We chat with the producer of the upcoming DSi-exclusive ghost hunting title.
A unique title coming soon to the Nintendo DSi is A Different Game's Ghostwire. As one of the first games exclusive to the DSi platform, it makes extensive use of the system's built-in cameras to allow players to find ghosts in their real surroundings. NWR Forum stalwart UncleBob is so interested in the game that he contacted the its producer, Anders Bergman, and hooked him up with us for an interview (thanks as always, UB!). We discussed his company, his game, and exactly what makes this title so intriguing.
Nintendo World Report (NWR): First, start us off by introducing yourself, and telling us a little about A Different Game's history and company philosophy.
Anders Bergman (AB): ADG was founded by three former colleagues in the mobile games industry, Tom Söderlund, Martin Forsling, and myself. We are a small, independent developer, with our office in an antique goldsmith's workshop, where all founders also run numerous other companies and projects. To keep ADG independent we have not accepted any VC (venture capital) funding, and we want to steer clear [of] being tied to carriers or publishers, except on a per-project basis. The company was initiated around digging up an earlier canned project, Ghostwire, and dusting it off, polishing it up and submitting it to the 2008 N-Gage Mobile Games Innovation Challenge. Ghostwire then won 1st prize, and was rewarded €40K, which is about the same in U.S. dollars. The money was mostly spent developing a Symbian prototype for Nokia, but when the DSi was announced, it seemed like the perfect platform for this concept, so we shifted focus. Both the prototype and Ghostwire for DSi are developed by Italian powerhouse Impressionware, with whom we before ADG have had several successful titles released.
NWR: Give our readers a summary of your game, Ghostwire.
AB: Ghostwire is a collection-and-adventure title, where you use your handheld device to communicate with ghosts. Your portable device is used as a portal to the astral plane, and helps you find and collect ghosts that exist all around you. In your quest, you use real tools, such as the built-in camera and microphone, as well as abstract ones like an "EMF Tuner" for tracking down the ghosts. Once you find the spirits, you document them and find out why they haunt our world. They also give you riddles to solve. Ultimately, you will help them find peace.
The premise is that Ghostwire is not a game — it's a piece of software that enables your Nintendo DSi device to access new frequencies beyond the standard Wi-Fi range. The software is started, you create a "new user", and automatically get a security level of zero. As you get into the system for the first time, the software engineer behind Ghostwire, a.k.a. Hammar, gives you a tutorial. He explains that Ghostwire is a powerful piece of software that has to be handled with care, and that you therefore have limited access to the functionality to start with. He gives you the basic info of the tools and also where the help function is to find further information.
NWR: What inspired the team to create such a unique concept?
AB: Already when working with games for mobile phones, the idea of the Ghostwire software existed, and was bounced between green-light meetings. There were some similar titles released, where you could see virtual mosquitos through the camera of your mobile phone , etc. The original Ghostwire concept was at that time conceived by games veteran Tom Söderlund, today CEO and co-founder of A Different Game. We prototyped a demon (not a demo, a demon) that could be detected through the phone camera when aiming it at computer monitors. The beast was superimposed on the camera image and lured out of the monitor in 3D. It was a truly scary and very "The Ring"-ish experience. This was about two years before we entered the N-Gage Mobile Games Innovation Challenge. Since then the idea has grown over the years to become a full-scale release.
NWR: What has been the general reception so far?
AB: We obviously got a lot of attention when we won the N-Gage challenge, and a lot of positive feedback on our press releases. We wanted to ride on that wave, and have tried to widen the fan base through our blog (www.ghostwiregame.com), Twitter (ghostwiregame), and some teasers on YouTube. The response has been quite overwhelming, and the movies have more than 100,000 views, and our Twitter-feed has some quite active followers. We will try our very best to keep everyone happy during the wait until the software is out, by communicating with our fans in every way possible. As you know, this interview is happening because of one of our fans.
NWR: Ghostwire seems very conceptual. How do you turn this technology and presentation into a game that will hold up over time?
AB: The very core of the game — ghosts, is by definition timeless, and we hope that this together with the finished software will help prove that Ghostwire is not just a novelty title. We have also chosen to stay away from the horror genre, and work in a more suggestive environment where less is more, and you need to really trust your instincts. When it comes to the software itself, there are today 13 detectable ghosts, but with a lot of reference material and connections to other ghosts, that could either be downloaded separately, or that will make up GW II. There will also be reasons to return to all found ghosts, even after you have 'solved' them individually. You can also perform a series of tasks to become a more experienced user, and improve your results.
NWR: What kinds of objectives are you giving the player?
AB: The person in control of the Ghostwire software needs to get all ambient environmental parameters right; for instance, some ghosts require total silence to be summoned. One needs to find out what these parameters are by searching the included Ghostpedia, communicate with other ghosts if there are any previously found, and look out for clues using the different tools provided by the software. Then the user has to summon the ghost and lock its particular frequency, to be able to communicate with it to find out why it haunts our world. By finding clues, interchanging information between the ghosts, and finding out more about their world, ghosts will ultimately find peace. There is also a bigger plot, leading the story forward to a point where it will be clear that strong forces of good and evil are let loose.
NWR: Can Ghostwire be played in any location, or does the player need to move around and go to certain places in the real world?
AB: The software can be used in any location, one does not have to operate it at special locations. All users will be able to detect ghosts in their immediate surroundings.
NWR: What kinds of objects can Ghostwire recognize via the DSi camera?
AB: This is under development, but we are working on colors, frames (computer monitors, paintings etc), mirrors, light sources, persons (for aura detection), sound, and specific 'ghost runes' or symbols.
NWR: How are you avoiding some of the issues related to the DSi cameras like lighting and position?
AB: There are lots of difficulties to be handled regarding the video feed, for instance with depth detection and 360 pans combined with movement around the down axis, but on the other hand, paranormal beings are very illusive, and not bound by physical laws, so this in some sense evens out.
NWR: Are you concerned about Nintendo DS owners being confused about the game's system compatibility?
AB: Not really. We have had several questions regarding DSiWare, probably much because there is a DSiWare thread online about the software, but the day 1 release will only include an original DSi game. That said, a DSiWare version is by no means ruled out. Regarding compatibility with older DS consoles, since the camera is the main tool, we suspect there will be little confusion.
NWR: Were you inspired by other ghost-hunting games like Luigi's Mansion or Fatal Frame?
NWR: Even if the game was designed around the DSi, is a sequel on the Wii a possibility?
AB: Absolutely. We fully appreciate the respect that the Nintendo community has for the Wii, and in our view it is as much haunted as any other console.
NWR: What elements were dropped from the final game?
AB: Detecting water has proven to be very hard, and will probably not be included in the V1 of the software. Also, we have left out any multiplayer functions, as well as several ghost types like Poltergeists and Venoms, that [do] not easily manifest visually.
Thanks to Anders and the team at A Different Game for the great interview, and thanks to UncleBob for the introduction! Be sure to join the discussion in the NWR Forums!