8Ball Allstars Q&A

Oxygen Interactive's David Wiltshire gives us some more details on the Nintendo DS pool game.

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Pool games for Nintendo's handheld platform aren't exactly ten-a-penny, and it's definitely true to say that none have set the world alight so far. Oxygen Interactive will be hoping that its forthcoming title, 8Ball Allstars, can change all that with a "modern, stylish, and comprehensive take" on the genre.

To find out how the game is shaping up, we racked up some time with David Wiltshire, one of the producers at Oxygen Interactive.

GameSpot UK: What are the advantages of developing a game like this exclusively for the DS?

David Wiltshire: Making it exclusive to the DS is a fantastic situation to be in; I'd almost describe it as liberating! This is for two reasons.

First, it eliminates the temptation to compromise. On a practical level, you know that at no point during development is anyone going to say, "Oh well, of course it would be easier to do it this way because on the other formats..." Instead, you just focus on getting the game right for the DS.

Second, it's all about the player, or rather, the players--plural. The range of people playing on the DS is huge, and the different ways people play the DS are really varied. It would have been easy to make a predictable, conventional pool game that was just what everyone expects without actually having any real feel to it. The point at which we decided to embrace this challenge--to really take the players seriously--was a turning point for us. We were taking on a huge creative challenge, but it forced us to rethink the game in a way we wouldn't have had to with a different platform.

GSUK: Tell us about the game's control system, and specifically, how players will use the DS touch-screen interface.

DW: We never considered any option except for a touch-screen control system for the game itself. So, the player flicks across the screen to the left or right to rotate the cue to aim; touches icons to change the table view or to highlight the target ball or balls; touches a representation of the ball to add topspin, backspin, etc.; then pulls back and sweeps forward on an onscreen representation of the cue to make the shot. We've also added a very simple paint-style interface to allow for some customisation options by just drawing on the screen.

GSUK: You say it's the most comprehensive pool game slated for release this year. What does 8Ball Allstars have that other games do not?

DW: We're not aware that anyone else is offering the variety of options and play styles that we have here. We've got US and UK rules, with 3, 6, 8, 9, and 10-ball game types. Then you've got a choice of table sizes, a range of eccentric table shapes for a bit of added a fun, a bunch of multiplayer options, with Wi-Fi and Internet play. And obviously, there's the usual range of single-player, practise, multiplayer, and championship options, artificial intelligence opponents, etc.

GSUK: Is the gameplay more focused on fun or realism?

DW: Pool is pool. We're not trying to make it wacky pool or cartoon pool. The idea is that however you want to play--whatever rules set, alone or multiplayer, local or Internet, and so on--it's there for you, in your pocket, all the time.

So, is it fun? Sure, pool's fun, and this lets you play any style of pool; wherever you are and whenever you want. But we haven't messed around with the actual game of pool to get it that way; it's just how pool is.

Is it serious? Well, in that we're taking pool itself seriously, yes. But we've avoided cranking the difficulty up too high, and the game isn't serious in an off-putting or boring way.

GSUK: What is the single-player game like?

DW: Again, this is down to player choice. We're not here to tell people how they should want to play pool; we're here to let them choose. So, there are a range of AI opponents, as well as the solo practice option, and the player can pick anything from a single frame to a championship, with a host of rules options and table options.

GSUK: Are there training and practise modes?

DW: There is a practise mode, but to learn the game, the "challenges" are really useful. These are trick-shot challenges where the player is given a series of increasingly difficult shots to make, and in order to do so, the player is going to have to get to grips with the controls in more depth than just lining up a shot and letting it rip.

GSUK: Tell us a bit about the multiplayer modes in the game. Will multiple local players be able to take part using a single cartridge?

DW: We're just finalising that now. At the moment, we have multi-DS play with a single cartridge and multiplayer with multiple carts, with Wi-Fi and Internet options. So, barring a last minute technical disaster, we've covered all the options.

GSUK: Will the game have an online component via the DS's Wi-Fi connection?

DW: Certainly. At present, we're finalising the online options, which gives us matchmaking, friends lists, and so on. We're handling chat with lists of predefined comments, rather than a Pictochat-style system, so that you can communicate with anyone you play with online. We'd looked at a Pictochat system initially, but for security reasons that would mean that you could only chat with your friends. And we wanted to make the game more welcoming than it would be if you don't already have a circle of DS-playing friends.

GSUK: Which features of the game are you most proud of?

DW: In the abstract, I'd say the way the game feels when you first go into it and start playing. The whole look and feel makes it look really fresh, and the game feels like it absolutely belongs on the DS. It's down to avoiding assumption and making it right for the DS and the players, which I mentioned earlier.

But actually in practise, what we're really getting a kick from is the way that people who haven't seen the game keep asking, "So can you do this...?" And whatever they're asking--2-on-2 games, Wi-Fi, differentiated AI, obscure rules sets--we're just saying, "Yes, you can do that!"

GSUK: Thanks for your time.

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