Aussie Indie Insights: Nnooo

We check in with Nnooo to see what it has been up to recently.

Nnooo is a small Aussie games studio that's been around for a few years now, launching its first game Pop! alongside the WiiWare service in 2007. Based in Sydney, the studio has worked on several iPhone and Nintendo DS applications, and just launched its latest game: escapeVektor: Chapter 1. For this week's Aussie indie insights, we managed to catch up with Nnooo's creative director Nic Watts to talk about its upcoming DSiWare game Spirit Hunters Inc.

Founded: 2006
Location: Pyrmont, Sydney, Australia
Team members: four
Current projects: Spirit Hunters Inc: Shadow; Spirit Hunters Inc: Light; other unannounced projects

If you had to talk to someone about your game who has never heard of it before, how would you describe it in one paragraph?

Spirit Hunters Inc is an augmented-reality social RPG, where you become a member of Spirit Hunters Inc and are tasked with battling and capturing spirits, which are hiding all over the real world. Wherever you go with your Nintendo DSi or Nintendo 3DS, you can pop it open and scan for spirits. There are 96 different spirits hiding all over the world. Can you hunt them all down?

What challenges did you face while developing the game?

Spirit Hunters Inc is probably the most ambitious and technically challenging game we have made to date, even more so as it is pretty much the work of two people! The hardest areas for us were the augmented reality…tying the position of the spirit and all the special effects into where the camera is looking, creating interesting and diverse-looking spirits, and then making it all fun!

As the Nintendo DSi is not the most powerful machine, we are really pushing it to its limits. We have to analyse each frame that comes in from the camera, and compare it to the previous one, just to create the augmented reality. Then we have to place the spirits and effects in the world, and overlay them on the camera so it all looks great.

Once we had this system working, we then worked hard to utilise the Nintendo DSi's unique hardware to make what the player does interesting. This resulted in a heap of different interactions when battling. You can slash foes; flick a fireball at them; draw a flaming wall around it to trap it; tap and hold onto a spirit to drain its life; and tap, hold, and avoid a spirit to cast explosions. We make use of these types of interactions to create over 60 unique abilities split between six elemental types: fire, ice, fungal, light, shadow, and water.

It has been really tricky tying all of this together and ensuring that we have a clear, easy-to-learn, fun game, which also has a lot of depth!

Bite-sized games are a great way for developers to experiment and try something new. Describe to us something that's unique to your game.

Our use of augmented reality and overlaying the player interactions is something we don't think has been done before. Being able to pop open your Nintendo 3DS; scan the area; and then start to battle a spirit by flicking, slashing, and drawing etc, is something never seen in an RPG to date.

We hope that kids and adults all around the world will get really excited tracking down different spirits from all over the world!

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