B-TEN Interviews Straight Right Games
by Jes Taylor
At B-TEN, we love video games. Even more then that, we love having the chance to talk about video games. Straight Right is a video game developer out of Australia known for Shift 2 Unleashed, Mass Effect 3 Special Edition and Dues Ex Human Revolution Director’s Cut. I got the chance to interview Straight Right CEO Tom Crago and get his insight into the games Straight Right has worked on.
How did Straight Right get involved with EA on Shift 2 Unleashed? Did you find the process of creating an iOS game to be an easy one for your team or was this a new “frontier” you guys were doing?
EA knocked on our door actually, on the back of some work our sister studio Tantalus had done in the racing genre. Tantalus developed Top Gear Rally on GBA which was published by Nintendo, along with another ten or so handheld racing titles including the MX vs ATV series and the Cars games for Pixar and THQ. We felt we had a reputation as one of the leading handheld racing studios in the world and all of that acumen came across to the Straight Right label when we started it up.
After Shift 2 was released, did you think Straight Right to continue making just mobile games? Or did you always envision reaching out into console games?
We always knew we’d work on console. The Straight Right label is a label for gamers, irrespective of their platform of choice. We want to develop titles that stay true to the core, authentic soul of video games. Some of those games will be for handheld, some for console. Some will be ports and some will be original.
How did you become involved in doing Mass Effect 3 Wii U for EA and BioWare? How long did you guys have to make the game on Wii U before its release?
I’m a huge fan of BioWare and have always wanted to work with them. Nintendo and Epic were also involved in the early discussions, both companies with whom we have an extremely close relationship. I pressured my friends at BioWare for a couple of months and finally convinced them that we were the right choice to nurse their baby. We spent a lot of time talking them through how we would approach the project and I suppose we were able to point to a few past successes. At Tantalus, for example, we had done Unreal II on Xbox a few years back, which was a particularly challenging conversion. Winning the Mass Effect 3 opportunity was a real coup for us, no doubt. In the end we worked on it for around 14 months.
Did the Straight Right Team find it challenging to “recreate” what many consider to be BioWare’s masterpiece game for Wii U? Was it difficult to develop the game on Wii U?
Yeah I’ve said before that in terms of design challenges, the biggest challenge was not screwing it up. It’s a great game on its original formats and we needed to ensure we didn’t break anything. So we turned to the hardware and asked ourselves what we could do with the GamePad that might elevate the gameplay experience. We handled it gently, and I feel like the stuff we’ve implemented gels extremely well. We made the power wheel interactive along with the level maps, you can give orders to squad mates via the map on the GamePad, and we also added a new weapon, among other things. All this stuff sits on top of what is already a high quality package. Working on the Wii U was relatively straightforward. It’s a good platform for developers, without too many tricks or traps.
How involved was BioWare in the making of Mass Effect 3 for Wii U? Did they give you guys a lot of freedom with the project or were you more closely “watched” to focus the project to how they were hoping it to be?
We had a lot of freedom. They were busy finishing their own game when we started and we were able to drive the design changes from our studio here in Melbourne. Of course they were available when we needed them and certainly they offered a lot both technically and creatively. They were fantastic to work with.
Was there ever a discussion about what content from Mass Effect 3 would be included in the Wii U version? Or was it already set as you were developing it?
Well we knew from the outset that we needed to include it all. The idea was to make the Wii U title the definitive version, a game you’d play even if you already played it on PS3 or 360. I don’t know how many people actually did that, but I hope that those who did found the experience on Wii U even richer than on the original platforms. If that happened, then we achieved our goal.
Were there any features, specific for the Wii U version of the game, that you had hoped to put into the game but weren’t able to?
Of course! With any project there are a ton of things that go on a ‘wish list’ and it’s never the case that you get to them all. On Mass Effect 3 we exceeded our initial target specification, thanks in part to the commitment from BioWare to ensuring that the game met their own exacting benchmarks in terms of quality. They gave us the time and the latitude to get that job done. I don’t look back on any feature in particular and think “if only we could have added that.” I think for the most part we got the job done.
How do you feel about how the game turned out and the overall reception to the game on Wii U? The game currently holds a 88/100 on GameRankings, higher than BioWare’s own developed PC version of Mass Effect 3. How does all that positive ratings make you guys feel about the project?
We were really happy with the reviews. I think it can be tough for reviewers when it comes to ports in that perhaps they’re overly inclined to look for functionality that is above and beyond the original version. Certainly on Wii U there are a bunch of new features, and as a reviewer I think you’d need to convince yourself that these features actually detracted from the experience, were you to justify giving the Wii U SKU a lower score than the original game. And I’d love to have a discussion with any reviewer who thought that was the case… in my view the game is faster, more intuitive and more fun on Wii U than on any other platform. Sure, we’re not talking orders of magnitude, but we feel it’s the definitive version. It was very satisfying to see it do so well.
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