Interview | EA Talks Populous on Nintendo DS, Wii Version & Bullfrog Remakes

By Jorge Ba-oh 03.02.2009 5

Strategy games are seen to be the perfect match for the diminutive DS platform thanks to its intuitive touch-screen control system allowing for easier translation of PC classics than other consoles and their D-pad controls. With two SimCity games already proving to be massive hits on DS so far, as well as the successful transition of Bullfrog's Theme Park to the dual-screen system, now it is the turn of another Peter Molyneux classic to be revived on the touch-screen system - Populous, which recently launched in the US via XSEED Games and is due very soon in Europe thanks to Rising Star Games. Cubed3 was fortunate enough to catch up with EA Japan to discuss the game in more detail and talk about the possibility of a Wii version, as well as other Bullfrog games returning in the future...
Cubed3.com's Adam Riley: First of all, why did you decide to bring back the Populous franchise on the Nintendo DS?

Takahiro Murakami, Lead Producer on Populous DS at EA Japan: Since SimCity DS was a great success for us, I thought Populous DS was another "revival" title that could experience similar success in the Japanese market. The Japanese market is dominated by the DS, and our research showed that the platform most likely to be owned now by someone that used to play Super Famicom back in the day was indeed the DS.

Image for Interview | EA Talks Populous on Nintendo DS, Wii Version & Bullfrog Remakes


AR: Was the game built from the ground-up on DS, or were old assets used to speed up the development process? And how long did it take to complete the game?

TM: I would say development took about 8 months. We did reference the source code from the original PC version, but with the DS having 2 screens and us adding new god powers and other features, we had to build everything from scratch.

AR: Were there any aspects of the game that you had to leave out due to time constraints or other reasons?

TM: No, there wasn't anything that we had to leave out, we filled the originally planned DS cart size to the very max to squeeze everything in. But in terms of anything that I would have liked to have worked on a little more if I had the resources that would have been to work on the graphics a little more.

AR: Was there any collaboration with any of the team that previously worked on the Populous series?

TM: No, not at all since all of the development staff for Populous DS were Japanese. However, we did all play the Famicom version of Populous. In addition, we were sort of hoping that members of the original development team would be impressed by our new version (laughs).

Image for Interview | EA Talks Populous on Nintendo DS, Wii Version & Bullfrog Remakes


AR: Are you disappointed that sales in Japan were not as strong as the sales for SimCity DS? What were your sales projections for the game?

TM: Of course we were disappointed. I can't tell you what exactly our sales forecast was, and though we didn't expect it to have more name recognition than SimCity DS, I wish it would have sold a little better. I think that perhaps it got buried within the avalanche of DS titles as there are just so many coming out in Japan right now.

AR: For those that have never played Populous before, can you briefly described how the game works?

TM: A game where you get to play as a very mean god (laughs).

Image for Interview | EA Talks Populous on Nintendo DS, Wii Version & Bullfrog Remakes


AR: What modes are available in this DS edition?

TM:There are 4 different modes in the game:

  • A "Gods Vs Demons" single-player campaign progressing through various stages.
  • A more relaxed "Warrior Hunt" mini-game.
  • Freeplay-mode where the player chooses the stage and conditions.
  • Multi-player mode with up to 4-players via wireless connection.

AR: Can you explain how this version differs from the original Populous? How are the dual-screen and touch-screen features used?

TM:The top-screen is the "actual world" and the bottom touch-screen becomes the god's "working canvas" where the player performs the landscaping and can clearly see how much energy to unleash powers has been stored. The d-pad was used for landscaping in the Super Famicom version and it was not very user-friendly. Using the touch feature of the DS, I think landscaping has now become very easy and intuitive.

AR: Was there any consideration given to including Wi-Fi gameplay for anything?

TM: We considered it at first, but at that time there were very few games that had implemented Wi-Fi in a way that players were using and enjoying it. We then considered the additional amount of time that would be needed to test any Wi-Fi features and then concluded that those resources could be better spent on creating more content for the game that all players would use and enjoy.

Image for Interview | EA Talks Populous on Nintendo DS, Wii Version & Bullfrog Remakes


AR: What was the reason behind including a Nintendo-themed set of buildings? Are there any other special treats such as that included as well?

TM: This concept is the recreation of the "Bit Valley" stage that was present in the Japanese SNES version. Since the SNES days Nintendo has created a lot more hardware so we had to ask permission to add new hardware images like the Wii and DS. Also, we have the ancient Japan-style "Yamato" stage, as well as a "Space" stage where the air is thin and affects your energy. This also affects your battle strategy and I'm quite fond of this gameplay aspect.

AR: If the DS version is successful enough when released in the US and Europe, will other versions of Populous come to Nintendo's handheld system?

TM: If it succeeds in US and Europe then that will definitely open up some possibilities for us. If that were the case, we'd want to hear from the fans on what game they would like to see get revived next.

Image for Interview | EA Talks Populous on Nintendo DS, Wii Version & Bullfrog Remakes


AR: We have already seen SimCity come to Wii, but are there any plans to make a home console version of Populous at any point?

TM: No plans at this point. In my personal opinion, I think it may be difficult to utilise the Wii controller for the small detailed movements of the game.

AR: So far we have seen Bullfrog's Theme Park and Populous come to DS. Are there any other Bullfrog games that you would like to see come to DS - perhaps Syndicate, Theme Hospital, Powermonger or Dungeon Keeper?

TM: For me, it would be Dungeon Keeper. There's been a PSP game released recently by another publisher with a similar concept that experienced some success, so I would like the opportunity to bring that title back. I think the Japanese market would welcome another Dungeon Keeper title as well!

Box art for Populous DS
Developer

Rising Star Games

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Strategy

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  2/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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Comments

I played a little of the Japanese version last year and enjoyed it, so can't wait to get my hands on the EU version later this month!

It'd be great to see Dungeon Keeper return as well...so here's hoping EA hasn't given up on the Bullfrog remakes! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Sod Dungeon Keeper bring back an updated Syndicate and Syndicate Wars.

Matthew Evans [ Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread ] As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

I believe EA actually has big plans for a Syndicate comeback later this year on the likes of PS3/Xbox 360. But I'd be happy with the SNES version re-done on DS, tbh... Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Oh wow, excellent artwork there! I looks very interesting! Can't wait to play it!

It's a shame that he doesn't think a Wii version of Populous would be possible, though. Quite disappointing. I would have thought that if SimCity can be successfully translated to Wii, most games of this ilk could.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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