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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Interview: Nnooo on Aussie development, game shows, and deadly bunnies

Interview by Aidan B.

One of our favourite local developers was at the EB Games 2013 expo in a big way. Nnooo, having now picked up the publisher's role for two locally developed games on console, had three games to show off at the show.

Not a bad effort for a tiny team of three.

Aidan Broadbent stole Nnooo's Creative Director, Nic Watt, away from his stand for a few moments to have a chat about how he found this year's show, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities that he sees in the local industry.

Digitally Downloaded (DD): How have you found the EB Games Expo to be this year compared to last year? Last year you were in a separate hall, it is better being in the same place as the big publishers this year?
Nic Watt (NW): It's better all being in the one hall. It definitely helps with through traffic a lot. With that said, they could still learn a lot from PAX Australia, who arranged it really nicely so that the floor mixed the indies with the big companies. Here we are right at the back of the hall here and all the big guys are right at the front - I think there are some people that would have missed us. But it's definitely been a lot more organised than it was last year.

DD: What games are you showing this year?
NW: We are showing one of our own games but we have also moved into publishing so we are showing two other games as well. Our new game is Blast ‘Em Bunnies - It's coming out on PS4, PSVita and Nintendo 3DS. and if it's successful in those then we are looking at maybe Wii U, Xbox One and PC. We can't really say more about that yet though, we just need to see how it goes on the first release platforms first.

DD: What inspired Blast 'Em Bunnies, and what kind of game are you trying to produce and publish?
NW: Blast 'Em Bunnies is what we are calling an endless shooter. Players take control of a cute little bunny and you are defending your rabbit burrow against an onslaught of evil, but still cute, bunnies. Our weapons are all fun; we have invented a carrot rifle, a watermelon machine gun and a turnip mortar to defend yourself and by shooting the bunnies players earn coins to then purchase upgrades or new versions of the weapons. Basically we want it to be lighthearted and fun.

The other two games we are showing Orbitor which is developed by an awesome team called Evil Aliens down in Canberra. We saw them at last year's EB Expo and really liked the game and we are working with them to bring it to console. And finally there's Cubeman 2, which is a really successful game on iOS and Steam and we're bringing that one to Wii U. We have done a world first in that we have negotiated with Nintendo to allow players of the game to be able to play online multiplayer against Steam, iOS, Mac, PC and Linux players share user generated content on all of those. We think that’s going to be really really cool for the Nintendo fans.


DD: Whats it like being a game developer in Australia at the moment?
NW: It's both good and bad. Australia is a great place to live, and some of the states have got really good funding. So for instance, Victoria has got a really good funding model, and there has been a fine history of game developers down there. Now Screen Australia is trying to do something for all of Australia, but while Screen NSW had a really good funding program it has stopped, and that's a real shame because as NSW is the most populous state we could be supporting a lot of talented developers here, but most of them are leaving.

The hard parts of being in Australia is that we are quite far away from the rest of the world. For example the West Coast of America is where a lot of the media and the press happens. If you had access to that you would probably be able to make bigger waves, but it's expensive and time consuming to keep travelling there, so we have to work harder to get the same sort of notice.

DD: Kickstarter has been a real game changer in regards to funding models and also to do with with community input. Have you found that you have needed to re-assess your business model to take advantage of Kickstarter?
NW: We have not changed anything we're doing at the moment. The way that I view Kickstarter is that to be successful you need have a big community and the resources to run a really big PR campaign, and I don't think we are there yet. We don’t have hundreds of thousands of users that we could count on to support a Kickstarter campaign.

If we ran a Kickstarter and it didn't succeed I believe people would be less likely to take a game seriously as well. And then there's the reality that for the games we make we don't need that level of financing, and yet it would add an extra level of pressure on the development cycle; your users would have certain expectations of what the game should be and the backers might start demanding certain things, and that would be tough to achieve as we are only three people at the moment. I don’t think we are at the point where we can really take on that responsibility.

DD: How has the Nnooo business changed as a result of taking on publishing duties?
NW: We were hoping to get some Screen Australia funding to help with that, and one of the things that has become harder is that there is only three of us and now we are having to do developer work as well as the publishing work. Bruce, our marketing and business guy, has spent several years building up great contacts with Sony and Nintendo. The reason we got into publishing is because we have done all this heavy lifting and it seemed silly to have another developer also have to spend years of hard work to get to the same point.

We are choosing developers that we think are clever enough and talented enough to be able to do the work without needing constant micro management from the publisher, and that seems to be working really well as well.

DD: Why do you think people are so keen on indie games at the moment?
NW: If we want innovation in the industry and we want new experiences indies are the people that are bringing it to the floor at the moment. Big companies can't justify the expense of taking a risk on something that might not be massively popular, but indies can make something that’s fun and quirky. Then it doesn't need to be long or expensive to make, and the indie can sell it at a nice cheap price that makes it an impulse buy. What we really like about Sony and Nintendo and what they are trying to do with the indies is to use these games to demonstrate a rich variety of experiences, beyond the big budget stuff.

- Aidan B. 
Contributor
Interview: Nnooo on Aussie development, game shows, and deadly bunnies
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