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Winter and the Wii, Low Risks and No Rewards
Posted on Thursday, January 22 2009 @ 17:27:05 Eastern

Recently, IGN just did a little piece on this Survival Horror game called Winter, that was made exclusively for the Nintendo Wii by developer n-Space. The game is essentially a Survival Horror game more akin to Silent Hill than the current trends of games in the genre, more about the exploration and survival aspect then strict action/adventure and shooting combat. In fact, the look and the feel of the game is fairly old school. The original article can be found here.

http://wii.ign.com/articles/946/946492p1.html (Links won't work for some reason, sorry.)

http://wii.ign.com/dor/objects/14315298/winter/videos/Winter01.html (Video to the developer demo.)

The link here is a three minute video made by a twelve person development team from N-space, spending a six weeks back in the summer of 2007 to demo the game’s core gameplay elements. The premise is simple, starring as an EMT named Mia who is caught in a severe snowstorm in an old town. As you go through the town, the temperature drops and becomes an overarching enemy in it’s own right that can kill you if you’re not careful. It also can block off areas in the town by freezing doors and snowing in windows, hindering your progress. Enemies include rabid wolves that roam to get warm from the cold, and mysterious, deformed enemies similar to Silent Hill’s twisted creatures.

Interaction with the environment seems to be the core aspect of this game, as your character must rummage through cabinets, tables, dressers, and other various drawers to find items that may help you in your situation. Since your first goal is to survive the cold, doing things to sustain your warmth, such as lighting oil fires, starting cars and upping the temperature for a short period of time, even cutting open dead enemies and using their bodies as an extra coat. This also adds a mix of adventure gameplay into it, incorporating a “point and click” aspect to the control scheme and causing more interactivity with the environment.

Another interesting concept, not only from the video but also from the developer’s Ted Newman and president of n-Space, Dan O’Leary, was how combat would be done. It is also point and click, but the interactivity with items. Gestures with your hands need to be done correctly for some items, such as moving your hand sharply and swiftly to turn on a Flare, or shaking the Wiimote against your hand to put a light back on a dimming flashlight. Interactions with weapons can range from breaking planks to make sharp, pointed ends to it, or using hammers and knives to whack and stab enemies, similar to Condemned’s combat system, only in third person mode.

And graphically, the game was fairly advanced, pushing the Wii’s graphical limitations on such a small demo. The lighting effects in particular stand out, creating dynamic light and shadow’s to give the game a more atmospheric presentation.

With a lot of good points and with a fairly impressive, 3-minute video demo, you would think a game like Winter would already have a publisher, right? Well, you would be wrong. The sad truth is, Winter has been cancelled.

Oh sure, according to the developers there was a lot of praise for the design and the impressive gameplay elements, but they also thought the game was not marketable on the Wii because of it’s “adult” content. Despite the innovations made for the systems controls, any game that is not a “kids” game, according to the third party publishers, is too risky to play on the Wii. Another problem was the new IP for the game, making it more of a risk to market and advertise. This is not a new problem, but it is always a contributing factor to games when they get published and developed in the industry.

Personally, I find this to be a shame, because after looking at the concept art and viewing the demo they made, the game looks fairly impressive, even for a demo. Plus it has been a long while since there has been a fairly good Survival Horror game, since most of them have evolved into action shooters in the later years, from Silent Hill, Homecoming to the current looks of Resident Evil 5. It is not a bad trend, but it is sort of killing the point of Survival Horror games, something that has lasted since the early 1990’s with the original Alone in the Dark.

Plus it would be nice to have a game that you can justifiably say is good for the Wii. Thousands of party and mini-game clones aside, the Wii needs to expand its horizon’s a fair bit, from RPG’s to first person shooters. A game like Winter would be a great leap forward to capture a hardcore audience niche that is clamoring for more of it’s genre. In fact, an emerging, hardcore adult market is starting to manifest on the Wii, and that is thankfully due to SEGA.

SEGA is publishing two big name titles for the Wii coming out in 2009, The Conduit and Madworld. The Conduit is a custom made, first person shooter that has gorgeous presentation similar to Halo and Metroid’s Sci-Fi aesthetic, with extremely crisp graphics that rival the aforementioned games above. The game also supports online multi-player and split screen multi-player, which will no doubt be a major title for the Wii for the online crowds. Madworld is an action-adventure game stylized from the Frank Miller School of Design, with the three colors being black, white and red, and lots of over the top violence and stylized gameplay mechanics with the Wii controls. In fact, Nintendo has even defended Madworld and it’s over the top violence, stating that the console is a “system for everyone, even adult gamers.” According to a press release back in August on Mail Online.

So what does that mean? Well, it gives hope to a game like Winter, for one. Dan O’Leary has said if a publisher is interested in the game, he and his company will go back to it to complete the game for launch. In fact, the very existence of this game was only made known to the public when IGN reported on it yesterday, so it may get a second life from some publisher, maybe even SEGA, who seems to be giving the Hardcore market what it wants on the Wii.

Perhaps the most important point though it means that the stigma for “kiddy friendly” titles on the Wii will finally begin to fade away. I find it somewhat insulting that people assume the Wii system is a system for kids only. It has a lot of good games that appeal to adults, be it first party titles like Zelda and Mario, to 3rd party titles like Red Steel and No More Heroes. Even games like De Blob, Boom Blox and Zack and Wiki, which appeal to all audience and are great games, prove that the Wii can be just like Microsoft and Sony’s big rig systems in their own way. It would also help justify the Wii as a console, since it is getting too much flak for the horrific shovelware syndrome that is plaguing the system and causing the hardcore gamers out there to shun it’s potential.

So here is to Winter, and the hope that it does one day grace the sleek, snow white system that Nintendo has crafted. Video Games are always made with a degree of risk and reward, and for the Wii at the very least, most publishers are going for the low risk, no reward strategy. With Winter, the risk may be higher than what some companies are used to, especially since it is a totally new idea, but the rewards for a successful product will be great. And from what I have seen in the video demo, I think the game can be successful if given a chance. I doubt my little ramblings on this blog can change anything, but at the very least, I hope that this is not the last time we see Winter, and it can hopefully rise from it's grave and with the right publisher, create a unique experience for the Nintendo Wii.

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