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Elebits interview: Online functionality and more

9:00 AM on 12.12.2006 // Robert Summa

Yesterday, I had the good fortune of interviewing the project manager for the Nintendo Wii game Elebits, Dennis Lee. For a title that has, in my eyes, been something of a roller coaster ride, the final product actually stands to be one of the better (if not best) games for the Wii right now. In the full interview, not only will you learn a little more about how Elebits came to be, but you'll also now know how the game aims to take advantage of Nintendo's online service. 

When a video game system launches, typically the games that launch with it are a smattering of good, bad and lazy. But there’s always a few gems that sneak through the launch window to surprise everyone with how innovative and fun they can be -- Lumines for the Sony PlayStation Portable is a perfect example.

Such is the case with Konami’s Elebits, which hits store shelves today and will let players move through environments while zapping little creatures called Elebits. I spoke with Dennis Lee, group manager at Konami and project manager for Elebits, about the game and what players can expect with this fun and addictive title.

How long has Elebits been in development?
We’ve been working on the game for more than a year, pretty much right after Nintendo came to us and showed and explained the Wii and what it could do.

What was the vision behind Elebits?
We just wanted to create a game that was easy to pick up and play. We wanted it to be simple enough for everyone to want to play, to have that familiar hide-and-seek aspect. Most of all, we wanted to do something where the controller was an extension of your hand, where you can just move around anything in the environment. Basically, make it something similar to what Valve did with Half-Life 2.

Playing the game, it feels a lot like Katamari Damacy in the way the levels are designed and how you become stronger. How big of an influence was Katamari and was that a sort of goal you wanted to achieve?
The team wasn’t initially thinking it would be so similar to Katamari, but that’s just sort of how it ended up. It certainly has those elements you spoke of and it all just ended up that way.

What sort of extras are going to be in the game that will really set it apart from other Wii launch titles?
The biggest thing we have included is the incorporation of Nintendo’s WiiConnect 24 service. While the online service is not yet up and ready to go, when it is, Elebits will be able to work from the moment it’s finally implemented.

What will players be able to do online?

There are two things. One, as you play, you’ll be able to take screenshots of your moments in the game and then will be able to send those pictures to your friends on the Wii. Second, and this is the biggest thing, is that we’ll have an edit mode where you can more or less create your own levels to play through. After you achieve basically a rank of B or higher in a completed level, you’ll be able to go back into that level and design it however you wish. Then, you’ll be able to share that level with your friends online.

Were there any specific challenges with creating Elebits?
Working with the Wii was similar to working with any launch system. There is a shortened development time and the debug units and dev kits come late in the game. And, of course, with a new control scheme like the Wii has, that also poses its own set of challenges. In fact, implementation of the controller was the toughest aspect of the game. Making sure it works correctly was probably are biggest challenge.

How so?
Getting a sense of the physics in the game was what we constantly worked on. In those early builds, items often times didn’t have the proper weight to them, the proper feel. There was a constant tweaking and getting things right as the game progressed through development.

Are there any plans for additional downloads or microtransactions through Nintendo’s online service?
No, there are no plans at this time for that. For Elebits, everything is being placed in the user’s hands.

Will the game ever go to other consoles or maybe the DS?
For the foreseeable future, the game will be a Wii exclusive. Taking Elebits to another system just wouldn’t be right.

For those who may have just seen little bits and pieces of Elebits, what’s the one thing you want to get across to them that they may not be aware of?
The big thing is that you aren’t just stuck in one room or in one house. The game has outdoor environments and even an arcade with Konami games in it you can play with. There’s a lot more to Elebits than people know. As they say, there’s more than meets the eye.

Robert Summa, Contributor
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