Me and the cloudy, question-answering collective at n-Space virtually sit down to discuss Heroes of Ruin, developmental frustrations, Star Wars: Battlefront, the fate (and possible future) of ‘Winter’, and much more. Even “Mary Kate and Ashley” makes a brief appearance.
There is only one video game company in the entire world that could simultaneously say it has worked on a series as prolific as Star Wars, legendary as Mary Kate and Ashley, and classic as Roller Coaster Tycoon. That developer is n-Space, who most of you probably know due to their work on the Call of Duty DS games and various other FPS adaptations on Nintendo’s handheld. Their portfolio is huge and their experience dates back to 1997 with a PS1 game called ‘TigerShark’, so needless to say, I went into this interview a little nervous– like a court jester trying to impress the king, or a game blogger trying to interview a well-known developer.
I was ready though, and I stepped into the room prepared for anything. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for that with which I was faced…
Sitting across from me was not a representative of n-Space. It wasn’t a developer or a publisher or a PR person. It wasn’t even a person. It was an amorphous blob filled with the thoughts and feelings of everyone on the n-Space team, as though (instead of letting one person handle it) they were going to answer my questions as an entire group, despite me not actually knowing who heard what and which part of the blob’s name was what. Was the front end Dan O’Leary? The tentacle Erick Dyke? Or maybe part of it was Sean Purcell? There wasn’t a hope at guessing, so I pressed onward into my first question despite.
“So uh…” I stammered a bit, “I can’t help but talk about Heroes of Ruin. It’s your guys’ first really “big” game, and if I’m not mistaken your first completely original IP on a Nintendo platform since Geist.” I paused and it seemed to comprehend what I was saying, “…compared to spin-offs and movie games, what’s been different about Heroes of Ruin’s development?”
I waited, watch ticking, as the question seemed to circle around through the different parts of the cloudy blob, getting the approval from each section before it spoke in a completely normal male-person-voice.
“We’ve really enjoyed working with established properties in the past and we’ve been truly fortunate to help enhance some amazing franchises, such as Star Wars, Tron and others.”, he said, “But as much as we’ve loved these experiences, it’s always exciting to start with the blank canvas of a new IP. That’s one of the reasons we were so excited to develop Heroes of Ruin. It was a great opportunity and very empowering to let our imagination truly run free.”
Okay, I figured, That was an easy one. Every interviewer asks that question. Let’s try a different angle…
“As a game developer you have to overcome hardware challenges left and right, from squeezing the files into a small cartridge to — on 3DS — figuring out how to make the 3D effect function properly.” I said, figuring that I could get a conversation rolling with some technical talk, “When developing Heroes of Ruin, did you stumble across any challenges that you just couldn’t overcome? Features you simply didn’t have the means to implement, but wish you could have?”
“Because we were so ambitious with Heroes of Ruin, we dreamt big.” It said back, this time with a much quicker answer, “A majority of our ideas were included in the final product, but some of our concepts had to be set aside due to various constraints. One concept we discussed including was a system to allow for downloadable content. We understand the role that DLC plays in this genre and how DLC would benefit Heroes of Ruin specifically, but the fates conspired against us on that one. At least for now.”
The fates seemed to be conspiring against me as well! At least things seemed to loosen up a bit, and I felt as though I could comfortably ask about any subject, Heroes of Ruin-related or not.
“Now that it’s out, what’s next? I know Roller Coaster Tycoon’s development is finished— and you have Skylanders on the way later this year — but are there other projects brewing? Do you predict that we’ll see more original IPs from you in the future?”
“What was it Yoda said in The Empire Strikes Back? “Always in motion is the future.” I can assure you that Skylanders Giants isn’t the only game we have in development, but it wouldn’t be proper for us to make any announcements today. Just keep your eyes on the official n-Space Facebook page and you’re sure to see a surprise sooner rather than later.”
I think he meant ‘Always in future is the motion’, but I’ll give him a break on this one. He referenced Star Wars, which means we could be pretty great buddies at this point, especially now that he gave me a tease to post up on the site. I was starting to warm up to him… but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Back to asking about development!
“How often do bugs get through the testing process, only to have you slamming your head against a wall post-release? I imagine seeing a bug after the game comes out must be terribly frustrating!”
“It’s definitely frustrating for us to see players run into issues after a game is released, since our driving force in making games is to create an experience that players will embrace and enjoy. That’s why we do our absolute best to find and fix as many bugs as possible before the game ships — but the larger the game, the more potential there is for bugs to arise.”
And Heroes of Ruin is a large game, let me tell you. I just reached the end, and while it’s not a terribly varied experience, there are sidequests and multiplayer aspects that you could sink hours into given the time.
“To give some perspective, the typical game team squashes anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 bugs or more before a game releases.”
I stopped him there just for a moment. Fifty… thousand bugs!? That’s a monumental amount of work I would think! How would they find all of those!?
“How do you find all of those!?” I almost yelped. He appeared to raise a quizzical eyebrow at my behavior (despite having no face), but answered anyway.
“For the most part, we find bugs the same way consumers do: by playing the game over and over in every way imaginable. It’s a much more deliberate process for quality assurance teams, and together we try to make the game as solid and bug-free as possible. But it’s one of those unfortunate facts of game development that some bugs are going to slip through the cracks, or consumers are going to come across situations that our internal and external testing groups never found. Our hope is that if a small number of players do encounter a bug, it’s not something that stops their progress or hinders their experience with a game we’ve poured our hearts into.”
I had calmed down by this point, but my brain was still foggy and for some reason I thought it was an awesome idea to ask about those old Mary Kate and Ashley games.
“Why for the love of all things decent did you cancel “Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action!?”
It appeared I had spoken a bit too frantically once again, and he took a step back- despite having no feet.
“Uhh… actually, we didn’t cancel the game.” he began to answer carefully, “We didn’t even work on it. We worked on three Mary-Kate and Ashley games — Magical Mystery Mall, Crush Course and Sweet 16 — and all three shipped. The Wikipedia page for n-Space inexplicably links us to Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action, which is apparently a game Acclaim had in development at one point. But we weren’t involved with that project, so we couldn’t tell you what happened there.”
Oh uhh… Well, not I felt dumb. Maybe I could relate this back to topic at hand…?
“Plans on continuing the Mary Kate and Ashley series on 3DS?”
That was a horribly silly question. Why did I even ask that question.
“We don’t currently have another game for the series in development. And I can also tell you this may be the first time we’ve been asked about the series in the better part 10 years.”
Well, at least that’s a win, right? I’m putting that on my resumé from now on. “Only person to ask about the Mary Kate and Ashley series developed by n-Space in 10 years.” I shall go apply for Editor in Chief of IGN right now!
But first I had an interview to finish. What were some other series’ that they had ceased development on… Oh right!
“Winter on Wii U. Any new rumblings around the office about it, or is it on the back burner until a publisher shows interest?”
“Frankly, I don’t think the office has ever stopped rumbling about Winter. There’s an intense amount of love among the team for the game. And the more we’ve seen the survival horror genre switch its focus from surviving to reloading, the more we feel the market is hungry for a game like Winter. So what’s the bottom line? The bad news is that we haven’t yet found the right opportunity. The good news is that Winter is just like any good horror movie monster.”
He paused for dramatic effect.
“It’s not dead.”
Lightning struck outside the virtual room we were in, and I jumped a little. It was time for me to get out of there so I needed a wrap-up question that was totally relevant to Heroes of Ruin, the game I’d be reviewing the following day!
“Finally, will you please make a Star Wars: Battlefront game for 3DS? Maybe port the second game to it? Too many people are looking for Battlefront 3. You could do it. You don’t need LucasArts’ permission. They don’t even have to know about it until it’s done. Make it happen.”
The blob leaned in close to me, despite not having a neck or body or anything that you need to lean in close to something.
“You want to know a secret?”
“Yes.” I answered reflexively.
“We finished and released the Nintendo DS version of Battlefront 3. Seriously. Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron was going to be released as Star Wars Battlefront 3 until the console versions ran into problems.”
Whaaaat!? This is absurd! I wish this interview would have taken place in a real place instead of a virtual place so I could make them talk more about Battlefront 3!
“At that point,” he continued, “the Nintendo DS version of Battlefront 3 was rebranded Elite Squadron and released. So as Obi-Wan Kenobi might observe, Battlefront 3 was released “from a certain point of view.”
He sure did like quoting Star Wars. Which is a fine thing to quote, but he did it a lot.
“Will we ever see a proper Battlefront 3, though? It’s tough to say. We’re huge fans of the franchise and would love to work with LucasArts again. And that’s a huge brand for them. But if a new game is going to be done in that series, it has to start at the top.”
Grrrr. Oh well. Thunder cracked and I got scared again so I frantically thanked it and left the room. The end.
Want the basic question-n-answer format for this interview? Click here.
Thanks to Joshua Lynsen for setting this up and helping me out with all of it, thanks to n-Space for doing cool things, thanks to Square Enix for giving me that game for free, and thanks to n-Space again for hopefully not caring that I turned them into an amorphous blob for entertainment purposes.Pages: 1 2