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Studio Walljump Interview - Liight

There are many different puzzle games available on WiiWare now, and quite a few on their way. Liight was one that stood out from the crowd though, and so we got in touch with Nick over at Studio Walljump (in the US of A, no less) to give us the lowdown on how the game plays, the online features and when it will be available on your Wii.

Wiiloveit: Hello there - would you like to start by introducing yourself?

Studio Walljump: My name is Nicholas Trahan and I'm the 'End Boss' at Studio Walljump.  I'm an artist and a game designer and a gamer.  My favorite games are Dragon Warrior, Pokemon, Ikaruga, Solstice, Dead or Alive 2, Planet Puzzle League, and a few others.  Currently I’m playing Mirror’s Edge and loving it, whenever my new-found Warhammer 40k miniatures addiction releases it’s power-fisted grip on my spare time…

Studio Walljump hasn't yet released any games - do you want to tell us about how your company came to be and why you chose to develop for WiiWare first?

I originally started Studio Walljump as a game-art contracting company I could run from home when my wife and I became parents.  Then plan was to save up some funds and eventually try to make my own game.  When I had the idea for Liight, I showed it to my friend Roland Ludlam and he put together a working version of the concept overnight.  We’ve been pushing forward with our heads down since then. 

WiiWare was a natural choice for me because of my experience and connections with Nintendo.  Liight was designed for the Wii from day one and I think it benefits from that.

Your first WiiWare game, Liight, looks pretty good. Do you want to explain the basic idea of the game?

It's a tough game to explain in words, but quite simple to understand in practice.  Liight is a brain-teaser type puzzle game where each puzzle is a board with a different array of small, colored targets on it.  The goal is to illuminate all the targets with colored light that matches the colored targets.  Every lit target plays music, and each target adds more music until the whole puzzle is lit up and a full song is playing.  You'll have to blend colored lights to make secondary colors, and use obstacles for shadow casting to solve more complex puzzles.  They can get pretty hard!

If you've played Auditorium, the game's structure is very similar, but the puzzle solving is much more logical and predictable and a lot less chaotic and exploratory.  Also, the music in Liight is different every time you play, which is fun.  In addition to the puzzle Solving mode, Liight has an Editor mode where you can create your own puzzles, and share them with other players over WiiConnect24.  It also has an arcade-style mode you can unlock called Nonstop mode, with rules that are similar to Solve but more like Tetris or E4, where you’re constantly solving puzzles to stay alive and earn as many points as possible through combos!  It’s pretty cool. 

How did you think of the concept for Liight?

I was working an art contract at local studio, and they had this tech demo of this shadow casting system they were hoping to use in a game somehow.  I tried to contribute some ideas for games that weren’t combat based, and one of the ideas was picture of a puzzle you solve with lights. It turned out they had a pretty clear policy against contractors submitting game ideas (for legal reasons I guess), so I tucked it away, and that became Liight.

Who would you say that Liight is aimed at, and why?

Liight is aimed at the ‘expanded audience’ that the Wii has, but with a focus on players who are ready to move past WiiSports and maybe take one step closer to more sophisticated games.  On the other hand, I’ve made sure that it’s not going to put any traditional gamers to sleep or put them off of the game by being too simple.  I’ve had all kinds of people play Liight and everyone has found something they like about it.

In Liight, the art design is very simplistic and it looks very effective. Why did you choose to go with this style?

The concept for Liight is fairly abstract, and so I felt that the game needed to be simple looking so people could understand it as easily as possible and concentrate on the puzzle solving.  I also wanted it to look cool and space-age, and borrow from the Wii’s standard styling so that new players feel comfortable and familiar.  After that the style pretty much designed itself.

This one's not a question as such, but I think that the soundtrack to Liight is pretty good from what I've heard.

That depends on how good you are at solving puzzles!!!  The music you hear in Liight is built up randomly each time you solve a target, drawing from bank of techno music loops we’ve made to all be compatible with each other.  It’s always satisfying when you get a really good sounding configuration at the end of the puzzle!  We’ve even used the editor before as a sound mixer, which is a pretty fun non-game you can play, with it.

Will this game include any multiplayer or Nintendo Wi-fi Connection features, and if so, how will these work?

There are no local multiplayer options for Liight, but we do use WiiConnect24 for puzzle sharing.  We also have contests!  You can send a puzzle out to a bunch of your friends, and they all have a week to open it up and solve it. Whoever solves the puzzle the fastest gets a trophy added to their trophy room.

One problem people have with puzzle games is their length. How many different levels are you offering in Liight, and how do you plan on keeping the players attention?

We’ve thought about this a lot with Liight, and I think we’ve handled it really well.  Obviously with most puzzle games like this, once you solve the puzzles you’re pretty much done, and so the smarter you are the quicker you’re done.  In Liight there are 100 puzzles that come with the game, and then you can create puzzles forever and challenge your friends.  Also, there’s Nonstop mode, which was designed specifically to address this issue.  I am confident that players who play Nonstop for score and really discover the strategies for making huge combos and bonuses will find that Nonstop provides a satisfying experience for a really long time.  I know it’s the part I’m the most excited about!!!  But then, I know how to solve all the puzzles already…

When do you expect Liight to be available, and how much do you think it will sell for?

We’re aiming for between 800 and 1000 Wii Points. I expect Liight to be available sometime in Q1 2009.  I wish I could be more specific!

What are you planning on working on in the future? Do you have any ideas for new games yet? 

We have loads of ideas for future games, and sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on Liight and not get sucked into some new idea.  I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ll stay working on the Wii, but there’s nothing we can announce yet.

On your website, you reveal that you named your son Link. Why did you call him this, and how do you think this will affect his future (not necessarily in a bad way, mind)?

We called him Link because that’s a pretty awesome name!!  I think his future will be just fine, as long as whenever he gets lost in life he goes North, then West, then South, then West…

Thank you very much for that, Nick! We're really looking forward to your game now, especially due to the level creating and sharing feature. The music feature sounds pretty cool, and so do the different gameplay options and techniques. Once Liight is released on WiiWare over here in Europe, we'll be sure to review it as soon as possible.

Nicholas Trahan was talking to Billy White

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