B-TEN Interviews Straight Right Games

Straight-Right
ELECTRONIC ARTS, INC. (Origin Store)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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  • smashbrolink

    I hear the game was okay, but I can easily tell you guys why it didn’t sell too well despite being of higher quality than the original versions.
    It’s because the collection of the entire series came out around roughly the same time.

    When Wii U owners saw that all they were getting to cover two game’s worth of storyline content and battles was a multiple-choice in-game comic book, that put them off and made them feel that they were getting less for their buck compared to the collection that hit other consoles.
    Don’t get me wrong; the comic was a nice touch, but it just cannot replace the hours that would have otherwise been spent LIVING the storylines and battles of the first two games.

    If you want to do right by Nintendo owners, then you should consider doing a Wii U version of the entire trilogy, with all the quality and improvements that went into the Wii U version of ME3, if/when you start doing development for the PS4/Bone versions.
    Heck, relegate development of the Wii U version to another team at the beginning of the project’s time-frame so that that separate team can focus solely on the Wii U version and nothing else.
    That way it would be sure to get the time and attention it deserves, and it would be able to release alongside the other two or maybe even a little ahead of them, instead of months afterwards like it likely would if the same teams making the PS4/Bone versions were also put in charge of them.

    Doing so would also show that you’re committed to treating Wii U owners better than a lot of the others in the AAA industry have been lately, and that ALONE might gain you a few thousand more sales.

    Right now a lot of Wii U owners are ignoring the few AAA offerings that are being promised from third parties, because early offerings on the system were extremely meager and not very well done.
    But they’re paying PLENTY of attention to indies, who are really just smaller third parties.
    Indies show that Nintendo gamers still pay attention to third party games, it’s just that owners of the system have become fed up with dealing with the development habits of the bigger ones; no DLC, entire modes missing[no multi for Sniper Elite, for example], higher prices for the games despite being older, delays and cancellations, even moments where the game lacks polish because the dev teams tried to do a rough and quick port based off of PS3/360 architecture development principles/methods, instead of optimizing the game from the ground up for the Wii U itself.

    These are bad practices that need to stop if AAA third parties want to see any sort of success on the Wii U, let alone Nintendo’s next home console.

    No gamer likes being treated like they’re third-class, and considering it’s the consumer’s wallets that matter here, the only way the system is going to become profitable for AAA third parties is if said parties clean up their development habits with the console, and keep trying to push games, even if a few fail first, in order to get them to catch on.

    If they REALLY want to garner attention, though, then they’ll start doing some new and unique projects exclusively for the Wii U instead of ports.
    It’s a sad fact that the Wii U’s graphical abilities aren’t the same as the other two.
    They’re close to the PS4 and Bone, but not close enough for some of the more hoity-toity third parties to bother with doing ports of games, and because of that, a lot of gamers wouldn’t get those games on the Wii U if they were ported, because it’s also a sad fact that looks[graphics] matter more than gameplay to a lot of people right now.
    Therefore, original projects, brand-new games that are designed from the ground up for the Wii U, are the better bet, if AAA third parties want to start gaining ground on Nintendo consoles again.

    It’s not going to be an easy or quick road, but having success on all three consoles is much better than having it on just two of them.

    • Jesse Taylor

      The fault with the poor sales of this game can be blamed both on Nintendo and EA. I completely agree it was unfair and dumb on EA’s choice to release the entire Mass Effect Trilogy on all other consoles at the same time as releasing Mass Effect 3 on Wii U. It seems odd to release the final chapter of a trilogy on a console that has never had the other 2 parts of the story. If you remember, EA promised Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 for Wii U at it’s E3 2011 showing. However, this is EA. EA is not always known to make the greatest decisions in this manner. I really don’t know why they thought Mass Effect 3 on Wii U would be a huge seller but they did.

      The funny thing is Mass Effect 3 on Wii U has OUTSOLD the Mass Effect Trilogy pack for PC and is only 100,000 copies behind the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the trilogy pack. Mass Effect 3 for Wii U has not actually sold poorly, it just didn’t sell to the standards EA wanted. I also think not releasing a complete product didn’t help it out. Not releasing all the single player DLC and multiplayer DLC hurt this version because fans felt they were being screwed the instant the game was released.

      Part of the fault also is on Nintendo’s. Nintendo needs to try harder to get these kinds of games on Wii U. Wii U has very bad press right now and at this point, Nintendo is the only one who can do something about that. Nintendo needs to go big, make big “AAA” like games, get new IP’s made for a more adult audience.

      I’ve had a chance to talk to BioWare and ask about a Wii U version of the trilogy. The “Official” statement is “thank you for your interest in more Mass Effect on Wii U. At this time we have nothing to announce but will update you if any news comes available.” In short…..Wii U owners aren’t getting it

      • smashbrolink

        I’m not exactly surprised that they’re not going to bring the Trilogy to the Wii U in the future, but the fact that it’s only 100k behind the trilogy on other consoles IS quite the surprise to me.
        That’s not including used sales, is it?

        • Jesse Taylor

          The sales numbers I mention are new sales, it doesn’t include used copies of the game. Unfortunately I can’t seem to get my hands on a accurate list of used copies sold for the game. Also remember that for some odd reason, Mass Effect 3 for Wii U is not available to buy via digital download.

          At the last data point I have (March 1st, 2104) here are the sales figures across all consoles:

          Mass Effect Trilogy- Xbox 360: 231,158
          Mass Effect Trilogy- PS3: 223,491
          Mass Effect 3- Wii U has sold 131,217
          Mass Effect Trilogy- PC: 120,642

          As the numbers show, Mass Effect 3 on Wii U has actually sold quite well when you compare the trilogy sets across the other platforms. It seems incredibly surprising to think the Wii U has sold the numbers it has but this is what it did and that’s getting a unfinished copy of the game (no single player dlc, multiplayer dlc, or the first 2 games).

  • Paladinrja

    Hey Straight Right, you did your job well fellas. Got the game two months ago on Wii U as its been long enough since I played it on PS3. Even the missus plays it because she digs the space opera sci-fi and GP features make it a no brainer for her. Loved every second of it, if you are an ME fan and want to revisit this game, then this game is as good a reason as any to buy a Wii U. Its really that good.

    One small ask though. Talk to Bioware about a seemless anthology in one big game. There is a market for it especially your choices reverbrate right from the very begining.

    • Jesse Taylor

      I’ve talked to BioWare about this and the digital comic at the beginning of the Wii U version is what they consider to be that. Without the other 2 video games on Wii U, BioWare felt this 35 minute comic was good enough for gamers to make the decisions of the first 2 games.

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