The Rabbids are back and looking for new adventures in the sequel to last year's Rayman Raving Rabbids game for the PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and Wii. GameSpot AU spoke with Nicolas Normandon, Ubisoft's creative director about some of the technical challenges of developing for the Wii Remote, ditching cross-platform, and tapping the casual gaming market.
GameSpot AU: Which came first, the idea of turning Raving Rabbids into a series of minigames or the control system to play the minigames?
Nicolas Normandon: We were working on the first Rayman Raving Rabbids (RRR) with the traditional action adventure game in mind, we then received the first Wii kits and we started prototyping movements. Once we saw the reaction in terms of controls and people playing it, we realised that there were so many different movements and controls to explore that a load of different games would be fun to make. We wanted to make a game that showcased the new controls and would really make people laugh as they smacked, pumped, and tossed little insane bunnies everywhere. We have now taken it one step further and really focused on the multiplayer side where you can get more physical on and off the screen.
GS AU: What are some of the technical challenges of accurately mapping user actions to the Wii Remote's control system?
NN: There is too much technical detail to explain without boring you, but basically you have to completely rethink the way you use the traditional pad. It’s not only pushing buttons anymore or moving a stick; it has to be immersive, accessible, intuitive, and easy to reproduce. The player needs to find the logical movement to go with what is happening on screen [and] that isn’t as easy as it sounds.
GS AU: What's the most exciting technical aspect of developing games to use the Wii Remote?
NN: The most exciting point, which is also the most frightening, is that you have to forget everything you spent years developing in terms of controls and think of the pad as an extension of your hands.
GS AU: How much play testing is done to ensure the title is fun to play and not just chaotic arm flailing?
NN: We have a great team of play testers that start from the early prototypes and go on until the final versions to ensure that the chaotic arm flailing will be as fun as possible. We also simply watch how people react; if they laugh and understand what to do straight away, it is always a positive sign.
GS AU: How big a threat is Warioware: Smooth Moves to the success of the Rayman series?
NN: Warioware is a great party game, but Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 offers much more diversity in terms of humour, full multiplayer games, stylised graphics, and longer games that let the player have a different experience.
GS AU: How different is the game development process for the Wii compared to the PS2 or Xbox 360?
NN: A game is a game. But still, the obvious control difference plays a major role, since the Wii Remote is such a unique device. So we always must keep in mind accessibility and intuitive gameplay.
GS AU: Why is Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 a Nintendo exclusive after offering the original as a cross-platform title?
NN: Some of the games would totally miss their point without the Wii Remote. We want to go even deeper and create a new experience for the player and RRR2 fits perfectly with that philosophy.
GS AU: How big a player do you see the PS3's Sixaxis control system being in the motion-gaming market?
NN: I think the PS3’s Sixaxis is innovative and will add a new dimension to certain games. For us, we have had the time to experiment with the Wii controllers and the game was conceived with those controls in mind. Until someone develops a game that is fully focused on the Sixaxis' capabilities, we won’t know how it can be fully exploited.
GS AU: Ubisoft has been a big supporter of the Wii since launch. Recently, concerns have been raised as to the long-term appeal of the platform to consumers. How hard do you see it becoming to be genuinely innovative with what is essentially a comparatively underpowered, low-price-point console with an arguably novelty control system?
NN: If I had all the answers and could tell the future, I would be in a casino or betting on horses, but in terms of creating a game, we have simply tried to make people have fun and have a laugh, and the Wii fits perfectly with the crazy humour and ridiculous nature of the raving rabbids. I still love playing GRAW2 on my 360; the graphics look awesome, online is cool; but then I also like playing tennis on the Wii with my friends, and even the rest of the family who have barely heard of video games, which would have never happened with the majority if not any of my other games. The Wii and many of the games work with all generations, from over five to 55; that is where it is innovative. It is not the number of polygons that makes you laugh or cry, it is the experience you have with it.
GS AU: Nicolas Normandon, thanks for you time.