Postmortem: Brothers in Arms: Double Time
September 30, 2008 Page 1 of 4
[In this exclusive Wii postmortem, developer Demiurge discusses the ups and downs of bringing the Brothers In Arms WWII combat franchise -- in this case, a two-disc enhanced compilation of the first two titles in the Gearbox-created franchise -- to Nintendo's console.]
Brothers in Arms: Double Time is a first person shooter and strategy game that deviates from the standard run-and-gun, merging the action of a first-person shooter with unique tactical elements. When it comes to the Wii in 2008, Double Time is both the series' debut on the platform and the first Wii game for Demiurge Studios.
As with many first-time platform experiences, we had moments of genius, moments of folly, and moments of pure luck. A project that started as blue sky and nothing but possibilities quickly needed to become a compelling Wii experience that leveraged the platform without forfeiting gameplay. Even the seemingly simple ideas about "how to throw a grenade" on the Wii turned into intense design debates.
We faced technical obstacles, like keeping memory down, more than any other platform we had worked with before. For our studio, working on the Wii was like game development with a new and invigorating twist, and it made the project that much more fun and uniquely challenging to create.
When we started the project in late 2006, the Wii was still very new. Working on Double Time while the studio was enthralled by Wii games could not have synched up better -- we tackled the project by day and by night played every Wii game in existence.
From the onset, we sought to make Double Time feel natural and integrated with the platform. We wanted to take this story and reinvent it on the Wii. So we gathered a small, close-knit, versatile team and got to work. From technical snags to design challenges, the path to release was laden with successes and troubles.
What Went Right
1. Good platform.
The Wii proved itself to be an outstanding platform for a smaller studio. As the team size required to ship a title has grown, it's become more difficult for us independent developers to find a gig to call our own. With a history of successful co-development projects behind us, the Demiurge team decided it was time to stretch our legs a bit.
This project, and dozens of other Wii titles like it, proved to be a great way to stay in the traditional retail console space without having to staff up quickly. At a fraction of the cost of the 360 or PS3, the development equipment pricing also made getting started a lot easier. The innovation of the Wii interface also helped foster an innovative spirit at Demiurge -- and really in the game industry as a whole -- that we've been able to maintain moving forward on our 360, PS3, and PC projects.
2. User testing refined the control scheme.
We knew that the control scheme was a crucial deciding factor of whether Brothers in Arms: Double Time would succeed on this platform. The inclination is to use all the features of new technology, but we wanted to make sure the Wii controls folded well into the gameplay -- not the other way around. So the team sat down and brainstormed creative ways to leverage the abilities of the Wiimote and Nunchuk without overdoing it. After several iterations, we began running user tests to help settle on a final control scheme.
We performed two different kinds of tests. In the first, the producer administering the test did not speak, leaving the participant to rely on pure discovery to play the game. The second kind was a series of "tissue tests" in which we brought in people who had never seen the game before, from internal developers on other teams to folks outside the industry.
The tests were administered one-on-one with the producer and user tester in a private room. The tester was introduced to the game, given instruction on how to play, and asked to play a level twice, each time using different control schemes. The testers were asked to choose their favorite scheme and respond to a series of questions about their experience and preferences.
What came out of these user tests was hard data that helped us understand what players of all experiences liked and disliked about the various setups. We also discovered trends in behaviors between seasoned and new Wii players. This data eventually led to the ability to choose between two totally different control schemes in Brothers in Arms: Double Time. In the end, the two most popular schemes for testers made it into the game.
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