The lights are on
I understand how you landed on squids for Splatoon, but I’m curious what the next step is. How do you get a new IP and new characters through the ranks of Nintendo?
There was actually a huge period of time between where we started thinking squids might be a good idea, to the point where we actually decided to go with squids. That process might be more interesting.
Even at the time of that prototype, there was the ability to hide in the ink – squash down in it. At that time, we weren’t describing it as diving into the ink. You just kind of got squashed down into it. But then, in order to make the hide in your own ink ability more useful, we started adding other abilities, like the ability to move very quickly through the ink. That was the kind of thing that started to make us think maybe the squids would be better. That’s where we kind of came up with this concept about making the game about switching between the person and being a squid. When you’re a person you can shoot the ink, everyone can see you, and you’re moving a little bit slowly. When you’re a squid, you’re fast and you can hide, and you can charge up your ink, but you can’t do any attacking.
When we decided to make the game about switching, we got a really good reaction and we were having a lot of fun playing the game. While we were thinking about the mechanics and player abilities, our art director was coming up with assorted character designs. We had – right from the beginning – all these different ideas, the squids being one of them. We had robots, different animals, macho men, and Mario – existing IP. Right from the start we had all these different choices.
The art director was making lots of different sketches and designing lots of different characters. As we were adding more and more abilities, everything came to a head with the visuals that we were thinking of and the abilities we were giving the players. We realized: squids! And that allowed us, in terms of world building, that to explain things to the player in a different way. It used to be, when you were in the ink you just moved fast, but now we could explain it as you were swimming. Before, the player just sort of squished down into the ink, but now we could have them dive in. From there, the sound directors and the people working in the graphics were able to add the sound effects and the wake you leave behind while swimming that make it the game you see today.
Rather than the squids being the first domino – the new game, the new IP – it was more like we were creating the whole way and the squid was a piece over on the side, and it became the final piece we put in.
Third-person shooters are an atypical genre for Nintendo. There are certain expectations for shooters. For example, I struggled without a reticle and the sensitivity seemed high.
We are definitely going to have options, the ability to turn the gyro off, and the ability to adjust the stick sensitivity. Obviously, the controls aren’t completely fixed so we can’t say they are going to be exactly like this.
The mechanics are much different from any other shooter, but are you looking at comparable games for direction or inspiration regarding the controls?
Obviously, when we’re not at work, we’re gamers and we play a lot of games. We love to play games. There are definitely a lot of people on the staff who play shooters and love them, but there are also people who don’t play shooters. I don’t want to say that we’re influenced by them, but we are aware of these games and we definitely have that knowledge In our heads. We play these games and sometimes we think, “Maybe it would be better if it was like this,” and we definitely have those ideas inside our heads.
I wouldn’t say there was any one game in particular that we were looking at, but because we are playing these games, to an extent we have these ideas in our heads. As we are here making our own game, and trying to make it the game we want, if there is anything we think “Oh, I want it to be like this,” it is probably present in the game. We’re certainly influenced in some way – you can’t help it – but there is nothing specific where we said, “We want to do an improved version of this.” It’s not like we’re trying to imitate any games specifically, but I think the fact that we’re making a game like this shows that we respect those other games.
Will there be a campaign or a story? I would like to learn more about these characters, which was something I wasn’t really getting just playing multiplayer.
Ultimately, we’re looking at getting Splatoon out as a full retail packaged software in the first half of 2015. Our plans are to create, maybe for the benefit of the people who cannot connect online, a single-player mode and a local one-on-one mode.
One player on television, one on GamePad?
We’re still wrestling with exactly how we want to do it, but it will probably be one person on GamePad, one on pro controller.
For our hands-on impressions with Splatoon, head here to read a conversation between myself and Jeff Cork.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.