Red Steel is looking like one of Wii's biggest launch games. Ubisoft hopes to push the boundaries of the genre with a new free-pointer control style and fancy sword-fighting mechanics, all operated using the motion sensing powers of the Wii Remote.
After a lengthy hands-on session with a near-final version, CVG grabbed Lead Game Designer, Roman Campos-Oriola, for a chat about the challenges of developing a totally new control system for a totally new piece of hardware. Enjoy.
Red Steel has come on a long way since E3. What have been the most significant improvements made to the game since then?
Campus-Oriola: E3 was the first time we showed the game to people outside of the development team - before E3 we couldn't even show the game to other Ubisoft employees. So that was the first time that we got any feedback at all, and after that the main thing we tweaked was the control. We aimed to make the controls tighter, really focusing on the detection of movement with the Wii Remote's pointer.
Since E3 all of the motion detection has changed, so now all of the sword actions are much easier to pull off. The hardware has also changed since E3. We were running it on Revolution dev kits back then. With the new hardware, we were able to tweak the graphics.
The bulk of the work was done on creating a better lighting system. We re-worked the lighting on the backgrounds and, more significantly, on character models. One thing that wasn't so good at E3 was the character models - when you spoke to them they looked almost like 2D characters and when you stood far away you couldn't see them at all, so we improved the lighting on them to fix this.
When Nintendo first approached you with the Wii controller, what were your initial thoughts, impressions and ideas?
Campus-Oriola: The first time we heard about the controller was from a Nintendo correspondent at E3 last year, who detailed the main motion-sensitive concept for the controller. He also told us that Nintendo wanted Ubisoft to make a first-person-shooter for the new console and its unique control system.
We spent the next three months thinking about what type of FPS control mechanics we could achieve with this controller - things like how you'd throw a grenade and adding swordplay. After our lengthy brainstorm, we decided to focus on four concepts and present those to Nintendo.
So we showed them how we wanted to use their new controller interface for an FPS. With direct movement interaction, this FPS would, for the first time in the genre, allow the player to aim anywhere on the screen, and we showed them the sword gameplay.
That demonstration took place in July last year in Kyoto, Japan. After showing Nintendo what we wanted to do, we were lead to another room in its Kyoto office where there were 13 different prototype mini-games to show off the controller. Then they showed us the Wii Remote, and the mini-games which each demonstrated different functions of the Remote, excluding the Remote speaker of course, because there was no speaker at that time.
We were really amazed by what we saw, and at that time we didn't even think about the technical power of the console. We we're too tied up in thoughts about what may or may not be possible with the controller. When we were eventually given the specs for the machine we realised that it wasn't that powerful, but we didn't care because of the controller. So our first ideas we're not at all focused on power, but on FPS play mechanics.