SUPER: A Game for Heroes – Developer Interview

Alex conversed with Philip Mainhood, the man behind SUPER: A Game for Heroes, a new platformer coming to Wii U that is currently on Kickstarter. Philip is essentially tackling the project single-handedly, and has some very positive things to say about the console. Be sure to follow him @HeroWorkStudios for more updates on the game as well as for info on their future projects!

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Alex: For those who haven’t taken the time to check out the Kickstarter page yet, could you briefly describe what SUPER is about?
Philip: Super is about a team of five heroes whoare tasked with a mission to stop an evil villain whose secret hideout has just been discovered on Isle de Poisson. Once on the island, the team has to choose how they attack the villain’s castle and put a stop to his plans. You can attack from the air, from underground or travel straight up to the front gates. t=Three completely different courses of action to make it more fun to replay.

Alex: Can you tell us a bit more about the gameplay and controls?
Philip: The controls are simple, nothing fancy. They were made simple so that my sons and I can play together, and not leave any of us frustrated by the end of a level. Kids that are just learning games can get frustrated because they haven’t picked up the basics that we have, so as we’re powering through a level, they are barely able to jump over a cliff. I made my controls simple: jump, use a power, left, and right. I did spend some time making them as responsive as possible. The gameplay is all about playing together with your friends. I love to have my friends over so we can play board games and video games. I am trying to make plucky dialogue throughout so that it’s entertaining to the people playing, but not distracting.
Each of the heroes are given a unique power: teleportation, scaling walls, jumping extreme heights, super strength, and intangibility. Because of these powers, there are different ways to finish a level. If you play by yourself, you can’t gather all the collectibles in one run, you have to make several passes by yourself with different heroes.

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 Alex: Which console are you putting the most emphasis on? Why did you choose the Wii U over other consoles on the market? 
Philip: Wii U is the first and main system I am developing for. I am already an approved developer for Nintendo. I choose the Wii U because of the the technology they use in their system, and the fact they have 5 controllers.  The WHOLE game is based around the Wii U and its system. All other systems are there just to maximize the outreach of my games.

 

Alex: What elements of SUPER on Wii U are you most excited about?
Philip: 5 players, hands down. Being able to play with multiple people on the same screen. I think all games should be CO-OP, but obviously that’s not always possible. It’s not going to stop me from rising to the challenge of making all of my games CO-OP, though. I am also excited to see others reaction to one of my characters… The Cat. The Cat was a COMPLETE accident in developing. I was toying with the programming for a double jump and a wall jump, messing about really.  When I tested out my wall jump, instead of jumping off the wall once, the darn character continued up the wall. My jaw dropped and I fell in love.

 

Alex: What is it like working with the people at Kickstarter?
Philip: The Kickstarter employees themselves, WOW, they seem like an amazing team. However the process… STRESSFUL! I actually ran into some family issues while working on the campaign that made me go dark for a couple of weeks, there were little to no updates during that time.

 

Alex: There is less than a week left in the Kickstarter, with a large portion of the campaign still left to fund. If this venture is unsuccessful, what’s the next step for SUPER?
Philip: To be released of courseI Kickstarted SUPER to make a better looking game. I love the controls and how responsive it is. I just don’t have the time to make it LOOK as good as I wanted it to be, well, if it does go unsuccessful, I polish what I have a little more, and release it.

 

Alex: Does that mean that the game will still be coming to Wii U regardless of the outcome of the Kickstarter?
Philip: Absolutely. It just wont be as pretty, and might take a little longer. All the funds were going straight to hiring artists and other professionals and if stretch goals were made, then ported to OTHER big named consoles.

 

Alex: Have you already gotten SUPER running on the Wii U dev kits? If so, how easy would you say it is to program for? Has Nintendo been supportive throughout the process?
Philip: Yes, SUPER is already running on the dev kit. I must tell you that playing a game you have created on the Wii U is an experience like none other.
Programming, it’s a snap. The Nintendo Web Framework is something that all consoles should look into. They support they give is astronomical. I have worked with small proprietary systems in the past, and I tell you I think I would rather pull my teeth out. But Nintendo, WOW, I have never talked with a nicer group of people.

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Alex: Can you describe the process of becoming a Nintendo-approved developer?
 Philip: Not too much really, I emailed them through their public channels for applying to be a developer, they emailed back. I never contacted them again, so they email again, and again, and then they phoned me, TWICE and when I finally talked with someone, and it was a hit.
But other then that I really have to say, since becoming a developer, I love Nintendo even more. I used to think that things like their warning messages about playing games to long was just a ploy, but since actually talking with people who work for Nintendo, it seems like they do it because THEY REALLY DO CARE.

 

Alex: What do you think fans of Nintendo games would enjoy the most about SUPER?
Philip: Hmm, that’s a hard question. Every person I know plays Nintendo for different reasons. Some for nostalgia, some for their family-friendly approach, some because they make unique systems that take different approaches to gameplay. I know some people will enjoy the interaction between the characters. Some will enjoy the competitive spirit that can be achieved while playing with others. I would have to say the camaraderie. Playing fun games with friends.

 

Alex: How well would you say the Vancouver Art Institute prepared you for the world of game design?
Philip: Honestly? Not at all whatsoever. Sure it was a good basics course, but, when I went there the school had just been sold and they were changing everything around DURING the courses, so I wasn’t prepared at all to the point where almost 9 years after that course I am just starting to make GAMES publicly.

 

Alex: How much experience do you have making games?
Philip: Published games? None. I have tinkered and dabbled with my friends, I have schooling from the Art Institute, for video game programming. Hence why SUPER was developed as a sidescroller with limited levels. SUPER was originally built as a fully 3D game with wide worlds, customizable characters and randomly generated levels. However I ran into some issues… I’m working on super by myself, so I started to cut back. I cut out randomly generated levels, customization of characters, free roaming worlds, then ultimately, I cut 3D completely. If I wanted to release SUPER within the next five years or at all, something had to give.

 

Alex: What other games and media have inspired your work on SUPER?
Philip: Gunpoint on Steam has been a good inspiration to SUPER, being a sidescroller, and having a funny script for the characters. Also Chasing Aurora for the Wii U, playing five characters at once, that was a large inspiration to me wanting develop a game where you can play up to 5 characters simultaneously. Well, I’m sure you can guess, having a game called SUPER, and being about a team of super heroes… there are many inspirations from comics, animation, stories, and the latest line-up of hero movies and T.V. shows.

 

Alex: Last question! What is your favourite Nintendo game of all time?
Philip: Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Hands down. Ironically i am wear a OoT shirt at this very moment.

About the author:

When Alex was young, he used to cry whenever his parents tried to hand him a game controller. Having complete control over the life of a red-clad Italian plumber was just too daunting to him. Nowadays, he only cries when the controller’s taken away.

Hailing from the frigid tundras of Canada, Alex plays video games not only to entertain himself, but also as a source of warmth to get him through the winter. He loves all genres of video games, the more difficult the better. Some of his current favourites include VVVVVV, Pikmin 3 and Rayman Legends.

Alex – who has written posts on NintendoFuse.