JC Pelletier on Shaun White Wii
Jean-Christophe Pelletier, game designer on Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip, has been working on this Balance Board-bating take on the extreme sport for nearly two years now - and despite the Wii's casual audience, he seems keen to make the most realistic and fun snowboarding title possible, irrespective of the system's technical weaknesses. We sat down for a chat about the new game, and the inspiration provided by White himself.
How long have you been developing Shaun White for the Wii?
We've been developing for a year and a half, roughly.
Did you plan on delivering a Wii version as a result of the Balance Board, and what this adds to the gameplay?
We were going to bring it out on the Wii regardless, because when we began production we didn't know the Balance Board would be coming out, so we started building it for the Wiimote. So we did all the basic work, all the controls and stuff, on the Wiimote, which is good because when the Wii Balance Board came out we started working on that and really focussing on it. Now the game is as fun to play on the Wiimote as it is on the Balance Board. Both are complete experiences.
So... what was your reaction when you first heard about the Balance Board?
Whoa! We said, "we've got to work on this". It was meant for us. Everybody said the same, even the people on the forums, you know, they said you need to do skateboarding and snowboarding games. So we knew it was necessary.
So the arrival of the balance board was a surprise?
Yes! Yes it was.... we didn't know it was coming out. But then as soon as we heard about it, well...
So it wasn't the same as the LucasArts - Nintendo situation arising from the announcement of the Wii's MotionPlus, which would of course have made The Force Unleashed somewhat better on the console...
No no no. It wasn't quite the same... we actually had time to get it, to play around with it, and Nintendo helped get things working. We had time!
What are Shaun's thoughts on the Balance Board?
Oh, well, for him he was involved he was involved from the beginning and he wanted us to get the right feel for snowboarding, and show a certain respect for the sport. We've got the essence... so for him, once he knew we had the Balance Board, I think we managed to get the real feel. Obviously you're not snowboarding, but the movements you're doing correspond pretty closely to what you'd actually do on a real board. When you're playing you forget its the Balance Board, you're just riding, forward, back, toes, heels, etc. So Shaun was happy we could get that up and work with it.
Visually, does the Wii version of the game use the Assassin's Creed engine (like the 360 / PS3 version)?
It doesn't, its a different engine...
Did you build it yourselves?
Yes, its an engine we already had in house, and we adapted it to the game.
Was it a challenge developing the game for a platform not exactly blessed with the mightiest technological prowess?
Well, yes, making a game is always a challenge because you want to push, get the most out of the machine. Since the Wii team was built specifically for Wii projects, everybody was ready to develop for the Wii. So, right away we adapted, worked out what the Wii was good for and built towards that. So, graphically, we chose a style that is realistic in its showing... but has style. You know, its edgy, and we felt that it was adapted for what the Wii could do. But it also provides a good snowboard feeling. Its a stylisation of real snowboarding references... we're very happy with the result.
Is the Wii powerful enough to do attractive looking games?
Yeah, I think so! You just need to be creative, and think of ways to do it.
Art becomes more important?
Exactly... yes, that's it. You need to be even more mindful of what you're building. Its not about polygon-pushing. You've really got to think.