How Splatoon evolved into what we know today
Nintendo hosted a panel at GDC, that’s the Game Developers Conference, where producer Hisashi Nogami of the Splatoon series talked about how they created the first game. For instance, did you know that the original concept had them using Rabbits instead of Squids?
Did you know the characters originally in development for #Splatoon were planned as rabbits instead of Inklings!? Check out this fun image of what might have been, from Mr. Nogami’s #GDC18 panel today. pic.twitter.com/Tk5vyQgH0u
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) March 21, 2018
As you can see the concept art was created, but they even went further, creating models for the game itself, as show below, but how did they get there.
“Our initial prototype was fairly simplistic,” said Nogami. “You’d move a cube-shaped character around a flat map, shooting black or white ink. We used cubes because they were easy to make and eventually ended up calling them blocks of tofu.”
The jump from Tofu to Rabbits might not be as hard to understand as you might think
“Rabbits can be both black and white, making them easy to separate into teams,” Nogami said. “We also learned that rabbits are apparently very territorial creatures. We wanted to use brightly colored inks and thought they would contrast well with the neutral color of the rabbits.”
But the team were not convinced, in fact after showing the build around at Nintendo, people were questioning, why Rabbits? They were asking things, like why are they shooting ink, rabbits don’t have a connection to ink at all and Nogami noted that something was just not sitting right.
It took the games other directors to sit down and work out just how things would play out for people, like how would your character behave when out in the open, or when submerged in ink, you could not attack, but you were able to move faster and recover strength.
“Squids were actually one of the original candidates, but we couldn’t find a reason to choose one over the other,” Nogami said. “But once we thought of this ability to move quickly through ink as swimming, we discovered a strong reason to go with squids as our characters. To further distinguish between these two ability states, we decided to have the character take on a more human appearance while not submerged in ink. And so our characters were born — squids that can transform into people.”
Once they had the characters that players would be using in the game, they then had the challenge of creating the world they would inhabit. It was stated that they took the Nintendo ‘container’ approach, where they created the container, in this case the multiplayer and then started to add things to fill it. The hub world and then everything with in; from what the characters of this world would wear, even to the songs they would listen too, which is how we got the Squid Sisters.
Nogami then announced that had the vision in mind that Splatoon would be a service game, much like For Honor or Overwatch are, where you would be getting constant updates to the game, giving you a reason to keep playing.
“As you’re likely aware, creating and maintaining a player base is one problem that online multiplayer games have to wrestle with,” he said. “If the population is too low, finding people to play against can take time. If the problem is bad enough, you wont be able to find opponents, and the game becomes unplayable. By adding new weapons, stages, and modes as player familiarity with the game increased and the community evolved, we hoped to keep the game fresh for players.”
Apart from a drop at the end of October, the game has continued to see more players joining, since the release of the title. Nogami mentioned that the spikes were attributed to the Splatfests, where players were giving the choice of “ridiculous arguments” like Ketchup V Mustard and so on.
Nogami closed out the presentation, by talking about the impact that the fans have had on the series, from the fan art, to the concert that was held in Japan, where holograms of the Squid Sisters performed for over 5,000 attendees.
“It might seem a bit strange to you, but as developers, nothing could make us happier than seeing the characters we created mean so much to people,” he said.
It is always interesting to see how games change as development progresses, but I really wonder, just how close was Carrot Top from making an appearance if the game was Rabbits instead of Squids.