Mii-gamer has started a new initiative to support the hardworking, independent developer that provides us with the unique and incredible experiences on the Wii U and 3DS eShop. I love video games, and I love this industry – so it is only natural that I give back. As part of this initiative – I will be interviewing the independent developers of promising upcoming eShop titles – shinning the spotlight directly on the game.
I was privileged with the opportunity to speak with Kevin Cerda, game designer of BeautiFun Games, to gain insight on their Wii U title Nihilumbra – a beautiful puzzle, platform game that will take advantage of the GamePad. Without further ado, let’s begin the interview.
Mii-gamer: For anyone that may be unfamiliar with your company, can you tell us more about BeautiFun Games? What are your inspirations and aspirations?
Kevin: We are an indie studio based in Barcelona (well, actually, just next to Barcelona). We started working in the industry not too long ago; Nihilumbra is our first game, and we plan on keep doing great games as long as we can. It doesn’t sound like a really ambitious goal, but it’s actually quite a difficult one!
As for our inspirations, we could say that we like to look back at the games we played as a child and we try to recreate them adding new features that didn’t exist at that time. Nihilumbra shares some basic roots with the first Prince of Persia, for example, but combined with a new gameplay mechanic based on colors and physics.
Mii-gamer: The world of Nihilumbra is intriguing. Without giving away too much, can you explain the story behind the world and the game?
Kevin: It’s a game about philosophy. The whole game is meant to make you think and it has different meanings depending on who plays it. We could say that it’s a game about questions, not about answers.
The story is about Born, a being created out of the infinite emptiness, a dark mass of nothing at all called The Void. Born is a small piece of it that one day gains self-awareness and escapes into the world. Everything is new to him and he wants to live, and travel, and learn new things and be happy and all that, but The Void will chase him relentlessly, erasing the world on its way.
Basically, the poor Born is cursed: he can live as long as he keeps struggling, but he will condemn the world by doing so, and he knows that sooner or later, he will get caught and he will be erased again.
Mii-gamer: Nihilumbra has an interesting visual style! Can you explain the reasoning and inspiration behind the art style?
Kevin: For us, the art style had to be like the rest of the game: a mix of old and new. We didn’t want to use completely retro graphics, but we also didn’t want the game to look totally new and shiny. We wanted something in between, our own style.
We looked at lots of games to find references, like Abe’s Oddysee, Heart of Darkness, Braid, Limbo or even Epic Mickey.
The game was about painting with colors, so we needed desaturated worlds (to emphasize the areas that you’ve painted above the rest of the background). That made the game look gloomy and melancholic, but it matched with the story. We also decided that, since the character traveled through the world finding new colors, we could literally bend locations and tonality, and we created five different areas, each of them represented with a different color.
Mii-gamer: I love the soundtrack of Nihilumbra! The music complements the bleak yet beautiful atmosphere of the world. Can you send my compliments to Alvaro Lafuente?
Kevin: Sure I’ll do! He’s a really talented composer, and we’ve been close friends since we were kids. When we had to find someone to make the music, for me it was a clear choice, and there’s no doubt that he’s done an excellent job. The music of the game creates the perfect atmosphere that works as glue for its story and its aesthetic.
Mii-gamer: “Change the world with colors” is one of the interesting motifs of Nihilumbra. How does this motif and the concept of colors lend itself to the gameplay?
Kevin: You can literally modify the environment using colors. While you progress through the world of Nihilumbra you’ll find flowers that give you new colors, each of them with its own ability. You can pain the ground anywhere you like and that will change the physics of it.
For example, you can use blue color to turn any surface slippery. That can be used to make yourself go faster, or leap further, or make an enemy slip into an abyss, or help you slide a heavy box… you can use every color for several different things and, with them, you can find multiple solutions to almost every game’s puzzle.
What I usually like to say is that the levels are not finished when you arrive. You have to finish them by painting, and then you can progress.
Mii-gamer: What other gameplay elements can Wii U fans expect from Nihilumbra?
Kevin: The WiiU version has one really cool thing: it allowed us to include the strong points of all the other versions. It has the touching interface that allows you to paint with your own fingers (in PC you paint with the mouse, which is accurate, but less cool), and it also has all the technical and graphical improvements of the PC version. It can be played on a TV from the couch, which is a nice way to play any game (it’s my favourite, at least).
But we wanted to add something special to the WiiU version, we try to always add up something when we change the platform, to use that platform’s peculiarities. In this case, we’ve used the two screens and the gamepads to add a multiplayer mode. It can be switched on or off anytime, and it splits the control between two players: one of them will control Born and the other one will paint. This is something really funny when you get your hands into it, since it needs a really tight collaboration and it’s easy to sabotage the other player if you want.
7. Nihilumbra is your first game to be released on Nintendo platforms. Why did you decide to bring Nihilumbra over to the Wii U? What is your opinion on the Wii U? Is it a good platform?
Kevin: When we started developing Nihilumbra, the WiiU didn’t exist at all, but as soon as we saw it announced we thought that it was a great platform for our game, mainly because it’s mechanics. It would be really hard (if not impossible) to port Nihilumbra to a console with a typical controller, but with that touching interface… it was perfect.
Sometime later, in a convention, we met someone from Nintendo Europe and we showed him the game. “We think that this game would be great on a WiiU” we said, “Well, what can we do to make it happen?” he answered. Everything was really easy an natural after that.
I guess that I have two different subjective opinions about WiiU, as a game designer and as a gamer.
As a game designer, I would say that it’s absolutely great. I always say that it’s the best thing that happened to console hardware since they added joysticks to controllers. With it we can make games that weren’t possible before, we can introduce asymmetric local multiplayer because, for the very first time, we have two different screens and two different input modes at the same time in one console. Really, as a game designer, I am constantly having new ideas of games that were not possible before.
As a gamer, I would say that I am concerned about the same stuff that concerns everyone: The games. It seems that there are not too many great games right now. It’s impossible to predict the future, and I’m no analyst. Let’s just say that, if Nintendo manages to build a strong base of games, it will have everything it needs to be a great console.
8. What has your experience been like working with Nintendo?
Kevin: They’ve been really collaborative and helpful. They even proposed us to appear in some Nintendo Directs, which is something really great. They are extremely perfectionist with their games, they have a really thorough team of testers and you really need to walk the extra mile to have everything just how they like it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it makes it harder for the developers, but it benefits the final product!
9. Nihilumbra will be using the Wii U GamePad unique features, which will no doubt appeal to Nintendo fans. Can you explain to the readers, how Nihilumbra intends to take advantage of the GamePad?
Kevin: Well, as I said, we’ll have this multiplayer mode, which is only on this platform, where the player with the Wii U GamePad will be in charge of painting while the other player, using a Wii Remote or a Classic Controller will play as the main character.
Also, for the single player mode, we have many advantages thanks to the combination of touching interface and buttons. For example, to change the equipped color, instead of using the touching interface like we did on iOS you can use quick shortcuts with the buttons. Like, swapping instantly between painting and erasing and this sort of stuff. Did I say that you can play from the couch? That’s pretty neat, too.
10. Fan and Critical reception for Nihilumbra has been overwhelmingly positive. I was reading the YouTube comment section of the march Trailer of Nihilumbra Wii U, it appears the game has piqued the interest of Nintendo fans, and mine as well. What has been your reaction to the positive response of Nihilumbra?
Kevin: We were extremely happy, logically! The truth is that, being a self-published game, we’ve been struggling to get visibility since we don’t have the resources to reach a huge audience but we’re really satisfied with the response of the people that has managed to find our game. Pretty much everyone is enjoying the this far, we receive fan arts (which is something that really touches us), emails from fans… all this is just great. The reason why we decided to make videogames is to create experiences that people would enjoy and the confirmation that we are achieving it is just priceless. We can’t wait to publish the game on Wii U!
11. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, do you have a final message for Wii U fans?
Kevin: I’d say that Nintendo is doing a great effort to bring indie titles to the store. We’ll still have to wait for Bayonetta 2, the new Super Smash or the new Zelda, but there are actually a great number of awesome indie titles coming too, and it’s worthy to check them. I’m sure that you’ll find great experiences there as well.
I’d like to thank Kevin, and BeautiFun Games for taking the time to answer my questions.
Nihilumbra currently has no release date, but this is a title that should be on Wii U owners radar. However, if you cannot wait until then, Nihilumbra is already available for iOS and PC. Please do check out Nihilumbra’s Official Website, BeautiFun Games Website, and connect with them through Twitter and Facebook.
Check out screenshots of Nihilumbra runnin on Wii U below: