Our latest interview is with Andrew Augustine, the owner, founder and lead artist at Notion Games, developer of upcoming Wii U eShop title Super Ubie Land. Head below to see the interview as he answers our questions about the game’s unique art style, becoming an approved Nintendo developer and what is next for the studio once SUL is released?
Who are Notion Games, and what have you made in the past?
Notion Games is an independent game studio that I started after working at Edge of Reality games as an artist and character creator for the Sims 3 Pets. The team consists of a handful of people doing completely different tasks. I do the animation, concept art, and the bulk of the programming. Calum Bowen composes the music, Matthew Jones handles the writing, Edward Dennis creates the cut-scene art. We also recently added two members to the team: Ben Ward (programmer) and Todd Wanchic (programmer and website coding) who will be helping us program Team Notion the game and also port Super Ubie Land over to the Wii U. Notion has released Up Up Ubi, a fast paced multi-tasking arcade game for iOS. There will also be an Android version later this summer.
Certainly sounds like you’re an experienced bunch! Was there a game or system which was instrumental in steering you towards video game development?
Every console has been a great influence in my decision to start Notion and begin creating games. The systems I have the greatest memories with are the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and the Sony Playstation. Games like Donkey Kong Country, Metal Gear Solid, Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog, Resident Evil 1, and more are what drives me. The team is going to try to bring experiences that will positively impact players the same way those games I’ve mentioned had impacted us.
Why did you decide to make Super Ubie Land and what are the games own influences?
I have a 3 year old son and a ton of games that are out today are geared towards adults. I wanted to create a fun game that challenges his gaming skills and at the same time is suitable for his eyes.
Super Mario World 3, Donkey Kong Country, Kirby, and many more great games from the NES and SNES era were excellent examples of how you can create an amazing experience without all of the gore and vulgar language.
I am not against those type of games by any means (I enjoy them myself) but I wanted to create an option for everyone to enjoy.
Sounds like Super Ubie Land has found a great home with the Wii U. Can you tell us more about the process behind creating the game’s hand-drawn style?
I am a traditional artist at heart. I consider myself to be an artist “from the 90s.” Very influenced by Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and anime shown on Toonami. With this being my style, I tend to still do things with pencil and paper. I start off by drawing sketches of what I’d like to be in the game and I go in and retrace the pencils using various inking pens (Copic Multiliner pens being my favorite). I scan the images into an art program (Photoshop and Sketchbook Pro being my favourites) and begin coloring each frame. This process takes a while and I may turn to doing full digital art but for the time being I still enjoy the feel of drawing with raw materials.
Ubisoft took issue with the original name ‘Super Ubi Land’, what was your first reaction to this, did you ever consider naming it something entirely different?
The name Ubi is just the character’s name. It was a way to work well with the “Up Up Ubi” title. So we had zero problems in the app store about using the name. Once we became Nintendo developers I guess we were finally on the “radar” and Ubisoft took notice. We were pretty bummed out but we did fully understand Ubisoft’s view on the situation.
We went through many names, Yubi, Oobi, Omie, etc. and even thought of changing the name completely like “Escape from Climate Island.” Matthew decided to just ask if adding an E to the end of the name would be enough. And Ubisoft agreed that it would be fine. So again, we thank them for working with us and allowing us to retain as much of the name as possible.
I’m sure many of our readers are curious as to when they can get their hands on the game. You’ve just announced the release date as 13th August, will the Wii U version launch at the same time?
The Wii U version will be out later this year or early 2014. We are trying to bring it out as fast as possible but we don’t want to sacrifice the game’s quality.
You outsourced the Wii U port to Maestro Interactive, how is development going?
They are not going to be working on the port anymore. We have brought on two programmers who will be working on the port. It’ll also allow me to work more closely with the port and ensure that the quality is there.
Maestro is a really great development studio. I am personally trying to expand within Notion itself and keep the projects as close to the studio as possible.
We’ve heard from numerous developers how easy it was to get on board with the Wii U. How did you find the process of becoming an approved Nintendo developer? Is there any part of the process you would like to change?
Emily Rogers and AckkStudios get all of my thanks for helping me with the process. Dan Adelman made everything so easy and he took care of us. Great process, I couldn’t have asked for an easier one. All you have to do is have the proper requirements and you’re golden!
Whats next for Team Notion once Super Ubie Land is complete?
I’ve been pulling all nighters for basically a year now. I’d like to take a small break so I can regather my thoughts. I will be working on Team Notion next. I actually thought about changing from a 2d beat ‘em up it to a cross between Mega Man and Shank. More on that later though….
Have you had time to tinker with the Wii U yourself, and would you consider developing for the Wii U internally?
I personally haven’t tinkered with it too much. I’ve been very busy working with the PC and Mac build and haven’t had too much time to actually play games anymore. Ironic isn’t it? I’m more interested in the Nintendo 3DS right now so I would definitely like to develop internally for that.
Is there any chance we may see the game ‘Team Notion’ on the Wii U? If so, when could we expect to hear more?
I will bring as many titles over to the Wii U and 3DS as we can. You can expect to hear more about Team Notion in 2014. We will be tackling that game head on and now that I have more experience creating a full game the process should prove to be easier.