Interviews

Forever popping bubbles – Nnooo talks iPhone Pop

Nnooo studio head Nic Watt also chats about Pop DSi and other future projects

Forever popping bubbles – Nnooo talks iPhone Pop
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Indie studio Nnooo was only established in 2006 but it’s already made a big splash in the video game world with its addictive puzzle/shooter title Pop, which was a well-received launch title for Nintendo’s Wii-based WiiWare download service. As we recently reported, the game has freshly ported to the App Store and is available for download as we speak.

Keen to learn a bit more about the process of migrating a game from one downloadable service to another, we got in touch with studio founder Nic Watt – a former lead designer at EA’s London offices – and ‘popped’ (see what we did there?) a few questions his way.

Pocket Gamer: Was it relatively easy to port Pop from WiiWare to iPhone? Were there any particular challenges you had to overcome?

Nic Watt: Pop for the iPhone and iPod touch has been developed from the ground up for the platform. We decided rather than try to convert the Wii code to run on the iPhone and iPod touch we would use the native aspects of the platform so we could not only get the best out of it but also make use of its unique features. In particular, moving from a pointer to a touch based interface required some reworking on our part.

Having said that, much of the game balance remains the same with the same progression through the waves and many similar mechanics. We have adjusted the difficulty somewhat and made a few game balancing improvements as well.

Have you made any enhancements in this version of the game?

Yes, there are quite a few. We have:

  1. Adjusted the time and score rewards when you are in a chain to make it more rewarding to the player.
  2. Added the ‘X’ power-up. This removes all other power- ups when you pop it making it great for building up long chains by pumping up. We found on the WiiWare version that the skulls really made it hard for people to keep their chains going so while we didn't want to make it so easy that you can just pump up all the time we found that adding the X adds another layer of risk and reward. Do you pop the X and possibly remove any multiplier power-ups but also get rid of the skulls? Or do you ignore it and then run the risk of hitting a skull and breaking your chain?
  3. Added a whole new bonus round called 'Detonate'. Detonate tasks you with popping or pumping up one bubble to set off a chain reaction. The better you place the detonation, the bigger a chain you can rack up.
  4. Not only randomised the bonus rounds so every four waves you will get one of Detonate or Machine Gun but also added ten difficulty levels of each so every time you cycle past wave 16 the bonus rounds will get harder!
  5. Added three new timed modes: 1 minute, 2 minute and 5 minutes. In these you cannot accrue more time; instead, you must try to score as highly as you can within the time limit.
  6. We are also planning on adding new modes and content in future patches.

What made you select the iPhone over other formats such as the PSP or DS?

We are currently looking at DSi for another version of Pop as well as some of our future games (yes, we have some more ideas rather than just Pop!). The reason we went for iPhone over PSP or DS is that as a small company our focus is on downloadable games rather than boxed product. This way we have complete control over the financial and creative side which gives us the freedom to make the games we want, how we want.

How does developing and publishing on WiiWare compare to developing and publishing on the App Store?

They are quite a lot of similarities and a few differences. WiiWare games go through a longer submission process with Nintendo in part as there are more localisation issues. Apple allows you to release in one or more languages of your choice, whereas Nintendo require at the very least that your e-manual be localised. Also because the iPhone runs an operating system (a kind of ‘baby’ Mac OSX) there are a lot of things which Apple have done for us which on Wii we need to include and test with every game. However, the main process of creating, testing, submitting and releasing the game is pretty similar across the board.

Do you intend to offer additional content for the iPhone version via downloadable updates?

Yes. We have just submitted a demo version to Apple which will be free. Users will be able to download the demo, try Normal or Timed 1 Minute and then watch a trailer for the game or jump straight to the full release version in the App Store and purchase it there and then!

We also plan on offering free updates to users of the full version. These will be in the form of new modes, multiplayer, online high-scores and so forth. We have a lot planned, however we need to see how this initial release goes and plan from there.

Do you have any other iPhone projects in development?

We have concepts for another six iPhone and iPod touch projects two of which we aim to start in January. As I mentioned we also want to keep the updates coming for Pop as well. We are putting the finishing touches to a plan at the moment which we hope will see us stepping up our release schedule next year!