its release around the corner, though, we caught up with the Co-Founder of developer Syndicate Atomic - Michael Effenberger - to learn more.
First of all, can you introduce yourself and tell us about Syndicate Atomic and how your team came together?
I'm Michael Effenberger, Team Lead on Ectoplaza and Co-Founder of Syndicate Atomic, an organization that focuses on the development of interactive machinations for carbon-based life forms. Syndicate Atomic's cabal of maladjusted founders met in the dorm rooms of the University of Southern California, where they would go on to make projects about puberty, irritable ghosts, and all other manner of detritus.
Fair enough! Can you introduce the core concept of Ectoplaza for our readers?
Ectoplaza is a competitive 2D smash 'em up about angry ghosts wreaking havoc on haunted hotels, paranormal guests, and each other. Players must rocket into their opponents at blistering speeds by mastering a multi-tiered fling system: tap the attack button for a quick chomp, briefly hold and then release for a "trick shot", and hold all the way for a devastating ricochet attack that penetrates through platforms. If a player scores two consecutive hits in a row, they gain access to their ghost's special ability, which has the power to knock anyone that's hit by it out of the round for good. Be the last ghost standing in Afterlives, collect the most ectoplasm in Collectoplaza, or score the winning goal in Ghostball!
Since nearly all of our favorite local multiplayer games are on Wii U, we thought that made it a particularly good fit for Ectoplaza.
Are we correct in saying this is an exclusively multiplayer game (local only), or can solo players tackle CPU characters?
Ectoplaza is an exclusively local-only multiplayer game for 2-4 players.
What was the main reason for producing a game focused on local multiplayer? Do you feel the Wii U is a particularly good fit for this?
Ectoplaza was originally developed for festival play, which meant that it needed to engage both the players and the audience equally so that people would want to try out the game. Through painstaking research (AKA playing way too many games in our dorm room), we found that local multiplayer was the perfect genre for this kind of social setting. And since nearly all of our favorite local multiplayer games are on Wii U, we thought that made it a particularly good fit for Ectoplaza.
Was the game always planned as a Wii U release, or was it a PC project initially?
Before development on Ectoplaza began, we knew we wanted to create a project that made for a great console-based experience. It wasn't until the game began to take shape that we realized Ectoplaza would be perfect for the Wii U, given the console's history of colorful platformers and local multiplayer titles.
Are any Wii U-specific features, such as the GamePad, used in Ectoplaza?
AWhile there are no GamePad-specific features, Ectoplaza does take advantage of the many supported controllers for the Wii U.
You originally pitched Ectoplaza at the 2015 Dare to be Digital event. How did that opportunity come about, and how important was the success (Audience Choice Award) that you enjoyed there?
Dare to be Digital is an amazing program, offering mentorship and exposure for student developers. Knowing that their Protoplay festival attracts a uniquely family-friendly audience with attendees of all ages, we developed and pitched the game as an approachable and visually spectacular multiplayer brawl that is as fun for the spectator as it is for the player. After showing off the game to the thousands in attendance, receiving the Audience Choice Award reaffirmed our design goals and made us want to further develop Ectoplaza for wide-release!
You also received recognition at IndieCade; at what point did these successes open the door for greater exposure with Nintendo (in particular Nintendo of America)?
While we were attending PAX Prime 2015 to speak on a panel, I put on my best detective face and searched the show floor for any Nintendo representatives I could find. The goal was to share footage from the latest Ectoplaza build and, at the very least, get some advice on platformers from the house Mario built. However, after repeatedly pestering the poor Mario Maker demo attendant with unsolicited Ectoplaza gameplay footage, things were starting to look grim. On the last day after the team gave their talk, we discovered a twist: the Nindies team were located in the same hotel building as our panel. I quickly introduced myself and showed the footage on my phone, to which they replied in earnest, "This looks great and we should get you on the eShop!" We later met at IndieCade 2015 and worked out the details from there. It was a great (if harrowing) experience, and the moral of the story for the devs out there: always keep footage of your game with you!
Back in Spring you featured in Nintendo's 'Spring Partner' video; can you talk a little about that? How significant a moment was that for the team?
I remember the moment the video broke, running down the stairs of our small apartment (like a kid on Christmas morning) to excitedly share with the team actual footage of Ectoplaza opening before Monster Hunter and Gunvolt as Damon Baker discussed the amazing line-up of titles heading to the Wii U & 3DS. More than any moment before did the significance of releasing our first title hit home.
As Ectoplaza is the studio's first game, how easy or otherwise has it been to work on a release for a Nintendo console?
This was not only our first console release, but also our first release on a Nintendo console. Naturally there was a learning curve involved, but our friends at Nintendo of America were more than willing to assist us with questions.
The care that Nintendo shows its developers arguably proved to be one of the best aspects of developing for the Wii U eShop.
What are your thoughts on the Wii U's fortunes, and did its userbase and eShop audience influence your decision to develop for the hardware?
We found that some of our favorite local multiplayer experiences were on the Wii U, and the communities that Nintendo fosters through efforts such as Miiverse were very encouraging for our first release.
What's been the best thing about developing a game for the Wii U eShop?
The fine folks over at Nintendo of America have been tremendously supportive throughout the entire development process, and were always quick to assist us with any questions or challenges. The care that Nintendo shows its developers arguably proved to be one of the best aspects of developing for the Wii U eShop.
Conversely, what's been the biggest challenge in developing for the Wii U eShop?
The most difficult part of developing for the eShop had little to do with the eShop itself; it was more to do with the realities of indie development. Trying to develop the game after a long work day can be tough!
Do you have any update on a release date or pricing for Ectoplaza?
Ectoplaza will be releasing on the North American Nintendo Wii U eShop for $7.99 this Thursday, October 27th. We hope the Nintendo Life community visits the haunted halls of Ectoplaza this Halloween!
Does the team hope to work on Nintendo hardware again in future? If so, what's the biggest reason for that?
We would love to work on Nintendo hardware again in the future, especially after the Nintendo Switch reveal. Having just developed our local multiplayer title Ectoplaza, it was especially encouraging to see the Switch announcement trailer go out of its way to highlight the local multiplayer options on-the-go console gaming can provide. The future looks bright for Nintendo, and we here at Syndicate Atomic can't wait to wrap our tendrils around the new system!
We'd like to thank Michael Effenberger for his time.