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Interview: Capcom's Nakai On Remaking  Dead Rising  For Wii
Interview: Capcom's Nakai On Remaking Dead Rising For Wii Exclusive
January 6, 2009 | By Christian Nutt

January 6, 2009 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Exclusive, Design

[A migration from Xbox 360 to Wii is not only uncommon, but deceptively complex, especially for a title like Capcom's Dead Rising. Producer Minoru Nakai talks with Gamasutra about the process, from reducing polygon counts by hand to adjusting the game's mechanics to make it more approachable to casual players.]

Originally released for the Xbox 360 in August 2006, Dead Rising has players taking on the role of photojournalist Frank West as he fights off zombies and rescues survivors in a shopping mall infested with the undead.

A Wii version, titled Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, is due this February, using a modified version of the Resident Evil 4 Wii engine (itself a modified version of the RE4 GameCube engine), instead of Capcom's in-house MT Framework engine used for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC titles.

With the different engine and the system's hardware limitations, Chop Till You Drop now features an RE4-styled over-the-shoulder perspective -- but also loses the original's photography feature and offers less onscreen enemies, according to initial previews.

To find out more about the changes to Dead Rising on its journey to the Wii, as well as Capcom's process for the migration, we talked with producer Minoru Nakai.

So, you're porting Dead Rising to the Wii. Obviously, the big challenge there is that the MT Framework engine isn't available on the Wii. I was wondering if you'd talk a little bit about the process of porting a next-generation game to the Wii console.

Minoru Nakai: This time, it's not really a port so much as it is a remake. We made it from the ground up -- from scratch -- basically saying, "This is what we had in the 360 version, and this is what we want to do, so we're just going to remake it from scratch."

Were you able to bring over most of the content, like assets, models, recording of voices, and other things, or did you have to remake a lot of that for the Wii version?

MN: Things like voice, of course, stayed the same. We were able to use the original versions. But things like polygons ... the Wii can't handle as many polygons, so we took the models from the 360 version and we reduced the polygon count and things like that, and we were able to recycle and reuse them that way.

Did you use an automated process to reduce the models, or did you have to go in by hand and have someone on the team and the art staff manually reduce all of the models using your tools?

We had to have a designer and programmers go in and do that by hand.

Most often, companies make distinctly different versions of a game for Wii than they'd have for the PS3 or Xbox 360 -- as you said, it basically has to become a remake. What other changes did you have to make to the game in bringing it over to the Wii?

MN: For this one, of course the foremost [goal] is making the Wii Remote control fun for users. That was a big thing. The other thing was also making it easier to use and control, for even casual players. We've also included difficulty levels, so you can choose Easy, Normal, and Hard. Those are some new additions to the game that we've made.

Did you actually change the fundamental design of the game at all, either to evolve the original or to tailor for the Wii audience?

MN: We've read a lot of different reports. People said things like, "The fonts are too small. We can't read them. There are too few save spots," and things like that. So, we've taken some of that feedback that we've received from people and taken that into consideration when making this game.

The Wii seems to have a shortage of high-profile, mature action games. Did Capcom decide to port Dead Rising to the Wii because you perceived a void in that market, or did you just think that this would be a fun game to play on the platform?

MN: When we first made the Resident Evil 4 port for Wii, it was a new system, and we thought it might look interesting.

We also felt that it would match pretty well with the world of Dead Rising. That's when we started thinking, "Oh, maybe we should make Dead Rising for Wii."

I see. When it comes to planning a new version of a game and remaking it for the Wii console, you probably had to prioritize what you would need to change. Did you have a good sense going into the project about what could stay the same and what could change, or were there any surprises that you found?

MN: From the very beginning, of course we knew of some things that we wouldn't be able to do, but along the way, we've had a couple of surprises -- things even that we'd looked at and been like, "Oh, we can't put this in the final version." Things like that. Every day, even now, we continue to have new surprises popping up.

Can you talk a little bit about what some of the surprising things that you uncovered as you were developing the remake were?

MN: One thing, for example, is when you have to take survivors to the security room. We had to redo the layout for where we would put the enemies in order to keep it more interactive.

Also, the order in which you have to rescue the survivors, or where the survivors themselves are located. Things like that took a lot of adjusting, fixing, re-fixing, and figuring out how to make it more fun.

So, basically, you're taking the chance of making the remake as a way to put a little polish and balance into the game, where maybe the original version didn't, and try to make it a little more fun basically. It's a chance to rebalance the game?

MN: This time, we really wanted to make it more for the casual users. The original version was much more for hardcore users, so it's just been a transition of trying to make it more fun and easier and accessible, even to casual users.

Did you work on the original 360 version of the game?

MN: I did not participate in the original.

I'm sure you've talked to many people on the team who worked on the original version. Was there any feedback that you guys got from the audience anywhere in the world -- not necessarily just in the West -- that really surprised you and that you were able to act on for the Wii remake version?

MN: One surprising thing was feedback from people who liked the ability to change Frank's costume. So, this time, we've made it so that you can change into more costumes.

I may be wrong, but I believe I read that you guys are actually repurposing the Resident Evil 4 engine for this game.

MN: We are kind of using it, but we've also adjusted it and tweaked it a little to adapt it for Dead Rising.

Something that interests is that Dead Rising was a really good looking game when it came out for the 360 -- better than a lot of the games that came out at the time -- and it had really good shaders.

But the Wii doesn't do hardware effects. Are you trying to preserve those sorts of things, or did you have to create software shaders? Or do you just have to accept the fact that it's not going to be able to pull off the same kind of polish and effects?

MN: Of course, we had to compensate for that with software, and in places that we couldn't, we would do layers and effects like that to make it appear as though it had shaders on it.

If I recall correctly, it's been quite a while since I've played the 360 version, but there wasn't much loading. The mall was very large and you could go through it, but obviously the Wii has a lot less memory. Did you have to reconfigure the maps or write a streaming system or anything like that?

MN: The map size is the same, and we were willing to keep it so that people could still play what they were playing before. The Wii hardware spec itself makes for fast loading times, so it's really largely unaffected.

On one hand, a Wii game should have very Wii-like controls and be very fun to play -- but on the other hand, Dead Rising was originally designed to be played with button presses, which are more precise and faster. Can you talk about how you were able to change the controls and still make the game feel accurate and fun to play?

MN: Last time, with the Xbox 360, we had buttons, and it was very complex. Of course, you could do whatever you wanted at the press of a button, but the controls were very difficult, so they were really more for hardcore users.

For casual gamers, we wanted it to be easier to understand and easier to use, so of course, even hardcore gamers will be able to point and do whatever they want to do very quickly, but this also makes it more accessible for the casual users.

Did you have to do anything to modify the design of the game to incorporate the Wii controls, or was it really just about mapping them directly to what you had before? Or did things have to change, in terms of maybe enemy speed, or their health or anything like that?

MN: We didn't want to keep the zombies too slow, because if we made them too slow, it wouldn't be much of an action game anymore. In that respect, we sped up some of the zombies.

We've also introduced new enemies into the gameplay, and we've also made the map a little bit more maneuverable, so that it's easier to get across the mall and things like that. So, in those ways, we've tried to improve the gameplay.

The original version of the game had really good character animation. I was wondering if anything about the character animation -- in terms of follow-through with an attack, or anything like that -- had to change based on users' reaction time is with the Wii controller.

MN: The motions were taken from Resident Evil 4 and Dead Rising, so those were from the originals.

But we did make it match up to how the player swings the Wii Remote, so if the player's swinging something, then Frank will also be swinging at the same time.

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Taure Anthony
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Very interesting I'm always intrigue to hear development on the Wii it forces you to be creative/innovative due to its limitations

Roberto Alfonso
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I read that, because of hardware limitations, they had to remove zombies and add smaller enemies like undead birds. While it is not the same, it should give a good use to the Wii remote (killing flying birds with two analogs would be pretty hard, but a breeze with the remote).

Jake Romigh
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I can't believe that they took out photography aspect out of a game where the lead character IS A JOURNALIST. Also, it was extremely fun to snap pictures and show them to your friends... you'd think with the SD slot that the Wii would be prime for this kind of functionality.

But what do I know.

Arthur Protasio
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It makes sense to speed up some zombies, after all there won't be as many around as there were in the original on-screen at a given time. On the 360 there were so many zombies after you, you didn't need any of them to be faster.

It's also curious to note that since they're using a modified version of the Resident Evil 4 Engine, the camera perspective will change to "over the shoulder". That's way different in comparison to the original, which let you control it.

Chris Melby
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What really bothers me about this game, is its "accessible" branding. I can understand making the controls more intuitive, but when a developer produces a game for everyone, so these so called casual gamers, when it's clearly a niche title, they turn off core gamers that would normally buy it -- look at EA's line up. If it hadn't been branded casual and accessible, I would not be so weary about purchasing it.

I read that they incorporated the side quests of the 360 version into the main game, because they wanted all users to experience them. The big problem with this, is that it can limit the replay value. If they had done this sort of thing with RE4 Wii, I doubt I would have played it more than once.

This interviewer's comment was rather odd; "Dead Rising was originally designed to be played with button presses, which are more precise and faster." The Wii has buttons, 11 of them when counting the 2 on the nun-chuck -- this excludes the home and power buttons of course. So, is he or she implying that because a Wiimote offers more input options than just buttons, developers aren't supposed to use them if it makes more sense?

What I don't get, is why Capcom decided to put in a power waggle to swing the baseball. Holding down a button and swinging would have only made sense. After all, the Wii does have an accelerometer. I also don't like that they carried over the sniper thumb-aiming from RE4 -- that's just lazy. If they're doing so for added difficulty, since the Wiimote makes pointing easier and more precise, they could have further adjusted the sway to compensate. MOH2 on the Wii has an excellent example of a sniper rifle done right using the Wiimote.

On the amount of zombies. This game is clearly limited by the modified GameCube RE4 engine, which was never designed for mobs of on screen foes, but faster more opposing enemies, which need to be strategically killed.

I'd rather have fewer smarter enemies to deal with like in RE4 or Dead Space, where as I have to target their knees or limbs, than tons of morons that can be shot anywhere and it doesn't matter. If DR Wii turns out to be a shoot fest like Lost Planet, I will not care for it at all. Capcom will have successfully killed what made RE4 so much fun.

If Capcom had truly built this from scratch, they could have produced an experience similar to the 360, approaching a similar amount of zombies. The PS2 with its severely limited hardware by today's standards, has examples of games with hundreds of on screen enemies.

This is just a general comment, not targeting anyone here, but I really don't get the mentality of some Wii hardware nay-sayers. Of course it's not a PC or a PS3/360, but it's certainly a step up from last generation. With the Xbox and even the limited PS2, the sky was the limit for many developers -- look at RE4 -- but now for some reason, many developers and fellow tech nerds can only see the Wii as being less capable than even a GameCube. Seriously, has everyone swallowed a stupid pill? Just because so many developers have treated the Wii as a PS2 dumping ground, does not mean that it's as limited as one. The big difference between the Wii and PS2, is that the ladder has had 3rd party games built for it on AAA budgets. I've been gaming since the seventies, I think the biggest limitation to any game is the developer, not the hardware

I also want to comment that the 360 version of this game was built in-house on a AAA budget. The Wii version is being built by a very small outsourced low-budget team. There's really no comparison between Dead Rising Wii and the 360, because Capcom never meant it to be in the same class. When it comes down to it, it's another cash-in attempt on their part. Their in-house teams are all tied up with RE5 and other AAA titles not coming to the Wii, so Capcom is only doing what they can given their limited resources, since they like so many developers assumed that the 360 or PS3 would be the dominate console -- so invested accordingly.