January will see the UK release of Geometry Wars Galaxies for Wii and Nintendo DS. We caught up with Roger Carpenter, Senior Producer at Sierra Entertainment to talk about the Nintendo platform exclusive.
VideoGamer.com: After the success of Geometry Wars on 360 how did Galaxies come about? Did you approach Bizarre?
Roger Carpenter: We'd been talking to Bizarre for a while about ways of working with them. Geo Wars had come up in conversation and was even mooted as potentially coming to Wii. But it wasn't until August 2006 that Bizarre dropped me a line about DS and Wii potential. They had already worked up two prototypes and said that they would we be interested in getting the games published.
VideoGamer.com: The games previous to Galaxies have all been single level affairs. Is the new direction something you always had in mind and do you think hardcore fans will accept it?
RC: The single level games were reflections of the format they were released on and how they originated. Geometry Wars Galaxies (GWG) has been built form the ground up. It's a new game intended for retail release, so the fresh direction and content was absolutely necessary. The games are out in the US and it looks like the new multi-level direction has been embraced. Ultimately, there's something for everyone in the game - including the hardcore.
VideoGamer.com: One of the criticisms from the US reviews has been that the Wii game is incredibly hard to play using the Wii Remote. Was this intended to be used by hardcore gamers or people completely new to the genre and franchise?
RC: Yeah, there's been a lot of chatter about it. The Wii controls work for both hardcore and novice players but it's actually the hardcore that seem to complain the most. It's fair to say most reviewers have played and loved the 360 game, so they're quite seasoned players. Controversially, I'll stand by my claim that Wii-remote and Nunchuck is the best control system out there. The classic controller will do the job but, ultimately, the best scores will be done on the native Wii controllers. All I can say is that if you're used to the 360 controls you will have a hard time with the remote and nunchuck. It won't be as instantaneously 'getable' and it will be very tempting to throw them down and pick up the classic controller. Resist the temptation! Relearn how to play with the new system, and I'm sure you'll find it's worth it. We've found that those who've never played the game with the dual sticks adjust to the Wii controls a lot quicker. If you like you can compare it to mouse and keyboard with first-person shooters. I remember people saying that first-person shooters would never compare on console because the controllers could never match the mouse and keyboard combination. How wrong they were. Be patient and you'll reap the benefits.
VideoGamer.com: Geometry Wars isn't good looking in the modern sense. It's not photo realistic and isn't pushing bump and normal maps around the screen. That said, it still looks great. How did you achieve such good looks?
RC: Thanks for the praise. Geometry Wars: Galaxies owes a lot of its visual beauty to sheer amount of stuff that happens on screen. Vibrant colours, bloom effects, tonnes of particles and a huge variety in the combinations that occur. All this set off against the contrasting black background. It's the closest, in gaming terms, you'll get to having fireworks on demand. I think the visual style gets a subconscious lift from delivering on those happy arcade memories too. Whatever platform it has appeared on, it has pushed that console's processing power very hard. Simple visuals can be deceptive.
VideoGamer.com: Any issues with development on Wii? Did you have to scale back any of the effects you wanted?
RC: There are always problems that crop up but none that I can think off that directly caused a scale back of effects. Because the Wii and DS versions are off a common core code (they are the same game, essentially), that has meant that there were restrictions placed on game styles. Those restrictions, however, were worked out a long time ago.
VideoGamer.com: Online functionality is something expected on most systems, but not so much on Wii and DS. How tricky was it to get the online functionality up and running on the Nintendo platforms?
RC: The Nintendo backbone is quite young but they've not overstretched themselves with features so, for what we wanted to support, it was all quite straight forward. We did have to get some special allowances from Nintendo in order to provide gamers with the amount of leaderboards they required and increased access speed to these, but it was refreshing to work with a first party developer that was willing to change the rules in order for a game to shine.
VideoGamer.com: Third-party game sales on Nintendo platforms are infamously poor. Galaxies is a hardcore game about as far away as possible from the mini-game collections that seem to be selling well at the moment. Is making a Nintendo platform exclusive like this a gamble?
RC: Any game release is a gamble, there are no easy points to be scored. That said, we do see GWG as having a unique opportunity. It's a quality third-party game, it's a tonne of fun and we believe it will have significant cross-age appeal. There's nothing like it out there on the two lead hardware formats at the moment, plus the gameplay works on the big screen and little screen.
VideoGamer.com: Any chance we could see Galaxies appear on other systems, perhaps as a downloadable title? Xbox LIVE, PSN or Wii Ware?
RC: That's not really our call. GWG is licensed from Bizarre Creations to Sierra for Nintendo platforms only. It's exclusively that way for a while. What the IP holder does with it after that, is their business. I can say that GWG wasn't ever conceived as being a downloadable title. Bizarre Creations wanted it to be the 'in-a-box' game of the series.
VideoGamer.com: Is downloadable content for the Wii possible? Have you considered adding more content to Galaxies in the future?
RC: Unfortunately, that's not possible for this iteration of GWG, the tech and information on all that came too late in the development process. However, Galaxies is a perfect game for adding new content too, but we'll still have to see what happens in the future.
VideoGamer.com: What's next for the Galaxies team?
RC: Well we're looking at ways to work together again, so watch this space.
VideoGamer.com: Thanks for your time Roger.