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Nintendo on giving Splatoon 2 another fresh lick of paint

Hisashi Nogami on updates, the plaza and what exactly those jellyfish are doing.

It's been five months since Splatoon 2 launched on the Switch but, as is increasingly the case in Nintendo's approach to its online-focussed games, work hasn't slowed in the slightest. Last week saw the launch of Clam Blitz, an all-new and extremely frenetic ranked mode which brings a football flavour to the colourful chaos of Splatoon. It's extremely strategic, and quite brilliant. We got offered the chance to fire some questions to Hisashi Nogami, Splatoon's producer, to talk about updates, music and much more.

How long was the development period for Splatoon 2, and how long was it for the original?

Hisashi Nogami: We were doing fundamental technical research as we worked on the updates for Splatoon, so there isn't a clear cut-off point. However, development on Splatoon 2 began in earnest from around October 2015. A straight comparison isn't really possible, but I'd say that the development period was about the same as for the first game?

How do the player numbers compare between the two games? 

Hisashi Nogami: As a whole, Splatoon 2 has a higher number of active users. The first game started out with a lot of core gamers before the user base gradually expanded to include kids and family groups, but Splatoon 2 reached those groups from the very beginning.

The first game had local multiplayer, albeit over the GamePad and TV screen. Did you look at replicating that via split screen on the Switch? 

Hisashi Nogami: The Battle Dojo from the first game wasn't actually used so much. Most players spent nearly all their time playing online. For Splatoon 2, we focused our development energies on making online play, such as the battles and Salmon Run, even better.

How do you go about filtering the messages in the plaza? Do they go through approval - and if so, are some of the memes (such as jazz, which is the current flavour) actively encouraged and promoted? 

Hisashi Nogami: Posts that are highly voted as "Fresh!" in the square or that are popular on social media are automatically selected to appear in the square and in stages.

Given it was a criticism of the first game, why did it take so long to address the issue of changing gear in-between rounds? 

Hisashi Nogami: With Splatoon, we were trying to make the matchmaking a hassle-free experience, and didn't want to make seven other players wait on just one person. We decided with this game though that in Regular Battles we'd set a strict time limit so as to allow players to customise their gear while also keeping their existing match ups. The time limit is much shorter than in Private Battles though, so players need to keep an eye on it. In Ranked Battles and Splatfests, the matchmaking was refined to reduce steps to change weapons and gear in-between rounds, therefore it's much less of a hassle and a much more pleasant experience.

Are there other long-standing issues you'd maybe like to address in future? (I'm thinking specifically of having to sit through the updates upon booting up the game - as much as I love Pearl and Marina, it'd be ace to have the option to skip through it so I could get playing even quicker!)

Hisashi Nogami: While not a problem per se, we would like players to try playing Splatoon 2 with lots of different weapons instead of just one all the time. With the latest Ranked Battle mode, Clam Blitz, players will need to adopt new tactics and strategies compared to the other modes. Players might find unexpected success with weapons they haven't used before. I hope everyone will try out lots of new combinations to find which weapons work best for them on which stages.

The multiplayer has seen a lot of support through updates. Is there a possibility of the single-player also getting an update in the future? 

Hisashi Nogami: For players who simply wish to go solo, take on the Octarians and enjoy honing their Splatoon 2 skills, the purpose of Hero Mode is also to get players to understand the appeal of the different types of weapons by having them use a whole variety of them to complete the stages that appear in this mode. It's also there to build up the lore for the world of Splatoon 2 through the story of the Squid Sisters. As this mode is now, it's achieved those goals. At this stage, I can't say anything about what we may or may not do with it in future.

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The level cap's been raised to 99, with the option to start over again with a star by your level. How many players had you found were at the level cap before this?

Hisashi Nogami: Not all that many as a share of overall players. However, some players managed to reach level 50 at a rather early stage.

There's a lot of speculation that playable Octolings could be a thing in the future. Is there anything you could say about that?

Hisashi Nogami: We cannot comment on speculations.

When the paid online service debuts next year, will it change your approach or how you go about Splatoon multiplayer? 

Hisashi Nogami: As announced before the game's launch, our plan is to release updates, including new weapons and stages, for one year and run Splatfests for two years. I can't tell you anything more beyond that at this point.

New music and a handful of new bands have been introduced. How do you go about creating these new bands - is it all Nintendo's in-house band, or does it come from externally?

Hisashi Nogami: In the world of Splatoon 2, two years have passed since the last game, just like in the real world. The music that's popular in Inkopolis Square has also changed from the straightforward rock of the last game to something with a little bit of a twist to it. That's the concept behind the band Wet Floor who've been in Splatoon 2 since its release. With the recent update, two new, fresh bands with an unusual formation have splashed down too. One of the new bands plays the kazoo along with the trumpet, while the other fuses punk rock with Celtic sounds! We do this to convey the ebb and flow of trends in the game world via the game's audio. All the bands in Splatoon 2 are created based on what is popular among Inklings in the squid world. The music for these bands is written and composed by the Splatoon 2 development team. We then seek out professional musicians who fit the concept for each band and record their performances.

Most importantly! Does Inkopolis have a public aquarium and if so, what is in it?

Hisashi Nogami: An aquarium has yet to be discovered. The city itself is a kind of aquarium.

And, just as importantly! Why do some of the jellyfish touch the floor in the plaza? 

Hisashi Nogami: Maybe they are searching for something that only jellyfish can see. If you look carefully, you'll notice that they aren't just touching the floor, but doing another motion too.

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