We discuss why the Wii is a great system for this port, how the game was compressed to 40MB, and whether the game might head to 3DS.
MDK2 is now available on the WiiWare, ported by the company Beamdog, which was co-founded by two ex-BioWare employees, Cameron Tofer and Trent Oster. Cameron, Lead Programmer of the Wii version, and Trent, Creative Director and Business Development Director were kind enough to answer our questions about the game.
Nintendo World Report (NWR): What role did you play in the original release of MDK2?
Cameron Tofer (CT): I was involved in the programming and technical design of the product as well as some production tasks. My focus was on the graphics engine of the Dreamcast and the PC. Besides that I tried to help out where I could with production, design and programming.
Trent Oster (TO): I worked on “Shattered Steel” as a programmer and Lead 3D artist. We started work on “Shattered Steel 2," which was cancelled at the request of Interplay early in development. Interplay offered us the MDK 2 project and the entire team moved over. I filled the role of technical artist for our early prototyping, but was soon pulled off to start “Neverwinter Nights”
Cameron radically understates his role, acting as lead programmer, producer, technical designer, gameplay designer and overall team leader. A few times in development he took the Dreamcast dev. kit home for the weekend and brought it back Monday morning with the engine re-written and twice as fast as it had been on Friday.
NWR: Why do you think MDK2 is still relevant enough today to warrant a re-release?
TO: I think MDK2 is a good quality, humorous, action-platformer. I can't say the market is saturated with titles like it so, I think there is a place. I think MDK2 is one of those fun games that just never got the attention it deserved. I really hope with the added fun the Wiimote brings the title can really succeed.
NWR: Why bring MDK2 to WiiWare? Were XBLA or PSN ever a consideration?
TO: When we started discussions with Interplay around the franchise, Eric Caen from Interplay felt WiiWare was a great fit for the title and suggested the Wii-mote could add a dimension to the already fun gameplay. We also approached the title with the understanding that reworking the artwork to current generation standards would be a lot of work. We felt the Wii could best support the original content with engine updates. We made a few performance calls, sacrificing character shadows for a higher frame rate (which we feel makes the gameplay experience better).
We're working on an HD version of MDK2 right now, which will be offered on the PC exclusively through our Beamdog download service. Part of the HD version is a pretty aggressive re-work of the graphics engine and recently we've brought on Russel Rice, who art directed MDK2 at Bioware. Russ is going through the assets he helped create and using what he's learned in the last ten years to make things awesome! Once we're completed on MDK2 HD I think we are in a much better position to talk with Eric about the future of MDK2 on other platforms and the future of the franchise.
NWR: What methods did you employ to fit MDK2 onto WiiWare?
TO: We hadn't worked on the Wii before MDK2, so we were new to the platform and the Wiiware 40 MB limit was somewhat a shock to us. We did some quick projections and knew it was going to be a tough job taking a 280 MB Dreamcast/PC game and crunching it down to 40 MB. We started by looking at how the game data was stored and re-designed the core data structures to make them much smaller. We then started examining content and potential techniques to compress the data while minimizing the fidelity loss. After we had gone as far as we could with compression, we started cutting content down. The music tracks probably got the worst of it and hopefully Jesper can forgive us for cutting up his brilliant music to fit under the limit.
NWR: The Wii Remote and Nunchuk controls feel very natural. What do
they bring to the experience? Did you consider supporting the Classic Controller?
CT: The Wii Remote and Nunchuk make MDK2 and incredibly pleasant experience. At the start of development I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but after a few attempts it felt really good. I played straight through the whole game and really enjoyed it, standard controllers don't even come close. As for the Classic Controller, it wasn't a consideration.
TO: This was our first Wii title, so we wanted to make a title which played to the strengths of the console. We felt the Classic Controller wouldn't really capitalize on the strengths of the Wii as a platform and as such, didn't excite us as much as the potential of the Wiimote. Cameron did the tuning on the controls personally and I think you can agree they game plays very well with the Wiimote.
NWR: Are there plans to offer a WiiWare demo at some point?
TO: We've discussed the concept of a WiiWare demo, but with the potential short life of a demo in the WiiWare service we just can't justify the time it would take to develop.
NWR: Do you think MDK2 would benefit at all from a 3DS version?
TO: I think MDK2 would be a fun 3DS title. In the early days of MDK2 development we had a set of NVidia 3D “Shutter glasses” and they did make the zany world of MDK2 “pop”. Given the polished look of MDK2 I think it could be a solid 3DS title.
NWR: Does Beamdog have interest or plans to develop more games for Nintendo platforms?
TO: Not right now. We're waiting to see how MDK2 does on WiiWare before we make any decisions on platforms for our future development. We built a fun game, our fingers are crossed it takes off.
Thanks to Beamdog for the interview.