During last week’s European Nintendo Direct, Satoru Shibata focussed attention on eighteen new indie titles heading to the Wii U from European developers over the coming months. Pure Chess was just one of these titles, which has previously received a warm welcome on PSN. I decided to ask Mark Williams, Technology Director at Voofoo studios, some questions to find out more about this game.
Who are Voofoo Studios and what other games have you created in the past?
VooFoo Studios are a small and dedicated team of enthusiastic and talented game developers. We started life back in 2007 with a team of just 3 industry veterans. We’re now a 6-man team, so pretty small still, but that suits us well as the whole team get to have a massive input into our games – that helps us stay really passionate about the games we create, which I think is evident in the end result.
Our first game was Hustle Kings, a really cool looking pool game that we released onto PlayStation that had you betting against, or hustling, your opponents online. This was quite easily the nicest looking pool game around, and got us a bit of a reputation for stunning visuals. This continued of course when we released Pure Chess onto PlayStation last year.
How many boards and sets will feature in the game? Will gamers be able to purchase additional boards and sets from the eShop?
Well I can let you in on something here – Pure Chess is not only coming to WiiU, but to 3DS also! We set about developing both the WiiU and 3DS versions earlier this year, so it’s been about six months in all. We were really keen to bring across all of the great features from the original, and add in some extra cool stuff too. The core game will feature three chess boards each set in its own beautiful location, and then three exquisitely detailed chess sets, including the instantly recognisable Staunton set, all in a variety of materials such as stone, metal or marble. In addition, we’re also going make a variety of other themed sets and boards available via the eShop at launch, including the stunning Roman Temple, Isle of Lewis set, and more.
Will there be any unique content for the Wii U and 3DS versions of Pure Chess? Has there been discussion about a Mario themed set for example?
We’ve been keen to utilise as many of the Wii U and 3DS features as possible, including the ability for two players to play on different screens on the WiiU, and stereoscopic 3D on 3DS, which really brings the chess boards to life! We’ve also got some really cool new multiplayer features which I think everyone is going to love – can’t say much more about this just yet but we’ll be announcing more details very soon! Suffice to say, online play will definitely be supported. We’ll be releasing Pure Chess on both WiiU and 3DS later this year. There are lots of cool chess set themes that we’d love to do, and a Mario themed set would be pretty awesome. We have to negotiate rights with the various license holders for this though, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done – you’ll have to watch this space for future chess set themes.
It’s an exciting time to own a Wii U as a wave of new games are about to land, many of which are indie-developed. What makes Pure Chess unique?
It is, Wii U is a great bit of kit, and there are some pretty cool looking indie titles coming soon. We’re really pleased to be a part of that line-up, and hopefully help to showcase the platform’s strengths. Visually we have been able to do some pretty cool things with Pure Chess, both on Wii U and 3DS, and I think the game is really going to stand out as one that is just stunning to look at, even if you don’t play chess. I’m still really impressed with the hardware on both platforms – I was dubious about being able to get such gorgeous looking visuals on 3DS before we started, but I’m sure people will be really surprised when they see what we’ve been able to achieve. Of course, Pure Chess isn’t just about the visuals, it’s about the whole chess experience, and I believe we have something here for everyone, be it a novice playing through the tutorial learning how to play chess for the first time, to seasoned players wanting a really challenging game against a strong computer opponent, or the social players wanting to play against their friends online – and as I mentioned previously, our multiplayer modes are going to offer something pretty special!
The Wii U has had a hard time of late, why did you decide to bring the game to Wii U?
It is true that the Wii U is not doing quite as well as many had predicted, or as Nintendo had hoped. However, there are still several million of these consoles in people’s homes, and it’s still a great bit of kit. I feel that Wii U needs developer support and a strong line-up of games, and I hope we are contributing towards that with Pure Chess. Also, this is a game that gamers want – we have seen that from the community response to the PlayStation version – and as yet there isn’t a chess game on Wii U, let alone one that’s looks as awesome as this!
How happy are you with the level of communication and support Nintendo have given you? Is there anything you would change about the process?
Nintendo have been really great all along – considering we are a third party developer, they have been incredibly supportive for both Wii U and 3DS. Our publisher, Ripstone, went to them and asked if they’d like a chess game on Wii U/3DS. Nintendo were like “Yes please, here are some kits”! This is our first Nintendo game, so not being familiar with the hardware has meant we’ve had a great deal to learn, but they’ve really helped us with that. If there is one thing I’d change, the documentation in their SDK needs some work – it’s a bit of a maze compared to that of Sony – without Nintendo’s help we’d have found it a bit more of a challenge to get to grips with the hardware, particularly 3DS which is very different to anything we’re used to.
Once development is complete, what’s on the cards next for Voofoo Studios? Do you see yourself developing more games for the Wii U or perhaps even the 3DS?
We may well look into creating some more new cool chess sets and boards later on – this all depends on the demand we get for it, we’re keen to continue supporting the game and responding to community feedback.
I’m definitely keen to develop more games for Wii U though, it’s a really great bit of kit, and its full potential has not yet been realised. I think despite its relatively slow start, it still has a great deal of life left in it – its best days are yet to come.
I\’d like to thank Mark for taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions, and wish the team at VooFoo the best of luck with the rest of development…