Debuting on WiiWare, Nnooo’s hybrid of puzzle game and shooter has recently been remade for iPhone. We spoke with the independent studio’s founder Nic Watt, about the pros and cons of developing for each platform.
Develop: What motivated the decision to move Pop from WiiWare to iPhone?
Pop is a game which is very tactile and requires close interaction between the player and the bubbles. We felt that the touch screen nature of the iPhone and iPod Touch really made Pop feel even more interactive than on the Wii. The player can actually touch the bubbles making it easier to not only create chains and pop the bubbles but also pump the bubbles up.
Develop: And what motivated the decision the rebuild the game from the ground up, instead of porting directly?
There were several reasons and most of them were technical. Firstly the Wii and the iPhone have very different hardware and programming languages so it worked out quicker to program the game from the ground up rather than try to write a complex port of the Wii's C++ code to Apple's Objective C. Furthermore doing this could also have led to a lot of unknown slowdown and secondary issues.
Secondly the Wii and iPhone use different graphics cards, with the iPhone using OpenGL and the Wii using Nintendo's proprietary format, so for us to ensure that Pop ran fast and smoothly on the iPhone it was essential to make best use of the graphics cards. Finally, we wanted to make as much use of the native iPhone OS as possible such as the ability to keep the user’s music playing and the new "Tell a friend" feature we are adding in an upcoming new update.
The "Tell a friend" feature will allow users to mail their friends to not only recommend the game but also brag about their scores.
Develop: What are the advantages of developing for the iPhone over the Wii Ware platform?
Each platform has its pros and cons. The iPhone makes it very easy to make a game and get it to market quickly as there are much fewer hoops to jump through in comparison with the Wii. On the iPhone we make the game, age rate it through Apple’s submission site and wait for Apple to certify us. On the Wii we must liaise with all of the various ratings agencies around the world and pay their fees – usually about $1000 per game per territory – as well as comply with Nintendo’s strict testing requirements.
The pros to Apple's system are that as I mentioned you can turn a game round quickly and release it quickly. The cons are that you have no control over when the game comes out and, due to the ease of making software, there is a flood of apps coming to market making the it hard to get noticed. I feel that this flood is lowering the quality benchmark, which in the end makes it unlikely you will easily be able to recoup costs.
The pros to Nintendo's system are that due to the tough nature of submission and the expense of getting a rating there are fewer games out there and those that are, are all of a very good standard. The con obviously is that it is more expensive and turn around is longer.
Develop: And what about the other advantages WiiWare development offers over making games for the iPhone?
In addition to my answer above I would say that you have a more captive audience on WiiWare. People have bought the Wii to primarily play games and so are looking for more games to play. On the iPhone you have people who have bought it for using as a phone and to play music, with the apps being more of an after thought. Furthermore, peoples’ attitude on the iPhone have rapidly become 'why pay when I can get lots of stuff for free?', which is a shame.
Develop: Why have you decided to go with free updates and ‘99c app’ versions of your Pop game?
Principally to test the market. We are a new company and we wanted to work out what works best. We feel that at $4.99 the complete version of Pop is remarkably good value for money and are reluctant to reduce it, although we are currently offering it on sale for $2.99 for a limited time. So instead of making Pop free or 99c we wanted to create different version which might draw the users of the cheap versions to the full one without annoying the users of the full version.
We therefore made Pop Chill, priced at 99c, which features the great and relaxing Chill mode from Pop. Here the user can pop bubbles without any pressures of time or score. Because Pop allows users to keep listening to their iPod music in game we felt that Pop Chill would be a great way to pass the time on the bus, tube or ferry to or from work.
Pop Lite is a free cut down version of the game which is meant to showcase Pop. With a custom timed mode and a video trailer we thought it would be a good way to bring new users to the game.
Develop: Does the iPhone make things a little easier for an indie which is, like yourself, establishing a franchise?
Definitely. The iPhone is a great machine to work with and it has allowed us to get a new version with lots more features and modes out in a really short period of time.
Develop: Will we see you return to WiiWare?
Definitely. We have quite a lot of great game ideas for WiiWare and intend to start working on our next WiIWare game this year.
Develop: And what about the other handhelds. Does the DSi interest you?
It does, and we’ll be revealing our plans soon.
Develop: Does Nnooo have any plans to create a game outside the Pop series for the iPhone?
At the moment we are using Pop on each platform to assess the viability of that platform. To this end it is a little early to say as, while we have already gathered one award from Pocketgamer and were finalists in six Best App Ever categories for Pop on the iPhone, sales have not been as stellar as we were hoping. As I say, it is still early days, so we are keeping our eye on things. We do have quite a few ideas which would work equally well on the DSi as the iPhone so watch this space.