[In a postmortem of the acclaimed WiiWare title, Gaijin Games' Alex Neuse looks at the creation of abstract action game BIT.TRIP BEAT, detailing what went right and wrong in the making of the original WiiWare title.]
BIT.TRIP BEAT was Gaijin Games' debut title, coming out less than a year after the team was assembled. At a breakneck pace, we tackled all the things that go along with setting up a company, designing and developing a new IP, finding and working with a publisher, and releasing a game.
While the three Gaijin team members had worked together before, we had never tried anything quite like this. Alex had tried to start Gaijin Games years ago after leaving LucasArts, but it never took off. Mike had been part of many small start-ups, but none had turned into his "home". And Chris was eager to get his feet wet as an independent developer, bringing a passion for process and efficiency to the team.
This postmortem allows you to peek behind the curtain a little bit to see how it all worked out.
What Went Right
1. We set gameplay and controls as our foundation, letting the game tell us what platform to release on.
I've heard it said that American/Western developers work from the TV out, and that Japanese/Eastern developers work from the controller in. As our company name implies, we have unlimited respect and admiration for Japanese developers, even though we recognize what we are -- gaijin. However, that did not deter us from trying to work from the controller in.
I knew that I wanted to make a series of classic-inspired games and as a big fan of "paddle" games, I knew where to start. However, lacking a spinner controller (insert rant here), there really isn't a good way to control a paddle game. I've played countless paddle games with D-Pads and Analog Sticks, each being an exercise in frustration.
In our prototyping phase, we had the bright idea to try out the Wii Remote's Motion Sensor. The moment we controlled the paddle using the Wii Remote, it was crystal clear what platform we needed to develop this game for.
Working from the controller in paid off, because if the player can't control the game well, what's the point?
2. We stayed in our comfort zone.
Having just come off of a Nintendo DS project, and having worked closely with Nintendo in the past, the decision we made with the control scheme reinforced our desire to minimize risk and work with systems that we already knew well.
Migrating our knowledge-base from the DS to the Wii was a lot easier than it would have been to switch to the 360 or PS3. The tools, SDK, and relationships we'd been working with were all familiar and easy for us to ramp up on.
Because of this "comfort zone" familiarity, we were up and running on our target platform about a week after starting pre-production. This also helped at the end of the project, having gone through Nintendo's Lot Check numerous times before.
From beginning to end, the comfort zone was a huge contributing factor to the game's success.