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Online distribution made LostWinds work

It was all "very refreshing", says Braben.

Frontier boss David Braben believes WiiWare title LostWinds would have been canned were it not for online distribution.

"It's a fantastic way of de-risking publishing," said Braben during the Develop conference in Brighton. "This is a game we probably wouldn't have done through normal publishing channels. It was a very difficult game to work out who's going to buy it, and so on. We just wrote this game for ourselves, and that's one of the reasons why we enjoyed the process so much."

The game was made over four months by 12 people, explained Braben, describing the process as a "very, very refreshing experience".

LostWinds began as a "Game of the Week" idea on a Frontier forum from one designer who had been gazing out of the window on a windy day. Braben thinks secretly we're all capable of ideas like this.

"Most gamers are frustrated game designers in their hearts," said Braben. "How many times do you hear that Game X would have been great if... Or Game Y was ruined for me because... Or hey, if only I could do this thing in the game. If only CoD4 had more rabbits in it, or whatever - I'm not saying all the ideas are great ones.

"[The LostWinds idea] turned, over time, into a game idea - not fully formed. We thought the art style should come from somewhere that was naturally windy, and ideas like Tibet, the Incans and the Mayans came forward... Those were compressed into a really natural look.

"Design documents were prepared, discussed and criticised openly in a forum where criticism was expected - and then they gathered dust for a while, before Nintendo came to us with WiiWare," he added.

Having settled on WiiWare as a launch platform, the team created a prototype in one week, using just two developers - with very basic black and white block graphics, but the Wii control system fully in place. Full development started in January, and ran until April, with the game released on 12th May.

You may remember we rather liked LostWinds, too.

Frontier's next big project, The Outsider, is at the other end of the creative spectrum - a major action title, Braben hopes to use it to explore non-linear storytelling and create complex characters that players feel genuine empathy with.