Old-school games developer Archer Maclean has a new title called Speed Zone in the works for Nintendo Wii. As the name might suggest, it's a racing game and it's coming out towards the end of July. I caught up with Archer to ask him a few questions.
WW: Hi Archer, how's it going?
AM: Feeling very good having just read this review !!!
There is a low-res video on youtube, but really you need to see the game running on the console because streaming it just doesn't convey the 60fps visuals.
WW: Your new racing game, is it called "Speed Zone" or "SpeedZone"? I've noticed several inconsistencies, even on the official websites.
AM: Either. Anybody commenting on it is bound to subconsciously spell it either way around, but it's the same game at the end of the day and says the same thing. Going back 20 yrs I can remember a No. #1 game I had called 'Arthur Mccleans 3D Pool' since the chart compiler believed that the boxed game had a spelling mistake in the 'archer' part of my real name!
WW: Can you tell us a bit about the game, and what made you pick the Nintendo Wii as the target platform?
AM: I'm a big fan of "casual games" - games that have pick-up-n-play qualities that turn out to be really addictive and without the need to read big manuals or learn some irrelevant storylines in order to play it.[PAGEJUMP]
Look back at any of my games and this is the pattern I've tended to follow. Just look at Dropzone on the Atari 800 or IK+ on the Amiga 25 yrs ago, right up to Mercury on the PSP in 2005/6.
Also, I bought one of the early Wii's back in 2006 and found most of the driving games pretty awful hastily converted ports from other platforms, and I knew we could do much much better.
History shows that after a year or two programmers can really get into each platform and work out how to push it, and that's what I believe we have done with Speed Zone. The game has to be seen to be believed, especially when running on a Wii console at a very smooth 60 frames per second in widescreen 16:9 at 480p resolution with the sound cranked up. Unfortunately any low-res video on youtube just doesn't do it justice due to the restrictions of low bandwidth and 15 to 30fps when streaming off the net.
WW: The game features a split-screen option for up to 8 players, isn't that going to look crazy on smaller screens?
AM: It's optional! The game supports all combinations from 1 to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Most people will be zoned out in 1 player mode running at 60fps. But when we've opened it up to focus groups the multiplayer race and battle modes tend to be in 2 player split or quad screen.
And sure, it will also do 8 players simultaneously. On a 50" plasma it looks fine, but if you're really determined to play it on a 14" portable tele, then sure, it will look small.
WW: Are you a Wii fan in general?
AM: Yup! Nintendo games are just soooo well honed, and they know it.
Whilst I admire the vast technical abilities of next gen games on PS3 and XB360, I rarely have time to really get into the monster games available now. The Wii is perfect for fun games where you can pick up and have a blast for half an hour.
Also, from a commercial perspective, making a return on your development investment is more likely on a Wii than the next gen consoles. The dev budgets for many of the latest PS3 games exceed that of some mainstream films and the risk/reward ratio is not so favourable, plus there are many other hindrances to developing on high end consoles. Get it right and the returns are huge, but even some of the huge games publishers are shying away from big budgets now.
WW: In the past you've been well known for doing Pool and Snooker games, did you consider making one for the Wii at any point, given the unique nature of its controller?
AM: Yes, would be a doodle to do, although spare time/money are always the obstacles these days, along with spreading myself too thinly between too many projects. Plus I like to innovate, rather than get stereotyped, and a lot of people still say "oh, yeah, you're the snooker and pool guy" even though that started 20 yrs ago.
WW: You were the brains behind the original Mercury game, did you play the follow-up on Wii, Mercury Meltdown Revolution? If so, what did you think of it?
AM: I did layout the design of what was supposed to be the proper Mercury 2, but this didn't happen for some fairly bizarre reasons worthy of a Hollywood film, and I had nothing to do with the production of 'meltdown' - other than being the person who invented the original, which just looked soooo much better!!!
Modest as ever, many thanks to Archer for taking time out to speak with us.
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