Splatoon Producer Talks Octo Expansion, Biggie And Tupac References, And Super Smash Bros.
Splatoon was perhaps the biggest surprise hit on Wii U. In the time since its release in 2015, the colorful, family-friendly shooter has exploded in popularity and spawned a sequel on Nintendo's wildly popular new console, Switch. Just like its predecessor, Splatoon 2 has benefited from numerous free multiplayer updates. However, earlier this month, it was announced that Splatoon 2 is receiving a large single-player expansion this coming summer. The Octo Expansion is the first piece of paid DLC in the series' history.
I caught up with the producer of Splatoon and Splatoon 2 Hisashi Nogami to chat about what fans can expect from the Octo Expansion, as well as topics like the language of the inklings and the internet's speculation of the developer's referencing Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the reveal trailer for the Octo Expansion.
Why did you decide to create a new single-player campaign through DLC?
There are actually a few reasons we decided to move forward with the single-player expansion. One of the purposes we gave for the single-player – Hero mode as we call it – in the first and second games was to give people a training ground of sorts to give them different weapons, items, and strategies to take into multiplayer.
After coming out with the games and their content, we've continued to create a variety of new weapons, and we've seen players use these weapons in all sorts of different ways. As developers, with these updates we've been bringing out, we've had new ideas that we've wanted to try out, new situations that we wanted to challenge the player with. We've kind of been storing those up. The first reason we've decided to go with this is that we've had enough of these built up over time that we felt confident that we've got enough ideas that would make for a satisfying single-player experience.
Another reason was being able to use single-player as a way to flesh out story elements that we hadn't been able to so far, whether that's the characters from Off the Hook we've seen in their news capacity to this point, or Captain Cuttlefish, who has been missing since the first game. Now you get to meet up with him and find out what he's been up to.
We want to be able to continue providing fans with these new gameplay and story elements that constitute a really satisfying amount of new content, and something that we feel confident being able to make as paid DLC. We felt that this type of content is best suited as single-player.
We're really sensitive to things like how adding certain kinds of weapons into multiplayer that you have to pay for would create imbalance among the players. We really want to make sure that we keep multiplayer an even playing field for everyone, and a place where the players' skills are on display and that is what decides the matches. But with that said, we did want people to be able to bring the skin or aesthetic of the octolings into multiplayer.
What should fans expect from these single-player stages of the Octo Expansion? Are there any new elements you're hoping to introduce in these stages?
We've said that there are more than 80 of these stages that you'll have to encounter in the Octo Expansion, and among them are those that are really short and those that are longer. In the single-player campaigns until now, the stages have largely been about starting at point-A and making your way to the goal in point-B and the stage is done. That won't necessarily always be the case for the stages in the Octo Expansion. Instead, you may have mission objectives that you need to clear, and once that's cleared, you'll have cleared the stage.
Among those objectives, there are some that may take a really long time to complete and others that you may be able to complete right away. That will depend largely on players' skills. We hope that those differences in stage objectives offer fun enough content for people to go through.
This goes back to our thinking for the single-player as a training ground for multiplayer. There are certain stages in the Octo Expansion where you may need to use a special weapon from the get-go and you'll just have it after starting. For example, a stage that you'll need to clear using the Inkjet, the jetpack special weapon, entirely. For a player that may not have used the Inkjet or decided they didn't want to use it up until now, now they'll need to use it to clear the stage. Maybe they'll end up thinking, "Oh, I really kind of enjoyed that. I can take it into multiplayer and have the confidence to use it there as well."
How is the inkling language developed? I'm always hearing phrases from the inklings that almost sound like English phrases, like "ready!" when they respawn or "quit it!" when they get splatted. Am I hearing things, or are their phrases inspired by real-language phrases?
When creating the inklings speech, we wanted it to not sound too much like any particular language; this was a game we were envisioning making a global product, after all. Of course, for the text, that's been localized to the language of wherever the game is being sold, but when it came to the audio that you hear the characters speak, we really wanted to strive for this kind of neutral ground that would make people think, like you said, that, "Maybe I recognize that from my own language," or "That kind of sounds like something I heard in a foreign language," and keep people guessing.
It might be that while we were creating a system for that, that we would try to pick up intonations of a variety of languages so that this little bit may sound like English, or this bit sounds like something we heard in Spanish.
On the second page, Nogami talks about what it means to have his characters in Super Smash Bros., as well as if the internet is correct that the Octo Expansion announcement trailer referenced Biggie and Tupac.
One thing I love about the Splatoon series is the music, and it seems like the team makes a conscious effort to put it at the forefront of the experience. The music blasts loudly during matches, you've created music videos, and even held live concerts featuring videos of the Squid Sisters and Off the Hook. Why does the team have such an emphasis on music?
Music in games is something I've always thought of as having a really powerful influence on the games that they're in and as a powerful part of the games themselves. I think, first of all, music is something we use to make this world feel more lived in and more convincing.
Gameplay came first, then art, then aspects like music come after, so we don't start from, "We want squids! Why squids?" [Instead,] we have these gameplay elements and squids kind of became the answer, and the world you see is another answer to the question of, "What game are we making? We've got these basic fundamental elements of this game, and what will fit?" Music is another one of these answers.
Another thing is that we think of these Turf War battles that the characters in our game participate in as a slightly dangerous, but really exciting extreme sport like BMX or skateboarding that teenagers are really fond of. So, if we can use things like the look, the art of the world, the music of the world to help support that idea, that feeling that we want to give people, those elements will really help with immersion and help people feel like they can sink into this world.
For Splatoon 1, we thought, "What's a typical sound that teenagers really like?" and based around our own experiences, rock was the taste we went for the basic direction. With Splatoon 2, this is a world that takes place far into the future of our own world, but we wanted to give people that feeling that between the two games, time had passed in this world as well.
Wanting to give the feeling that time had passed in the game, as I'm sure you're aware, music is something that changes what's popular over time: the styles, the trends, all change as time passes. We definitely kept that in mind when making the music for Splatoon 2 as one more element to give players to show that time had passed in the game.
I really feel that music is important for players feeling that they can dive into this world and be immersed in.
You may have seen on the internet that Pearl and Marina's appearance in the Octo Expansion announcement trailer, people are drawing comparisons to the styles of rappers Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Were those intentional references to them?
Giving you a straightforward answer about that might steal some of the fun out of it, so I'll keep that a bit of a mystery. [Laughs] But I will say that as I've [spoken about] the importance of music to us, we're definitely aware of that history of music videos in America, and music video culture is something we kept in mind while making this expansion.
We have members on our development team who are fans of hip-hop music and hip-hop culture, and it's people like that who feel that, just like our real world we're living in, we can bring a variety of elements into the world of Splatoon and show people that it's not just a one note type of world and that they'll be able to believe more in the reality of the Splatoon world and give it more depth.
And we were very intentional with wanting to bring in that variety of looks and sound in the Octo Expansion. In doing that in a sort of decisive way, our aim is to really make it feel like its own thing, like it's own section of the game. That was definitely something that we were intentional about.
How does it feel to see your characters, the inklings, go go-karting with Mario, and now seeing them as a part of the Super Smash Bros. roster for the upcoming Switch title? What does that mean to you to see them elevated to that level?
Of course it's one thing to see fans get excited for characters like Callie and Marie or Pearl and Marina from Off the Hook, but for me, the game and its contents as a whole are sort of a character or a child that I've helped create. To see the game's content as a whole accepted this much and mean this much to people has been really impactful and a really wonderful thing for me to see.
The thing that I want to do as a developer is come up with new kinds of gameplay. Thinking about it in that way, characters are sort of byproducts of that process. That said, when we create characters, we do hope they have an affection for them, and we create them to give them as much of that potential as possible.
Seeing our characters get brought into Mario Kart or Smash Bros. is kind of self-affirming to us that we made some good choices with these characters. It's rewarding to see them accepted and grow stronger by their inclusion in these other franchises.
For more on Splatoon with Hisashi Nogami, check out our goofy dive into the lore of Splatoon in the latest edition of Burning Questions.