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[Interview] PlayEveryWare on bringing Elliot Quest to Wii U, update on 3DS release, more

Posted on March 13, 2016 by (@NE_Brian) in 3DS eShop, Interviews, Wii U eShop

About a year ago, PlayEveryWare published Elliot Quest on Wii U eShop. The company then announced last July that the game, which was well-received by players and critics, would be ported to additional platforms, including 3DS.

We recently caught up with PlayEveryWare’s Thomas O’Connor for a status update on the portable version and to reflect on the experience of bringing the game to Wii U. O’Connor also spoke about a couple of other projects that have kept the company busy.

Head past the break for our full Elliot Quest-focused interview.

Going back to the origins of Elliot Quest on Nintendo platforms, how was it decided that the game would be released on Wii U? Did Ansimuz Games contact you directly about handling the port?

I was a big fan of Elliot Quest from when I first saw it on Kickstarter. Zelda 2 on the NES was my favorite game from that era, and I had always dreamed of making a game just like it. So of course I was totally inspired to see another indie developer making a spiritual successor, and doing it better than I would have imagined doing it myself. Seeing more of the game, it was clear the developer and I had a lot of other similar loves, most notably Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger. This game became locked in my radar.

A little while later while working on a 3DS title for a client, I found out about a tool from Nintendo called Nintendo Web Framework (NWF). This allows developers to package HTML5 based applications and publish them just the same as native apps. I remembered Elliot Quest was being developed in ImpactJS, so it seemed like the fates had aligned so that I could play the game on my consoles. I contacted Luis Zuno, the man behind Ansimuz Games developing Elliot Quest, and told him that he should sign up as a Nintendo developer! Unfortunately, at the time Nintendo wasn’t able to approve developers in Mexico. Once we found out it wouldn’t be possible for Luis to port the game himself, we started talking about collaborating on it.

Elliot Quest has been available on the eShop for almost a year now. Looking back on things, how was the experience of bringing it to Wii U? Did you encounter any notable difficulties along the way, or did the process go smoothly?

I think most people understand that developing and publishing a console game is can take a fair amount of effort. However, we found that porting an HTML5 game has it’s own challenges! Tools like NWF have both benefits and disadvantages. The biggest benefit is that it is super easy to get started – drop your HTML5 game into a new project and with just a few adjustments things are running on the dev kit! You don’t have to worry about low level APIs for communicating with the system. But the trouble comes when you do run into an issue – it can be a lot harder to pinpoint the cause because you don’t actually get to see the code. You’re reliant only on documentation, and the high level tools made available to you.

HTML5 games, in general, is also just a super weird place. I had taught a class on game development using HTML5 at the University of Washing, so I was very comfortable with JavaScript and canvas rendering and things. But it’s all done in a space where you’re using web development technologies to debug system level issues (like out of memory errors, memory fragmentation, CPU performance, etc). The hardest thing is optimizing your JavaScript code, which all runs in a C++ engine that you don’t have the code for, using the webkit web inspector tools as your only window into what’s happening (a tool that is definitely built for web developers who generally have different concerns than game developers, and especially from console game developers). I will say that Nintendo has done a great job with the Nintendo Web Frameworks and making it a great development environment that bridges the gap. It’s a lot of fun to work in, and I think does a great job of showing a way forward for intersecting these two spaces.


Several updates were made available for Elliot Quest following its launch. Would you say it was easy to push out the various patches?

Making and submitting patches with Nintendo’s tools and processes is very straightforward. However, we’ve learned the hard way unfortunately that you can’t get enough QA on updates. Nintendo’s process for getting a patch out can be quite time consuming. Almost all of that is just waiting for your submission to get through the queue to be tested for certification issues, and then to be released. When your players run into a bug that is really important to get fixed, but you know it’ll take 3-4 weeks after you submit an update to get released, there’s an incredible amount of pressure to hurry. I had succumb to that urge to rush things, because I hated the fact that players were getting stopped from enjoying the game that Ansimuz made because of a bug I made. But rushing led to getting a patch out that just traded one bug for another, and that meant it would be another 3-4 weeks before another fix could be released. All that waiting nearly drove me mad! While not of all the press were very forgiving about these delays, thankfully a lot of the community was very understanding, as we did our best to keep them updated. We’ve learned a lot from this experience, and have not only gotten better with our QA processes, but I personally have learned to be more patient in things.

Are you pleased with how the game sold on the eShop?

Yeah, totally! Of course I would have loved to have sold as well as Shovel Knight, but I think that’s a pretty special case. It’s done well for our size of company, and for the time it took us. For Ansimuz Games I think it’s been especially great because it’s basically just extra revenue on top of his Steam version.

A few months ago you announced that Elliot Quest is in the works for 3DS. How’s that coming along?

So very slowly. We are making progress, though.

What was the motivation behind wanting to release Elliot Quest on additional platforms?

Elliot Quest was just a perfect fit for the Wii U. It’s totally a Nintendo game at heart, living up to the legacy of Zelda 2, and also for having the integration with the Wii U GamePad and Miiverse. But not everyone has a Wii U, and I really want as many people out there to experience the game! We always planned to bring the game out to all the systems, but because the game was written in HTML5, the Wii U was the best first place to go with their Nintendo Web Framework support.

Also, this gives my company a great opportunity to expand our porting and publishing experience. Of course we’ve already had experience developing games for the other platforms through some of our work-for-hire projects, or from other day jobs our team has had through the years. So we already know our way around all the development kits and tools for the different systems. But Elliot Quest was also the first title PlayEveryWare has published. Starting on the Wii U gave us a chance to focus and really learn the process in-depth. Everything from working with Nintendo for promotion in a Nintendo Direct and taking the game to Indiecade, to making store-front assets, marketing to press, running booths at PAX and Gamescom, and connecting with our customers and providing support through Miiverse, email, and twitter. It’s something we’ve knew was going to be a lot of work for just one platform. Now that we have a good grasp of it all, we are ready to expand on those skills and take on even more. With each new project, whether partnered with another indie team or something we do ourselves, we have that much more behind us to help us succeed!


Have there been any technical challenges in bringing Elliot Quest to Nintendo’s handheld?

We are rewriting the game from HTML5 to C++. We’ve considered Unity, but we really want to get the game out on the 3DS, not just the New 3DS, so C++ is our best route.

It’s difficult because there’s a lot of stuff the browser does that we’ll now have to do (in the case of the Wii U, it was NWF taking the place of the browser). A lot of the game’s structure is built around the ImpactJS game engine, so it’s also a question of how much to emulate that versus. restructuring the game logic. There are some really tough tradeoffs, especially when we’re trying to do this multiplatform too, but we’ve been working on ways to make our lives easier – such as quick ways to convert scripts and game data to work in our new engine.

Will there be any new elements or features in the 3DS version of Elliot Quest such as stereoscopic 3D support? Or will it play exactly the same as its Wii U counterpart?

We’re still exploring this, both how to best implement the 3D features, and what other changes would be appropriate in this update to the game. We’ll be working closely with Ansimuz Games on this, just as we did with the Miiverse Journal and GamePad integration on the Wii U, as the content of the game is his.

Do you have any particular release window in mind for Elliot Quest on 3DS?

Things are pretty busy for us, but we’re trying to clear out the rest of our schedules so that we can get the 3DS, PS4 and Xbox One releases of Elliot Quest out this year. Right now it’s looking like late fall is possible.

Aside from the new versions of Elliot Quest, do you have anything else in the pipeline currently?

We’ve actually just wrapped up work on two other Wii U game projects, both in HTML5.

The first one is Jewel Quest, which is being published by iWin, Inc. It’s like the OG of match 3 games. I think they should be announcing a release date very soon.

The other one is Olympia Rising, which we’ve partnered with Paleozoic Games to port and publish to Wii U. It’s a lot fun! It’s a 2D action platformer about a young warrior named Iola, who has been cast into the Underworld after meeting an untimely end. She has a very cool jumping and attack mechanic that helps her climb the Underworld with great maneuverability. It’ll be coming in in all regions in April!

Oh, we’ve also been working on a Japanese translation of Elliot Quest for the Wii U, and handed that over to Pikii to be published in Japan!

Any final thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers about Elliot Quest?

I’d really love to see Ansimuz make a sequel, or another complete game, wouldn’t you?

Nintendo Everything would like to thank Thomas O’Connor for taking the time to answer our questions. Elliot Quest is now available on the Wii U eShop. Jewel Quest also released this past Thursday, with the European version coming in April.

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