Interview | Nifflas and Knapnok Talk Affordable Space Adventures

By Jorge Ba-oh 30.03.2014

Cubed3 sat down with the folk behind upcoming Wii U action/stealth game Affordable Space Adventures, Niffalas and the team at Knapnok.

The game is pitched as a means of exploring space through a "cheap but functional space ship" on a side-scrolling 2D plane. A combination of stealth and puzzle mechanics allows players to dive deep into some of the spooky and beautiful areas of these fictional worlds.

We caught up with the creators to discuss the concept, plans for Wii U and the inspiration behind Affordable Space Adventures.


 

Cubed3: Please introduce the team working on Affordable Space Adventures.
 

Nifflas: It's me and Knapnok. The team consists of Heino Jørgensen (programmer of excellence), Casper Petersen and Simon Nielsen (graphics/modellers of supreme graphical...ness?), our super-nice producer Dajana Dimovska. Then there's Lau Korsgaard who does stuff, and me who also does some stuff.
 
Dajana: Affordable Space Adventures is a collaboration. We are aiming to utilise our KnapNok Games experience in console game development, new interfaces and Nifflas's eye for atmosphere, style and puzzle games.  

Cubed3: How did the collaboration between Nifflas and KnapNok come about?
 
Nifflas: I was good friends with several people from Knapnok before we started to work together. I had just released Knytt Underground; Knapnok was finishing Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party and we were looking for a new project. I had an idea, we applied for some money, and things worked out quite well.
 
Dajana: We shared office space with Nifflas when he was working on Knytt Underground and we were working on Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party. We played a lot of Spin the Bottle and Nintendo Land on Fridays, which inspired Nifflas to come up with a Wii U game idea. We loved the idea and decided to do it.

Image for Interview | Nifflas and Knapnok Talk Affordable Space Adventures


Cubed3: Affordable Space Adventures sounds intriguing! Please explain the core concept.
 
Nifflas: At its core, Affordable Space Adventures is a technical stealth game. You're trying to remain undetected in a hostile world by customizing your ship so that you can complete tasks without being sensed by enemy detectors.
 
Unlike most other stealth games, you are not detected visually, but by heat, sound, and electricity. Your ship lets you configure the fuel/reactor usage of every system, which you use to configure your ship to avoid detection - you need to be careful. Some settings make the ship very hard to pilot, and others may blow a fuse or explode the entire ship.

Cubed3: Will there be a storyline and protagonist, if so, how goes this side of the game come into play?
 
Nifflas: You have rented a cheap spaceship by UExplore, and they have provided transportation for you and your friends to go on an adventure to explore a safe and friendly planet. However, the planet doesn't seem that safe and friendly at all. Plus, the fact that your transportation is scattered over the landscape in hundreds of small pieces might mean you got more adventure than you asked for.

The protagonist in the game is the spaceship, and the planet you landed on. There's definitely a story, but it's not really told. The idea is that you can work it out if you look carefully enough at the landscape and environments, but players can still have a good time even if you don't care for that. We have not created an avatar or personality for the pilot, because the idea is that it's you who is inside that ship. Our job as game developers is to make you regret trying to get away with low-budget space travel. Seriously, if you want to cut costs, maybe do it with something else, silly.

Image for Interview | Nifflas and Knapnok Talk Affordable Space Adventures


Cubed3: What other games or sci-fi franchises have helped shape Affordable Space Adventures?
 
Nifflas: I'm very inspired by a game named Steel Battalion for the original Xbox. It came with its own crazy custom controller hardware. When the Wii U was announced, I realized that the small touchscreen could be used to make something similar but without having to create an entire custom controller.

Cubed3: The art style looks and feels fantastic! Can you explain the process in creating these vivid worlds?
 
Simon Nielsen: Thank you! There are three of us working directly on the game art. All of us are used to working towards a coherent look. The easiest example would be to look at Nifflas' latest game, Knytt Underground, where each level is an interesting and pleasing image in itself. In typical Scandinavian fashion, we're also trying to give each element in the game world the space it deserves, using a borderline minimalist principle. We don't want it too dull, though, so it's a balance. 
 
We're now trying to keep the strengths of something like Underground while adding more polish, which is possible because more artists are involved. In practice we work in iterations where each of us in turn add what we're good at - level flow and composition, modelling, lighting, effects, materials etc. This quick work process and handing half-finished stuff off to each other only works because the game engine we use is flexible enough, and because we trust each other to have similar goals and visions.
 
I can add that when we started out, it was easier to find pseudo-3D art styles we didn't like the look of than to find stuff we liked. Knowing where you don't want to go can also be helpful though, and through experimentation we arrived at this.

Image for Interview | Nifflas and Knapnok Talk Affordable Space Adventures


Cubed3: The use of the GamePad sounds interesting - how does the Wii U controller come into play?
 
Nifflas: The Wii U controller is your ship computer where you customise fuel and energy usage. It lets us make a real-time interface and information-heavy game without putting anything distracting on the big TV. If we tried this without the Wii U, the player would have to bring up an awkward menu on the TV all the time to get information and make ship modifications, and it couldn't be real-time as the controls used to move the ship would otherwise easily conflict with the ship computer menus. The Wii U's hardware does, however, make all this very intuitive.

Cubed3: Could multiplayer work given the strong focus on a single-player adventure?
 
Nifflas: The game can be played single-player, but don't think of it as a single-player game first. It's designed to be super fun for two or three people since you can all fly the same ship and control different aspects of it. My recommendation is definitely multiplayer if you have someone to play it with. However, there's no mode where you have different ships, and no competition, and no deathmatches. That just wouldn't make any sense in this game.
 
Dajana: In the multiplayer mode, a second player can take on the spaceship movement controls and a third player can use the scanner controls. In this case the first player is the engineer and has to control the engines and spaceship systems (adjusting values and turning on and off systems), while the second player flies the spaceship and the third player controls the scanner. They have to all work together to be able to operate the spaceship and avoid dangerous situations together.
 
This mode is to some extent inspired by Start Trek, especially the setting where the captain gives commands to the crew. The multiplayer mode has this atmosphere since communication between players is a key to passing the puzzles.   

Image for Interview | Nifflas and Knapnok Talk Affordable Space Adventures


Cubed3: Have there been any issues working with the Wii U hardware?
 
Nifflas: Not much. Maybe I wish the touchscreen was a bit more responsive, it requires the touches to be a tad too hard. Still, that's minor and easy to get used to as a player.

Cubed3: Would you consider portable platforms like Nintendo 3DS for a port or extra controller?
 
Nifflas: Definitely! Only, it's a quite heavy game when it comes to graphics, and the 3DS touchscreen is way too small for the current ship interface. It'd require some major work to make it fit the 3DS, but hey, you never know!

Image for Interview | Nifflas and Knapnok Talk Affordable Space Adventures


Cubed3: Would you ever consider working alongside a major video game publisher?
 
Nifflas: Sure! As long as I get to create games I like, and work in relatively small teams with a flat structure where each person has a say, then I'm up for anything.
 
Dajana: I second Nifflas on that. We don't overrule any option, but it is important to us to make the games we love making and playing :) 

Cubed3: What hurdles have you had going at it as part of an independent team?
 
Nifflas: Not sure. Do we have hurdles? It's always a challenge since we have to do a lot without many resources, but I like a good challenge.
 
Dajana: We face many challenges everyday which is also part of the fun. The biggest challenge we have is to balance out the scope of the game and the resources available. That is one of the main tasks I have during the production and I have learned to really enjoy it and take fast decisions in order to adapt to challenges and finish the game within a reasonable time.  
 

Image for Interview | Nifflas and Knapnok Talk Affordable Space Adventures


Cubed3: What are your thoughts on Nintendo's approach to indie developers in recent years?
 
Nifflas: The people on Nintendo I've had the pleasure to meet have been excellent and given me a great impression. However, I don't know too much about it since Dajana manages the Nintendo contacts, but I do have the impression that Nintendo is very nice to indies.
 
Dajana: We have already released one game, Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party, on the Nintendo eShop and we can definitely say that a big change has happened since WiiWare. We also noticed Nintendo's growing initiative to support indies.
 
The eShop platform is open for us to experiment with; we can setup the price and change it as we want and when we want. We are also very happy that Nintendo supports the Unity engine, which is super popular among indie developers, and they don't charge for the license.  A few years back the only support we could get was actually being able to self-publish on the platform, and very little PR and marketing help. That has changed and improved since then.
 
Our experience with Nintendo has been very good overall and I feel as it keeps improving as we get to know each other better. 


 

Cubed3: If you could both work on any Nintendo franchise, what would it be any why?
 
Nifflas: Haha, yes! I want to be the new director of Zelda. Then I'll kill off Link, and make Zelda the protagonist, and ditch the master sword, the Gorons, and Ganon. Then I'll remove explanations in place of mystery and uncertainty and make the game really awesome (and upset tons of people for disrespecting the franchise so everybody will hate me).
 
Cubed3: What are your plans for the future - would more collaborations be on the cards?
 
Nifflas: Just to make more games! I'm having a blast doing this with Knapnok, so I'm definitely open for working together again.
 
Dajana: We don't plan our collaborations too long ahead, first we get a great idea and then we think if there could be someone out there that can contribute to it and it just happens. However, working with Nifflas is a joy in the office every day and I wouldn't see a reason why we wouldn't work together again!

What are your thoughts on the Affordable Space Adventures concept?

Affordable Space Adventures - official website

Box art for Affordable Space Adventures
Developer

Nifflas' Games

Publisher

KnapNok

Genre

Action

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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