Sébastien Chipot-Delys, QA Manager at Neko Entertainment: I am Sébastien Chipot-Delys, QA Manager at Neko Entertainment. I worked for Nintendo, Codemasters and other studios in the past, always in their QA department. When I came back to France, I was hired by Neko Entertainment to increase the quality of the different games in the studio (there was no QA department before I arrived). The students who created Puddle are: Martial Potron, Rémi Gillig, Pierre Lemasson, Hoël Jacq, Antoine Guerchais, Arnaud Noble.
The people that helped to improve the game on Wii U are Eric Wairy, lead programmer, Nicolas Choiset, lead programmer, and Paolo Baerlocher, technical director. Therry Perreau was the Game Design teacher who brought this project from the school ENJMIN to Neko Entertainment.
We decided first on our logo, which was a cat. Then we looked for the best name to fit with this cat. The cat in Japan (the birthplace of video games), and generally in Asia, is a synonym of luck and brings something really positive. That's why we chose Neko (meaning "cat" in Japanese) Entertainment.
Cubed3: How did the development of Puddle see the light of day? Where did the idea of a little puddle of liquid having to find its way through various and interesting settings come from?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Puddle began as a project by six students at the video game school ENJMIN. It won a Student Showcase prize at the Independent Gaming Festival at GDC 2010, and was later picked up by Neko Entertainment. There, those same six students were able to turn it into a full-fledged game.
They were inspired at first by Rube Goldberg machines, these incredibly complex constructions that do nearly nothing useful but are quite fascinating to watch. They tried to combine it with our primary goal of playing with fluids and they struggled between a pure puzzle game and a racing game. In the end, they tried to keep some key elements from both these gameplay types without imposing too much of the hassle that could go with the dynamic nature of fluids.
Cubed3: The challenge in Puddle is quite spicy. Was that your initial intention to develop such a hard game? Weren't you afraid that it might scare away potential buyers?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Yes, from the very beginning we wanted something not hard, but more "hardcore gamer." The more you play the more you learn, and so you will finish every level with what you learned from your deaths. That's basically what you call a "die and retry" game; all about the skills of the player!
Cubed3: During development, were there ever exterior sources of inspiration? Other video games perhaps, or even non-video-game related ones?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: We checked a lot of games similar to Puddle, like "Super Meat Boy" or "Trials HD," for example. They are not the same game (I mean not the same kind of game) but they use the same means to finish the game.
Cubed3: Where did the will to port the game to Wii U come from? Were you planning to release Puddle on that system all along or was that decision taken when the initial versions on PSN and XBLA were already out?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Puddle has been developed on several platforms, and has always been polished. We always wanted to release Puddle on Wii U as we did not had the opportunity to release it on a Nintendo platform before. Moreover, the Wii U GamePad was exactly the controller required to play Puddle with full immersion. Therefore, we never worked under pressure at the time as we had worked on this version for a while now.
Cubed3: What are the differences between the Wii U version and those available on other platforms? Was there at any point a wish to bring new content to Wii U when compared to the others? If so, then what is new on Wii U?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: The really interesting thing coming out from the Wii U GamePad is the fact that you are able to play on your console at home without forcing all the people around you to "support" the fact you are playing the game (and so monopolising the TV). Here, as you can play the game on your TV and/or on your Wii U GamePad, you are free to say "you can watch whatever you want on TV, I can still continue to play Puddle on my Wii U GamePad and still with 60 FPS and the same quality!!"
The main difference between the Wii U version and the first one released a year ago is the difficulty. We smoothed the difficulty to avoid any frustration at the very beginning of the game. The player has now the opportunity to learn how to control the liquid in each level to be able to finish the game.
For those who think Puddle is hard they should try the one on XBLA/PS3 to realise a lot of things have changed!
Cubed3: This is your first Wii U game, and it's a port of an existing game. What are your thoughts on this system? What are, according to you who worked on it, its weaknesses and its strengths compared to the competition?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: The Wii U is really interesting and, I am sure I am not the only one really impatiently wanting to play a Mario or a Zelda in Full HD (and with all the features related to the console and controller).
Regarding the eShop, there are not too many menus, and everything important is displayed on the main page. That's a good point. The only thing we did not found easily was the "recommendations" you can make on the game you like the most (a sub-menu hidden).
Finally, something that could be improved is the loading when switching from some areas to others (like accessing Miiverse from the Plaza, for example), but we are sure Nintendo will work on it soon!
Cubed3: Did the development of this version of Puddle inspire you with new possibilities for future developments on the same platform? Do you have any other projects planned for Wii U?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Yes, we learned a lot by developing Puddle on Wii U, and it will be definitely helpful for the future and our next titles on Wii U!
Cubed3: Regarding Nintendo 3DS, do you have any games planned for it?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: I cannot tell you more for the moment, but it is a possibility…amongst a lot of others!
Cubed3: Neko Entertainment has developed quite a few original projects over the years, and yet it seems that, other than your Cocoto-branded games, you're better known for numerous projects based on well-established licenses targeted at the younger audience. We could then think that you are quite used by now to dealing with constraints imposed by the owners of the licenses worked on. However wouldn't you sometimes prefer to concentrate on developing new original ideas of your own?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Of course, we would like to create every game from the beginning every time we work on a project; something original and created by ourselves. However, the reality is different. If tomorrow we decide to create a AAA, we will have to put all our employees on this project and if the game is not a success when its released, we will have no other possibility than to make some "budget restrictions" (every month we learn some studios have to face big trouble). We prefer to focus on several projects, but to be sure they all have a minimum level of quality instead of working on a single project and not being sure what will happen in the future…
Cubed3: What can you tell us about the hardships that come with developing licensed games? Is it not limiting your creativity as video game designers too much? Are you ever faced with a refusal from rights owners when you present them gameplay ideas of your own for their games?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Of course, it happens very often, and that's why our game designer/creative director must be really clever, and reactive to be able to find the right idea that will make the difference! It is never an easy task, but that's a part of the deal: to be able to create a game for the publisher AND for the gamers!
Cubed3: What do you think of the reception of your game from the players who bought it? Do you play a lot of attention to user feedback?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Indeed, let's take Puddle as an example: I know the game very well, and check every day (several times) on Miiverse to see if there are news comments or questions, and try to answer to everyone who would need any advice or something else. It is a really unique feature for a console, and, of course, we will definitely use it in the future (it can be really helpful to improve the games!).
Cubed3: We can only imagine that your team has to be comprised of video-game fans. What are the games that your team likes particularly, other than your own creations of course?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Every person in the studio likes very different games: but two games we played a lot in multiplayer mode were Trials HD and Wrecked on XBLA. Most of the time we are looking for games with a lot of fun in multiplayer mode!
Cubed3: Thanks for all your answers. Are there any final words you would like to tell your fans?
Sébastien Chipot-Delys: Try Puddle on Wii U: all the comments we get on Miiverse are unilateral: the game worth the price! Let's meet on the Puddle Community!