Couple of days ago, our reporter, Dvorsky, had a pleasure to talk with Jesse Lowther, lead designer and president of Medaverse Studios, WiiWare game developer. Here you can see what were they talking about…AW: How many people is in your team, and who is working on which part of development?
Jesse: We have a total of eight people spread across the country who are doing work on the project, but our core team consists of three people, and when I say ‘core’, I mean myself, a brilliant programmer and a brilliant artist, both of whom I’ve been friends with and worked alongside since high school. Why do they put up with ME, you ask? I have no idea, but I’m grateful that they do.
AW: Does Nintendo gives you any support for your WiiWare game, Gravitronix?
Jesse: I don’t want to comment on that because I fear people will attempt to derive hidden meaning from anything I say.
AW: Do you expect Gravitronix to attract big audience?
Jesse: I honestly couldn’t predict that. Don’t get me wrong, we’re pouring our heart and soul into Gravitronix, but I’ve seen many a game with that same amount of love put into it slip quietly through the cracks. It’s my hope that players will give us a chance, but in the gaming world, trust is something you need to earn. Speaking as a gamer of 24 years, I’ve been burned enough times on game purchases that I refuse to buy before I rent unless I truly trust the developer and I associate their work with quality. That said, I think Gravitronix could go a long way toward earning some of that trust with quite a few players. If, after Gravitronix is released, I don’t see people saying things on forums like, ‘We stayed up until 4 AM playing Gravitronix!’ then it’ll probably feel like we’ve failed in some way. I want this to be the type of game people can just play for hours and hours, and while I can’t guarantee that it will be just that, you at least know what we’re trying to deliver.
AW: Are you maybe concerned that Gravitronix won’t get good rates?
Jesse: It’s not something you can allow yourself to lose sleep over. We’re just going to make the best damn game we can and hope it’s well received.
AW: How many more projects do you have in development?
Jesse: We easily have another dozen games in the ‘idea’ stage, some might even have concept art, but right now it’s Gravitronix and only Gravitronix. We have more ideas, yes, and they may sound compelling if we wanted to discuss them, but we’re going to actually RELEASE a game before we even consider focusing on other games.
AW: Is some game from Paranoia saga WiiWare title too?
Jesse: We had designed a title before Paranoia which was intended for WiiWare, but we decided it would be beyond the scope of our abilities in terms of both funding and experience. Paranoia was intended to be our first WiiWare game (hence why it was announced), as it was a much simpler game than our first idea, but we decided we didn’t have the necessary resources to make Paranoia into the game we truly wanted it to be, either. So now we’re working on Gravitronix and we’re not looking up until we’re done. Gravitronix makes for the perfect start for us due to its technical simplicity. I’m sure we could have eventually come up with an even simpler idea, but Gravitronix is perfect in that it’s a challenge for us as a development team while still being within our capability.
AW: What do you think about WiiWare?
Jesse: That’s a bit of a loaded question: I’m predisposed toward loving it because it might be the foot in the door Medaverse has been waiting for. When I first heard the idea, though, I definitely liked where it was coming from. Iwata-san’s quote about how Tetris would be rejected by today’s ‘glitz over gameplay’ mentality comes to mind, and while I am by no means trying to compare Gravitronix to Tetris, Grav would have a difficult time being noticed these days with its hand-drawn characters and simple but utilitarian graphics.
AW: Long ago, your site was only news site, and now it’s internet base of the new game developer, Medaverse Studios. Do you miss ‘the old time’?
Jesse: Heh, honestly? Not at all. I know first-hand how difficult it is to compete with massive media giants when it comes to reporting game industry news (hence why I’m fine with giving interviews to smaller news sites), but the real issue is that we’ve dealt with that part of the game industry already and we were definitely ready to move on to another part of it.
AW: Do you expect bigger media attention in the future?
Jesse: It depends entirely upon whether or not the players and the media like what we have to offer, and I don’t just mean our games. One of my responsibilities at Medaverse is to be the voice of the company, and while I wouldn’t be surprised if I come to learn some hard lessons about PR and how it works, I plan to do things a bit differently than most development houses when it comes to how we handle relations with our fans. For starters, we have our own forums which anyone is welcome to join if they want to talk with us directly and I’m a forum nut so I check regularly, as do other members of the development team. Beyond that, I want Medaverse to wear as much on its sleeve as possible, meaning that we’ll be as forthcoming about information as we can. It also means that I’ll tell it like it is, and that includes being honest about our current situation even if the outlook is negative. Right now, Gravitronix is on track to release alongside WiiWare, but if that changes, it’s my opinion that even our potential customers deserve to know.
AW: Are you going to stick with Nintendo’s platforms in a future, or you’re thinking about switching on Xbox360 or PS3?
Jesse: It’s not the company so much as the people behind it who we’ll opt to stick with. When you look at a company, you can’t look at the name so much as the leadership. In any organization, you generally have two different types of leaders: those which inspire faith in the organization and its goals and those who do not. I’m perfectly aware that we as a developer had a choice when it came to which platform we want to develop for and we chose to develop for the Wii (even before it launched) because Nintendo’s leadership inspired this faith in us. When I first saw the Wii remote when it was revealed back in Oct. 2005, I knew Nintendo was headed in the right direction and I knew that from my excitement as a gamer rather than business savvy as a developer. Combine that with the fact that I had previously planned to opt out of gaming before I saw the Wii remote (I was becoming a ‘lapsed gamer’, as it were) and it was brilliantly clear to me that Nintendo was onto something big.
The bottom line is that we like where Nintendo is going. They’re bringing something fresh and new to the table, a new set of brushes to an otherwise tired canvas. With this comes a new approach to the market and those involved in it, one which I find refreshing as both a gamer and a developer. Will it be like this forever? I don’t know, but we’ll be with Nintendo for as long as it lasts.
AW:Thank you for answering!
Dvorsky on September 18th 2007