8 mins read

Straight Right is a game development studio based in Melbourne, Australia, and in conjunction with BioWare and EA, it’s the one responsible for porting Mass Effect 3 to the Wii U. Being its first console title in development, we were naturally curious about its experience and impressions on how it was faring with building the title on Wii U.

Check out Farida Y’s conversation with Straight Right’s CEO Tom Crago below.

Digitally Downloaded (DD): So tell us, with Straight Right being a fairly new company, how much of a challenge has it proven with the task of developing Mass Effect 3 for a brand new system?
Tom Crago (TC): Straight Right is indeed a new company, but our sister studio, Tantalus, has been around since 1994. We share the same technology, so it was really the Tantalus side of the family that brought the expertise to Wii U. Tantalus has developed for the Wii and for most other major consoles. We did Unreal II on Xbox, and to that end we have some experience working with the Unreal Engine, which proved very useful as ME3 utilises Unreal technology. Straight Right also developed Need for Speed Shift 2 on iOS, and so has had some prior experience on a big franchise.

DD: In what ways have you been able to enhance Mass Effect 3 on the Wii U?
TC: ME3 was a great game on its original formats and we needed to ensure we didn’t break anything. So from our perspective we turned to the hardware and asked ourselves what we could do with the Wii U controller that might elevate the gameplay experience. We wanted to make the game better, but we trod very carefully. I feel like the stuff we’ve implemented gels extremely well and I really hope that fans of the game, say on PS3, will play our version and prefer it. One of the key things we did was make the power wheel interactive which I think all Mass Effect fans are going to love, and we’ve also drawn new 2D level maps which are interactive on the GamePad. You can give orders to squad mates via those maps, which is really cool. We also added a new weapon.

DD: Was utilising the full capabilities of the Wii U‘s technology a top priority for you while Mass Effect 3 was in development?
TC: Oh absolutely. The Wii U is really all about the GamePad, and we were determined to make full use of that, while staying true to the core Mass Effect experience.

DD: You‘ve been working on the development of this title on Wii U for over a year now. Do you feel you‘re acquainted with the console‘s hardware now?
TC: Definitely. We have another title, Funky Barn, coming out under our Tantalus label at launch too, so we’ve been elbow-deep in the Wii U for a long time now.

DD: How versatile do you believe the Wii U to be as a next-gen platform?
TC: Well it is a next-gen platform, in that it’s the next generation of hardware from Nintendo. Will the successors to the PS3 and 360 be more powerful? Almost certainly. And for many people that’s what it’s all about. But over the years Nintendo have shown that raw processing and graphics power aren’t everything. And I think a lot of gamers are starting to see that too.

DD: As an experienced developer, how do you think the Wii U will fare with other potential developers in future?
TC: From a developer’s standpoint, it’s a great console to work on. It’s straightforward to program and the GamePad integrates seamlessly. We’d be happy making games for it for years to come, but the true test will be how it performs in the marketplace. We’re going to start to get some answers to that question very soon.

DD: We hear you have some pretty big things planned for the Wii U coming to us. So, it‘s safe to say you‘re predicting some positive reception in the console‘s first year of release?
TC: We very much hope so. We’ve put a lot of eggs in that basket so we’re very invested in its success. We’ve seen enough of it to have faith that it will find an audience, and we hope that happens over the course of the next year. Nintendo themselves have a solid lineup, but as ever it will be down to third party publishers and developers supporting the platform and releasing games that people want to play. The launch line-up looks solid, but the Holiday period in 2013 will be just as crucial as this launch window.

DD: You’re also working on a new IP for the Wii U. Given how exciting new games are to us all, might you be able to give us any information on that?
TC: That would be Funky Barn, which comes out at launch under the Tantalus label. It’s a crazy, off beat farm simulation where you build a farm, look after animals, plant crops, buy machines and equipment, and try to deal with foxes, UFO’s and other pests that want to mess with your livestock. We did a version of that game on 3DS with Ubisoft and we think it works really well on the Wii U. 505 are publishing it and we can’t wait to see it on the shelves.

DD: It’s also been rumoured that Straight Right would be porting another triple-A title scheduled for a 2013 release on to the Wii U. Any slight hint or tease for us, maybe?
TC: So many rumours… We’ll talk more about our future Wii U plans over the course of the next few months.

 We’d like to thank Tom Crago for taking the time to talk to us.

This is the bio under which all legacy DigitallyDownloaded.net articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

  • Why wouldn't they port the whole trilogy? Anyone who hasn't already bought ME3 and is getting it on the Wii U probably hasn't played the first two games.

    Also, a company who has never developed a console game (oh and is also working on something called funky barn) porting this triple-A title to the Wii U. Sounds promising? Or not.

  • Tom Crago (and Tantalus) is actually one of the most experienced and successful developers in Australia. Straight Right is, really, anything but a company that's never developed a console game: http://www.tantalus.com.au/games.html In addition, porting games is a very different kind of project to building them from scratch – different skills etc. I suspect this one will turn out fine, personally (and I am really glad to see that it's the work of an Aussie studio – AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE)

    In terms of not porting the entire trilogy, I suspect it's because the resources required to do that would be massive – three games, rather than one? It took a year just to do the one.

  • I'd say they were carefully implementing the features exclusive to the Wii U while Nintendo pestered them to release one of their games as soon as possible. Maybe they'll port the rest of the games somewhere down the line.

  • I think it's interesting that a third party to a third party is being used to port Mass Effect to the, Wii U…I almost wonder if this is a Nintendo thing? Perhaps Nintendo working with EA on getting a big title EA to the Wii U, and contracting it out to a another developer to port it over?

    I do feel bad for them, with having to take fallout from EA's Mass Effect Trilogy announcement and release right before the Wii U launch.

    I am glad to see them say, "From a developer's standpoint, it's a great console to work on. It's straightforward to program and the GamePad integrates seamlessly." Hopefully that means the GamePad gets used in interesting ways in other games, perhaps we'll see what else they learned with GamePad controls in Funky Barn.

  • It's more likely that EA simply didn't want to spend internal resources on a game that is not likely to sell many units (new console and all). By contracting out the porting process EA would be able to use its internal resources for things that external companies would not be able to handle – ie. Creating new games.

    Outsourcing a port is not uncommon. All you need to do is find a decent studio with decent understanding of the hardware architecture who can do some optimisation and perhaps throw in one or two creative ideas. It is not the kind of work you want an organisation like Bioware spending its time doing.

  • All those wonderful licensed games, I am much more assured now 😛

    I'll wait and see how this turns out. If they port ME3 to the Wii U as successfully as Bioware ported ME2 to the PS3 then I will be happy.

    The reason I was asking about the other two games is that the decisions you make in each game affect not only the plot of that game but the sequels too, so that they all form together as a whole. Releasing 1/3 of that whole seems silly. But it makes sense business-wise I guess, over porting the first game instead.

  • Haha, yes, successful, not necessarily academy-award winning. They have had some good titles over the years though.

    I do agree that releasing the third game to an audience that might not have played the first couple is a little strange.

  • I'll be grabbing the trilogy package for PS3 to play over the holidays. I played ME on PC and ME2 on PS3, so I'm looking forward to continuing my character from one game to the next this time around.

  • I'd say it sounds like they've been thrown under the bus by EA. EA is purposely trying to sideways kill their Wii U projects so that they can say to their shareholders "see, we told you core Wii U games won't sell) so as to justify their lack of investment. Sounds petty, ridiculous and reaching, but EA have done this before (eg single handedly blaming Dead Space extraction for a +$200 million quarterly loss), and their track record of financial failure on the HD platforms this gen speaks of a company unable to face market realities.

    They are that lame.

  • Dead Space Extraction was blamed for a poor quarter because the game was expensive to make, and didn't sell well.

    EA is a company, not a person. Deliberately sabotaging a project is something an individual might do, but not a global company with thousands of employees, and shareholders that is has a legal and ethical requirement to create value for. Further to that, EA has access to reams of data with which to make business decisions, which neither you nor I do.

    Given that we don't know what goes on behind the scenes, it's a little strange to be accusing EA of deeply unethical, if not illegal, practices.

  • You think that board members are above petty market practices? That even if the law compels them to act sensibly that that translates into their action? Who's being naive now? EA is on the ropes. The markets are screaming for Riccitiello's head, and ridiculous levels of red ink that have halved their net equity within a generation (not share value, actual money) is a great example of how a scaled business and great data doesn't mean a company knows what its doing or that management aren't clueless. Just look at HP.

    I marked out Dead Space as a a ridiculous example – they virtually blamed it single handedly for a >$200 million quarterly loss. It can't possibly have cost more than 1/15th of that to develop, market (oh yeah, what marketing?) and publish – and it didn't sell zero copies either. $200 million represents something on the scale of half of all development spent by EA on the Wii, the generation's biggest and fastest selling platform in its entire 5 year lifecycle. Lost. In 3 months! It would be economically irresponsible for an investor to look at that loss and not ask "Where did 93% of that loss really come from?" Answer: Multiple high profile HD games running over budget and under sales. Question: "Why didn't they call those out then as their primary problems" Answer: "because doing so would undermine their entire business strategy, which would necessitate firing the entire board". Question: "Why aren't they being investigated by the SEC?". Answer: "This is small fry unimportant stuff. Who cares! Why bother with Robbie Bach selling 9 million shares in his own company 2 days before announcing RROD systemic failures contributing half of $2billion losses in his division when Bernie Madoff is destabilizing the world economy with a $50,000,000,000 Ponzi scheme!"

    Sometimes armchair analysts are right. Sometimes professional analysts are wrong so consistently that you can reliably make money by inverting their recommendations. Sometimes managers tank companies. These all happen, especially in young, not yet matured industries, and the games industry is a prime contender.

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