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Nnooo Interview

For the very first Wiiloveit interview, I got to ask Nic Watt a few questions about his company's recent(ish) WiiWare game Pop! Below, you can check out the whole thing, featuring subjects such as the freestyle multiplayer mode, the decision behind the company name Nnooo and what's currently in development down under in Australia. Enjoy!

Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi, my name is Nic Watt and I am the Creative Director at Nnooo.

How did Nnooo form?

Nnooo was formed in 2006 when myself and my partner moved to Australia. I had been working for EA in London when my partner was asked to move to Australia. I decided that with all the up and coming downloadable services for consoles (at that time) it might be a good time to set up a company focused on these services. So in July 2006 I set up Nnooo, contacted Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo about making games for XBox Live Arcade, Playstation Network and (at the time) the unannounced WiiWare service. We started a dialogue with Nintendo which took about a year to come to fruition and we were one of the first companies approved to develop for WiiWare. As you know Pop, our first title, was release on WiiWare in North America as a launch title and has since been released in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.


What about the name: Nnooo seems a bit like a strange choice for a company name.

The word Nnooo is meant to be pronounced in a comic book fashion (ie No!) and comes from when I play multiplayer games with mates. Whenever I see something I can't believe or do something stupid (IE get killed or lose) I shout out NNOOO in my Scottish accent. A lot of my colleagues used to find this funny so I have taken it as my moniker and now company name.

How big is the team there at Nnooo?

The team which worked on Pop for WiiWare was three programmers, one audio engineer and myself (fulfilling design, art, production, direction and finance!). Currently there are two full time people on Pop for iPhone; one programmer and myself doing the same as before.

We do hope to expand our team as we start developing for WiiWare, iPhone and DSiWare at the same time. However because we are small we want to expand sensibly and not rush ahead of ourselves.

We know that Pop was your first game. Before this were you working on anything else?

Yes we were working on a title called Blast for XBox Live Arcade however at the time we were trying to become approved and as the WiiWare approval came along before the XBox Live Arcade title we decided to put Blast on hold and work on Pop. We found the approval process for XBox Live Arcade a lot more frustrating than with WiiWare as Microsoft, at the time, required a game demo and complete design and concept art documents before they would approve you. For a start up this is a very costly exercise and if they reject you it will have to start back at square one. With WiiWare now that we are approved, in theory, we can develop and release what we would like on the service.

Why did you decide to make Pop?

I came up with the concept of Pop not long after being approved by Nintendo to develop for WiiWare. Basically at the time I was thinking a lot about the demographic of the Wii and what the controller was suited for. I then started thinking a lot about games which cross over between the 'core' and the 'casual' gamer markets, what sort of games they are, how they play and so forth. Some big inspirations in this were Geometry Wars, Every Extend Extra and Lumines. Lumines in particular was a great influence as my partner, who is not a big gamer, was playing a lot of it at the time. With these thoughts mulling around in my head I started to think about the Wii Remote, what it is good at, what unique properties it brings and so forth. From there I decided that shooting targets would be good fun but maybe need some dressing to make it more appealing to all users.


I
t was then that I came up with the idea for Pop. Popping bubbles is simple and people get the concept. From there I could add layers off complexity like the chain system and the wave progression so that there is more to it than just popping bubbles. We finally spent a lot of time working with each of the Wii's unique features like WiiConnect 24 and Nintendo Wifi and tried to support all of these. We are really pleased that we managed to get online high-score tables in as well as allowing the player to send messages to other player informing them of their progress.

So in essence Pop was a game we thought we could bring to WiiWare for launch and make use of most of the cool and unique features of the Wii.

We understand that online features can sometimes be a bit tricky for new games companies to produce. Did you encounter any problems when creating the online leaderboards for Pop?

Not really. Nintendo supply great examples and software for the Nintendo WiFi high-score tables so it was more of a case of following their example. However debugging it and testing all of the various error codes took a lot of time and was fairly tricky more so because we had not done it before and there are a lot of situations to test for. We also deliberately avoided online multiplayer in part because Pop relies on being able to see the other users cursor and also because we are not set up to test that sort of thing at the moment and there is nothing worse than giving gamers a shoddy online experience.


On your website, you state that Pop is coming soon to the iTunes store. Are there any new features in this edition that weren't in the original?

Yes we are pleased to announce that we are currently pretty far along on the development of Pop for iPhone and iPod Touch and hope to have it out later in 2008. We have quite a few new features for this release including 2 new modes and between 2 and 3 extra bonus rounds (taking the total to 4 bonus rounds). Training, Normal, Advanced and Chill modes will all be returning as will the badges. If you enjoyed Pop on WiiWare we think that the iPhone version is a great complement to the experience.

Why was there a longer wait for us European gamers to get their hands on the original game?

There are quite a few reasons. Firstly there was a bug in the USA version which would crash some people save when connecting to Nintendo Wifi so we had to sort that out. Then on top of that there were quite a few localisation issues which we had to sort out. We did have the game localised well in advance however some of the terminology was not 100% to Nintendo's liking so we had to fix that up. It took longer than we would have liked which is in part due to the time difference between here and Australia and part due to testing schedules. We have to resubmit to Nintendo any fixes and they have to test the whole game again, the turn around on this can be anywhere from a couple of days to about a week.

The multiplayer mode in Pop is very freestyle. What are your favourite ways to play this mode?

I really like the fact that it can change at any moment. So while my main focus might be on scoring higher than the other players when the time starts getting low we all have to start working together to build it back up. I know some players just like to work together to see how far they can get. We are really proud that the multiplayer does not force the users into one way of playing and that additional players can just join in as they feel like.

One of the best parts of Pop were the simple graphics and ambient soundtrack. Are you planning on following this trend in future games?

I believe in finding the right style for the game in both the music and the art direction. For Pop I felt that clean and crisp icon styling would be attractive to both core and casual users, the music again was intended to be dynamic and changes based on how you play the game. Our next games will all have the same attention to detail spent on the art direction and the music as we fell good distinct graphics and music really helps differentiate you from the crowd.

The advanced mode in Pop is near impossible for some people to beat (myself included). Do you have any tips for our readers?

Try learning what colour appears most in each wave and then stick to creating chains with that colour. In the early waves really try hard to create a long chain and only break it (by popping another colour of bubble) when the timer is really low, this way you will be able to get much higher scores. Hope that helps!

Do you have any other WiiWare games planned for the future?

We have quite a few game ideas we would like to work on and also some of the in various stages of development. As we have just been approved for DS development we are currently appraising that too so we can work out the best way to bring our games to WiiWare, DS and iPhone hopefully at the same time. Because we are fairly small working on multiple projects at a time is hard so our current focus is on geting the iPhone version of Pop out. Once that is done and dusted we will start looking at where our next project will go.

Will the new features in your iPod version of Pop come to WiiWare some day?

We would love to do that. Whether it will be in the form of an update or a new version we are still discussing this. We would also like to bring Pop to DSiWare too so watch this space!

Thanks for the interview. Any final comments for our readers?

No worries (as they say here). Thanks to your readers for taking time to read this, and hopefully play Pop. We hope they enjoy Pop on either WiiWare or iPhone and hope to see some of them over at our community forums commenting on the game (www.nnooo.com/community).


So there you go. Thanks a lot for that interview, Nic! From now on, you'll always have a place in my heart.

UPDATE: (Dec 08) The iPhone version of Pop is now available on the iTunes app store for anyone who wants to give it a go on there. Always happy to help, Nic!

Nic Watt was talking to Billy White


Links http://www.pop-game.net

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