Splatoon Devs Talk Future Updates And Why The Series Wouldn't Work On 3DS
Splatoon, the 8-player competitive ink shooter for the Wii U, released earlier this year to enthusiastic, but slightly disappointing reviews. Our own Brian Shea stated in his review that the game lacked a number of features that would easily catapault it over its competition. Since then, Splatoon has seen a variety of updates that increased the number of available maps, weapons, and gear available for players. An astonishingly passionate fanbase also helped bring the game to the forefront of Nintendo's first-party lineup. We spoke with Splatoon co-director Yusuke Amano and producer Hisashi Nogami about the franchise's future, the community, and what kind of squid-themed gear they want to see come to life.
Tsubasa Sakaguchi previously stated that it was a surprise to see so many players hit the level 20 cap so quickly, and acknowledged the worry that the game’s content would dry up too quickly. What was the thought process behind releasing the game with as little content as it did at launch, only to rectify that throughout the year?
Amano: So when myself and Mr. Sakaguchi were coming up with the idea for Splatoon, we knew that this was going to be a new type of online game and different from preexisting shooters. Regarding the decision to release Splatoon with what might be considered to be a smaller set of content at the beginning, our goal in making that decision was to raise a user base that would understand the game’s mechanics solidly and therefore be able to participate even more exciting online battles. We really wanted to prioritize training the user base to learn the fundamentals because we thought that would create the most satisfying experience for everyone.
In a surprising twist, many players seemed to actually enjoy the single-player campaign set in Octo Valley. Does this give you any hopes or plans for a single player expansion or spin-off?
Amano: When we envisioned the single player mode, we saw it as a way of teaching those game mechanics I mentioned earlier to players and as something they would be able to take with them into multiplayer mode in the game. One thing with the single-player mode is that it was sort of a way to expand the world view of Splatoon – the sort of story, if you will – that we weren't able to do in the multiplayer mode. Regarding any kind of spin-off or expansion, rather than just releasing additional stages for the single player mode, if we wanted to do something like that, I would want to make it a larger scale update. There were elements of the single-player mode that I wasn't completely satisfied with myself.
Nogami: I really think that there's a strong connection between the two modes in the game. So we don't actually have any plans to just release a single player spin-off of the game itself due to the strength of that connection.
Will we see any updates with features that aren’t necessarily new gear or maps? Some players have expressed a dislike of the current map rotation size (two) in favor of three to four per rotation. Is there any plan to make changes to that system?
Nogami: The updates to game's weapons will come to an end in January, but we will be continuing the Splatfest feature in the game after that.
Amano: After this update in January, we will of course continue to support bug fixes and balance changes to the game where we feel they are necessary. With map rotation, this is something that we envisioned from the beginning of development of the game. The idea that players would have two maps on which to play and you would take one weapon into the map and figure out the best way to move about the map and learn the ins and outs of each stage. We don't have any immediate plans to change that. Thinking forward, this is something that would really affect the structure of the game. It is something that we consistently continue to see users discussing. It's perhaps something we will start to think about as a challenge, and we would need to think of the best ways to solve that challenge, but we don't have any immediate plans to take that on.
Could the series ever work on the 3DS? Do you have any plans or hopes to make a handheld version perhaps similar to what Nintendo did with Super Smash Bros?
Amano: With the splattering of ink, which is definitely key to the game, this is something we spent a lot of time on getting the feel and the look of exactly like we wanted. I think that's something that would be quite difficult to realize on the 3DS considering its limitations.
Now that you can play private matches with friends, is there any plan to implement a voice chat option, even as just an option exclusive to private matches? Originally you said no due to the nature of online negativity. Do you still feel that rule is applicable in those more private circumstances?
Amano: Voice chat and the decision to not include it was something that we definitely debated quite frequently during development in multiple discussions with the marketing team, and was quite a hot topic. However, eventually we decided not to include it. While you are right that online communication does have the potential to become negative, one thing that we were hoping in including the new gameplay mechanic of shooting ink was that players would find this mechanic as a bit of nonverbal communication among players in something that hadn't been seen before.
We believed that the players would find ways to communicate using the mechanics of the game that wouldn't require voice chat. To try and put voice chat into a game when it hadn't been included from the start would require some sort of large scale overhaul and take time to implement, and that was something that we wanted to avoid in getting that functionality – that ability to play with friends in a timely fashion. But furthermore, we also figured players had become accustomed to playing Splatoon without voice chat so far. We were hoping the players who were really determined to play with friends online in new private and squad matches would find their own ways to communicate if they deemed it necessary. That's something that we've seen in the community and players who don't feel that's necessary don't make use of it.
To add on to that, we're really glad to see players in Japan that are coming up with their own tools. There's this user created tool called "Ika Denwa" which translates to "squid phone" in English.
Splatoon’s community is arguably one of Nintendo’s most passionate in recent years. What was the most surprising thing about the community for you?
Nogami: To see people develop different affections for the aesthetic or artwork in the game, the sounds and music, even the fictional brands that exist in the game was something we were really surprised by, and also, really grateful for. As a game developer, seeing a player base that passionate about something you created is really an honor.
Amano: I don't have any concrete plans for this right now, but continuing to grow the community and maintaining that passion that they have, I'm hoping we can find some way to give them some advice that will help them continue to grow and get better as Splatoon players.
Could you elaborate on that?
Amano: While I'm a developer of the game, I'm also one of the players. There are things that I've come across that I realize as I continue to play the game that I wasn't aware of during development. For example, new ways to play a different stage or new uses for a particular weapon. I think that being able to give info like that to players would be something they would enjoy. Also, I think it's important to think of players who aren't familiar with third-person shooters or this type of game, and as we continue to play the game ourselves, to come up with ideas for ways to bring them into the community and create those passionate, exciting battles that I think are key to maintaining the Splatoon community. I don't really have any concrete ideas right now, but I definitely did want to tell you that I do have that feeling.
How long do you plan to release additional content for the game? Will content eventually go from free to paid after a certain period of support?
Nogami: As we mentioned earlier, the free content for the game will continue to release until January 2016 and we don't have plans to release paid DLC after that.
Amano: Considering the content that has been added after release, rather than thinking about it as free or paid add-on content, I really think of it as content that extends the ways in which you can play Splatoon. And this isn't something that we just wanted to keep giving to people for them to consume, so that they keep churning through the content. Rather, we knew that as players would play what was available – for example, getting used to a certain weapon – at that moment, they would get new weapons and maps, and have to go back to that idea of "OK, how am I going to figure out how to use this weapon? How am I going to develop strategy for this map?"
Nogami: While games definitely are a collection of content, they’re also a playground of sorts. As we continue to release content and update Splatoon, we're adding to and continuing to design that playground for people to enjoy. This is just sort of my personal take on the topic. And the Splatoon community has really developed further than we had originally envisioned, and we want to make sure we continue support for creating this playground for the players.
Why aren’t there Splatoon-branded Super Soakers yet? Do you have any other Splatoon merch you want to see come to life?
Nogami: [laughs] I would like the sort of letterman-style jackets you can get in the game. I’d want those to be created and sold for real.
Amano: Well, if we can get some strong support from the community and the media, you never know what might happen.
For our review of Splatoon, head here.