Time and time again we have heard devs speak about the difficulty of brining games to the Wii U. So difficult in fact that they often gave up with the port, but Xavier Orion Games did no such thing. Development of the Wii U port of Booty Diver was constantly met with one issue straight after the other and yet it was still brought to the Wii U eventually and yes the released version did have plenty of issues, but those issues have been rectified. But because Booty Diver is a game that was met with so much trouble and strife, we fancied learning the full story. So we reached out to Xavier Orion Games and now we’ll be sharing that story with you!
In typical interview fashion. Would you mind introducing yourself to our readers and telling us about Xavier Orion Games and your involvement with Booty Diver?
Jason Barna: Hello my name is Jason Barna, and I am the owner/operator of Xavier Orion Games which is located in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. I created Booty Diver so everything you see, and hear in the game was done by me.
Xavier Orion Games was established in 2014, and I handle every aspect of the studio by myself aside from Nintendo Wii U testing which is handled by Nami Tentou. The studio is actually named after my 2 sons Draven Xavier, and Gabriel Orion.
Thank you, and now with the introduction out of the way, we can properly commence with the interview.
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Booty Diver in a Nutshell:
Miketendo64: For our readers who know nothing about Booty Diver, would you be so kind to fill us in on exactly what kind of a game it is?
Jason Barna: Booty Diver is meant to be a retro inspired arcade action game that takes place underwater. The diver is seeking treasure aka “booty” sunken at the bottom of the ocean in various locations of the “world”. You have a limited amount of air to retrieve the booty and bring it back to the surface. This isn’t a simple dive though as you have to battle your way around various creatures under the control the Ocean King, but you are armed with a harpoon gun as well as knife to protect yourself.
Booty Diver was Actually Meant to be a Smaller Game:
Miketendo64: A fair amount of ideas went into Booty Diver. 5 levels, 5 Boss encounters, 4 difficulty modes and a chiptune Soundtrack. Was there anything you wanted to also implement but couldn’t?
Jason Barna: Booty Diver was originally created to be a much smaller game than the final product. It was based around the mechanics of an unreleased Atari game called Aquaventure. I was originally working on a much more puzzle orientated version of the game called Super Booty Diver with a way different art style as well. I had a 3 level build of the game that I was trying to move over to Wii U and was running into framerate issues.
In my frustration I took a break by messing around with my Atari Flashback 2. I found a game on there I never tried called Aquaventure, and as soon as I played it I was like “oh my god this is like an Atari version of Super Booty Diver”. I instantly wanted to make a more modern version of the game with my own twist. By the end of that day I had a 3 level prototype running and decided to put Super on hold and focus on what I was now dubbing Booty Diver a prequel to Super Booty Diver considering development was going much faster/smoother especially moving it to Wii U.
As development progressed the game just kept evolving with different mechanics and such. After some personal/financial setbacks, I felt development was taking too long and decided I needed to make release before it got to the point it wasn’t even worth it especially on Wii U, which meant I had to scrap an intended Challenge Mode which would have been unlocked after finishing the game. Challenge Mode would have remixed the existing levels. Meaning there would be enemies that you see late in the game originally in earlier levels this time around. Certain obstacles where they originally might not have been. I even had 5 of the levels with a remixed version of the first boss done this way.
The Difficulties of Bringing Booty Diver to Nintendo Wii U:
Miketendo64: When Booty Diver was first released, fans were met with a few issues that you have since addressed in a new patch. Can you tell us more about the changes you implemented?
Jason Barna: The issues Booty Diver ran into initially on Nintendo Wii U was due to how testing had to be handled. For the past year I no longer had a Nintendo Wii U Dev Kit, and had to rely on other Nindies to take of the testing. During testing they were targeting specific levels in the game that were known to be a problem on Wii U, but hadn’t been testing a full playthrough which I was unaware of.
I was told testing was complete with the game being a fully playable, and safe to submit to Nintendo.
After release a player via the Miiverse discovered the crash bug that happened near the end of the game. I redeemed a copy of the game, and tried on my own retail unit. Sure enough once I got to nearly the same point as this player the bug reared its ugly head
I quickly got ahold of my tester and figured out what the issue which was the system memory was being loaded up during the course of the game. The longer the play session the more images would be loaded up, and stayed in the system memory. This issue was also causing performance issues especially once again over long play sessions.
This being my first I made a lot of rookie mistakes with optimization of images and such. So I went back through cleaned up some code, compressed different assets, got rid of unused assets, and etc.
I worked feverishly on it from the time it was found shortly after release and most of May. Doing those optimizations not only eliminated the crash bug, but also boosted performance.
Miketendo64: And since you already touched on some of the difficulties you encountered, would you be so kind to talk us through all of the difficulties you faced with brining Booty Diver to the Wii U
Jason Barna: Ah Booty Diver’s Wii U development has it has been a very long and difficult road not just because of technical issues, but also personal/financial issues as well. Development started in early 2015 and I had just got laid off from the company I was working for. I had enough money coming in elsewhere to run my household, and focus on game development full time, so I did.
I had my development kit for Wii U and progress was going extremely well I was targeting a late summer early fall release of 2015. Then disaster struck without getting to melodramatic/personal I ended up going through a divorce and custody battle over my 2 sons (which whom the company is named after).
This changed the landscape of things I had to go back finding regular work, and I was dealing with a hefty amount of depression due to the divorce, and even more importantly being separate from my sons. This led to Booty Diver sitting still for roughly 8 months.
I met who is now my current wife and she gave me the push/encouragement to finish Booty Diver. So in May 2016 I released the PC version of Booty Diver on itch.io. The problem was it was time to pay for Nintendo Wii U Dev Kit and I didn’t have the funds to pay for it. I held on to it for as long as I could although I ultimately had to send it back to Nintendo. This left me unable to finish optimizations for the Wii U version. Outside of polish the game was done yet I had no way to finish it.
I had hoped PC sales would be able to help me buy back my dev kit and finish the port although itch.io is not the best site for selling games on as you go fairly unnoticed there. After waiting 3 months after the PC editions release I realized I needed help. I reached out for assistance and after sifting through my options I had decided to let TreeFall Studios (devs of Gem Collector, The Letter, and etc.) assist in the testing by October 2016.
The goal to hit lotcheck by mid to late November although this was negated by schedule issues on Treefall’s part. Unhappy with the progress the game was making in its testing I sought for advice from Nami Tentou (developer of Ping 1.5+ and Psibo) which he had then informed me he got his development kit back as he had gone through setbacks not unlike myself. He offered his assistance and progress took off.
By late November we had completed testing and the game was ready for release although it was hit with yet another setback. I was running into paperwork issues with Nintendo that held me up from setting up the eShop page for the game and getting it sent out for lotcheck. This took all of December to resolve.
By February 2017 everything was resolved and the game went into lotcheck. First time around it failed due to some button commands I had set up for the menu that appeared after you died that caused issues during Nintendo’s tests.
I fixed the issue and tuned things even more then resubmitted late February and it passed early March 2017. I had no communication from Nintendo on what was going on next after passing lotcheck. I spoke to a lot of other Nindies and got mixed reports on what I needed to do and what happened next.
I tried to be patient despite the fact that I didn’t get released ahead of Nintendo Switch as planned. I was sending communications to Nintendo with no response finally near the end of March I finally got in touch with someone at Nintendo that got things pushed forward which is what led to the late April 2017 release. Was not what I had originally hoped for, but better late than never.
On the technical side of things the Wii U port went fairly smooth despite the limitations of the development environment being used. Booty Diver was built in Construct 2 which is HTML5 visual editing software this is the same piece of software that games by RCMADIAX, Bear Box Media, Petite Games, and etc. use. By nature of this these kind of games need to be brought over to Wii U via Nintendo Web Framework software. NWF already takes up a chunk of Wii U’s 1GB of memory which depending on the game can hamper performance.
I really don’t believe NWF on Wii U was ever intended to run bigger games like Booty Diver. You have to look at Wii U’s 1GB of memory to work with as a table you are building your game on then imagine only being able to build your game on a certain mat that sits on that table. That mat already takes up a good bit of room on your table. Next take into account being a rookie dev using images larger than you need to, keeping unused parts on the table, and etc. Suddenly it makes it very hard work let alone for someone to come play your game on that table.
That in a nutshell was my biggest issue with Wii U development on a technical side. Even though Booty Diver was built from ground up with Wii U always in mind there were things during design/development that I hadn’t considered that caused issues down the line.
Having learned from my experiences with Booty Diver I have changed my approach of designing/developing on Nintendo Wii U and games in general.
A Booty Diver Sequel Hasn’t been Ruled Out:
Miketendo64: For those who did like the game though, would you ever do a second instalment?
Jason Barna: I’ve already been pondering a sequel especially since sales have been going fairly well for a system well into its twilight as well as being an unknown game/developer. I have 2 ideas for the sequel with either it going back underwater as a more Metroid like adventure, or as some fans have even suggested I thought even making it take place in outer space.
Although right now I’m focusing on a rather big content update to the game (currently going to be for the PC version and future ports), which will add a 2 player battle mode and a proper save system. This could potentially come to the Wii U edition as well. Although I have a sales target in mind for this to happen considering how much time it’s going to take to have my tester test the new features as well as going back through what can sometimes be a lengthy lotcheck process.
Now when I say sales target for me to do it I’m not looking at from a financial aspect considering I haven’t quit my day job to do this (this is a part-time job for me in addition to my regular part-time job). I’m more looking at the sales target as making sure there is going to be enough of an audience there to enjoy the effort to add new content
In case your readers are wondering why these things aren’t in the game to begin with that is because they weren’t originally intended to be. I purposely didn’t design the game with a progress save system in place because I wanted that old news (Super Mario Bros) style experience. Although after hearing player feedback after release I have reconsidered my stance. I would have added it in with the recent update, but I was too concerned with getting the game fixed functionally before adding new stuff. I couldn’t risk a delay in fixing what was a major glitch, by adding a new feature. You have to understand adding a new feature means more bugs, more reasons for Nintendo to fail it at lotcheck, and etc. The patch that just went out was meant to improve performance and fix a major bug not to add features
The 2 player modes weren’t in the game because they actually weren’t even intended to be the game at all. Although after attending the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention a lot of attendees asked me about adding a 2 player mode(s) into the game. Along with the fact that I got inspired by watching how people were sharing the controller during their play sessions.
Xavier Orion Games Has another Game Planned for the Wii U:
Miketendo64: But despite the issues you faced, you haven’t actually been put off brining games to the Wii U as you have another game planned. Any chance you can tell us a bit about your next game?
Jason Barna: I actually have 3 new games in development. One being a puzzle platformer with a literal twist, an arcade like action RPG, and lastly an action puzzle game. All 3 are in various stages of development although the action puzzle game is the one I decided to focus on as progress has been the smoothest with this one.
I will have more to share about the game when I officially announce/reveal it on the 7th of June. I can confirm though that it will be a Nintendo Wii U release. As far as the other 2 games that are in development that depends on how Booty Diver as well as this next game do sales wise.
I’m targeting a Fall 2017 release for the next game there for if I would intend to release the other 2 on Wii U they would be 2018 releases and I’m not confident that there will be enough of an audience left by that point to release anything more on Wii U. This next is getting a Wii U release because it’s simple enough in nature that optimization won’t be as rough as Booty Diver’s was especially with the lessons I learned. Let alone the fact that I don’t want Booty Diver to be the only game I release on Wii U.
Nintendo Switch vs Wii U:
Miketendo64: Learning what you have regarding the Wii U, if you could pass on some advice to others who also aim to bring their game to the platform, what would you like to say to them?
Jason Barna: Well that begs the question if anyone besides a handful of us that are still going to release titles on Wii U. I feel Nintendo has put Wii U into an interesting position. They have become extremely selective on who they allow to work on Nintendo Switch. I feel this puts Nintendo Wii U in the position to be kind of like a dive bar that will give any band a chance to get on stage. Whereas Nintendo Switch is like being a garage band trying to get on stage at the Hard Rock Cafe for your first gig.
I honestly feel this is a good thing for as long as Nintendo keeps self-publishing/submissions up/running on Wii U because indies like myself are like garage bands that need to get a start somewhere. You might not get the largest audience in the world by playing on the Wii U stage, but at least it puts you in front of some sort of audience. You just need to keep your expectations in check. Look at the Wii U as a stop in the road to being a video game developer rather than a destination.
Xavier Orion Games’ Switch Plans:
Miketendo64: Since everyone loves a good Switch question, how have your efforts been with trying to get a Switch kit and if you could bring a game to Nintendo’s newest platform, what game/games would it/they be?
Jason Barna: About a week ago I saw Damon Baker’s tweet about reaching out to Nintendo if you were interested in developing on the Nintendo Switch, which at this stage what indie game developer isn’t interested. Sadly, I got what I’m sure 80% of indie devs that are similar to myself got which was an answer of “No we can’t give you access to Nintendo Switch development yet.”
Despite that if/when I am able to work on Nintendo Switch my plan is to bring over what would amount to Booty Diver DX and the game I’m working on right now.
A Message for the Fans:
Miketendo64: And because there’s always time for a final question, is there anything you would like to say to your growing fanbase and supporters?
Jason Barna: What would I like to say to my fans? I highly appreciate everyone’s support, patience, and understanding especially after initial release while waiting on the patch.
Before I started game development I was a guitarist/singer in various rock bands over the past 20 years and if I learned anything from being a musician is you are nothing without the people who come to your shows, buy your music, and etc. so it’s important to interact with your fans and I feel this is something that needs to be carried over as indie developer.
So I encourage everyone to follow me on twitter @XavierOrionGame and send me a tweet or Get on Miiverse and show me the fun you are having via the Play Journal posts. I am always following that stuff and enjoy seeing/reading everyone’s comments.
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Jason, on behalf of all of us here at Miketendo64, we wish you the best of luck with your future games and eagerly look forwards to your announcement next week. We hope this game works out better for you than Booty Diver did, but most of all, thank you for sharing your story!