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Retro discusses the challenges of developing for the Wii U

donkey kong tropical freeze

With the Game Developer’s Conference in full swing in San Francisco this week, we’re beginning to hear a lot from various developers about their experiences developing for certain platforms. IGN recently had a chance to sit down with Retro president Michael Kelbaugh to discuss the challenges of developing for the Wii U and what it’s like working as a second party developer for Nintendo. Perhaps the most profound thing Kelbaugh had to say was discussing the Nintendo way of developing games, which is not how the Western world approaches game development.

For a lot of western developers, when an idea comes up that pushes you beyond the scope of the schedule, you automatically say no, whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. That’s not the Nintendo way. If it’s a good idea, we’ll find time to make it.

This direction of thought is the main reason why Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was delayed from a December title to late February and explains why Nintendo was comfortable with the delay. So what about the Wii U? That’s the biggest factor in change between Donkey Kong Country Returns and its sequel on the Wii U. According to Kelbaugh, the new system took some adjusting to get used to developing, but overall it was a positive experience for the team.

The Wii U is a powerhouse of technology that we had to transition to. We had brand new tools, brand new engine, brand new everything. There was a lot of unknowns. From a technology standpoint we’re trying to develop that technology while we’re developing a new game at the same time. That was really challenging.

Of course, Retro wouldn’t be a Nintendo developer without the guidance of Kensuke Tanabe, who says early on in the project there was some resistance to the Nintendo way of doing things. But at the same time, Tanabe admits that Retro was able to provide valuable insight into American culture and what Western gamers like to see in their games. If you’d like to read the full interview, you can find it here.

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  • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

    “If it’s a good idea, we’ll find time to make it.”

    I really like that statement. It’s one of the reasons I prefer Nintendo branded games above others, despite droughts

    • verymetal

      I agree. It is better to wait for something great, rather than something that seems rushed. I would just like some announcements every now and then, what is there to look forward too that we haven’t known about for the past year? When your starving even a raisin looks good.

      • Matt

        I agree. I would rather wait a year or so for a polished game, then having them push an unfinished game out early.

        • Kyle

          NSMB U needed polished but I guess it makes since because it was a launch title.

          • val berger

            hm, how did it need a polish? not that I disagree, but I experienced that game just not really as good as its predecessor without making out certain rough edges. It just felt kinda uninspired but actually still polished.

      • David Trail

        I didn’t know about Sonic Boom for the last year?

        • verymetal

          Stop the presses! Sonic Boom is actually coming? How could I have missed that? I don’t think I will be able to sleep.

      • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

        Yeah, it’s fine to take their time, but they need to keep us more involved, otherwise we lose interest. Like where did Yarn Yoshi go?

        • http://ejercitogeek.net/ Mercurio2054

          Like SSB

          • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

            exactly. I want to be involved, get screenshots, etc. Miiverse is a great tool for this. I’d like to see it used more like that

        • val berger

          I guess we will propably never see Yarn Yoshi again. At many systems launches, game concepts got introduced to show off some ideas you can expect from that console. With so many plattformers available on the WiiU and the fact, that yarn yoshi is basically just a mix of Yoshi’s Island and Yarn Kirby, I think this game has just attended Nintendo’s self-help-group for unreleased games, sitting next to Retro’s Ravenblade and Nintendo’s Wii-Hammer-Slashergame. After Sonic Lost World got a DLC featuring just exactly those yarn-yoshi-elements they might also have found some way to recycle those available elements.

          • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

            yeah… I really hope we see it, but if they never mention it again, I won’t be surprised.

            I hope that SMT x FE game comes out…

    • Shota

      steel diver was a pretty good idea but it sucked

      • YogiGRB

        I love steel diver, specially the new one (first 2 missions for free) plus one really nice multiplayer mode

        • Shota

          hell yeah! the new one is just wonderfull! underwater 3D!!

    • David Trail

      What drought…? I am playing Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Runner 2, TNT Racers, Super Mario 3D World and Rayman Legends just to name a few.

      Shovel Knight, then Mario Kart 8 really soon.

      • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

        We had nothing new in January though :/

        • David Trail

          I was still playing SM3DW. Plus Unpeic was pretty good. I buy a lot of indie games. They are better than a lot of main titles these days IMO.

          • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

            I don’t have the money to buy as much as I want… and SM3DW disappointed me, honestly

          • val berger

            SP maybe, although I think I had still loved it. But in terms of MP, it’s the greatest thing to happen to console gaming since the original Mario Kart on the SNES, huh?? I really don’t think I ever had so much fun with any MP game. But maybe it’s just me. But I really claim this to be a far bigger milestone than Galaxy was, although Galaxy already blew me away :) Well OK, I may always try to act objective, but can’t with Mario games ;D

          • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

            Actually, I enjoyed it more single player, but seeing how the whole thing seemed catered towards multiplayer, it felt kinda dry. I played it with friends numerous times, but none were near my skill level, and it was hard to get us all in the same place. It was just too chaotic. 4 people with such different skill levels just didn’t mix. It ended up with more frustration than anything. Single player felt too barren and easy, except for champion’s road, which was a crazy difficulty spike.

      • verymetal

        That is so cute!

      • greengecko007

        I can understand some people still being satisfied with playing Donkey Kong, but those other games you listed are several months old, going back to last year. I too am a gamer on a budget, so the drought’s don’t affect me as much either, but that doesn’t change that the drought is still here.

        • David Trail

          Ha well I’m gaming. There aren’t any droughts for me!

          • val berger

            If you are into certain genres, then there will always be a drought on a system that isn’t delivering enough of em. For the mainstream masses who are used to that mix of RPG-Shooter-Action-Adventure-Racing-Sim-OnlineMMO-Whatever the WiiU still isn’t delivering too much content. If you are into a focus on platforming, family & offline multiplayer games, it’s a similar situation when leaving the WiiU. That’s why Nintendo should never have started to promote the WiiU as the complete package, delivering games for the PS360 as well as Wii-audience because that just cannot ever work. Since they are now more into focusing on their actual releases, everything seems to fit better together. There’s nothing bad in being a console for everyone.

    • Josiah Parsons

      Miyamoto: “a delayed game is good eventually, a cancelled game is bad forever.”

      • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

        precisely

    • http://nintendopapercraftvideos.wordpress.com/ Sam

      You’re my favorite commenter.

    • J_Joestar

      not like some other devs that go “If it’s a good idea, we’ll package it later into DLC.”

      • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

        Nintendo’s been doing DLC recently, but at least they seem to be doing it right

    • http://ejercitogeek.net/ Mercurio2054

      Third party: ohhhh its a good idea, save IT yo a DLC!!!!!!

    • Random12multi

      Now if only other companies can learn from that…

    • val berger

      Don’t really wanna go down that path again, but where was this philosophy when they cut out 2 dungeons to meet Wind Wakers schedule? But OK, I guess most of the time you really feel Nintendo sticks to these words.

      • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

        THAT was sketchy. and true, they don’t always stick by this, but more often than not, and ESPECIALLY more often than western devs

  • Assassinated23

    Was the end of the article cut off? It seems to end with “If you’d”

    • Robert Butters

      Same problem

      • NintendoFan

        People who use Adblock it seems had the article cut off a little

  • Tekina Sibawo

    I’m glad they started with DKC tropical freeze to learn how to work the nuts and bolts of the Wii U. Now when they do Metroid it will have a chance to be more polished :)

    • Ducked

      They didn’t polish tropical freeze, I still have to wait forever for loading screens.

      • David Trail

        It’s not that long dude.

      • steveb944

        You want load screens? Try Splinter Cell

        • Arthur Jarret

          Try Tekken 6 on PS3… or Lego city undercover….

  • Donaald

    Where’s the rest of the article?

    • palomino blue

      looks fine to me

      • Jon

        so… ending with “If you’d” is good to you?

        • palomino blue

          Ends like this for me:
          “If you’d like to read the full interview, you can find it here.”

          • Jon

            well, I guess you got it lucky then because there seems to be a few people where that last part is cut off. for me, the lower part of the “y” is also cut off so it actually looks like “vou’d”

    • Pete

      My adblocker in Firefox hides Google Ad and cuts the bottom of the article off.

  • https://twitter.com/Onyzora Ony

    Metroid.

  • Lusunup

    Kinda makes you get excited now that developers like the zelda team and metriod team got there games out with unknown technology,(WindWaker, DKCTF) Now that they experienced it more they can fully use the wiiu specs through the rough!

  • NintendoFan

    I turned adblock off, and “like to read the full interview, you can find it here.” is there if anyone is interested.

    • Einar

      So thats why the article was cut off… I only installed adblock because of those pesky youtube ads.

  • Ducked

    Nintendo has done a poor job in regards of developing for the Wii U gamepad. No game has proved that I really need a Wii U gamepad for actual gameplay. Wind Waker HD came close, but New Super Mario Bros U, Super Mario 3D World, and Pikmin 3 clearly didn’t need any use of the gamepad.

    Retro didn’t take any advantages of the gamepad either. Tropical Freeze just makes the gamepad go black when playing on TV. Off TV gameplay is the only thing Wii U games really use, and it just seems like a gimmick now.

    The only developer that uses the Wii U gamepad well is Ubisoft, ZombiU used excellent gameplay with the gamepad. Rayman Legends and Blacklist took advantage of the gamepad as well.

    I’ve said it many times before, Nintendo needs to make games that use the Wii U gamepad in GAMEPLAY. If not, then they may as well sell it with a Pro Controller.

    • lonewolf

      Do not forget deus ex director’s cut

      • David Trail

        Lego City Under Cover, Nintendo Land, Zelda Wind Waker HD, Game and Wario, Wonderful 101 make good use of the gamepad. Even NSMBU, I love five player Mario!

        • Ducked

          Nintendo Land does, but its a party game.

          • David Trail

            All of those games do and so what if it is a party game? Knack is a platformer, doesn’t make it good?

          • greengecko007

            Party games simply aren’t as enjoyable alone. Nintendo Land shows great potential for the gamepad, but it’s not a game that is going to be played very often compared to games like Super Mario 3D World.

          • David Trail

            When I have no friends around. I play Nintendo Land for high scores. Each to their own.

    • David Trail

      I like blowing into the mic on SM3DW, also off screen play, miiverse would be a night mare without the game pad. Even doing what I am doing now is due to the game pad. An Animal Crossing/ Harvest Moon type game would work really well with the Game Pad.

      • Ducked

        I do hope we get an Animal Crossing for wii u soon

      • steveb944

        We would have been able to have a trackpad on a remote in order to maneuver around Miiverse. Throw in a USB or Bluetooth keyboard and we would have even more function. OMG I would LOVE to have Harvest Moon!!! It would implement the second screen perfectly.

      • greengecko007

        Blowing into a mic and tapping a touchscreen are basic inputs that have been done to death since the DS 10 years ago. I do think an Animal Crossing game that used the gamepad in some creative way would be good though, especially given the popularity of the series. It could at least be another reason to buy a Wii U.

    • Quicksilver88

      I am going to largely agree with you in that Shiggy said not to long ago….’we continue to make hardware to be able to provide unique features that can be implemented in game design’….something close to that anyways….then Iwata admitted WiiU was conceptually failing because of lack of creative gamepad use. So Nintendo knows and I have to believe coming titles from Nintendo will use it……two non-ubi games that used gamepad well are DuesEx and Batman AC. I love when a game really uses second screen gaming…what could be done boggles the mind, but will anyone ever bring it…….I thought from the day the Wii was announced that a good lightsaber star wars fighter was a total no brainer yet Lucas never did it….

  • David Trail

    Retro are working on their next game. It’s probably Metroid ; )

  • Ryan F

    I’d rather Nintendo organize their good thoughts early on, thrash with those ideas like crazy in early stages, then aggressively pursue a ship date.

  • DC777

    “Kelbaugh believes when people play a Retro Studios game 10 years from
    now, people will remember a great game and not as a product that shipped
    on time.”

    EA take notes please.

    • David Trail

      Konami take note as well ; )

    • val berger

      the problem is, that EA’s business models may not always work out, but they work out enough for them to keep telling themselves shovelware, freemium and multiple DLCpackages at a product’s launch would be the way to go. So no way they ever learn anything. Question is, why should we really care. The worse EA gets, the better for Nintendo as they don’t seem to support each other anyway. As EA sucked up some really nice studios and brands, I still think it hurts as I loved the idea of not having to buy a PS4 to play everything I’m interested in, but now the WiiU is turning into a system that can’t stay alone forever, again. But it’s ok as long as a WiiU and a PS4 will always have their unique strengths and weaknesses and in the end its gonna be history repeating as my PS3 did her job gracefully but always stayed quite a dull peace of tech while the Wii and now the WiiU just have character. And maybe I like the WiiU just because of their failures. It’s like a neurotic Woody Allen-type console while the PS4 is some Michael Bay Blockbusterthing. I’m kinda fine with that ;D

  • Dark-Link73

    Ok, so first Iwata said that they needed “…more time to work on the title (DKC:TF) implying the game wasn’t finished yet. THEN, it was reported that Retro is being working on a new Wii U title since “…wrapping up Tropical Freeze production in November…” (implying the game WAS finished in November). NOW in this article, the writer implies that Nintendo’s “.. direction of thought is the main reason why Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was delayed from a December title to late February…” even though Retro never said that “Nintendo’s way” was the main reason fir the game’s delay (and if they did, it wasn’t mentioned in the interview except).

    I swear, nowadays developer’s PR, game delays, and cancellations are just like politics. Pure BS.

  • GregoryTheRainMaker

    Mkay

  • Wighead

    “For a lot of western developers, when an idea comes up that pushes you beyond the scope of the schedule, you automatically say no, whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea.” Huh? If that was right then there would be no push back and playable games made by western devs on launch date, which is not the case. Most of the time the games are delayed and still comes unfinished as you have to wait for two or three major updates before you get the “real” finished game. And this is even more true for the Wii U as they may not even bother to finish it in the end. Thats how western devs work, unfortunatly… (not mentioning that they often time say that if gamers bought their games they would have provided them the patches that are necessary to experience what you would ask from a finished game.) Maybe they should stop anouncing the launch dates of their games right after their first unofficial meeting concerning that said game.

  • http://www.youtube.com/zyroxz2 ZyroXZ2

    Not to be a bother, but does the author of this article have any intention of fixing the error about Retro Studios being “second” party? They’re a first party studio!

    • Potemkin

      erm…No, Retro is second party.

      Nintendo itself would be first party, Retro Second party and Capcom third party.

      Being second party gives them the opportunity to develope whatever they want but exclusively for Nintendo consoles, when third party can do whatever they want.

      • Roma

        Retro is another division of Nintendo as they fully own them as for second party they aren’t fully owned but they develop games exclusively on Nintendo platforms. I can’t believe people still think they are second party

      • FutureFox

        A quick Google confirms it, they are owned by Nintendo and thus are 1st party.

  • David Reschke

    “If it’s a good idea, we’ll find time to make it.”

    I understand: Don’t dare to per-order a Nintendo console ever again. Wait for good games, buy the console used for one third the price on ebay :D … Good advice. Thank you very much.

  • Roma

    Retro is first party not second

  • Carlos Webster

    This proves Retro is not biased.

  • Cliffsofdover8

    Retro is a 1st party developer for Nintendo not a 2nd party developer