Let our Go Vacation interview give you a taste of this season's family holiday on Wii
In the upcoming Go Vacation for Wii, players have the sprawling island resort of Kawawii Island to explore as they take part in dozens of fun activities and soak up the family holiday atmosphere. From trying your hand at horse riding and hang gliding to decking out your very own villa, Go Vacation offers a holiday experience where every moment is memorable, whether you’re exploring the island alone or together with your friends!
We spoke with Masaya Kobayashi, producer of the game at NAMCO BANDAI, to find out more about turning Go Vacation’s Kawawii Island into the perfect destination for players of all ages.
Can you start by explaining the concept behind Go Vacation and what you set out to achieve with the game?
This game is really about encompassing the feeling of going on holiday and having a resort experience. If you’re familiar with Family Ski, this is the same development team and what they found people really liked about Family Ski was that players felt like they were actually there on the ski slopes – not just getting into activities, but really experiencing the environment they were in. Go Vacation takes that a step further by not just including ski-oriented activities, but going on the beach, going to the city, the mountains and so on.
Were the various locations on the island inspired by anywhere in particular?
There’s no place in particular that we used as a reference, but for example the Marine Resort might be inspired by things you find in Hawaii. When we were making these environments we were thinking about where players would really want to go on holiday in real life, and then we took those elements and used them while building the environment.
What sort of activities are on offer in Go Vacation and how did you come to your selection?
Focusing on the Marine Resort, of course it’s all based around beach activities. So, you’ll be starting off on a marine bike to get around – a bit like extreme sports. But at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got things like water-gun fights, and scuba diving is a very extensive activity. There’s a wide range on offer that will let any kind of player have fun. The way we came across these activities, before even deciding on them, was by actually sending out surveys to America, Europe and Japan asking people what kind of activities they would want to play.
The tagline for the game is “50 activities, countless ways to play”. Can you elaborate on that?
Well, first and foremost it’s about allowing up to four players to come together and just have a fun time. But there are 50 activities, and you could actually think of them as totalling over 100 because each activity has sub-games within it and different ways you can experience it. So in beach volleyball you could have different kinds of teams, or other activities have different stages or levels of difficulty, or you can play them with different controllers or accessories, so within that you end up having well over 100 variations of activities.
There’s also a pretty good balance of both cooperative play and competitive play. Competitive elements might be stuff like the sword-fighting game – you play against an opponent there. In beach volleyball though, you can be on the same team together versus the computer. Another example of cooperative play is skydiving, where you come together to create formations. So there’s a good mix, I believe!
And then of course there’s the fact that you have this whole island full of nice places to explore. There are various types of vehicles depending on the different environments in each of the four resorts, allowing you to move around freely and explore all the nooks and crannies of the island at your leisure.In the Marine Resort you can hop on a marine bike or an ATV, and in the Mountain Resort you have horses to ride as well as an off-road car. The City Resort lets you use a skateboard or inline skates, whereas in the Snow Resort you can ski or use a snow mobile. In addition to these vehicles, you have some other modes of island transportation such as the mountain railway and the cruiser, so you get to appreciate the wonderful views in each resort in a relaxing atmosphere.
Is there one activity that’s your personal favourite?
It would probably be the water gun fight. To tell you really basically how this feature works with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, you’re walking around with the Nunchuk as you pump air into your water pistol, then you run up and shoot the water. You can really get into a competitive mood when you’re playing it. With all four players on screen at once it can get kind of crazy!Another one of my favourites would have to be horse riding because it’s not something you see a lot in other games and you can just imagine all four of the players or family coming together. Although I don’t have kids of my own I can imagine that would be something all the family would enjoy – running through the fields together on horseback.
I’d also like to mention windsurfing, as it’s one of the activities that use Wii MotionPlus or Wii Remote Plus to let you make very specific movements, directing the sail to match the wind so you can pick up as much speed as possible for racing around.
Can you tell us a bit more about Wii Remote Plus/Wii MotionPlus and Wii Balance Board integration? Are there some games that only work with these controllers?
For Wii MotionPlus, some activities require it and some activities are just compatible with it. I think there are only three that absolutely require it – sword fighting, windsurfing and pitching. An example where Wii MotionPlus technology is optional would be tennis. You can play without it for a regular experience, but if you have it, you can do more precise movements like top spins and slices.There are 17 different activities that are compatible with the Wii Balance Board. We thought the Wii Balance Board could bring an extra element to activities like paragliding, dog sledding and, as in Family Ski, skis and snowboards can be used with the Wii Balance Board as well.
With Family Ski you had the experience of developing for the Wii Balance Board. How did that help you when making Go Vacation and can you explain how that expanded on the gameplay possibilities?
The Wii Balance Board was of course very important in Family Ski, as you mentioned. But in this game there are so many more activities, and we tried to incorporate the use of the Wii Balance Board as much as possible to give a different feeling when playing. So now you can use it when you’re controlling the marine bike, or for other things like hang gliding or paragliding, where we encourage the player to sit on the board and then lean to control the game.I particularly like dog-sledding, which is one of the activities that can be played with the Wii Balance Board and that really adds a more in-depth feeling of play because you’ll be “kicking” at the ground to help you move – so you put one foot off the Wii Balance Board and make a motion as if you’re pushing forward.
How would you describe the overall aim of the game - will players compete to win trophies, for example?
When you are playing competitive activities, it’s not really about trying to beat that person and get better than them, although you can compare scores. As you’re progressing throughout the game you’ll earn trophies or stamps for your achievements, and one really fun thing that you can unlock and earn is a villa of your own, adding to that whole “resort life” feeling. And then as you progress in the game you can acquire furniture to decorate your villa with and really customise it and make it your own. So you go out there and you play the activities, win things, and then you can show off in your own villa.Another way you can have a little competitive element in there comes from the fact that you’re free to explore other people’s villas. So let’s say your father has one; you can go into his and he has a trophy that you didn’t get – and he’s showing it off and you’re thinking “I want to get that too!” Up to eight people can have villas. It’s just another way to add depth and a sense of immersion in the game.
We’re talking about the competitive side, but of course the whole game’s not just about that. I mentioned skydiving – making formations, working together in a team – or there’s rafting activities where all four people have to work together to navigate the river. If it was just competitive I think it wouldn’t really be that good for the family.
So it’s a game aimed at a broad audience. How do you approach that from a design perspective, making it so that someone can play it in a certain way and someone else can play it in a different way – someone who is more competitive or experienced, for example?
We made the game with a definite awareness of people’s input. There was plenty of testing where the family unit – parents and kids – were playing the game to see how they’d react to different elements. And as for the “experienced” aspect; we have plenty of seasoned gamers within the office itself and we took a lot of their input to see what would attract them and what they would want out of the game.A lot of Wii games are like this – at first glance they can seem very simple, but there are ways the player can get that deeper appreciation or experience in the game. This game really aims to guide players rather than leaving them overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all, which helps to ensure they don’t get into something that’s too difficult for them. We have a built-in guide to help players navigate what they’ll be accessing when and where, so that there’s a kind of gradual progression through the game, rather than jumping into something they don’t know what to do with.
When the player first begins, they only start with one of the resorts and the way they unlock more is by participating in activities and completing them to earn stamps. This is part of a feature we call Stamp Dash. And there are certain goals; get four and you’ll unlock the next area, get eight and you’ll unlock the next one. And one of the goals is to get 20 of them and that’s when you unlock your own villa.
There are 50 stamps, so once you complete the first 20 you’ll feel like you have a pretty good sense of the game, but ultimately you want to get all 50 of them, and you’ll be encouraged to hit all the activities, so we put markers on the map where you can find them.
At that point, players are going to be familiar with the setting and feel like they know the resort and hopefully they’ll then really want to explore to see what else they can find and experience. For example, there are treasure boxes that are distributed throughout and when the player finds them by exploring the island, such discoveries will be rewarded with new costumes and things like that.Playing with a knack for exploration and adventure is also rewarded with what we call Challenge Stars, small rewards for a curious player. Just picture this massive environment at your disposal, and if you’re curious enough to think “What happens if I jump between this cliff and that cliff just for fun?”, you could be rewarded for that kind of stunt. And by collecting these stars you can then unlock further features.
So in summary, we’ve tried to create a game that allows for a spectrum of experiences. There is a wide variety of activities that anyone can easily get into – just for fun or for good old-fashioned competition, and yet the setting offers so much to explore and to discover that you can also take your time with this game and play it as a proper island resort experience.
In closing, is there any particular message you’d like to give to Nintendo fans across Europe?
I would say for anyone who is already familiar with Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort that they should look at our game and see that it is different not just because of the sheer volume of it but also because of the exploration elements, and I hope they’ll get friends and family on board to have fun and experience the game together.
Kobayashi-san, thank you very much for your time!
Go Vacation will be in shops from 4 November, only for Wii.