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Sliced Gaming Feature: LostWinds Developer Interview

Writer: Nick Schaedel
Posted: 29th August 2008, 1:37am
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We reviewed LostWinds a couple of weeks ago, and loved it. We couldn't help but harass the team at Frontier Developments for scoops on the sequel. It turns out they have good harassment stamina, but being the upstanding British folk that they are, they compromised with a chat on the original. And that's the story of how David Braben, the Chairman of Frontier Developments, got trojan horsed with a question about the LostWinds 2 right at the end of a seemingly innocuous interview.

 

Sliced Gaming: Can you explain the origins of LostWinds’ concept? How long was the game in development for and how many people worked on it?

David Braben: We have a forum within Frontier called ‘Game of the Week’ where anyone can put forward game ideas. This causes a great deal of debate, criticism and argument, with many improvements, problems being raised and solved - we have likened the process to dangling a leg of lamb into a piranha-filled stream: the water boils for a while, but then whatever is left must be pretty tough.

The idea for LostWinds dates from the time that the Wii was first announced privately to developers, when we were brainstorming design ideas that made good use of the Wii controls – LostWinds is one of many strong ideas we have built up over time, and it gathered a number of very enthusiastic internal advocates.

Steve Burgess, one of Frontier’s designers, was watching the trees and leaves from the window on a windy day. He remembers thinking about how many ways the wind shapes and manipulates different things within the world, and if only there was some way to become the wind in game. He then applied this train of thought to the Wii controller.

So the game was designed with this in mind, the whole point of the game is to allow the player to use the Wii control system in a coherent, intuitive, satisfying way. Once we actually started development, towards the end of last year, it took between four and five ‘man-years’ of work. But a lot of concept development was done prior to this by the enthusiastic team of advocates of the game.

SG: Did you develop the (very impressive) engine yourself, and what were some of its advantages and shortcomings?

DB: Yes, thank you - the engine is Frontier’s Cobra engine. Ever since the company was formed in 1994 we have invested heavily in our own tools and technology. Obviously the technical details change as hardware capability moves on but the underlying commitment to a structured, ‘lego brick’ approach to system architecture has stayed, which means it is both battle-hardened, having shipped in all our games over the years, and also is easy to add in new modules to extend functionality in particular areas.

In terms of shortcomings, most of these have been ironed out now – things can always be better/improved, of course, but there’s nothing ...

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