Both Nintendo and its enthusiasts have been on quite the roller coaster since Nintendo’s latest home console was revealed back at E3 2011. They had a lot to be excited about after viewing the Wii U announcement trailer, the third-party support reel, and the subsequent showings of the Zelda HD Experience and Japanese Garden (extended version) Wii U tech demos. By showing what they had at that conference, Nintendo had effectively promised three things: full investment of the Wii U GamePad, strong third-party support in an effort to appeal to a wider gaming audience, and a capable platform.
Unfortunately, a different reality played out shortly after enjoying a stronger launch than its seventh generation competitors. Support from Nintendo and its partners quickly became scarce, causing the Wii U to achieve a record-setting quarterly low in sales. With the only explanation being that they had underestimated the transition from standard definition to high-definition, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered. We hope to address all of these via the accounts of named developers who have worked hands-on with the system and Nintendo.
And so, because accountability matters, Open Book Developers is a new series that Nintendo Enthusiast is kicking off, where we focus front-and-center on contents, discontents, and mild pleasures with the way Nintendo operates both as a hardware and software manufacturer. By documenting these experiences, we hope minimize the confusion behind the developmental side of the industry from content creators large, medium, and small all while giving further insight to the software you care and didn’t know you cared about.
The way we see it, ignorance is bliss, so let’s disturb the peace!
Last week, we gave you the heads up that a question-and-answer session would be occurring within our forums and I must say that the thread quickly became a goldmine. The following are the accounts of software publisher and developer, FuzzyWuzzyGames — as originally communicated to our forum community — whose journey began as a Wii U developer a few months ago after they decided to reveal and shift focus of latest project, Armillo, to Wii U. Professionally, the team has worked at Electronic Arts and Radical Entertainment.
FWG: “Hey, Nintendo Enthusiasts!
I’m the programmer and game/level designer of [Armillo]¹, and a huge Nintendo² fan as well!”
1. Armillo: A 3D and 2D action puzzle platformer with a sci-fi parallel universe theme scheduled for release in Quarter 1, 2014 for the Nintendo eShop on the Wii U console. See the official site.
2. Nintendo: A Japanese multinational consumer electronics company that manufactures and markets hardware and software for its Wii and Wii U home consoles and Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS family of portable systems. They are the world’s largest video game company by revenue. Founded: September 23, 1889. Headquartered: Kyoto, Japan. We’re not sure how you found yourself here without prior knowledge of the company, but welcome.
“Armillo is a 3D and 2D platformer that’s been in development for 3 years now (mostly part time) by around 2-5 people at a time. It’s going to come out to the Wii U³ eShop⁴ in about *crosses fingers* 3 months and be exclusive on the Wii U for a few months before releasing it on the PC⁵. Nintendo has been super awesome to us and we’re really excited to be releasing on the Wii U!”
3. Wii U: The first entry to the 8th generation of home consoles and the successor to the Wii, the Wii U is Nintendo’s first video game home platform to support high-definition processing. Launch: November 18, 2012
4. Nintendo eShop: The Nintendo eShop is an online marketplace powered by the Nintendo Network for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. The Nintendo eShop features downloadable games, applications and information on upcoming film and game releases. Launched: June 6, 2011.
5. PC (Personal Computer): A general-purpose computer for use by the public. A capable platform for gaming enthusiasts looking for high-end graphics and multi-tasking among many other features.
At this point in the discussion, the development team has opened the floor to just about any question related to their game or to the developmental side of the industry. To make reading more convenient, I’ve structure the question and answer session into categories.
Development History and Game/Release Information on Armillo
Me: Your team has has been involved with the likes of Electronic Arts and Radical Entertainment. How did those experiences go?
FWG: “I’ll share this based on a progressive timeline based on my own experience. I worked at EA for nearly 7 years.
The first 3 years were awesome. I worked in tools, so I rarely got to work overtime. It’s probably at the point where you’d get excited to work with the big guys and for a well known company. The environment is really nice and infrastructure is pretty good with various facilities – gym, soccer field, basketball court, arcade machines, etc. Cafeteria food tastes decent for the first year, then you get pretty tired of it.
After that, you start getting affected by the politics. Basically, the top-down structure where the higher ups have tons of control. It’s pretty hard to avoid when your co-workers talk about it all the time. I didn’t let it bother me too much and I eventually moved to a game team for a change of pace. That was also at a point after when that EA spouse episode happened where an anonymous EA employee’s spouse’s letter complaining about overtime went viral. So even with the move to a game team, I still didn’t find myself working that much overtime as the company changed a lot of things to make things better. I think at most I’ve ever worked was a 3-4 week stretch towards the end of a project.
[ne_quote align="right"]The problem with layoffs is that it totally ruins company morale.[/ne_quote]
So things were fine, that is until the layoffs started happening. It just kept happening, one after another. The problem with layoffs is that it totally ruins company morale. Everyone around you just becomes miserable and it really affects you as well. So after the fourth one, which pretty much happened in intervals of like every 3-4 months, I just told my boss that I wasn’t happy and he ended up making me happy by laying me off. Happy ending there! Then I started this company.
But I’d say overall, it was a nice experience for me, but perhaps my case is better than what a lot of people go through.”
At Nintendo’s stockholder meeting back in July, the Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata explained the reason for not lowering the number of personnel to be because it would decrease developer morale. Here’s a refresher on what they specifically had to say.
“Regarding why we have not reduced the number of the personnel, it is true that our business has its ups and downs every few years, and of course, our ideal situation is to make a profit even in the low periods, return these profits to investors and maintain a high share price. I believe we should continue working toward this ideal. If we reduce the number of employees for better short-term financial results, however, employee morale will decrease, and I sincerely doubt employees who fear that they may be laid off will be able to develop software titles that could impress people around the world.”
You can read more on Mr. Iwata’s reasoning here.
Mike D.⁶: Any plans for a demo? And what brought the game over to Wii U? (Kotaku reported that the game could have ended up on XBLA⁷.)
6. Mike D. (EvilTw1n): Part of the original and current Features Team here at Nintendo Enthusiast.
7. XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade): A digital video game distribution service available through the Xbox Games Store, Microsoft’s digital distribution network for the Xbox 360.
FWG: “Yup. There’s definitely plans for a demo. We don’t have the timing for this figured out just yet.
Initially, we did aim for XBLA mainly because we used the now defunct XNA⁸ system. We first went through Microsoft’s⁹ approval system and got our final answer after 5 months of waiting, which was basically a no. Their explanation was that there isn’t really much of a market on their system for our type of game based on similar XBLA title sales.”
8. Microsoft XNA: A set of tools with a managed run-time library provided by Microsoft that eases video game development and management.
9. Microsoft: An American multinational corporation that develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics and personal computers and services. Founded: April 4, 1975. Headquarters: Microsoft Redmond Campus, Redmond, Washington, U.S.
“The Wii U wasn’t really in our radar until Emily Rogers¹⁰ came to us and encouraged us to release it on the Wii U. Although the market is perfect for our game, the initial reason why it wasn’t on our radar was because of their office space requirement as we couldn’t really afford that extra expense at that point. Imagine how happy we were once we found out that they were getting rid of that!”
10. Emily Rogers: Nintendo fan and critic. She runs a blog called Dromble and writes for Nintendo Force Magazine.
For those who might not remember, back in March last year at GDC, Nintendo had unveiled a whole host of new indie-friendly policies and announced Wii U Web Framework with the hopes of inspiring more small development teams to bring their games over to Wii U. Since then, many indie developers have added Wii U into their game development plans with 18 high-profile indie titles successfully making their way to the platform, Armillo included.
GaemzDood¹¹: What specs are you planning on optimizing it for on the lowest?
12: GaemzDood: A top posting forum member at Nintendo Enthusiast.
FWG: “I’m currently developing the PC version off of my laptop, which has a NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M¹². Minimum specs should be somewhat lower than that, with at least a shader 3.0 video card.”
11. NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M: Developed by NVIDIA, the GeForce GT 650M is a mid-range, DirectX 11.1 compatible graphics card announced in the first quarter of 2012 for laptops.
Menashe¹³: Was it hard making such a game in your spare time and not even as a full-time job?
13. Menashe Kestenbaum: Owner of Nintendo Enthusiast and occasional feature article contributor.
FWG: “Initially, I was full-time on it for a few months at the start and I’m now back on it full-time for a couple of months working towards getting this game to completion.
Yep, it was a bit challenging. I also had to juggle a family (proud father of two boys!), but I’ve managed by working mainly in the evenings. My main motivation to keep going is that it’s something that I really enjoy working on.”
imthesoldier¹⁴: Do you have any future plans for the Wii U after this is done?
14. imthesoldier: Active forum member at Nintendo Enthusiast.
FWG: “Oh yeah! One of the aspects about Armillo is that it won’t really take much advantage of the Wii U’s unique capabilities because of how the game is originally designed. However, I am currently in the process of planning out something that is a lot more in-line with its capabilities in mind.”
This new game that FuzzyWuzzyGames is speaking about is set to be revealed in the coming months. The team is planning on developing the title in a more iterative fashion, where the sequels will expand of the features of the last iteration based on user feedback.
Alex Balderas (juegosmajicos)¹⁵: (Following up on the last answer) I wanted to ask something along those lines. The 3D sections remind me of something like Kororinpa: Marble Mania¹⁶, or Kirby’s Tilt ‘n’ Tumble¹⁷, and that brings about the question: are motion controls supported for these sections in Armillo, or is there a chance that they will be supported later through a patch?
15. Alex Balderas: Nintendo Enthusiast’s Writing Mentor, Alex is also part of our Feature, Reviews, and Proofing teams. He also works alongside four others as a moderator for our forums.
16. Kororinpa: Marble Mania: An action puzzle video game developed by Hudson Soft based on former classics like Marble Madness. Launched: March 20, 2007
17. Kirby’s Tild ‘n’ Tumble: An action puzzle video game published and developed by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color. Launched: August 23, 2000
FWG: “What’s interesting is that Nintendo themselves have also asked us to try out accelerometer¹⁸ support. We’ll give it a try, but Armillo is actually more platformer rather than a rolling game (sometimes requires fast reaction times) so I’m not sure how well this will work. But we might end up making it an option for those who want a good challenge.”
18. Accelerometer: A circuit element for detecting changes in speed.
Alianjaro¹⁹: How did you split the work between the three of you? Did you have assigned “areas of expertise” or did you all just work on whatever needed to be worked on?
19. Alianjario: Active forum member at Nintendo Enthusiast.
FWG: “In total, Armillo has been worked on by more than a handful of people. Most of them took on minor tasks (a model here, some testing/design/feedback here, bits of coding there). There was a time when there were about five people on board, which lasted for about three weeks. Initially, it was mainly one coder/designer, one audio artist, and one 3D modeler who did the bulk of the work. During that time, we’ve had some people come and go with some help on the side with marketing, concepting, and testing/feedback. That was just in the first few months of development.
After that, the 3D artist left due to life changes (getting married, moving, etc.), so it was just me and the audio guy for well over a year. At that point, the project was also in a bit of a limbo. The XBLA declination, and some health problems didn’t help either. I then started learning Photoshop²⁰ and Blender²¹ myself to make up for any modeling/art that’s needed. Just a few months ago, a new artist came on board to help out a bit, so that was very helpful!”
20. Adobe Photoshop: A computer graphics editing program developed and published by Adobe Systems.
21. Blender: a free and open-source 3D computer graphics program used for creating, in this case, 3D models and effects for video games.
[ne_quote align="right"]We don’t have plans for online multiplayer, but we do have plans on updating Armillo post-launch with a free local multiplayer update[/ne_quote]
Matt Costello asked if there would be any type of online features involved with the game.
FWG: “We don’t have plans for online multiplayer (sorry!), but we do have plans on updating Armillo post-launch with a free local multiplayer update. I don’t have any specifics on what the multiplayer will be just yet. Leaderboards are planned as well, but I’m not sure if it will make it in the initial release.”
Koeing²²: What kind of musical scores does the game have? I am a huge sucker for the “sound test” option that some games have.
22. Koeing: Active forum member at Nintendo Enthusiast.
FWG: “The game will have a good mix of licensed music, a bit of our own original music, and chip tuned music from various composers. Our audio guy has selected a nice selection of music tracks for our game.
Although we can’t guarantee the sound test option at this point, but we’ll definitely keep it in mind. Thanks for the suggestion!”
Me: So how long has Armillo been in development for?
FWG: “So far, it’s been three years since the project started. But during one of those years, progress was really slow – at a near stand-still. It picked up again once we became Nintendo developers.”
Developing with Unity
Mike D.: I’d love to hear about working with Unity on the Wii U (how friendly the hardware architecture is, how indie developers view the engine, its feature-set equivalent against the “big boys,” etc.).
[ne_quote align="left"]…it takes one click to deploy the game to the dev kit [from Unity][/ne_quote]
FWG: “Thanks! Don’t mind doing the interview at all.
As for working with Unity, it’s pretty good. There’s quite a bit of setup to be done on the dev kit side before getting Unity ready, but once it’s ready, it’s very similar to working on the PC, that is it takes one click to deploy the game to the dev kit. Since I do development in large chunks (focusing mainly on finishing the game through the PC build), the last I’ve worked on is an earlier beta that’s from around August and it looks like they’ve fixed a lot of issues since then. But when I worked on it, because Unity Wii U was in beta, there were some bugs and performance issues, but nothing that I wasn’t able to work around. I think it took me around 15 hours to get the game fully running – but a bit slow with some glitches. Another 25 hours, and it was optimized, most bugs fixed, featured (second screen support, off-tv play), and sent to Nintendo for review for PAX Prime²³. Of course, they’ve approved it. *happy dance*”
23. PAX (Penny Arcade eXpo) Prime: A gaming festival held in Seattle, Washington as part of a series three.
“In terms of hardware architecture, development say between a Power PC and an x86 hardly differs because of the high level nature of development tools today. Only when you want to do assembly level optimizations (which is becoming more irrelevant with faster processors) or transfer data cross-platform (programmer speak for endianess correction – both CPU’s processes data differently at the byte level), there might be some differences. But the vast majority of developers won’t really notice. Unity and other cross-platform tools also makes things a lot easier since you don’t have to write wrappers for the system level C/C++²⁴ library functions when doing cross-platform programming.”
24. C/C++: An intermediate-level general purpose programming language.
“In terms of performance, I had to down-res Armillo on the XNA build to around 580p to get it to run smoothly on the 360. On the Wii U, I’ve left it at 720p and it also has more post-processing and lighting effects going on. I’m sure the PS4²⁵/Xbox One²⁶ are quite a bit more powerful in terms of pixel pushing, but the Wii U’s GPU feature set is also a lot closer to the PS4/Xbox One rather than Xbox 360 and PS3²⁷. I’d say it’s good enough for us indies.”
25. PlayStation 4 (PS4): The second entry to the 8th generation of home video game consoles developed by Sony as the successor to the PlayStation 3. It sports improved graphics processing and a new controller with a touch-pad.
26. Xbox One: The third entry to the 8th generation of home video game consoles developed by Microsoft as the successor to the Xbox 360. Like the PlayStation 4, it sports improved graphics processing at a similar level as well as a new controller.
27. PlayStation 3: The second entry to the 7th generation of home video game consoles developed by Sony as the successor to the PlayStation 2. It sported vastly improved graphics processing.
GoldMetalSonic: How different is the game on Wii U than the planned Xbox 360²⁸ version? In fact do you have any screens of the Xbox 360 version when it was as far as it gotten?
28. Xbox 360: Developed by Microsoft, Xbox 360 is the first entry to the 7th generation of video game consoles, as the successor to the original Xbox. Launch: November 22, 2005.
FWG: “Biggest change would be the port to Unity²⁹. Most of the code was re-written in this process so that the development workflow works much better with Unity itself. I’d say the core game is nearly the same (controls, model assets, level layouts, etc.), but everything else around it changed. Unity made development a lot easier – tweaking and tuning the game ended up being way faster.”
29. Unity: A cross-platform game engine with a built-in IDE developed by Unity Technologies. In this case, it is used to develop video games for consoles. On Wii U, every developer gets a free Wii U-only license and version of Unity when they become developers for Nintendo. Unity also compensates for the lack of Direct X 11 on Wii U.
Mike D.: How does the approval/review process work with Nintendo – did they give you any advice, or helpful hints?
FWG: “I actually don’t know how the process works. They basically give a yes or no after reviewing the demo. I would guess they were happy with what’s in the demo as they didn’t request any changes.”
Daniel Switzer³⁰: I hate bringing it up but it’s a necessary evil, how much did it take to develop this game? Do you feel comfortable that you’ll make the return on investment? I’d hate to see you not be able to create or have a hard time with future projects.
30. Daniel Switzer: Notorious Twitter user for his Bad Miiverse Posts and Parody Reggie accounts. He recently brought his wit to Nintendo Enthusiast with a new feature called Iwata [Laughs]. You can also find him participating actively in the forums at Nintendo Enthusiast.
FWG: “Although I can’t reveal any hard numbers, the cost to date of this project actually isn’t all that high as we’re all working based on profit sharing. Biggest costs for us would be the dev kit, licensing fees/software (audio, Unity Pro PC, etc.), and PAX11.
[ne_quote align="left"]…we have to find other means of supporting ourselves for living expenses until the game sells.[/ne_quote]
Upside is that we can survive developing this way for a long time. Downside is that we have to find other means of supporting ourselves for living expenses until the game sells. So for myself, I was fortunate to work at a company for a while that allowed me to work on Armillo on the side. But the downside of that is it becomes really busy as it’s like working on two jobs and I’d have less time to spend for myself and with my family.
Even if Armillo doesn’t sell well, future projects can still continue, but at the same time, I’d love to continue working at a full time capacity.”
Me: Any experience developing with the Nintendo 3DS or any plans to start?
FWG: “No experience with the 3DS. But I would really love to work on that system. Only problem is that we’re doing all our development work in Unity and there is currently no 3DS support for it. Doesn’t mean I’m going to close the door on it – I still would look into developing for it through other means.”
After speaking with a couple other developers, including Visionaries777, it seems as if Nintendo is missing out on an opportunity to see surge of independent developers on the Nintendo 3DS by not having Unity supported on the platform. Hopefully that will change with the new year, but it seems unlikely, at least according to the views of FuzzyWuzzyGames.
[ne_quote align="right"]…I’m sort of doubting that it will happen, especially with the 3DS’ limited amount of RAM and lack of fully programmable graphics shaders[/ne_quote]
FWG: “I would definitely jump into 3DS Unity support. At the moment, I’m sort of doubting that it will happen, especially with the 3DS’ limited amount of RAM (considering how much overhead Unity takes up) and lack of fully programmable graphics shaders. Of course, it still may happen and I would be totally on-board when it does.”
A follow up question was asked by imthesoldier on why it seems Unity allows for less hand-holding in the visuals department in comparison to Unreal Engine.
FWG: “I don’t have much experience with Unreal, but from what I can understand, Unity hand-holds you a lot less when it comes to visuals. They provide you with primarily the basics and let you expand easily on them as you’d like. That could explain why we see a ton of good variations when it comes to Unity projects.
I know that Unity is trying to focus more on AAA games for Unity 4, especially when they stated that was one of their goals during their presentations. But I’d say that it’s still a much better indie development tool. At the moment, its core engine still works best in smaller development teams.”
Developing on Wii U
GoldMetalSonic: Since you said Wii U’s GPU feature set is closer to PS4/Xbox One than PS3/Xbox 360, can you comment on what possible features Wii U shares with PS4/Xbox One that PS3/Xbox 360 don’t have? Certain graphical effects?
FWG: “It supports DirectX 11³¹ type features. I can’t really discuss too much about this personally (NDA stuff), plus I’m not that experienced as a graphics programmer. But you can find some nice details on it from various sites on the web.”
31. DirectX 11: a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) for dealing with tasks related to multimedia, especially game programming and video.
Laer_HeiSeiRyuu³²: Have you messed around with global illumination?
32. Laer_HeiSeiRyuu: Active forum member at Nintendo Enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter.
FWG: “Dynamic? Not really. But we’ve been playing around with static global illumination with lightmaps in the past couple of months. Key focus here is mainly to improving framerate where we can.”
Laer_HeiSeiRyuu (Follow Up): Wii U supports the majority of the features outright, so if you were porting, it should be a relatively smooth process, yes?
FWG: “Somewhat, especially when you’re porting from a PS4/Xbox One/PC game. There are still a couple of issues around it making it not exactly a trivial task.
One is that each console has their own SDK and interfaces. So a game company will need to wrap their code around a new SDK which can take a lot of time. This one isn’t an issue if a cross-platform engine is used such as Unity or Unreal³³.”
33. Unreal Engine: a game engine developed by Epic Games.
“Another is performance. With all the features enabled, a game might end up running at a very low framerate, especially with advanced features that tend to take up a lot of processing power. So features need to be removed, tuned, downsampled, etc.”
Goodtwin³⁴: I guess more so than asking questions about the hardware, how about a breakdown of the game itself? Shaders, lighting, particle effects, what do you have going on. Also, are you able to write low level code, or are you limited by the toolset? I think we would be interested to know what effects this Wii U build is getting that would have been either impossible or undesirable on the 360.
34. Goodtwin: Active forum member at Nintendo Enthusiast.
FWG: “Shaders – I’d say nothing too elaborate here. I haven’t worked on anything that can’t be supported beyond the shader 3.0 model. But I’ve recently got some help from a technical artist who is trying out an energy conserving shader and HDR in our game and it’s looking really nice so far. We’ll have to see how far we can get this and how well it works on the Wii U.
Lighting – We’re using a mix of dynamic lighting and light maps on some levels. Again, nothing too elaborate here.
Particle Effects – I’d say here is where the Wii U version will shine over the 360′s XNA version, mainly because on the 360 version, I had coded a rough limited custom particle system engine that is hard coded. Now on the Wii U, I’m using Unity and using the FX Maker plugin, which makes life so much easier. Takes minutes to create, tune, and spawn a new particle effect and it looks way nicer.
Low level code? Yep, it’s possible through Unity’s plug-in system.”
Goodtwin: I am curious then; what was causing you to need to run your game in sub-720p to get the performance you wanted? Where were you finding the ceiling in performance? I have always felt like indies would be the most likely to discover the limitations of any given area since they would be using them as intended. For example, most indies are going to use the GPU for graphics processing and CPU for AI (Artificial Intelligence), physics, and general processing, basically using everything as intended. Its a bit different on the AAA scene, where the developer may use the CPU for graphics rendering to assist the GPU. Most games aren’t really CPU limited, but developers took advantage of the Xenon and Cell to create more advanced graphics than the GPU’s could do on their own.
FWG: “The game ended up being fill-rate bound on the GPU. We had a lot of effects going on – multiple dynamic lights, bloom, blur, multiple backgrounds (space, sky, clouds), full screen weather effects, and hundreds of objects rendering at once. One thing I’d say that XNA had going better than Unity is that I was able to customize batching of objects any way I’d like to reduce the number of draw calls. Unity decides on its own when it can batch objects or not. For example, transparent objects are never batched in Unity but I was able to batch them in XNA. So those 60 transparent orbs lying around composed of three model layers – 150 draw calls on the Wii U, but only 3 on XNA. But yet, the Wii U still outperformed.
I actually heard about using the CPU to offload the GPU, I never actually done this myself so I’m somewhat unfamiliar with it. Perhaps with the PS3 with all the extra processing power that’s needed from the Cell, some software was done to do some custom rendering so that it catches up due to its weaker GPU. But generally, calculations done on the GPU tends to be way faster than a CPU. But the GPU is quite limited in what it’s capable of doing in that area.”
In an attempt to explain why Wii U might not be seeing support from third-party publishers in the future, the anonymous developer published their accounts working with the Wii U pre-launch date. They cited a frustrating developer kit costing them valuable time, an underpowered CPU, and an alarmingly incomplete network infrastructure among other details.
The following are FuzzyWuzzyGames’ personal opinions on the matter via their own accounts working with Nintendo, not to dismiss the accounts of the anonymous developer, but to provide a different angle to the story from a developer with a name.
[ne_quote align="right"]…I haven’t heard of a single [console launch] that wasn’t problematic in many ways during [pre-launch] period.[/ne_quote]
FWG: “Just some background information about me, I’ve worked on the professional industry for 8 years as a programmer. I’ve never touched PS4 or Xbox One development so I can’t comment much on those. I also don’t have any experience with the pre-launch Wii U development, but one thing is that I’ve been through a number of other pre-launch console development and talked to a number of developers with their experience on many of them, and I haven’t heard of a single one that wasn’t problematic in many ways during that period.
It’s just the reality of development – they provide you with the tools and hardware before anything is finalized, you’ll get lots of things that just doesn’t work because lots of things are still changing. Tech support is super busy because they’re dealing with a new system that they’ve just learned about. I’ll bet chances are that you can probably write a similar article for many other platforms like this talking about how terrible developing their hardware was during the pre-launch days.This is also the time when the console development team is the busiest where they have to not only create a ton of new software, drivers, etc. for this new console, but also work on fixing bugs, supporting development teams, and working with new hardware revisions.
So even on other console platforms, it wasn’t unusual to see a major hindering bug and not have it patched for a month or so. It almost sounds like the person who wrote the article never worked on other consoles pre-launch – I hope that’s not the case otherwise it’ll signal an unfair bias towards the Wii U.
[ne_quote align="left"]Support is fast and they keep coming up with new tools to make things easier.[/ne_quote]
Under NDA, I can’t reveal anything specific. But generally speaking, working on post-launch development on the Wii U, I’d say development environment is pretty good and stable. Support is fast and they keep coming up with new tools to make things easier.
I also think the CPU is fine even though it’s slower than the 360, although I’m sure that will be more challenging to AAA developers compared to indie developers. It’s the difference between code that has been through the hands of 1-3 developers versus 50-200 developers, which leads to a lot of code overheard with a lot more people working on it. I’ve worked as an optimizer for various commercial games. I always find that no matter what, there will always be room for cpu optimizations – it all depends on how much effort you put into it (like that article says, he wished he had more time to do some optimizations). There’s a good chance that not as much effort is being placed on the Nintendo platforms here due to sales forecast, so we’re seeing games that are slower than other platforms like CoD: Ghosts.
[ne_quote align="right"]It’s the difference between code that has been through the hands of 1-3 developers versus 50-200 developers…[/ne_quote]
But the thing that I agree on is that most AAA developers are dropping the system more due to their sales figures. But what I disagree on is the other points where the games are not appearing due to development teams being put off due to the poor tool chain, hardware, and technical support – in big game companies, the developers rarely have a say on this. But it’s generally the higher ups/execs who decide whether the games get canned. Sadly, it’s rarely about the development process, but more of what money it can make the company.”
Discontents with Nintendo Today
Me: Are there any discontents with the way Nintendo has been operating or with Nintendo’s hardware (region-locking, marketing, etc) that you’d like to express or has it been all good from a development standpoint?
FWG: “Oh yeah. My complaints are probably similar to most people. They need to be more smart and aggressive about advertising the Wii U. The system is like something that you get excited about when you actually play it, but I don’t really feel it when I see their advertisements.”
[ne_quote align="right"]The system is like something that you get excited about when you actually play it, but I don’t really feel it when I see their advertisements.[/ne_quote]
If you’ve have not been following our site, Nintendo has been struggling with the marketing of the Wii U to a point that borderlines on frustrating for many enthusiasts, considering how well the Nintendo 3DS is being covered. Until recently, there wasn’t a single advertisement for the Wii U after the launch period.
This effectively allowed consumers and retailers alike to form their own, usually false, assumptions on what the Wii U and Wii U GamePad was rather than what it actually was. As a resulted, Wii U struggled for a period of over 6 months. We’ve offered advice on what Nintendo needs to do to advertise their system in the past and even sought the opinions of our readers, but here’s what FuzzyWuzzyGames believes the company needs to do.
FWG: “They need to show what makes the Wii U unique – Off-TV play³⁵, second screen touch screen, Miiverse³⁶ community, asymmetric multiplayer³⁷, TVii³⁸, etc. The original Wii had advertisements showing why it’s unique which really helped. This time, seeing some of their Wii U advertisements, I just see that it’s a Wii upgrade – a controller attachment perhaps? It’s not very clear.”
35. Off-TV play: Off-TV Play is a controller feature exclusive to the Wii U. Since the Wii U GamePad has its own built-in screen for displaying images, it can display an separate image or duplicate the television screen onto the Wii U GamePad. Off-TV Play is the term used for when an entire game is played strictly on the controller, without the use of another display screen (usually the television).
36. A service exclusive to Nintendo platforms as part of the Nintendo Network that lets you communicate with other players from around the world. It is accessible via Wii U, Nintendo 3DS family systems, as well as on a web browser, so long as you have an previously made account.
37. Asymmetric gameplay: A feature that allows for one player to have an entirely separate experience to another player as they both play together. This is taken to a new level on the Wii U.
38. Nintendo TVii: A service exclusive to Wii U, it enables users to find, watch, and engage with TV shows and movies using the Wii U GamePad to browse and search for programming from formerly subscribed sources.
“From the development standpoint, I’d say they need to be a bit more organized on the getting started part and documentation organization. I’m generally not the type of person who’d like to ask help, so I was kind of trying to figure out where to start development and made a few mistakes along the way until I finally e-mailed tech support. Should have done that in the first place as they’re great! Then again, my experience with gaming companies in the past is that it’s next to impossible to keep your documentation well organized and structured, so I’ll let that be a minor issue.”
Join the conversation with FuzzyWuzzyGames on our forums or follow the team on their official Twitter page!