Where it all happens

Here's part two of the WayForward interview where the guys talk a bit more about some of their all-time favorite video game classics, as well as shed some new light on their upcoming A Boy and His Blob game.

Q. We saw in the interview with G4TV where Voldi Way dropped a few hints about a darker DSiWare game that you guys are currently working on. Any chance you might toss a few more tidbits of information our way regarding this title?

MATT: We’ve got a few DSiWare games waiting in the wings. One in particular that’s got a solid internal following and is looking really cool. Adam?

ADAM: It's still very early in development, but it's an idea we like that we're hoping will blossom into a full DSiWare title. It's essentially a slasher film, but with typically odd WayForward sensibilities on top of that. It's darker than LIT, but not in an M-rated way. We're having a lot of fun doing pre-development on it, though, so hopefully we'll have something creepy to show in the near future.

Matt needs a vacation!

SEAN: It’s a real honey of a title. Hopefully we can talk about it soon and generate a lot of buzz.

ADAM: But as Matt said, that’s just one of several potential DSiWare titles for us right now. Sean’s got a hilarious take on one of our other franchises that I’d love to see become a full DSiWare game, and Matt was just mentioning to me today the possibility of bringing back one of our old titles that fans would go nuts over (hint: it’s not Shantae).

Q. We hate to ask so soon after LIT's release, but are there any plans for a LIT sequel down the line?

ADAM: Mark Bozon (the game's co-designer) and I have had a few talks and we know where a sequel would take the player. The first game was all about Jake locating Rachael, which was the first half of his adventure. Now that he's found her, what happens next? If the school was using Rachael to lure Jake into the heart of the school, how does the school react now that he's taken the bait? LIT 2 would be a much more twisted mind-trip than the first game was, as Jake and Rachael get closer and closer to escaping the school, and the school gets more and more desperate to keep them there. Plus, since the first game featured multiple endings, we'd of course have to start with multiple beginnings.

David Crane would be proud

That said, the first game was pretty exhausting to develop so unless we did something simple in the meantime (like a puzzle pack), it might be a while before the game gets a follow-up.

Q. While we're on the subject, were there any particular ideas you weren't able to make use of in the original LIT that you'd like to try to include in the sequel?

ADAM: There were a few things that didn't make the cut in the first game, like using mirrors to reflect the light. We had those in early in development and ended up removing them to keep gameplay focused. But I could see those showing up in the sequel, if we end up developing one.

Q. We saw a mention from Matt in the Mighty Flip Champs interview that he'd like to possibly do a project based on an already-established franchise like Metroid or Kid Dracula. How realistic a chance is there of that happening at some point? (And let me personally push for a new Kid Dracula title since I absolutely love that old Game Boy game!)

Braid on Xbox Live Arcade

MATT: We’ve had great response when talking to the owners of a lot of these 80’s game franchises. Getting to remake them isn’t as farfetched as I once thought. WayForward has become a very reliable option for when it comes to bringing back the oldies-but-goodies. So, I’m hoping we’ll get to do more retro revival games. Metroid 2 you’re long overdue for an oil change, c’mon over!

ADAM: I would love to see Matt Bozon take on Kid Dracula! We're all huge Castlevania fans here, and Kid Dracula seems like the perfect blend of that world with Shantae sensibilities.

SEAN: It happened with Contra 4 and A Boy and His Blob. Also, titles like Altered Beast, Golden Axe, Splatterhouse, Punch Out!! and more are being revived, many by external development houses. I think it’s very realistic to see WayForward reviving more brands in the future. After all, Retro Studios had a chance to make a 3D Metroid…

Q. Are there any other classic franchises you guys would like to resurrect in the future?

David Crane's masterpiece in action!

MATT: I don’t mention it much, but I’m a huge fan of NES Rygar. I really enjoy the way that quest was broken up. I also love Ghosts N Goblins, Guardian Legend, Journey to Silius…action games, quests, and shooters mostly.

ADAM: The big one for me has always been Dig Dug. The first Dig Dug was an amazing game, incredibly abstract and bizarre when compared to its brother Pac-Man. But Dig Dug 2 was a step in the wrong direction, and the Nintendo DS game just smooshed the first two games together. We have some ideas for how Dig Dug could be naturally and satisfyingly evolved, if Namco is interested in hearing our ideas.

Another title I'd be interested in revisiting right now is Hudson’s game Milon's Secret Castle (and its SNES sequel Do-Re-Mi Fantasy). The NES game was very peculiar and I think there's a lot of potential in that franchise. Karnov on NES would also be fun to revive, but with the death of Data East, who knows who owns that character now?

More A Boy and His Blob

And of course anything to do with pogs. I've heard pogs are coming back in a big way soon.

SEAN: The big ones for me would be E.V.O.: The Search for Eden, Mega Man and Metroid.

It kills me that there hasn’t been a new 2D Metroid since Zero Mission. It’s my favorite series, and I would be simultaneously thrilled and frightened to tackle a new version with Wayforward’s signature HD animation!

With Mega Man, he seems to be back on track with the release of the absolutely fantastic Mega Man 9. If given the reins, I had wanted to put Mega Man into a seamless 2D world and pit him against like 50 of the coolest bosses from previous games. The powers that he got would be used as gating mechanisms to get to new parts of the world. Wouldn’t that be incredible?

We want Shantae!

Lastly, E.V.O. holds a special place in my heart. For those who don’t know, it’s a platform adventure game where you eat and evolve your creature. Evolving was meaningful in ways that games like Spore just can’t duplicate. I would love to make a game where you control a constantly evolving character with different abilities. Wait, that sounds familiar… Anyway, think about it, by the end of the game you could end up with a character whose play style is tailored to your preference!

ADAM: There are also a few we’re not mentioning specifically because we have pitched them to the publishers. So depending on how those turn out, you could indeed see some more games getting the Contra 4 or A Boy and His Blob treatment from us over the next few years.

Q. WayForward has already been heavily involved in not only the WiiWare service, but also the brand new DSiWare service as well. Have you guys found your sweet spot and do you plan to focus more on these digital download services for your future releases?

MATT: I hope so. It’s really a good fit for us.

ADAM: WiiWare and DSiWare are perfect for just running wild with a creative idea. The scope of both platforms is small enough and low risk to allow the kind of experimenting that we can't really justify in a licensed or huge-budget game. And I think gamers are much more willing to part with a few bucks to try something new on those platforms.

Sigma Star Saga sequel in the works?

Q. We've seen some very unique and original titles released on the WiiWare service so far. Other than LIT, do you guys have a personal favorite or one that really stands out in your mind?

SEAN: As I mentioned before, Mega Man 9 is the standout for me. It was an incredibly bold move to go with the retro style, and it couldn’t have turned out better. The added challenges and time attack modes gave the game longevity that the originals can’t match.

MATT: Nothing has come close to Mega Man 9. But, I really like what Colin and the guys at Two Tribes did with Toki Tori. I’m currently looking forward to Cave Story.

ADAM: It's hard to ignore how amazing World of Goo is (I hate to state the obvious). Beyond that, I'm a big fan of the Art Style games, especially Cubello. The simple visual style of that game in particular is really beautiful. I'm enjoying Bit Trip Beat right now. It feels like Pong filtered through Rez and Atari 2600, and I love all three of those things.

Marc pretending to work again

Q. The Nintendo Wii and DS systems have been mammoth success stories for Nintendo over the past couple of years. What factors do you think has made these two game systems so popular with gamers around the world and what's made you focus your developmental efforts on them?

ADAM: WayForward is all about gameplay, characters, and animation, and I think those are some of the major focus points for Nintendo as well. We're definitely interested in working on PS3 and Xbox 360, but Nintendo's sensibilities seem to match our own, so it's usually a nice fit.

SEAN: The new types of input and the focus on “Blue-Ocean” strategy have paid off for Nintendo. I don’t think traditional gamers are all enamored with the systems; its non-gamers that have driven the growth. Wiggling a remote control is a lower barrier to entry than pressing buttons, and the success of products like Wii Play and Wii Sports have reinforced the idea of pick-up-and-play activities that the family can do around the TV.

Exciting DSiWare release

Q. Let's talk about A Boy and His Blob. What on earth possessed you guys to create a new Boy and His Blob game, especially considering that it's been two decades since the original NES release?

SEAN: Maybe the retro vibe was in the air because we had just finished with Contra 4. I don’t know where the inspiration came from exactly, but the idea of doing a new Blob with re-imagined mechanics and aesthetics appealed to everyone as soon as it was pitched. We all got on board with a heartwarming game focusing on the interactions between two best friends in a soft, Miyazaki-esque world. These fresh ideas inspired us just as much as the original title did.

MATT: I walked up to Sean’s desk one day and he was sitting there playing the NES Boy and his Blob. He was beside himself with the unrealized potential of the original game. He wanted to like it with one half of his brain, but the other half was choking on the game play. The next day he was so worked up over it that he asked if we could have a meeting with Majesco. Some gamers throw the controller. Sean reboots the series.

Rygar on the NES

Q. We've read that you decided not to make use of the Wii Remote's motion sensing capabilities in A Boy and His Blob? Was there any specific reasoning behind this decision?

SEAN: I stand by precision control and rewarding player competence with progress. These factors led me away from using the Wii Remote’s functionality for A Boy and His Blob. With this game, the traditional control scheme we have established will ensure that no one will become frustrated at having to shake their controllers too much.

ADAM: We're firm believers that controls should support the ideal gameplay for each game. On LIT it made sense to use the motion control, but as Sean mentioned on A Boy and His Blob it didn't. The worst thing a developer can do is try to force a gimmicky control scheme that takes away from the strength of the game.

Hard at work

Q. Are you trying to keep the game faithful to the original, or can we expect a whole new type of playing experience?

SEAN: This game is inspired by the original, but is not a remake. We adjusted many features such as ditching the futuristic setting and lowering the age of the boy. The game play retains jellybean tossing and blob transformations, but the feel of the game and the play control are totally different. It’s a total overhaul, and hopefully it will have everything you loved about the first one. However, for new players, you can still jump right in.

Q. There have been a lot of visual comparisons made between you’re A Boy and His Blob game and the Xbox Live Arcade hit Braid. What do you have to say regarding this and was Braid a direct influence on the game?

EVO: The Search for Eden

SEAN: No, A Boy and his Blob was not influenced by Braid. I’ve read the message boards as much as anyone, and let me say this: Braid is a fantastic game, but Blob was in development before Braid was released. Both are platform games, both are painterly 2D experiences, the comparison is inevitable. Actually, David Hellman, the artist behind Braid, had a humorous blog post that discussed this issue with screenshots of our respective games’ visual similarities.

I think it might be the zeitgeist in the game industry to do away with interface and menu clutter; just look at games like Little Big Planet or even the castle hub from Super Mario 64. Perhaps Braid and A Boy and His Blob are simply results of the continued evolution of 2D gaming.

Q. David Crane, the man behind one of the greatest Atari 2600 game titles ever created in Pitfall, created the original A Boy and His Blob game for the NES console. Has David had any involvement in the new title and what does he think of WayForward's creating a brand new Boy and His Blob title?

SEAN: David Crane has not been involved in this game in any way, but his influence touches games the world over. We wouldn’t be in the position we are now without his contributions.

WayForward HQ

Q. Any idea at all when we might expect to see A Boy and His Blob released in the US or Europe?

SEAN: A Boy and His Blob will be out before the holiday rush 2009!

Q. Okay we hate to do it, but we must. Is there a better than average chance that we might see a new Shantae title at some point or are you just going to continue to torture us for all eternity?

MATT: Better than average!

ADAM: Tease! The first thing I ever animated for WayForward was Mermaid Shantae spinning around in the water. I'd love to see a Shantae game on the shelves again.

SEAN: We are always in development with something involving Shantae. Always.

Q. What about Shantae do you think has made it such a cult favorite over the years and a game that so many long-time WayForward fans are still clamoring for to this day?

World of Goo

MATT: I like it because it takes a lot of favorite conventions and puts them in a single game that is much less serious than the games it pulls inspiration from. At the same time, its more action packed and fun loving than many games of its type. The character is well meaning, sweet and alluring, which makes her an attractive female lead for many players, both guys and gals.

ADAM: Shantae overflows with polish. The art in that game and in Xtreme Sports is what got me interested in the company. It was just unlike anything else being produced on handhelds at that time. And it has the hardcore gameplay to back the visuals up. I think fans love Shantae because she was as good as gaming got for that system.

SEAN: Shantae is clearly a labor of love and did of ton of crazy GBC tricks that blew me away when I played it. Everything from the dungeon design to animation style to the sound effects are very deliberate. It’s a classic game that demands a new version!

Q. I have to toss in at least one personal question for the interview while I have the chance. Are there any plans for a new Sigma Star Saga title sometime in the near future, as I think it would make a perfect addition to the DSiWare service. Hint! Hint!

Where ideas are born

ADAM: I'd work on a new Sigma Star game in a hearbeat. There's so much potential left in that world, and I know Matt's given a lot of thought to how the series would work on the Nintendo DS. The first game was a blast to work on, and I want to see more of that franchise (as a fan and as a developer).

MATT: Yes, Adam and I discuss it often. We wrote the story to set up future events, and we haven’t been able to share that story yet. And, the RPG/Shooter hybrid was barely explored in a single game. There is much that can be refined if we get the chance to do another one.

Q. In closing, is there anything you'd like to say to our readers before we wrap up the interview?

MATT: Sure. Thanks for supporting our games, and always sending in letters and artwork. They’re hanging on our walls and bulletin boards where they keep us smiling.

ADAM: If you're still on the fence, please pick up LIT. WayForward loves making unique original titles, but we can only continue that if the sales are there. Be sure to pick up Mighty Flip Champs on DSiWare when it’s released soon, and A Boy and His Blob on Wii this fall. All three of these were passion projects for us, driven by our desire to make the kind of games we ourselves love to play.

A Boy and His Blob in action

SEAN: Buy LIT! Buy Mighty Flip Champs! And please enjoy A Boy and His Blob later this year. Support the WayForward renaissance and you will be rewarded tenfold! Also, get your slammers ready, because pogs are coming back in a big way. Lastly, if you are a director of development for the games we mentioned wanting to make, contact us!

Q. We here at Nintendo Life want to take a moment to thank you guys at WayForward for taking the time out of your busy schedules to participate in this interview. We very much appreciate it, as I'm sure our readers do also.

MATT: No problem, congratulations on the new site!

ADAM: Thanks, Corbie!

SEAN: It’s been a pleasure.

Interviews: Matt Bozon, Adam Tierney, and Sean Velasco of WayForward - Part One