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Can You Create A Must-Have Wii Game?


March 9, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
 

That is why, says Antoine Guignard, that focusing on the controller interface is vital. Guignard is the producer of the Wii version of Ubisoft's Shaun White Snowboarding, subtitled Road Trip.

The title released in November to positive reviews about how the game utilizes both the Wiimote and the Wii Balance Board. (IGN said: "The motion controls feel great and the balance board turns out to be a fine snowboard.")

In addition, Ubisoft's post-launch financials particularly mentioned the Wii version as a sales highlight as part of 'solid', if specifically unstated North American sales for the franchise.

While there are Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Shaun White, the success of the Wii version, says Guignard, is mainly due to the decision not to port the game over but rather to make a version that showcases the Wii's strengths.

"Because the Wii doesn't have the horsepower of the other next-gen platforms," Guignard recalls, "we decided to use a more stylized, more cartoony art style. We knew that if we didn't do that, if we used a more realistic style, we would be compared negatively to the other versions."

Initially, because the Wii Balance Board was not yet on the market, the game's sole controller was the Wiimote, and Guignard's team planned to pack as many tricks into the game as the remote controller would allow.

"But the game became so complicated, we quickly realized that we needed to unlearn what we would normally do with, say, a PlayStation control pad with all its buttons and inputs," says Guignard.

"Unlearning what we had done when designing previous games and, instead, thinking differently about this new kind of audience was very, very important. Which is why we chose to go the opposite way and oversimplify the controls so that everyone could handle them and enjoy them."

When the Balance Board became available, the developers incorporated it into the mix so that virtual snowboarders could use either controller -- or both.

The secret to insuring that the controllers were easily utilized by the casual gaming audience was to "playtest, playtest, playtest using outside casual gamers," reveals Guignard. "Our challenge was to not require overly complex gestures and yet create great snowboarding sensations."


Ubisoft's Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip

For instance, the testers seemed to have problems using their balance board to jump onto a rail. The team decided to code an "automatic magnet" on the rail so all the snowboarder had to do was move near the rail and the jump would happen automatically.

"We were then concerned that we'd eliminated some of the challenge," says Guignard, "but the testers seemed pleased. When they told us they could pick up the game and understand it in the first 15 minutes of play, when they told us that both the Wiimote and the Balance Board felt right when they were snowboarding, we knew we'd nailed it."

But even more important than creating a game that "feels right," says Wedbush Morgan's Pachter, is coming up with a concept that the Wii audience understands immediately. 

"If the concept is right, if the recognition factor is there, if you 'get it' from what's on the box, sometimes the game doesn't even have to be that good in order for it to sell," he admits. "When a housewife is in Wal-Mart and sees Jillian Michaels' face on Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009 for Wii, nobody has to explain it to them."

"They recognize her from TV's Biggest Loser, they know they have a Wii Fit Balance Board at home, and they buy the game. Do they know whether it's a good game or not? Doesn't matter."

"For example, I thought THQ's de Blob was a really great Wii game but Ubisoft's The Price Is Right outsold it 3-to-1. So did THQ's Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader: Make The Grade. That's sad. But it tells you who the audience is."


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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