When the Wii was in development Nintendo made a big deal about how easy, and thus cheap, it was to develop for. This factor potentially opens up a rather large window for indie developers and even bedroom coders to get in on the Wii action. Whilst we’ve seen quite a few small developers run excitedly at the Wii, the indie action has been rather quiet. Mysterious...
Perhaps the best known indie developer on the Wii scene are Nibris. Some people claim they don’t exist, some people claim they are just making up a whole lot of stuff to get some attention. Well, having been in close contact with the people working at Nibris for quite some time now, I’m fairly sure they are the real deal.
One thing is for sure, the Wii is the ultimate indie-friendly system. You can make a totally crap game (for very little money) in a very short space of time. Just look at what System 3 have managed. Indeed, just one look down the Wii charts makes for interesting reading. The most obvious thing to get from the chart is that the Wii is a very cheap console to develop for. This week’s list reads like this. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 are all major software titles from either Nintendo, EA SEGA or Ubi Soft. In at 9 is Medal of Honor: Vanguard, a half-arsed port of a PS2 title, Heatseeker falls at 11 and is a game with amazingly basic graphics, nice use of the Wii control system and very little depth or development flair. The less said about Prince of Persia: Rival Swords the better (port) and indeed the rest of the chart is made up of ports, rushed out titles with gimmicks and more ports...yay.
Big developers very rarely take risks. This enables them to maximise profit and minimise worry. What small developers do (like Nibris) is have a crack at something different. This is where the mysterious title Sadness comes into being. Indie developers could have a big say on the future of the gaming industry and on how well the Wii does and how much of an impact it makes on the gaming industry. During the last ten years the industry has become more and more bloated with big money and big corporations. EA, Ubi, Activision, THQ, SEGA, the list goes on and on. Companies like Nibris and Crossbeam Entertainment are a huge breath of fresh air. Anyone who isn’t excited about what they represent needs their head examining and slapping with a moist fish...
So, let us take a look at what these two indie companies are up to on the Wii. First up, Crossbeam.
Platform: Nintendo Wii
The story-line in Orb finds players following the adventure of three students (Dyces, Simique, and Mahten) searching for their abducted teacher (Strysis). They find themselves traveling the world, across many different climates uncovering the secrets and past of their land, Delphire. That past includes genocide, war, revenge, and a bit of romance at times.
Orb begins on the first day of the seventh month of the 532nd year of the Tunom calendar. The player has the choice of playing as Dyces, Simique, or Mahten. Depending on who they choose changes small parts of the storyline at the beginning, and offers very different gameplay as the story unfolds.
Orb is an action/adventure title that plays similar to Legend of Zelda with touches of Myst and Elder Scrolls 4. The player explores the land of Delphire, fighting through dungeons, exploring towns and ruins, meeting new cultures, and delving into the history of the world and the universe. The game is a third person game, and allows for in depth interaction with the environment and characters. Player will be able to choose a school of magic, learn it fully, craft their own weapons as they gain the skills, and even raise creatures.
Platform: Nintendo Wii
The storyline in Thorn starts on Earth in 2276, 12 years after the Orbiter Rebellions. Michael Reaver was a Special Forces operative over intelligence at the end of the war, and has just gotten a special message from a friend and former squadmate sent from the 6th planet of a distant solar system. The friend, Andy Weiss, has fallen ill and is on his deathbed. Michael sets out for the system. As he arrives on the planet, he finds his friend executed, and himself arrested for the murder.
While players escape incarceration, travel to other planets, and interact with the local populations, they will uncover a deep conspiracy, as well as mythical beings, creatures, and a dark secret of humanity's past. Players will explore the world from both first person and third person perspectives. They will have access to vehicles, projectile weapons, and melee combat weapons such as swords.
Players will have the choice of experiencing flying levels, stealth levels, action levels, and exploration levels. The game is very open, allowing players to travel from planet to planet, join groups like gangs and religious communities, and even communicate with people in other solar systems.
What’s interesting about both these projects is the passion involved in their development. You really get a sense that the people working on these projects are making a game for the gamers that will end up playing it. Crossbeam are doing something extraordinary, they aren’t aiming to make money as even a remote priority. Just like when a great author writes or a great painter paints, they are creating art for the sake of pleasure. Admittedly, they haven’t revealed much information yet, which is a shame, but the other major indie developer floating around the Wii (and DS) is Nibris.
Officially accredited by Nintendo as a developer for both major systems, Nibris have some exciting plans in the pipeline. A number of DS games are being supported by two major Wii offerings, Sadness and Ride Over the River (ROTR). This is a small Polish company who are passionate about Nintendo about videogames. The guys working on the projects for Nibris are nuts about Nintendo and know what makes a good game. They aren’t under pressure from a big company and they are very much seen as a part of the gaming community. Exciting times indeed.
Previously Nintendo have promised that the Wii Shop Channel will be opened up to small, Wii-specific titles (a bit like the XBOX Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network), this again opens up another significant opportunity for indie companies. No distribution costs, no need for a publisher and instant accessibility for a massive ready-installed base of users. Small start-up companies like Nibris and Crossbeam are taking on some very ambitious projects and I for one really hope they suceed. This, coupled with the increased presence of smalltime developers on console ‘arcade’ networks could eventually change the face of gaming forever.