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 Kuju Interview - Battalion Wars
We sit down with Tancred Dyke-Wells, Art Director of Kuju London, the team behind the recently released Battalion Wars exclusively for Nintendo Gamecube, and ask him about the game, the development and the future of the series. Even the Revolution gets a mention!



EuroFusion: How did you first approach Nintendo with your idea?

Battalion Wars, as it is now known, started life as an original prototype. The vision for the title was of a fresh kind of game experience, a tactical action game with depth, freedom and the power of command.

The core features of control transfer and simple ordering were present in the original prototype at the outset. Nintendo recognised that we were trying to do something unique when they saw our demo, and as you know, Nintendo are all about innovation so I think that’s why they took a chance with us.

When did you and Nintendo decide to change the original idea to fit into the Advance Wars Universe?

Right at the outset of the relationship. The Wars license was a great fit for our game because we shared the desire to create a playful, lighthearted game world. We also wanted a game with tactical depth, where the player has to think. I think it was these two qualities that made our game a suitable partner for the Advance Wars license.

However, Nintendo were very clear from the outset that they didn’t want to impose the characters or situations from Advance Wars onto the project. The ideas for our factions were already partially formed and they wanted us to develop them freely.

Were you big fans of the original titles?

Of course it is a huge honour to be associated with the series, which we all have a massive amount of love and respect for. I’m deeply immersed in Dual Strike right now.

But the application of the Advance Wars name originally brought us some negative feeling from the fans. Most people are not aware that our game started life as an original title, and imagined that we had ‘changed’ the gameplay, showing disregard for Advance Wars turn-based strategic approach.

This was tough for us, because in fact we were simply following the original creative vision for the game as an original mix of action and tactics.

Advance Wars has a great following, which other Nintendo franchises would you love to work on?

That’s a toughie.. we’re really focussed on the Wars series right now. Personally my favourite genre is adventure games, so Zelda is obviously something I’m interested in. You shouldn’t take that to mean that we have any involvement with Zelda though!

How did you find working with Nintendo?

They visited us 5 or 6 times over the course of the project’s 18 month development.

Nintendo have been unlike any other Publisher that I have previously worked with. They gave us a huge amount of creative freedom. Their priority was always quality of gameplay above all else, and they sought to develop the innovative aspects of the title. We at Kuju London feel very privileged to have established a relationship with Nintendo, and we hope that it is a bond that will continue to strengthen in future.

Now that Battalion Wars is finished, I also hope we might look forward to a more collaborative relationship with Intelligent Systems. It would be great to work with Nishimura-san, Shimojo-san and the rest of the Advance Wars team.

Can we look forward to any more joint ventures with them?

I can’t say anything about a sequel, all I can say about this right now is that we are having discussions with Nintendo. Obviously, the positive reception the game has received has some bearing on that possibility.

Were there any features planned for Battalion Wars that had to be cut out? Will they be in the sequel?

I have to be careful what I say here; certainly there were a raft of features we originally wanted to implement that had to be trimmed back in order to deliver a high quality product on time. Multiplayer, skirmish mode, naval units and a whole bunch of other cool stuff.

If you see a sequel to Battalion Wars, you can expect a thorough review of our feature set – you won't just see the same game with a couple of extra units. Though there will be new units, of course.

The gaming media’s initial reaction seemed pretty harsh after the game’s unveiling at E3 04, how did the team feel after that?

It was a demoralising time for us. Quite simply, I felt even at the time that it was too early to show – what you saw then was not much more than a prototype, and we made the further mistake of dumbing down the gameplay with the intention of tailoring it for the show floor.

But all’s well that ends well. With the game selling so well in Japan and the 90%’s and Star Game awards we’ve received from the European press, the future is looking good for the franchise.

I noticed a little Halo reference early on in the game, are there any more Easter eggs or homages hidden away?

Yup - the script of the game makes almost constant references to war movies in particular. You can find little skits in there on almost everything from Dr Strangelove to Commando. Nothing lifted directly of course. Have fun spotting them!

Are you excited by what you’ve seen of the Revolution so far? Have you had the chance to give it a go?

We’re hugely excited about the possibilities of the Revolution and its controller. The office went bananas when we first saw it in action. For me, Revolution is far and away the most challenging platform to consider developing for.

The implications of the controller are huge. For aiming, and for ordering, just imagine a system so intuitive that the player can indicate “you - go there!” with a gesture.

With next-gen budgets spiralling, do you think Nintendo’s cheaper approach will prove popular with smaller development teams?

It works well for us right now. We have other next-gen projects underway at Kuju and certainly some of them are more laborious and work-intensive than others, according to the platform on which they are focussed. I think Nintendo have correctly identified a law of diminishing returns when it comes to graphics and processing horsepower. I believe that their approach will yield dividends for both Developers and consumers, not least because it leaves more scope for experimentation, innovation and risk-taking.

What is the team up to now you’ve completed Battalion Wars? Straight into another project or taking a well-earned break?

Straight into another project! Maybe even more than one! But I can’t tell you anything about that right now. Stay tuned…

Many Thanks for your time

Battalion Wars (GameCube) - Buy now at Amazon UK

Buy Kuju Interview - Battalion Wars now at Play.com
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