Wednesday, May 1, 2013

SPC Interviews: Andy Wafer (Pixel Toys)

We celebrate hump day with a brand-new interview for you to enjoy. Pixel Toys is a relatively new indie developer who recently released Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo, a platformer for the Nintendo eShop. Today I speak with Andy Wafer of Pixel Toys about how the studio was born, why Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo is a game Nintendo 3DS owners should look into, working with Nintendo, and a multitude of other topics.

Phil Stortzum (PS): First, would you mind introducing yourself to our readers (i.e. what position you carry, how long you’ve been with Pixel Toys, your favorite games, etc.)?

Andy Wafer (AW): I’m Andy Wafer from Pixel Toys, we’re a small indie studio hoping to make great indie games. The company’s not very old; we’ve been going about 6 months now and there are only five of us in the office, but we’ve managed to get quite a bit done since we started and we’re excited about the future.

PS: How did Pixel Toys come to be?

AW: Pixel Toys came about because after working for big games companies for many years we felt that the time was right to go it alone and do our own thing. The opportunity for doing that has never been so great as it is right now, at least not for the 12 years or so that I’ve been in the industry.

PS: Your first release is Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo. Can you tell us a little bit about the game?

AW: The game is a cute little platformer with a swinging and grappling mechanic. You could also say a swinging and grappling maniac. You play as a Squirrel called Mr. Nibbles. At the start of the game the little guy has his stash of acorns snatched by some pretty mean woodland animals, and Mr. Nibbles begins a quest to get them back for his family. Mr. Nibbles has a grappling rope which he can use to swing around the game stages, he can also collect different power ups to help him along the way. And dress up in costumes, if dressing up squirrels in costumes is your thing. It makes us smile anyway.


PS: What made you decide to do a platformer? Don’t get me wrong—we at SuperPhillip Central can’t get enough platformers!

AW: I’ve always been a fan of platformers and always wanted to make one. In fact, since I’ve been in the industry it’s one of the few types of games I haven’t made. I’m sure everyone who’s a long term Nintendo fan appreciates platform games, so it was great to bring the game to a Nintendo audience.

PS: Was Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo always planned for the Nintendo 3DS eshop, or did you have another platform (or platforms) in mind? If so, why?

AW: The game actually started life as ‘Little Acorns’ for iPhone developed by Team Pesky. At that time it was a lot harder for indie studios to put a game out on Nintendo platforms, but recently things on that front have started to change for the better. We knew the guys from Team Pesky and we loved the game, so began discussing the possibility of bringing it to 3DS. It was clear we wanted to beef up what Little Acorns had to offer for the 3DS audience, to make it work on a d-pad, add more content to create ‘Super Little Acorns’.


PS: How long was the development time for the game?

AW: The development took around 4 months. We of course started with the iPhone version, but we created a significant amount of new content, 50% more stages featured in the new Challenge mode of the game. We also added in support for the bottom screen, new menus, new costumes, 3D effects and Turbo mode.

PS: What challenges did the development team at Pixel Toys face with creating Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo?

AW: It was our first proper development, so it was full of surprises! Fortunately we’ve got some excellent development talent and Nintendo were very helpful. We also published the game ourselves, so there’s quite bit for work to be done on that side, and a steep learning curve!

PS: Did the game turn out exactly as your studio had planned?

AW: I think so. You always make changes, you learn more about what you’re making as you go and you try to incorporate learnings along the way to make it better. When you get towards the end you always start to think, “should we make this change” or “shall we add this feature” but if you go down that road you may never finish.

PS: What are you most proud of regarding Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo?

AW: We think that for a small eShop title there’s a lot of content, but most importantly we’re really pleased with the level of polish we achieved. We think the game looks good and plays great. We hope you agree!

PS: Is it possible we’ll see Mr. Nibbles again in the future?

AW: We certainly hope so. He’s a cool cheeky little character!

PS: Speaking of the future, can you give our readers the scoop on what your next project is? You need not go into more detail than you’re allowed.

AW: I can’t really say much, we’ve only just finished Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo, but we’re looking at something a bit more action focused, and using 3D graphics. It will still be a game we hope is suitable for a really wide audience.

PS: Do you have plans to work on games that are meant for other platforms rather than just the Nintendo 3DS?

AW: Our next game is almost certainly going to be on other platforms, but we’ve really enjoyed working with Nintendo 3DS and hope to do so again.

PS:  Is home console development (services like XBLA, PSN, Wii U eShop) in the cards for Pixel Toys?

AW: We’d never rule anything out. The industry is changing all the time, new platforms and new technologies all represent new opportunities for gameplay and to do exciting cool things. And it’s becoming easier all the time for small companies like us to make games on more platforms.

PS: For a long time Nintendo was known for having very strict guidelines with third-parties and indie developers. They have since been noted as having changed how they do things and are more open to outside developers such as yourselves. How has working with Nintendo been? Has it been an easy experience?

AW: Game development is never an easy experience. Certainly not if you intend to make anything that’s any good! Our experience with Nintendo has been good, and during the 6 months or so we’ve been working with them they’ve continually done a lot to improve processes for small third-parties like us. So any new developers signing up now should have an even smoother ride. But whenever you make a console game there are always guidelines to adhere to, for good reason. Guidelines make sure the games work properly on the hardware, have consistency and few bugs. Nintendo want to make sure that games on their systems meet a high quality criteria for their players, and you have to respect that.

PS: How is it advertising your game on the Nintendo eShop? Do you feel you’re getting enough of a presence on the eShop? Are you looking more into getting good word-of-mouth?

AW: We don’t advertise in the sense of spending money for placement. The game is on the eShop and that’s great. Any special placement that Nintendo give us is a bonus. We are of course hoping that the game gets good word of mouth, and does well, and we hope that in turn means a good position on eShop charts and good eShop reviews.

PS: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers of SuperPhillip Central?

AW: That’s all for now, thanks for playing!

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If you're interested in more regarding Pixel Toys, check out their website here, so you can stay up-to-date on all moves this exciting new studio is doing. SuperPhillip Central will have more interviews with developers in the future, so please look forward to that, as well as our review of Super Little Acorns Turbo 3D.

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