If you missed Overlord last time around, you're unlikely to miss it on 26th June, when Codemasters releases Overlord II for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, Overlord: Dark Legend for Wii and Overlord: Minions for DS. What's more, publisher and Wii/DS developer Climax have been labouring to make sure that the Nintendo-console versions are more than just the usual 2D platform game spin-off, as you will know if you read our recent previews of both. Using the miracle of email, we caught up with associate producer Dean Scott to discuss getting the most out of the Wii, potentially cannibalising your own audience and what to do as a third party on a Nintendo system.
You can sit down and 'run the numbers' and you can obsess over demographic graphs and all that stuff, but that is how you get cel-shaded cat games that play themselves while you just shake the remote indiscriminately. I doubt a research group told Miyamoto prior to Super Mario Bros. that 'people want a game where they can jump on turtles and go in big pipes'.
Sorry, I'm getting a bit 'lofty'. Our idea with Overlord: Dark Legend was that if we made a decent game, then people would want to play it. We wanted to grow Overlord as a franchise after its successful debut, and the control possibilities afforded by the Wii seemed an ideal match. Overlord is a game about commanding minions, doing bad things and feeling powerful, and using the Wii remote we're able to forge a better bond between the player and that experience. They are more connected to their on-screen actions.
We didn't want to compromise. Wouldn't minion-baiting mini-games be hilarious? Well, maybe. But it certainly wouldn't be Overlord. We wanted to retain the core of Overlord being a gamer's game, which means it's not a casual experience like Wii Sports. But that's the cool thing about Wii: it's desensitising a generation of new games to The Fear of Joypads. A PS3 pad is an intimidating collection of buttons for a new gamer, but they know they can play Wii games. A swish of a Wii remote to hit a tennis ball showed them that. The challenge now is to get them engrossed in more videogamey experiences, entertainment that just doesn't exist in other forms. Wii Fit is great at what it does, but are you happy for that to represent videogames as a whole? I'm not. I want to use the Wii as a Trojan Horse to sneak the stuff that games are actually all about into people's consciousness.
Nintendo has done an amazing job with Wii, they've grown the market. But there's a real danger now of the Wii becoming a two-game console for people: Wii Sports, Wii Fit and then it's back in the cupboard. Let's not forget there's a generation of people out there that got into Megadrive as it was the faddy thing, played Sonic, and then it was in the bin. Only by converting those kind of people to like proper videogames for proper videogame reasons can we win big.
For Dark Legend, we used the gesture control to a logical extent. We didn't go overboard on Overlord. We went mental on the graphics, though.
We expect Overlord II to sell more than Overlord: Dark Legend, that's true. But that's not a reason to not try. I think Nintendo's hardcore base have been sold a little bit short on the Wii so far. These are people that are loyal, and know good games. Those are the people we want to get behind Dark Legend initially. We've made an entirely original Overlord game for Wii, not just ported the old 360 game. Good Wii games are built around the controller from the start, you can't just retrofit that into a game that already exists and expect to succeed. And that's what we've done: direct pointer interaction with objects, send minion there, break that, attack that. Full FPS-style aiming with the magic attacks, a touch of FPS-style camera control... it's Overlord, but the playing experience is very different.
Who knows? We may even convert a few of the PC/PS3/360 gamers to playing Overlord the Wii way. We're giving them every incentive to try, as it's a different game on the two platforms.
Beyond that, the minions undoubtedly have crossover appeal. They've got a lot of character, and the game in which they appear does look fantastic considering the hardware it's running on. Graphics aren't the be all and end all of course, but they sure help with that first impression.