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Interview about Furry Legends (english version)
The producer about the game and WiiWare development in general

Hello Lukasz, how are you? Can you shortly introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what your role is in the development of Furry Legends for WiiWare?

Hello everyone! My name is Lukasz Szczepanski, and I am the Producer of Furry Legends at Gamelion Studios in Poland. My role here is similar to a movie’s director. I’m that guy who runs between the rooms, talks with all the guys and tries to see the big picture. I keep track of tasks, resources and all other ‘paperwork’ things, so the more talented guys can do their job without a worry about anything else.

From what we've seen until now, Furry Legends seems to be a pretty unique concept with many fresh ideas: What exactly is the title about?

The title is about a bunch of round, furry creatures, who fight the oppression of evil Squaries. Players will lead the main character(s) through a variety of levels, fighting with both the environment and squaries, and slowly learning the reason behind the conflict. I have posted a more comprehensive history of the world on our Blog [www.furrylegends.com], so everyone interested can head straight there to read up, since I don’t want to waste your space here with walls of text.

Who are the "Furry Legends"? Where do they come from and what do they want? Will we only play with the little green ball we saw in the first trailer or will there be more? Do they have special abilities helping in certain situations in the game?

“Furry Legends” relates to general stories and legends about the various tribes of furballs. We have a couple of stories in mind, so hold on tight! Players will be able to control several characters in the game, each with its own unique abilities. In addition, players will be able to change the characters quickly to adapt to the situation at hand.

What are the most important factors for you and for your team when making a new videogame or developing new ideas? How does one get the idea of making a game about thorny creatures rolling around in a colourful world using ramps, large stones and physics to solve puzzles?

Nice question! We were all like “Guys, let’s make a WiiWare game!” so we sat down and brainstormed for a bit. Once we got a couple of ideas, we sorted out those that were too complicated for us, or aiming at an audience that wasn’t represented by the Wii userbase. Since we already had a game about balls, called FunkyBall (you can play it for free at playlion.com), we decided to use experience from that and create something a bit more sophisticated. As Funkyball was already abstract, we decided to give the game more character (imagine if we didn’t, we’d have NightGame and LionGame coming out at the same time). From our initial concept, we came up with a character who is a crossbreed between Chuzzle, Furry of the Furries and a Critter. Then we have created the whole story about the world, the events and all other things furry. Thorns are the means of attack for the Furballs, but its still on the drawing board, so you might see that functionality represented differently in the final version. Future, always in motion it is!

In Furry Legends the player works quite a lot with physics and gravity. There have been quite a few videogames in the past years using a physics engine, be it World of Goo, Super Mario Galaxy, Little Big Planet or Boom Blox. Why do you think is that idea so popular and why did you decide to implement correct physical measurements for gameplay in Furry Legends?

In general, implementing such a system makes things easier. Once you have a system controlling the whole scene, creating levels, traps, new features is way, way easier. Everything works from the get-go and you don’t need to script or hardcode any elements.
It also makes stuff more familiar for the players. Everyone knows how gravity or swinging works, and looking at piles of boxes collapsing realistically is just nice.
There are drawbacks though, the physics are realistic, but its not always fun. There are certain laws of physics that just kill the gameplay. We had to go around some things like that to make sure the game controls are natural and the gameplay sticks with the genre. One easy example would be air-control. There are examples of platform games without air control, and they’re just not fun. In Furry Legends you will be able to make those precise jumps without cursing the heavens and repeating them for the 100th time.

(How) will you use the Wii(mote)'s motion sensing abilities? And how will you control the furry characters?

We have prototyped a lot of ideas for the controls. Ideas such as making circular movements with your Wii Remote Controller to spin the ball, or swinging the controller to give the ball the momentum. Sadly, these didn’t really work well, mostly because they were not ergonomic enough and would tire the player easily, and most of all, were not fun.
In my opinion, using certain technology only because it is there, isn’t always good. Let’s look at platform games – motion sensing just doesn’t make sense here. For example, LittleBigPlanet doesn’t use the Sixaxis functionality at all, and still is a fun game. We decided against most of motion controls, because they simply didn’t fit the game.
One thing left was the attacks – to attack you will need to hold the B button to get your barbs out and then swing the Wii Remote Controller in the direction of the enemy to attack him. Pressing some buttons and activating certain mechanisms will work in a similar way.

How much content are you planning to offer? How long will the game be?

That’s not something I can provide metrics for at this time, but we’re certainly aiming for a couple of hours of gameplay.

Furry Legends is your first title for Nintendos WiiWare service: Why did you choose Nintendos platform for your idea?

Most of all, it had low entry barriers. The devkits are relatively cheap, the install base is pretty large, and the console is very popular among different demographics. The downside is the size limit for the games on WiiWare, but hopefully with the SD storage option now, it will be upped by a bit. In addition, we already had some experience with the Nintendo DS, so it was easier for us to settle in.

How do you judge the platform's lineup until today? Some claim there is too little creativity and too many puzzle-variations and conservative adaptions of old concepts on WiiWare: What do you think about that and where do you want Furry Legends to stand after it's released?

The lineup is pretty varied. There are some very high quality titles, and some budget titles. Oddly enough, some budget titles are very popular, even though one might not expect that. There’s only a couple of very high quality titles, such as Lost Winds, FF:MLAAK or Onslaught. We’re aiming to get on that shelf and debut with a high quality product. I think that WiiWare is a natural platform for puzzlers and 3D puzzlers, with the limited space and pretty intuitive controls it’s a nice match. Adaptations are always fun, the “HD” versions of old classics are very welcome. As long as the gameplay remains as fun as it was on the NES or C64, but the graphics are better, there’s nothing to complain, really.

Nobody really knows anything about Nintendos rules for WiiWare developers and their WiiWare politics, perhaps you can tell us something about it: Are there any restrictions that developers have to respect (e.g. size limitations for games)?

It’s not like nobody really knows anything about Nintendo. The first rule of the fight club, is that you do not talk about the fight club. Each developer has a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) with Nintendo, binding them not to divulge any details about the inner workings of the service. The size limit is not a mystery though. Generally there are two options: 16 and 40mb, including e-Manual. In today’s era this is pretty limiting, but we come from mobile development where we can stick hours of gameplay into 500kb build.

Nintendo has said that WiiWare is aimed specifically at small studios who want to realise their ideas with a small budget. However, other sources indicate that you still need some kind of an established team to work for WiiWare and that production costs can rise to six digits mainly due to hefty fees that Nintendo is asking for a license that allows developing for WiiWare. Excatly how big is GameLion and what's your personal experience with developing for WiiWare?

Well, Nintendo’s right. The hardware and general licences are relatively cheap, in range of what a small studio can afford. I’m not sure, but I don’t remember any hefty fees for being able to develop for WiiWare. You do need an established company with an experienced team to get the license for the devkits though. Nintendo can’t just ship their hardware to anyone who asks, because it would compromise the general security of the platform.
As for the costs, all depends on currency, but we’ll well into six figures in PLN now. Everything depends on the amount of work you want to do on a certain title, whether you license a 3rd party technology or not. The most expensive part of development is the man-hours, not legal fees or hardware.

Gamelion Studios in total has about 100 employees, but the Furry Legends team is about 10 people strong. Developing for WiiWare isn’t actually that different from developing for any other platform out there. There’s stuff that goes smooth, and there’s stuff that can halt the project for a week because we can’t find a bug, or there’s something fishy with the Wii API. Things like that happen everywhere from mobile to PS3. Wii is pretty limited, compared to 360 or PS3, but we’re finding our way around it.

How much influence does a developer like GameLion have on release dates or pricing of his titles?

A lot, and not a lot at the same time. Release dates are somewhat our own thing. Once we finish our game, we submit it to Nintendo for Quality Control, and when it’s done, we get a release slot somewhere further down the line. So, in essence, we can plan a release with some dose of accuracy.

Which role does Nintendo play in a development process for WiiWare? Do they give advice or express wishes for the final product or are you completely free of doing whatever you like?

They give us as much freedom as we want, really. They offer a free service where we can submit games for review, and they would give us tips on what works, and what doesn’t and why. We can choose whether we will listen to the feedback or not. Nintendo is very friendly in that matter. They’re not a publisher in usual sense, so there’s no pressure on our content or gameplay at all.

Can you give us a perspective of when we will be able to play Furry Legends and what we will have to pay for it?

You should be able to find Furry Legends on EU and US WiiWare somewhere between Quarter three and four of 2009.

In a short sentence: Why should we buy Furry Legends when it comes out?

Because.. *uses jedi mind trick* Furry Legends is awesome! It’s made from fun and awesomeness, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t buy it. And if enough people buy it, we’ll surely dish out more games for the WiiWare.

Our interview is coming to an end: Is there anything you would like our readers to know or think about concerning your work

I’d like to thank the community for giving us constant feedback on the stuff we’re releasing. We’re keen to hear what gamers think about our ideas. I’m also very happy with the generally positive reception of our trailer, and I hope to surprise everyone with the final title.
I would like to remind everyone that we have a development blog up (Click) where new stuff is posted pretty regularly, and where the players can ask us questions and get answers.

Happy Easter everyone, from the Furry Legends team at Gamelion!

Thank you for giving us an insight in WiiWare development and for presenting your game. We wish you the best for your project and for GameLion's future plans.

[Reag the german version of the interview, click here]

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