Solve a Wii Murder Mystery with Sudoku Ball - Detective
by Deborah M. Fike · 07/08/2009 (10:42 pm) · 6 comments
Sometimes an already addictive game can be taken to a new level by providing a twist. WhiteBear Studios provided not one, but two twists in their latest Wii release, Sudoku Ball - Detective. Not only did they weave a compelling murder mystery on top of a familiar game, WhiteBear also decided to use the unique motion controls of the Wii to play sudoku in a way no one has ever played it before - on a sphere. The Sudoku Ball consists of 6 Sudokus with corners linked to each other, creating one giant rotating Sudoku Sphere. With 240 puzzles in all, this is a real challenge for both beginning and experienced puzzlers alike. See what I mean for yourself:
WhiteBear Studios was established in 2007 in the Netherlands and Germany, creating games for Nintendo handhelds and Wii, Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation, the PC and online platforms. They specialize in creating games accessible to all age groups. Check out how they put a new twist on an old pen 'n' paper favorite with Sudoku Ball - Detective.
What was the inspiration behind Sudoku Ball - Detective?At an inventor’s fair, we made contact with Sudoku Ball inventor Hans van Briemen. It wasn't much of a stretch to imagine a digital version of the game. The concept of linked sudokus on a ball is what makes this game stand out. Throw in a detective theme and it's hard for puzzle-loving people to resist.
What was your development process like?Our target platforms were Nintendo Wii, DS, and PC. After evaluating some 3D engines which could handle PC and Wii, we chose Torque. From there on, the team quickly grew from 3 to 8 people with the German division handling the Nintendo DS version of the game. Nintendo’s lotcheck is always a big hurdle to overcome, so it's important to have a testing company that has experience in this field of expertise. QA and testing was largely taken care of by GlobalStep. The game took one full year to develop.
Sudoku Ball - Detectives was inspired by a conversation between WhiteBear Studios and Sudoku Ball inventor Hans van Briemen.
What software did you use to create the game?The tools used to create Sudoku Ball are very standard: 3D Studio Max, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Visual Studio, Codewarrior, Torque (coupled with Torsion), SVN and paper & glue. You might be curious regarding the paper and glue, but we actually used these materials to create a paper model of the Sudoku Ball, to see which parts of the individual sudoku puzzle overlap and define a 3D model after it.
Torque was used because of its multiplatform nature, ease of understanding, and ease to program for (TorqueScript adds to that). On top of that, you are not left with "empty pockets" when you decide to purchase with full source code.
What technical hurdles did you overcome?Getting the numbers on the ball to rotate naturally was the biggest challenge we had. Texturing a ball with numbers is one thing, but if you rotate the ball, the numbers are viewed upside down and become hard to read. The numbers had to be upward facing to the player from every angle. We had to separate the numbers from the ball model and put them on separate quads and rotate them individually. Using quaternions was also essential in calculation of the rotation.
We also learned not to combine Torque GUI elements as a mask for a 3D scene. Keep it either all GUI elements, or all 3D, but do not mix. It’s tempting to go the easy way because it apparently works, but on PAL you have to fix it all for 480p, 480i and 576i video modes. You also have to take widescreen support into account.
Modeling the Sudoku Ball started with a paper and glue model. They couldn't texture the ball with numbers, so they separated the numbers from their 3D ball model to make the puzzles legible.
Did you have any challenges publishing on the Wii?Getting past the lotcheck is always a major issue. Other issues we dealt with were timing (reading a lot of small files from disc at startup), streaming data (and still being able to handle lotcheck requirements), and streaming music in combination with the HBM.
From what we understand, Sudoku Ball – Detective is the first Torque for Wii disc based title (other WiiWare Torque titles were published before, but no disc-based games).
What can we expect to see next from WhiteBear Studios?Our next projects are Bee Smart and an undisclosed game. Bee Smart is a kids focused brain training PC/Nintendo DS game, published by Iceberg Interactive. The other game is PC/Wii based and is an adaption of an award winning board game. Both games will most likely be using Torque technology again.
Any one of these suspicious types could have killed Jonathan Coleridge.
Good luck to WhiteBear with future Wii titles. It's certainly awesome to see the first Torque-made Wii-disc title out, and we look forward to more. :)
For more stories like this, check out GarageGames' Developer Interview series.