Interview | Mekensleep Talks Soul Bubbles on Nintendo DS

By Jorge Ba-oh 26.02.2009 16

Soul Bubbles, from Independent French developer Mekensleep, was proclaimed as one of the best games released for the Nintendo DS during 2008, as well as being one of the most innovative on the system, full stop. Cubed3's Adam Riley recently got the chance to do a post mortem interview with Olivier Lejade, the Creative Director of the company to discuss some of the pressures faced, as well as if we can expect the game on other formats, or even a full-blown sequel at some point.
Cubed3's Adam Riley: How do you feel about the widespread critical acclaim Soul Bubbles received from fans and media alike?

Olivier Lejade, Creative Director at Mekensleep: Well, when you've worked for over three years on something, it always feels great to hear that people are enjoying what you did. It makes you feel like the pain was worth it and that your time was well spent.

AR: Have you actually heard any negative comments at all, or 'constructive criticism' that you can take into consideration for your next project?

OL: Certainly! I think the biggest lesson I've learned is that we can significantly increase the contrast between the difficulty curve for experienced gamers and the curve for beginners. We could also raise the bar for the end-game a little.

AR: Are you able to say roughly how much the game has sold worldwide so far?

OL: Not enough *smiles*

AR: In your honest opinion, do you feel that Eidos gave the game enough support? And do you feel about the limited Toys 'R' Us release in the US severely restricted the game's performance in that market?

OL: It depends what kind of support we're talking about. Eidos was very enthusiastic about the game during acquisition and extremely supportive during production. They basically gave us everything we asked for! Things were very different on the sales and marketing front, though, and it's been heartbreaking to see how much marketing (or a lack of it in this case) can hurt a good game. In their defence, I have to say that Eidos has been going through rough waters of their own, which did not help create favourable conditions for the launch of Soul Bubbles.

Concerning the TRU exclusive, although I understand it makes it difficult for gamers, I'm not sure Eidos has such a great distribution service in the US to have made much of a difference: witness what happened to Arkedo's Nervous Brickdown. At least the TRU exclusive came with some guaranteed sales, which helped our bottom line.

AR: Looking back now, what are you most proud of about the project, and is there anything you would like to have done differently? And are you still happy you chose DS instead of something like WiiWare?

OL: Soul Bubbles was made specifically for the touch-screen of the DS and it definitely was a great platform to work with. I'm still not sure how the controls would translate to the Wii remote.

What makes me proudest about the project is having actually completed it! It was a huge leap of faith for a tiny, unknown, unproven Indie studio like us to be able to finance, create and ship a completely original game of high quality. Believing in yourself sometimes works out against all odds...And, of course, there are things I would like to have done differently but hey, hindsight is always 20/20!

AR: Is it true that the last few stages were not as polished as you may have liked due to time constraints? And were there any other problems faced during development?

OL: Whoever said that? *smiles* The difficulty curve ramps up very abruptly on the last world and maybe if we had had more time we would have tuned it better. But lots of gamers enjoyed it like that, so...As for other problems, what can I say? Making games is all about solving problems! Recruiting, game design, graphics, programming, administrative, financial, human relationship, marketing problems, etc...There are hundreds of problems, every day that need to be solved, and the better you solve them, the better the game becomes.

AR: Have you retained the rights to Soul Bubbles, or did the deal with Eidos mean they control it now? In either case, is a Soul Bubbles 2 likely?

OL: We own the rights to Soul Bubbles. As for a sequel to Soul Bubbles, I don't know: should there be one?

AR: Would you consider including something like a Level Editor and online Wi-Fi sharing of gamers' creations in a potential sequel?

OL: We would have loved to do that with Soul Bubbles, but there were some awkward technical issues that made it impossible.

AR: What is next on the cards for Mekensleep - Wii, WiiWare, DS, or some other platform? Are you able to give any preliminary details or even hints towards your next game?

OL: It's too early, I'm not sure myself.

AR: With the iPhone quickly garnering more and more support from developers, is it something you will be looking into eventually?

OL: I was convinced the iPhone was going to take off as a platform just as much as I was about the DS and we discussed porting Soul Bubbles to it while it was in development. But we didn't have enough energy to do both at the same time and now the iPhone is fast becoming as crowded as the DS, so I'm concerned about the timing.

AR: (This is a question from Camille at Arkedo) What are your thoughts about the retail scene in general? Do you feel the system is on the verge of a collapse and Indies should take the power back?

OL: Camille knows how to get me ranting... *smiles* I think retail is very, very sick. Mostly, it's inconvenient, games are too expensive and the money all goes in the hands of retailers. With shelves full of garbage, the signal-to-noise ratio is catastrophically bad. The public is being force fed crap with the help of massive marketing. I do not think this is a sustainable situation and yes, I am hoping Indies will find ways through alternative business models to take the power back.

AR: And what are your thoughts on digital distribution, via WiiWare and DSiWare for instance, being a viable model for developers?

OL: I think it's a no-brainer. Considering the ridiculous (if any) margins developers make on retail, it can only be better online. At a minimum you're getting back manufacturing and distribution costs. More if you're smart…

AR: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything else you would like to add about Soul Bubbles, your company or anything else in general?

OL: Thanks for playing Soul Bubbles and supporting Indie gaming: we definitely need it!

Would you like to see a Soul Bubbles sequel? Be sure to vote on our poll and air your views in our discussion forum below.

User Poll: What format(s) would buy a new Soul Bubbles in?

DS at retail
Wii at retail
Download services: DSiWare/WiiWare etc
Mobile (e.g. iPhone)
I don't want another Soul Bubbles!

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Comments

I definitely think digital distribution would be ideal for a sequel. Perhaps release the game in separate downloadable chunks, like with Space Invaders Get Even on WiiWare.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Smilie

One of my favourite DS games last year, I really loved it despite how brief it was.

Wii Ware, no question. When I was playing the game on DS I kept think this should be on Wii Ware!. It does not need a retail release. On Wii Ware it could be far more profitable and successful, as Lost Winds was. On Wii Ware it would get the attention it deserves, while at retail I think it would get lost.

Controls should not be an issue, a simple calibration before play should improve accuracy. I would like to see Widescreen support for sure, and see the game take advantage of it in gameplay. A stronger story and more ingenious levels and abilities. Much harder difficulty also, the DS games difficulty was woefully weak even in later stages!. New gameplay ideas also, perhaps using motion control.

Try the DS demo on the Nintendo Channel, if you have not already C3\'ers.




( Edited 26.02.2009 13:42 by Linkyshinks )

I'd love to see it on Wii Ware. It's definitely ideal for digital distribution. It's not the kind of game I'd generally buy at a store.

Fantastic interview Adam, really enjoyed reading that. I still need to get hold of Soul Bubbles, it's one of those I just haven't got round to yet.

Our member of the week

the kinda game that would suit download services better. This kind of game can get repetitive very quickly. download services like wiiware offer low prices and rather short games, so you end up finishing them before they can actually become repetitive. that's why games of that genre proliferate that much on Wiiware. The thing is ... most of them suck ! But Soul Bubbles seems good. So it could perform well on Wiiware i think. Or maybe DSiware, even though i can't judge that much since we don't have DSi in western countries yet.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Soul Bubbles rocks.


*smiles* I think retail is very, very sick. Mostly, it's inconvenient, games are too expensive and the money all goes in the hands of retailers. With shelves full of garbage, the signal-to-noise ratio is catastrophically bad. The public is being force fed crap with the help of massive marketing. I do not think this is a sustainable situation and yes, I am hoping Indies will find ways through alternative business models to take the power back.

I coudlnt possibly agree more!

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+

Gah! Smilie

That game looks like it kicks so much ass!


The former top user was Keven! You'd probably give birth to yourself 1000 times over until you sprout wings to fly away into the fading sun, that or you'd just turn into a lesbian. Who knows @_@ - L, 12/06/09

It does.

I really cant work out who would vote for \"I don\'t want another Soul Bubbles!\"
Clearly people that either havnt played it, or have some phobia against 2D games...even ones that look and play incredible.

If you voted for no, at least justify yourself.
Why dont you want another game :?


( Edited 28.02.2009 16:44 by Darkflame )

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+

I liked that demo on the Nintendo Channel it was fun.

When all is bad don't look for a easy way out. Because you wont know what to do once your out

<download>

( Edited 28.02.2009 15:21 by zcollvee (aka zafarali) )


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Darkflame said:
If you voted for no, at least justify yourself. Why dont you want another game :?

I agree - surprising some have voted 'No'. The DS title's brilliant, but I'd love to see a more fleshed-out version for WiiWare, making use of the Wii MotionPlus add-on. In fact, I bet Mekensleep could work Balance Board support in with a little bit of thought...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Def digital distribution. You know what, I think Nintendo should revisit their strategy with Wiiware. I do think that they should make a channel just for the Wiiware service, and have advertisement running through it like the news channel, but in bright colourful letters or whatever. With some balloon on the top flashing "new" so that people who aren't aware of the service can check it out. Then when they hit "buy" a menu can come up showing them easy steps of how to add wiipoints and how to buy the games etc.

I know both the VC and Wiiware work great but it could be even better and 3rd party devs could make more money out of it.

jesusraz said:
Darkflame said:
If you voted for no, at least justify yourself. Why dont you want another game :?

I agree - surprising some have voted 'No'. The DS title's brilliant, but I'd love to see a more fleshed-out version for WiiWare, making use of the Wii MotionPlus add-on. In fact, I bet Mekensleep could work Balance Board support in with a little bit of thought...

The question is, who would turn down a game that others enjoy? If you don't like it but others do, why go against it? These guys put a lot of effort into this, it's unfair do deny or reject their work, just like any other dev.

Hadn't even really thought about this one, looks awesome. The art style is just gorgeous. Nice interview Adam!

The game reminds of that section in Mario Galaxy where you had to guide him with the Wiimote while he was in a bubble of air. A Wii game could work well..

Has anyone got any ideas, other than the SMG one, about how Soul Bubbles could work on Wii? After all, moving the Wii Remote around is not as accurate as the DS stylus, plus requires a much steadier hand...

All feedback is being passed on, so thanks Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Works well enough for LostWinds, I think the Wiimote is accurate enough actualy.

Of course, SB would need more accuracy then LostWinds, but I dont think the difference is massive.
Just compansate the level design a tad.

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+

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