So, hier also das versprochene Interview. Die deutsche Übersetzung folg tinnerhalb der nächsten zwei Tage. Für eine Kurzzusammenfassung des Spiels besucht unser Launch-Center
n2g: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us. Before we begin, what’s your name and what role do/did you play in the development process of Critter Round-Up?
James: Hi, I’m James Wong, Associate Producer at Konami. I am responsible for maintaining communication between Epicenter Studios and our own QA group as well working with Nintendo to keep the game on schedule for launch.
Bryan: I’m Bryan Jury, Creative Director at Epicenter Studios. Since our team was so small, we all had to wear multiple hats, so I pretty much did whatever was needed. Essentially, I made sure the team remained focused on creating a very fun game.
n2g: Chances are that our readers already know what kind of game Critter Round-Up is, since I already wrote a short text about it in our WiiWare Launch-Center. But if you would have to describe the character of Critter Round-Up in one sentence, what exactly would you say?
James: Critter Round-Up is a unique and fun puzzle action game with a ton of charm.
Bryan: Sorry, James pretty much read my mind there...
n2g: There are five different environments the game takes place in. One of them looks very much like a normal farm and another more desert-like probably Australian environment. Could you tell us about at least one more of those environments or is it something players will have to discover themselves?
James: Every environment has its unique set of animals to challenge you. The Australian outback, for example, has kangaroos and crocodiles while the Barnyard has pigs, sheep and horses. Their behaviour varies as well.
Bryan: One of the fun twists to this is that once the player completes a certain amount of levels, we start to mix things up. You’ll see some critter combinations that nature just didn’t intend, like having elephants and meerkats in the Arctic level. If you’ve ever wondered what a polar bear chasing an ostrich looks like, you’ll soon find out.
n2g: The game also features two minigames: Snowball Soccer and Predator Rampage. Could you tell us a bit more about them and are these the only two minigames?
James: There are actually four mini-games, and each supports four players. Snowball Soccer lets two to four players play a fun, simple soccer game without all the penalties. You can kick your friends to stun them, and giraffes in the corners will kick the ball back to the center of the field if the ball gets close them, too.
In Predator Rampage, the goal is simple enough: stay alive. The animals you’re supposed to avoid will start to move faster and even more animals will start to appear on the field. This gets pretty hectic with four friends kicking each other and running for their lives.
Those aren’t the only two minigames, though. Chicken Catch and Fence Trap are two additional minigames you may not have heard about. In Chicken Catch, there are dozens of different colored chickens running around, with each color worth a different amount of points. Players need to grab the chickens and reach the top score before their opponents do.
Fence Trap is a mini-game that’ll be familiar to a lot of gamers who’ve played the arcade classic Tron. In Fence Trap, everyone builds long fences at high speed to take out their opponents.
Bryan: For me, getting 3 friends together for some Fence Attack and Predator Rampage is always a great time. There’s nothing like kicking your buddy down right in front of a hungry lion.
n2g: Up to four players will be supported in the marathon-mode, how exactly will that work?
James: Marathon Mode is an endless version of Adventure Mode for up to four players. The challenge here is to see how far you can go with your friends as you corral together. The mix of animals in each level is random – if you finished Adventure Mode, then you can try out Marathon Mode for more challenges.
Bryan: We also have another mode called Co-Op Adventure Mode that supports 4 players as well. This is a variation on Adventure mode built specifically to support additional players, so you’ve got larger maps with more critters. We’re huge fans of playing co-op with our friends, so this was a pretty critical element of the game for us to create.
n2g: I really dig the style of Critter Round-Up. Were there any inspirations for that style or the game at all and what games do you think have a great art direction?
Bryan: Our original inspiration for the art style was to kind of recreate the wood-block animal toys everyone is familiar with. We wanted to give them a clean, nearly cel-shaded look with slightly exaggerated animations, which really helped bring their character out. As far as other games’ art styles that really impress us, you really have to take a look at what Nintendo is doing with their own franchises. The minute you load up a Mario or Zelda game, you instantly know this has Nintendo’s fingerprints all over it. There’s a certain consistency there that, while not always the most impressive, it is very effective.
n2g: Critter Round-Up is going to be a launch title in North America*, but there is no word on the European release yet? Could you tell us when us European gamers are gonna be able to play your game if at all?
James: We definitely want everyone in Europe to enjoy the game and we didn’t rule out any territories from having it. I can’t officially confirm, but I’d like to tell you that we’re working with Nintendo on making it happen for European players.
n2g: Your game was a launch title in Japan also. Do you already know how well it sold and are you satisfied with that? Did you already get some feedback from Japanese players?
James: I haven’t seen feedback from Japanese gamers and we don’t have official sales numbers on it just yet, hopefully soon! What interests me most is that when the game was released in Japan as Saku Saku Animal Panic, a lot of English-based sites started to review the game. There’s been a really warm reception to the game, which made us really happy.
n2g: When it comes to controls, your game could also have been a XBOX Live Arcade or Playstation Network game. What made you choose WiiWare as your platform of choice and are there any plans to bring the game to another console or online-service?
Bryan: One of the great elements of WiiWare is that Nintendo is allowing developers to put whatever game they want on their service. When you work on an XBLA or PSN game, you need to get their approval for the concept. But Nintendo just wants us to make the game we want to make, which is really refreshing. As far as future plans to bring Critter Round-Up to other platforms, that’ll be a decision we make later on as we see how the gamers respond to it.
n2g: How was the overall support from Nintendo? Do you think Nintendo really tried to help you and simplify the whole process?
James: On our (the publisher’s) end Nintendo was responsive to all of our questions and requests. Everything was pretty straightforward and we didn’t have any major hurdles along the way.
Bryan: We have absolutely nothing but praise for how Nintendo has supported us. As soon as they got their hands on a playable build, they had genuine enthusiasm for the project.
n2g: Not the developers but Nintendo chooses which game is gonna be released when, what do you think about that?
James: We have been working with Nintendo to ensure an appropriate timeline that will encourage success for Critter Round-Up. Sure, developers and publishers might want their game out as soon as possible (especially with downloadable titles). But, say one developer wants to release a shoot-em up while another developer wants to release a similar game at the same time? It might hurt both releases, so games need to be released at just the right time so that everyone can benefit.
n2g: Since Critter Round-Up is going to be released in different regions it also needs to be localised for the different countries. Are you doing that job or is this something Nintendo is doing?
James: Publishers are responsible for localizing the game. Nintendo does have technical standards and recommendations related to localization. The game could have remained as an English-only release for North America, but we made the decision to launch it with English, French and Spanish support as well.
n2g: How big was your development team and was it fun to develop the game?
Bryan: We had a very small team. There were 3 full time guys and 1 part-time contractor, as well as sound and music contractors. This really made the team a tight-knit unit and made communication real simple. It certainly was fun to develop; I would have to say it was one of the most fulfilling titles of my career. I’ve worked on previous teams where the headcount reached 150 people, so starting small was a very refreshing change of pace.
n2g: Do you already have any ideas or concrete plans for your next game? If yes could you tell us about it or is it meant to stay a secret at the moment.
James: We’ve got two other titles in the works for WiiWare that have been announced: Crescendo (Working Title) and Fresco Beach (Working Title). Both are in early production. Keep an eye out for future announcements.
n2g: Any final words? Do you maybe have a message for our readers?
James: I’ve been seeing a lot of positive comments about the game from readers who’ve seen gameplay footage and related video reviews of Critter Round-Up. We hope that you’ll play it when it’s released!
Thank you for the interview!
*Anmerkung des Redakteurs: Zum Zeitpunkt der Erstellung der Fragen für das Interview war Critter Round-Up noch als Launchtitel vorgesehen. Tatsächlich erschien er aber erst eine Woche nach dem Launch in den USA