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WayForward Technologies Interview

We've done a variety of WiiWare interviews so far, from puzzling, to mini golf, to samurai toasters, so it seemed pretty obvious to us that the next step would be an interview regarding a teenage-based emo horror action puzzler, and after much searching - we found one! We got in touch with the team behind long awaited WiiWare title LIT about their upcoming game, and we ended up getting answers from two guys instead of just one! Read on, and you can see what all the fuss is about...

Would you like to start by introducing yourself to our readers?

Matt: Sure!  I’m Matt Bozon, WayForward’s Creative Director.

Adam: And I’m Adam Tierney. I directed and co-designed LIT.


Would you like to tell us about WayForward and your history of games?

Matt:  We’ve been making games for about 15 years for most platforms dating back to Game Boy and SNES.  We’ve always leaned towards Nintendo, especially handhelds in recent years.  Last year we made the leap to Wii. Overall we’ve got over 100 shipped titles and some online, so odds are you’ve played a WayForward game at some point.  Last year we got a lot of attention for Contra 4, so that’s probably what we’re best known for today.

Your next game, LIT, is a "3D horror action puzzler" - something we can't say we've heard of before. What else is different about this game?

Adam: The game was an experiment in several ways. First, we wanted to combine survival horror gameplay with puzzling, but not in the way you usually see in Silent Hill or Resident Evil. In those games, puzzles typically just block the player’s ability to progress to the next action or exploration segment. We wanted to do something more like Sokoban or Adventures of Lolo, where the character is living inside the puzzle. At the same time, we wanted to retain the mobility of those horror games. So you have a mix of more rigid, rule-based environments with looser, more organic character movement. Because Jake can move around fluidly, it’s easy to accidentally veer him into the darkness, which adds to the challenge.

    The other thing we wanted to do was create a sampler platter of console gaming in a small package. LIT is a download game, but you have 25 puzzle levels, 5 boss battles, replayable challenge mode, 2 playable characters, and an abundance of tools and weapons at Jake’s disposal. It has a little bit of everything: the same contents you’d expect to find in a shrink-wrapped Wii game, but on a smaller scale that fits WiiWare’s download size.


What is the aim of each level?

Adam: In the puzzle levels, Jake enters from the entrance door, and must figure out a way to reach the exit door. Initially every room is completely black other than the small lit area where Jake begins. If Jake steps into the darkness, he’ll be pulled under by dark students and the player will have to restart the level. So the player guides Jake across the room by turning on light sources to create safe lit areas that can be stepped in. For example, if the player collects a slingshot pellet, Jake can then use it to break a window across the room, creating a bridge of light that he can now walk along. The player also has to watch an electricity meter at the top of the screen; if too many electrical lights are turned on at once, they’ll burst and the player will have to restart the level.

In the boss levels, there is no exit door. Instead there’s an angry, dark version of a faculty member that Jake must defeat using light sources in order to advance. Some bosses are oblivious to Jake’s presence until he annoys them, while others are instantly hostile toward him. Each boss must be defeated in a unique way, so a light source that harms one boss might have no effect on another. A big part of the challenge in these levels is figuring out how to defeat a boss, in addition to actually doing it.

How do the controls work in the game?

Adam: The game requires the use of both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk at once. The Wii Remote is used to aim a cursor onscreen, which determines which way Jake faces (when not running), and where he shines his flashlight, tosses cherry bombs, fires his slingshot, etc. The Wii Remote’s motion sensing capabilities are also used, so the player shakes it to recharge Jake’s flashlight, swipes it to strike a flare, and swings it overhand to toss a cherry bomb. During the game, Jake’s girlfriend Rachael (also trapped in the school) calls him on the school’s phone system, and the player listens to those phone calls through the Wii Remote’s speaker.

Jake himself is controlled with the Nunchuk’s control stick. The player can move Jake in any direction at variable speeds. The separation of Jake from cursor was important, as later levels in the game require the player to be performing different actions at once, such as running Jake in one direction while throwing a cherry bomb in another. The precision the Wii Remote allows makes for a uniquely Wii experience that couldn’t be handled the same way on any other console.


How long do you think the game will last overall?

Adam: It really comes down to how clever the player is, and their ability at figuring out the puzzles, then successfully navigating through them. Testing the game internally, we’ve seen early levels take some players a few minutes, and other players half an hour or longer. Later levels become much more complicated and challenging, so those naturally take longer to complete. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say the game is longer than Portal and shorter than N+, although that’s admittedly a pretty wide spread.

When the game is completed once, a Dark Mode variation is unlocked that is much more challenging. In this mode, the player must complete the same 30 levels, but on a timer. Since this game is all about light vs. dark, the ‘timer’ is a universal dimming of the room’s light, rather than a counter. So if our development team was able to speed run a room in 90 seconds, then in Dark Mode the game will dim from standard lighting to pitch black in 90 seconds. If the player can reach the exit door or defeat the boss before everything goes completely black, they’ll continue. Otherwise the level is restarted. To make things even tougher, Jake himself is a silhouette in this mode, and harder to keep track of.

Why did you decide to develop for WiiWare with LIT?

Matt:  We really like Nintendo’s style of innovation and support it whenever possible, so WiiWare was an obvious choice for us.  We picked LIT over other internal pitches because it allowed us to build 3D tech for the Wii, and the game had clearly defined rules which gave it a strong foundation to develop on top of.  But mostly it was Adam’s love of the game that won everyone over in the end.


How long has this game in particular been in development for, and how many people are there in the team behind it?

Adam: Ideas for the game go back to 2005, but the bulk of the game’s development took place in 2008. We had two programmers working on the game for about 8 months, with art and additional staff popping in as needed.


We notice that your game is aimed at the teenage audience. Why did you choose this particular age group, and will it still be enjoyable for people of other ages?

Matt:  The game should appeal to just about anyone, with the possible exception of scaredy cats.  If you’re old enough to appreciate a wide range of logic puzzles, then the level of scare should be fine.

Adam: LIT is a unique property in that it has a mature tone (especially during the phone calls between Jake and Rachael) that I think will resonate most with teenagers. But there’s not much objectionable violence or gore in the game. I think some people were surprised to see a horror game like LIT get an E10+ rating from the ESRB. It was always our intention to create something that was eerie without being exploitive, so as to reach the widest audience possible. LIT wasn’t designed for kids, but it’s still somewhat suitable for them. If you watch the first trailer for the game, that should give you an idea of the game’s tone. As for what ages aside from teens will enjoy LIT, I think it just comes down to each player’s interest in room-based puzzle games. Early levels in the game are simple, and walk the player through the gameplay element by element. Later levels are more of a challenge, both mentally an in regard to reaction time.

We've noticed that the soundtrack isn't full of catchy tunes and is instead very atmospheric. Would you say that the graphics also reflect this mood well, and how?

Adam: We tried to create an immersive atmosphere that carried through the audio and visuals. Hopefully both contribute to the game’s mood and are appreciated by players. This isn’t the kind of scary game that’s going to keep players up at night, but it’s not a happy or comforting world, either.

Are there any multiplayer or online elements in LIT?

Adam: LIT is a single-player experience. We have some ideas for how the game could work with 2 players working cooperatively, but this version of the game supports only one player at a time. There are 3 save slots, though, so that multiple players can progress through the game at the same time.

How many Wii Points do you want LIT to sell for on the Wii Shop?

Adam: A release date and price point for the game should be announced soon.

We know that you expect LIT to go on sale early 2009, but what stage is the game currently in?

Adam: The game’s completely done and is in the final stages of submission with Nintendo.

We have noticed some developers choose against releasing their WiiWare games oversees recently - will we be seeing a European release for LIT in the near future?

Adam: We're currently looking into the possibility of releasing LIT in other regions. It's definitely something we're interested in, although the game will be debuting first in North America.

On a slightly different note: why was there no European release for your DS title Contra 4?

Matt: That’s Konami’s decision as the publisher, but I figured it had to do with Contra being less popular in Europe. We did make sure to include Probotector specifically for fans across the pond.  I would suggest getting on the Konami message boards and nagging them, maybe several times each day.      

Any final comments for our readers?

Adam: I hope everyone enjoys the game. We really put our hearts into it.

Matt: Thank you for your continuing support for WayForward, and we hope to keep making fun and original games for many years to come.

Big thanks go to Adam and Matt there - especially for thÜber long answers - , and here's hoping that this game will be a great new game for WiiWare - especially with the additions of the "dark mode", and the atmospheric presentation. The game sounds like it has some really intuitive controls as well, and whilst that co-op mode may have been nice, the single player experience looks to make up for the omission. Don't forget to keep checking back - there will be a full review upon it's European release... if there is one. (Please, Adam? Matt? We'll give you hugs!)



Check out all the LIT trailers below

Click the arrows to change trailer, and click the play button in the window to begin viewing.

To view the trailers on the YouTube website, click on the links above.