Armillo has been in the works for three years and change. Join us on the story of its venture as it rolls to the finish line.
Aaron got the privilege to interview Yanni Fyssas from Fuzzy Wuzzy Games on their upcoming eShop title Armillo. In it, Yanni explains what the game is and how the game became the fun, fast-paced, rolly platformer that it is today. Watch (or read) how Yanni applied his experience from EA and general gaming expertise to this classic genre-meshing title, and how it orignally went from an XBLA game to a Wii U eShop game.
Nintendo World Report (NWR): Hello, this is Aaron Brown with Nintendo World Report. I’m here with Yanni from Fuzzy Wuzzy Games for an interview on Armillo. So first off, do you want to let me know who exactly you are, a little background of Fuzzy Wuzzy, kind of a “get to know your dev” before we dive in?
Yanni Fyssas (YF): My name is Yanni and I’m one of the co-founders of Fuzzy Wuzzy Games. Fuzzy Wuzzy Games is a small indie studio in Vancouver. There’s three of us--two and a half at some points of the development cycle--and pretty much we’ve been working out of our basements making Armillo for the past three years. Over the course of that period, we've had some people jump in and help us part-time, mostly friends from EA and other people that we've met. And we are launching Armillo on the Wii U, for those of you who haven’t heard about it, this summer.
NWR: So it looks like you’ve been working on it for quite some time. So you guys have got to be excited to getting it onto the eShop, right?
YF: Yeah. I mean, it’s a long process of getting an indie game...originally for those of you guys that don’t know, we were at PAX in 2011, and we had a trailer still out there that says “Coming soon in 2012”, which I think is pretty funny. I think it’s just a classic case of just underestimating how long it takes to build a game from scratch. So yeah, we’re very excited to finally be launching.
NWR: Awesome. And for those who don’t know, can you let us know a bit about the game?
YF: Armillo is a 3D puzzle-action platformer at its core. It doesn’t try to be too many things--it really does the platforming and the puzzly action stuff. There are some 2D sections that you need to unlock, so we do have some 2D classic platforming stuff. For the most part, it’s a 3D puzzle-action platformer.
NWR: Sounds right up my alley, and like you said, it plays 2D sometimes. How similar or different will this be from the 3D environments?
YF: So with the Armillo game, we started in a 3D environment, so we focused most of our energies on that. We had 2D platforming stuff that we were working on concurrently, and we were actually going to release it for a mobile game, and then at some point we realized that it’d be really cool to have this 2D stuff in there as things you can play, but not necessarily have to play all of them. So the 2D development is very different from the 3D stuff. It will feel different, it will play different. It’s just a totally different, kind of like a sideways experience from the main thing. I think it’ll be a good amount of variety for players. That’s what we were hoping.
NWR: Yeah, and that’s what I was going to say too. With the 2D along with the 3D, and then you have puzzles in there too, it sounds like there’s going to be a bunch of stuff to keep players busy and keep their interest, which is awesome. So, as far as the puzzles go, do you have any certain favorite puzzles?
YF: Nothing that I want to divulge too much. There are some interesting mechanical puzzles that happen later on. For the most part, the design is more about an obstacle course, so there’s not these big, intricate puzzles that span a large area. They’re confined to small, little areas, and you just kind of figure them out as you go and you progress. So, that was part of our design philosophy, and was part of an obstacle course rather than an elaborate collection, map adventure-type of puzzle.
NWR: I like that idea too, because it seems that it won’t leave players frustrated since they won’t be crazy difficult. So aside from the puzzles, do you want to move on to explaining how Armillo will go on to take on enemies and some of his abilities and stuff like that?
YF: Armillo will take on enemies like an action game, so there’s boosting, there’s a critter gun that you get, and the critter gun shoots your critter friends and they damage certain enemies. There’s some special moves that you learn as you get deeper and deeper into the world and there’s also some upgrades. So all of the enemies are mostly...it’s mostly the action component in the game that’ll beat those. It’s not really the puzzle. Keep in mind, you get boost and jump. And out of those things, we mash up all of our mechanics. We don’t get into super complex add-ons or weird button combinations so it’s real easy to pick up and play, and I think for most players that have played games in the late 90s, it’ll feel right at home with some of the classic platformers.
NWR: It seems like kind of a homage to classic games, being a platformer and all those classic genres meshed together. So with that being said, where did the initial idea come from? Was it just because of your love for those classic games?
YF: We started with this concept of a 2D disc, where you roll a ball down the disc and basically you rotate the disc to be able to get to the end of your objective. We took that and we mapped it on a 3D plain, and so we had a rolling ball. After that, we moved on to update the ball to become a character, and the reason we did that is because when we got some feedback, it was pretty obvious to us that rolling a ball is no longer interesting in today’s gaming. Maybe when Monkey Ball was around or Marvel Madness was around, that was engaging enough, but these days we just didn’t feel it would be engaging enough, so we started working on the character of Armillo. And then after that we started on the collection aspect and trying to tie in collection to something other than just collection. So it became that the collection started helping your critter friends, which in turn help you do stuff you can’t otherwise do an progress. So we were trying to tie in some kind of story and emotional engagement to a ball that we didn’t have when we started out. So, once we had that, the next thing we workd on was creating this delta of gameplay--these moments where you’re going from really fast to really slow--and the reason for that is we just found it was kind of boring when you’re going around really slow. The speed component of Armillo probably had a lot to do when I was working on Need for Speed at Electronic Arts, and the speed of that game was a really important concept. So I try to put that in Armillo so that we would basically go in sort of all these different layers of intensity. And I think what people found when we actually put all that stuff in however we could, was that it reminded them of Sonic, and I can see that because Sonic has a good deal for speed. So it is common to those games, but it wasn’t like we were trying to re-create Sonic. We were trying to sort of solve the problems that we had initially in the Armillo design to make it more interesting.
NWR: That’s awesome. I mean, who doesn’t like going fast? Am I right? And then adding a character instead of just a ball, you know that kind of throws in more emotions in there to get attached to the character with the story, and I see that little Armillo plush behind you, which is totally awesome.
YF: Yeah this guy, this guy right there (points to Armillo plush). Taja Klos actually built that guy for us to bring to trade shows. We thought that would be kind of a cool thing to have around. You know people grab it and hug him and it’s kind of cute.
NWR: So as far as playing it goes, what are the GamePad features going to be, and if there is other controller support, can you elaborate on that?
YF: The GamePad basically has the same controls and the Pro Controller. The only difference in the GamePad is there’s a fantastic tilt mechanism in there, and we originally weren’t going to to integrate it. But once we integrated it in the game, we realized that it really feels like a different game with the tilt in it. It’s interesting to tilt the game, so that’s going to be one of the main Wii U components of Armillo is the tilt. And I would hazard to warn you kids that out there, it’s only for advanced players, so don’t start with the tilt.
NWR: I was actually thinking about that earlier today, about how being a rolly animal rolling around this environment--it could really use that GamePad gyroscope to use the tilt controls, so I’m looking forward to trying that out. Is that why you guys decided to develop for Wii U? Or was there, I guess--there’s probably other reasons?
YF: At that time in development, we were working on the XBLA and Xbox integration, and once we realized that we weren’t going to ship on that platform, the Wii U became the next logical alternative. When we started looking a bit closer at building the game for Unity and how Unity would deploy with the Wii U, it became a lot easier because initially it was pretty daunting to go from what we had towards a Nintendo Wii U-type release. So once we got all that stuff sorted out, the Nintendo platform actually turned out to be perfect for us because it’s--I think it’s the right kind of game for that platform. I think the user base on the Wii U is very close to the Armillo-type platforming, old school, classic kind of games. And Nintendo’s been really supportive for this title. They’ve really helped us out so I think it was the right decision for us.
NWR: I’ll have to agree with you on that. I have heard that Nintendo has, for the most part, is cooperative with indie developers. So I’m guessing that was the case with you guys as well, right?
YF: Yeah, very much so. Nintendo’s been really helpful, they’ve been giving us a lot of advice, and they’re just really nice guys to work with. I enjoy the relationship, so I would recommend them to any other indie folks.
NWR: And then I also saw screenshots from the E3 assets, and I saw that usually Armillo is orange, but I did see a couple screenshots of a blue Armillo. Will there be some customizable options thrown in there as well?
YF: Yeah, that was something I shouldn’t have released. (Laughs) Okay, so there’s some twists to the Armillo story. Let’s just say that.
NWR: Okay, okay.
YF: There’s no customization. There are some twists, so you’ll find out as you progress from System 2 to 3 that there’s some changes in who’s playing.
NWR: Okay, well we can skip that one too if you don’t want to spoil that for our listeners.
YF: Oh, it’s okay. I’ll say that. I mean I think that’s pretty good.
NWR: Okay, yeah I like that. So we’ve been focusing on Armillo. But post-Armillo release, where do you want or see Fuzzy Wuzzy games going?
YF: There’s a lot of things we can do. There’s another game that we’re kicking around in terms of development. But there’s some stuff that we want to do with Armillo post-launch that we’re working on. So I think we’re going to focus on Armillo for the next couple months and work on that and start and start to build a community with fans. Post that, I don’t really have a big overarching plan because Armillo is taking up pretty much all our time for the last three and a half years. So I just want to make sure that as we launch, we do the post-launch support and outreach and we really give it a chance to do all the things the game can do, and maybe give it some legs. So we’ll be doing a lot of promo over the next six to twelve months, so look out for that. That’s kind of our plan.
NWR: Will do. No, that’s a good plan.
Well there you have it. Yanni from Fuzzy Wuzzy Games on Armillo. As he said, that will come to eShop some time this summer. Stay tuned at Nintendo World Report.
Major thanks to Yanni Fyssas and Fuzzy Wuzzy games for the interview and supplying gameplay footage!