Interview: Joju Games On WiiWare Development, Mart Racer

What does it take to make an indie title for WiiWare? We talk to Joju Games studio manager Juan Gril about his just-announced supermarket racing title Mart Racer, discussing working with Nintendo, gameplay ideas, and why holding the Wiimote like a
[Gamasutra sister site GamerBytes explores the downloadable console game space with news, interviews and roundups, and in this special interview, editor Ryan Langley talks to Joju Games studio manager Juan Gril about working with Nintendo, gameplay ideas, and why holding the Wiimote like a shopping cart made amusing sense to them.] With each coming week, we're seeing more and more games announced for WiiWare - sometimes releasing the exact same day. This week, we got the first look at Mart Racer from Joju Games in the form of a video trailer, so we contacted studio manager Juan Gril to discuss how they became Wii developers, what their previous work and credentials were, implementing online play in a WiiWare title and much more. GamerBytes: Please introduce yourself and your company. Who are Joju Games? Juan Gril: My name is Juan Gril and I'm the Studio Manager at Joju Games. I've been doing online and casual games for 10 years now. I started Joju back in 2005, after working at Yahoo! Games for 5 years. I wanted to create a studio that focused on creating simple and fun games for people like me who weren't interested in playing 3-in-a-row games, and didn't have time to play AAA games. It turned out that there were a lot of us out there, so it has been a good run so far. GB: You've just announced Mart Racer for WiiWare. What was your inspiration to make a game where you run around a supermarket? JG: I think it came from two different places. On one hand, a recurring theme in our games is humor. We wanted to come up with something that was funny and really different from themes you usually see on videogames. On the other hand, the first time I grabbed a Wiimote instinctively I grabbed it with both hands like a bar. That made me start thinking on a game where you would maneuver it as you would be grabbing a bar.

GB: How does the game work? Is it first to get all the required items, or are there actual tracks involved as well? JG: You can play the game alone, or with 3 other people. There will always be 4 contestants; AI will fill the the spot for the rest of the players. The premise is pretty simple: everybody gets a list of 6 items they should collect, and run to the cashiers before anyone else does. The 6 items are spread around the supermarket, but they only re-spawn every 1 minute. So after the first few seconds you either need to decide to wait until the items re-spawn (that would be the bad strategy), or decide to steal items from others (that would be the good strategy). So one thing you could do is to grab plungers and throw them to your opponents. If you hit somebody, they'll be knocked out for a few seconds, and that's when you can run to their card and automatically steal an item from them. There are 6 different power-ups you can use in the game. Some of them are for attacking other people, and some others are to protect yourself from their attacks. GB: Does Mart Racer use any Wii Remote functionality? JG: Yes. We let you pick what type of control you would like to use. We have the Wii Style mode that let's you tilt forward to accelerate, tilt backwards to brake, twist to move left and right, and tilt backwards and twist to drift (drift is pretty useful to make turns without losing speed). However, we are also including a Classic Control mode. We realize that the tilt is not for everybody, and we have tried to balance the game out so you don't get an advantage using one type of control over the other. I actually play with the Wii Style mode all the time and I can beat people who play with the Classic Control Mode. Interestingly enough, we found that people who don't play video games can get a grasp of our game thanks to the Wii Style mode, so we are hoping Mart Racer is the type of game that can be as inclusive as possible.


GB: What made you decide to go to WiiWare? JG: Nintendo has been really good to us. They were the first console manufacturer to open their doors to us. They saw we've been trying to make different and innovative games for years, and they said "yeah, you guys are ready to start making games for consoles". Their premise is pretty simple, you guys make the games, you know what you are doing. And I think we are starting to see the fruit of that premise with the recent releases. We were one of the first developers to get in the program. But we didn't want to release a title on launch date just for being first, we figured this is our first console game and we wanted to have all the features of a game we would like to play. That's why we are just getting ready by now. GB: How many levels does the game contain? JG: The game contains 12 supermarkets. Each one has its own theme and soundtrack. In single player mode you unlock the supermarkets as you win. When you go into Wi-Fi Connection, the more supermarkets you unlocked the more options you have for choosing what supermarket you want to play online. GB: Do the playable characters all control differently, or have different stats? In the character select menu you can switch the position of your characters. Does this effect the game at all? JG: We decided to make it more of a personal, visual choice and keep the game to be more casual in that sense. The position selection has been more of a choice to allow people to decide what sex should be the lead and what sex should be the sidekick. You appear to use plungers as projectiles. What do they do to your opponents? (I think this one is explained in the how to play question, but let me know if you'd like me to expand it here)


GB: You've previously worked on a lot of 2D Flash titles for Comedy Central and MTV. Mart Racer is your first independent project. Has it been a difficult change from PC to console? Was it difficult to become an independent Wii developer? JG: I think it has been quite challenging. The biggest challenge we faced was to learn how to go through the process of making sure that every detail of the game is compliant with the requirements Nintendo has. We had to keep attention to detail as much as possible. The other big challenge has been the online functionality. Thankfully we did made a couple of right decisions and it's coming along really well. And yes, being an independent console developer is a huge challenge. But I think the audience we make our games for is definitely playing downloadable console games, so I think it has been a good decision to focus on them. GB: Mart Racer supports online multiplayer for up to 4 people - something that tends to be missing from a lot of WiiWare titles. Is fitting the game under the size cap and fitting in online infrastructure a difficult task? Were Nintendo give you any additional support for this? JG: The size cap fortunately hasn't been that big of an issue for such as small team as ours. We focused more on making a fun multiplayer game than producing a lot of assets (I hope we made the right decision!). Making the online part of the game usually takes a lot of time, and it was the case for us too. Right from the beginning we made the decision that we wanted to create a multiplayer game, so being able to have a fun game to play with your buddies was the #1 priority, then assets. Nintendo tech support team is fantastic. GB: Does online support Friend Codes? What games modes are supported online? Are there any online leaderboards? JG: Yes, we support Friend Codes. You can either play with anybody online, or search for friends. We don't have leaderboards for this title.


GB: Will the game be getting a worldwide release, or only in America? JG: We are planning to launch as soon as possible in the Americas, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand. We hope the game does well so we can launch in Japan as well. GB: What downloadable games, for any of the three consoles, have impressed you the most? Any classic titles you would like to see show up in the future? JG: I'm fond of classic titles, but frankly I usually play more new games rather than a good classic game. I feel this year it has been a pretty good year for console downloadable games. I love Gyrostarr, Braid and PixelJunk Eden. I liked Groovin' Blocks and Echochrome. I've heard good things about the Art Style series and World of Goo, but I haven't started to play them yet.

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