High Voltage's upcoming shooter, The Conduit, was positioned early on as the studio's effort to prove that the Wii could handle a hardcore FPS. Now, with it set to release in June, we cornered High Voltage creative director Matt Corso and spoke at length on the Wii, its perception with the hardcore crowd, and how his game's graphics size up to other titles like Gears of War.
The Conduit was revealed earlier this month as having a T-rating. Even so, shooters are generally perceived as having a more mature focus. Given this, are you at all worried about slow sales of recently released mature titles on Nintendo consoles, such as titles like MadWorld, House of the Dead: Overkill and GTA Chinatown Wars?
That's a great question. Fortunately we've done our homework and decided from early on to develop a game style that had already proven successful on the Wii. Although The Conduit is very different in terms of gameplay, story, and visual style from games like Metroid and Red Steel, they are also T-Rated Wii-exclusive first-person shooters and they did extremely well on the system.
We expect that the same hardcore audience has been hungry for a new Wii-exclusive FPS ever since those other games were released, and The Conduit is set to deliver the experience they've been waiting for.
"Some games on the higher-end systems have got some really detailed texture work going for them, but we're really not that far off."
Do you see the perception of the Wii shifting any time in the future towards appealing to a more core audience, or do you expect that the so-called "hardcore" will continue to be regarded as somewhat second-class citizens on Nintendo platforms?
As the Wii continues to gain ground in terms of install base, it's inevitable that hardcore games will become more commonplace for the system. There will always be those gamers that are dedicated PC, 360, or PS3 fans, but that's just how it has always been.
The Wii already has a significant audience of core gamers, and many more will discover hardcore gaming for the first time on the Wii; it's inevitable with such an enormous install base. Who would have ever expected to see a game like GTA coming over to DS even a few years ago?
And now there are some gamers who swear by it, claiming that it's the best version of the game yet, thanks to the DS's innovative hardware features. And that's exactly the same thing that they will discover when playing games like The Conduit on Nintendo Wii.
Multiplayer is, of course, a big part of The Conduit. Still, we couldn't help but notice that Nintendo's own servers crashed during the multiplayer preview event, and yet HVS is content to continue using them as the infrastructure behind The Conduit's multiplayer functionality. Why?
Well to be fair, it was actually The Conduit's test servers that crashed and not the consumer servers. To my knowledge, this is not a common occurrence, and that night we were just the unlucky ones. The whole situation was a crying shame, because so much effort was put into organizing the multiplayer event. Both HVS and SEGA were extremely disappointed that the broken server issue kept us from showing off The Conduit's multiplayer gameplay to the press.
That being said, we're fairly certain that this will not be an issue once players finally get to play The Conduit from their homes. I think it's just Murphy's Law that your test servers will only go down after you have already invited over forty members of the gaming press to play and write about your multiplayer feature set.
Are you at all worried that in being labeled as "hardcore" you're inviting a graphical comparison to games like Gears of War?
If you look at the technical specs of an Xbox 360 compared to a Wii, you see that games like Gears do happen to have just a teensy bit more graphical firepower on their side, but we've got the gameplay advantages of the Wii Remote on ours.
Some games on the higher end systems have got some really detailed texture work going for them, but we're really not that far off, and we're also learning how to take better advantage of the texture limitations on our Wii titles. So with our continually developing visual effects feature set, it's entirely possible that our Wii titles will look even closer to some of the games on higher-end systems in the near future.
We know that comparisons to games that are exclusive to other systems are inevitable, and in the end, we know that we've given The Conduit everything we've got. And that's a good feeling for a developer to have. We've developed new technologies along the way that most people never even thought were possible for the system to handle, created a completely new gaming franchise that stands up to some of the best Hollywood blockbuster movies, included amazing Wi-Fi multiplayer gameplay, and even developed a slick new interface with so many customization options that it's nearly impossible to find two people in the studio using the same control scheme to play the game. We've made a really fun game that looks incredible running on the hardware. At this point we just have to wait and let the fans decide the outcome for themselves once The Conduit ships this June.
And after The Conduit is on store shelves, where does HVS go from here? You've been working on the game for such a long time now, so what happens after release?
High Voltage will continue its tradition of developing a variety of different games for nearly every platform. We've developed and shipped game titles while The Conduit has been in development, and we'll continue that trend on down the road. Interestingly enough, we do have some other titles in the works right now that are being designed to take our studio to the next level. It is fortunate that E3 is just around the corner, so you won't need to wait too much longer to find out what that means.
What's going on with Animales de la Muerte? Last we heard it was making the leap from WiiWare to a disc format. When can we expect to hear more?
Animales has been in the works for some time now. It was a pet project that gained quite a following shortly after we had announced it to the press. We're still working out the details as far as when it's due to be completed and what the final format will be, but you should be sure and write to firstname.lastname@example.org letting us know just how badly you anticipate playing the game. Together we can make a difference and finally put suffering hordes of bloodthirsty undead zoo critters to rest. Save the Animales, save the world!
Even so, HVS has a number of WiiWare games to its credit already, including Casino: Blackjack, Gyrostarr, Evasive Space, and HV Hot Rod Show. Do you have any plans to tackle DSiWare?
No game system is ever out of the question for our studio. We currently don't have any plans in the works for DSiWare, but you never know what system will make the most sense to develop for in the future.
Do you expect to continue to work on WiiWare titles going forward?
Now that Nintendo has released the 4.0 system update we're hoping that consumers will feel more compelled to purchase WiiWare titles since they can now download and play them directly from their SD cards. If that starts to happen, then it's likely that High Voltage will develop more WiiWare games in the coming years.
"It's inevitable that hardcore games will become more commonplace for the Wii."
What about other channels, like Xbox Live Arcade or PSN? Any interest there?
Definitely, we are always interested in developing for those platforms. Unfortunately, there's not much else to report right now.
Back to The Conduit, given that the finish line is almost upon you, what stands out to you as the biggest obstacle the team had to overcome during this project?
Having been there since day one on The Conduit, I'd say that initially the biggest hurdle was turning around the perceptions of publishers, the 360/PS3-focused press, and the hardcore gaming audience, and convincing them that a game like The Conduit rightfully deserves a home on the Nintendo Wii. It was tough for everyone, spending late nights working on a brand new unknown game, not knowing if anyone outside of the company would ever believe in it.
We're still amazed by the overwhelmingly positive reception that gamers have given to The Conduit. The support of the fans has truly fueled the creative fires of our team's ambition. The game has turned out to be something really special, and developing it has been a completely unique experience for us. Thank you again to the fans! We never could have done it without your support.
And, finally, what is something you would say you learned most from this experience?
I've learned that I work with some amazingly talented people that are committed to their craft. That a team of determined people can do just about anything if they work together. And that on June 23rd Mr. Ford is going to exact some ass-kicking revenge on those nasty Drudge villains in The Conduit.