Chasing Aurora is an eye-catching Wii U eShop title that's scheduled to arrive in November. While its art style immediately grabs attention, we wanted to know more about it, especially as it's only a matter of weeks away. We got in touch with developer Broken Rules and spoke to its man Martin Pichlmair about the new title, as well as the origins of the company's WiiWare release, And Yet It Moves.
Nintendo Life: Hi Martin, thanks for joining us. First of all, can you please tell our readers a little about Broken Rules?
Martin Pichlmair: Broken Rules is an independent game developer from Vienna, Austria. We released our first game, And Yet it Moves on Steam in 2009 and brought the title to WiiWare in 2010. We're a team of 8 people who do their best to make unique games. We strive to make games that you think of long after you've turned off the console.
NL: You mentioned And Yet It Moves, which was originally on PC. At what point between PC development and WiiWare release did you decide to bring it to WiiWare?
MP: Nintendo saw the game at E3 in 2009 where we had the game in the IndieCade selection. Broken Rules was just 3 people at that point. At that moment we knew that we needed to get a lot more professional to be able to bring a title to the level of quality that a console requires. Actually we decided pretty quickly that we want to have the game on WiiWare but it took us some time to port the game over. The main hold-up was that we wanted to make it a good fit for the Wii, so we designed new control schemes specifically for its unique features.
NL: How would you summarise the experience of developing for the Wii Shop?
MP: World of Goo proved that WiiWare is a great platform for indie games. We've done good, but not spectacularly so. Yet there's more to releasing a console title than just the financial gain. Firstly we've received stellar reviews for our first console release. Secondly you need to work very professionally in order to ship a console title, even if it's just a download title. And lastly, you get looked at differently when you do console development compared to, for example, making iOS games. That feels good in itself, but more importantly you have a different standing with the press and with other games professionals.
NL: Your next title is Chasing Aurora on Wii U, can you explain what it's all about for us?
MP: Chasing Aurora is an aerial action game. It is a multiplayer game for up to 5 players. You compete in a tournament consisting of different disciplines.
The game is set in the Alps and has a very unique look and feel. You play a member of the bird people tribe, who are humans with the ability to fly. The games you compete in are all based on folk games, so they are easy to pick up. The flight itself is very physical and so is the environment. There are falling rocks, gusts of wind and lightning strikes. There are over a dozen levels, each featuring a unique environment with its own challenges.
You get looked at differently when you do console development compared to, for example, making iOS games. That feels good in itself, but more importantly you have a different standing with the press and with other games professionals.
NL: In terms of the flight, how much control does the player have? Is there an ability to boost speed, or are there ways to bump or fight against other players in multiplayer?
MP: You steer the bird with the stick and flap your wings on button press. Yet you can also reach top speed by cleverly using the wind. There's also a button for folding your wings to dive through the air. Great for last second escapes and diving into water. There is also an object in the level that can be used as a weapon.
NL: You've confirmed a single player campaign and a variety of multiplayer modes, what more can you tell us at this stage?
MP: There are three multiplayer modes in the game and there's a single player challenge mode. The multiplayer modes are all completely different in gameplay. To make things more interesting, the player who plays on the GamePad often has a special role with its own abilities.They also has their own view into the level, so it's Asynchronous multiplayer. After each round, the GamePad is handed to a new player, so that everyone gets to enjoy the new controller.
The single player mode is a time challenge. You race through a level trying to stay alive as long as possible. It's fast. It's fun. And it can be played on the GamePad alone.
NL: Can you explain further how the Wii U GamePad's capabilities will be utilised, specifically?
MP: We mostly use the GamePad to show a different view of the level for the player who uses it to control their character. In the "Freeze" game modes the GamePad player sees his own character on the GamePad's screen. He can thus fly freely through the level. The GamePad player plays against a team of other players. Those share the big screen. If any of them drops out of the camera they get frozen. A team member has to unfreeze them in order to bring them back into the game.
NL: You mention the 'Freeze' mode, can you explain the other two multiplayer modes for us?
MP: One of them is a chase game – kind of like a game of tag but the other way round. There's a gem in the level and if you grab it, the camera follows you. Your task is to fly so wickedly that you outrun all your opponents. When they're outside the screen they lose a life and respawn. Once they lose all their lives you win. The third mode is a game of hide and seek. The GamePad player has to hide from the team of seekers. This game mode is played in split screen on the TV. Each bird sees his own view of the level and so does the GamePad player. Their task is simple: stay hidden until the time runs out.
NL: Will there be any online multiplayer options?
MP: No. We're making a game to be enjoyed together on a couch. Team play is important and so is ad-hoc communication. While you can partly replicate that with live chat, we simply aimed for a different kind of game than an online multiplayer game. This was a decision we took very early in development.
NL: Was the use of Asynchronous multiplayer a hindrance to enforcing online play for this game?
MP: Not really. We simply set out to make an offline game because we knew otherwise we'd have to distribute our efforts completely differently. We try to make the best possible game with our abilities. Online multiplayer is very challenging for a physics-based game. There are games that manage to pull it off, but most of them have a team with more than 5 programmers. We're a small team, so we got to play to our strengths.
NL: Looking back to how Chasing Aurora started, you received an offer in mid-2011 to bring the title to Wii U, can you explain how that came about?
MP: We regularly talk to different parties during industry meetings like GDC and we've shown an early prototype of Chasing Aurora to everyone who showed interest. Nintendo showed a lot of interest and quickly convinced us to dare to make a launch title. Maybe it's due to the critical success of And Yet It Moves, maybe we just look trustworthy. At that point it just made sense for all of us.
You can see from the launch line-up that they managed to bring a number of indie developers on-board for the Wii U launch. We're happy to be one of them.
You can see from the launch line-up that they [Nintendo] managed to bring a number of indie developers on-board for the Wii U launch. We're happy to be one of them.
NL: The trailer (at the end of this article) shows off your custom engine, Ginkgo. Can you tell us about it and how it's used in this title?
MP: Chasing Aurora was built using Ginkgo. Our game engine is geared towards multi-platform. It's not as comfortable as Unity but custom-made for our purposes. And it performs well on the Wii U and all other platforms. We built our own tools for editing levels, animations, winds and other gameplay elements right into the engine so that we can quickly tune the game.
NL: Having worked with the system for a good amount of time, is there one feature or capability of Wii U that excites you the most?
MP: The GamePad. It was exciting to design game modes that make use of the additional screen and I think it offers a lot of new possibilities. How often did I want to have my inventory immediately at hand in an RPG instead of navigating a menu? I'm looking forward to how other game developers make use of the new controller.
NL: Can you explain your engagement with Nintendo, in terms of development support or advice?
MP: Nintendo helps us a lot when it comes to technical questions. They also support our marketing. We have full creative freedom.
NL: And how much do you know about the Wii U download store so far, and can you share any interesting information?
MP: Sorry – you've got to ask Nintendo about that.
NL: Can't blame us for asking! What's your opinion on the evolving Wii U eShop library so far, as an overall impression?
MP: I think they're off for a great start. The launch window line-up is a good selection of titles for any kind of player. I'm especially looking forward to Miiverse and how it plays with the eShop, but I guess we all have to wait to see that in action.
NL: Are there any particular features you're keen to see Nintendo implement in the Wii U download store?
MP: Demos. But maybe they're part of the store anyway. Even if I knew I wouldn't be supposed to tell you. There's still a lot of secrecy around the store and I'd rather not comment on it before Nintendo has revealed the new eShop to the public.
NL: How would you summarise your whole experience working with Wii U so far?
MP: It is an awesome console and the first one of the new generation. Not so much because the technology is far ahead, but because it is the most social console ever made.
NL: Although we're sure you're finalising Chasing Aurora, do you currently have any further projects in mind for Wii U or even 3DS?
MP: We've already started working on the second title of the Aurora series. The project is currently on hold until we've finished Chasing Aurora, but I can already tell you that it is a story-based game and set in the same universe as Chasing Aurora. There's no release date yet and the target platforms have not been announced. We'll continue working on it after the Wii U launch. Until then we're fully focused on making Chasing Aurora a truly outstanding game.
We'd like to thank Martin for his time, and you can check out a trailer of Chasing Aurora below.