Nintendo Logic #1: “Nindies”

I’m a huge Nintendo fan. As someone who grew up with Nintendo throughout my life, particularly their handhelds, I’ve become attached to the sublime perfection of the Mario series, catching ’em all in Pokemon and the musical legacy of The Legend of Zelda. But once in a while, the Japanese juggernaut will make a move so bewilderingly odd, so utterly stupid, that I want to tear my hair out, buy a plane ticket straight to Kyoto, storm up to Nintendo HQ and scream directly in Satoru Iwata’s face: “WHYYYYY!”. All because Nintendo seems to be struggling with a phenomenon I can only describe as “Nintendo Logic”, a crippling syndrome that makes even the smartest guys in the industry make the dumbest mistakes. It makes it much worse when some of the attempts to fix these mistakes ends up pissing off half their user base. So I’m starting a new series on these daft choices, starting with indie Nintendo developers. Nintendo_Logo

The Big N, the behemoth of gaming that is Nintendo.

With the rise of indie development, everyone’s hopping on the indie bandwagon left, right and centre. And of course it makes sense for such an influential pillar of gaming to take a similar stance on indie games – by lending support to indies, Nintendo ensures a stream of 3rd party support, something it has lacked in recent times, all while helping the ‘little guy’ and thus further helping its friendly image. Hence ‘Nindies’ were born; Nintendo offers Wii U developer kits to budding indies of any team size and any level of experience, and they’ll hold the hands of developers to make sure the use of Wii U and 3DS features is the best it can be for each project. Games such as Guacamelee!, Might Switch Force and SteamWorld Dig are right now available on the Humble Nindie Bundle, for example (and don’t worry, I’ll get onto that shortly). However, there are problems with the Nindie program.

As the majority of consumers of Nintendo products aren’t indie developers, they’re gleefully unaware of the cost of a Nintendo development kit. An Xbox One development kit is, well, the Xbox One itself, so around £300-400-ish. Some reports suggest that Sony is ‘lending’ people PS4 development kits, although they may cost in the low thousands instead. Then how much is a Wii U development kit? Every source I’ve found says “anywhere between $2500 and $10000”, but most cite $2500 as being the absolute bottom dollar – the price of the absolute bare-bones development kit. This means a kit with full debugging tools and 24-hour support is probably orders of magnitude more expensive, all for a copy of Unity tailored to the Wii U hardware. I’ll have to remind you that Unity 5 Personal Edition is completely free.

What does this mean for indie developers with no money, like myself? Well, tough luck. There is no known program out there that helps people like me, the little guy. As the Wii U is such a unique piece of kit with unbounded potential – I have so many ideas for that GamePad – I’ve applied (twice) through Nintendo’s own Wii U developer application form with the hope of some support from Nintendo on the cost and to weigh up my options, but I’ve heard nothing back apart from the complimentary “yeah we got your application” email. No call, no other emails, nothing. So, Nintendo are helping indies… how? The sheer lack of communication here is not only frustrating, but confusing – for me, I have so many ideas I want to try out, so many ideas that might catch Nintendo’s attention, but I’ve so far I’ve yet to hear back from them.

Wii_UThe Wii U, a console impossible to develop for.

In the Nindie push, the Japanese developer has very recently decided to make the unprecedented move of introducing the Humble Nindie Bundle, which will run until the 9th of June. For those of you unaware of the Humble model, it comprises of a bundle of games, usually under some theme such as ‘indie bundles’ or a particular publisher, that can be purchased by the user for any amount they wish. Usually, some games in each bundle have a minimum spend. This bundle is the first bundle to feature both handheld and console games, and is the first by the major three console makers, marking a brave step forward for both Nintendo of America and Humble Bundle themselves. However, the bundle is region-locked. Yep, only American gamers – those from North, Central and South America (except Brazil, Martinique and Guadeloupe for some reason, and you need an Ambassador eShop everywhere except the USA, Canada and Mexico) are able to redeem codes from the bundle.

This is just plain wrong. The problem arises from the fact that Nintendo consoles are region-locked (which is a huge problem in its own right). This bundle also represents the first such offering by Humble Bundle that is region-locked. It wouldn’t cost Nintendo or the individual games’ developers any more to distribute European/Australian keys in addition to American keys. In fact, it would probably gain sales in addition to helping charity; the causes helped by the bundle are losing out due to lost European sales. This wouldn’t be quite so bad it it weren’t for two gaffes on Humble Bundle’s part: they sent an email to everyone on their mailing list proudly announcing the bundle, but failed to mention it was region-locked. Even worse, the website had no indication it was region-locked at first, so some non-eligible people bought the bundle, only to be disappointed when they couldn’t redeem the codes. Then, Humble quickly wrote up a blog post ‘explaining’ why the bundle is region-locked, which upon closer inspection, explains exactly nothing and leaves us Europeans and Australians pissed off with two companies we want so much to think only good thoughts about. Even worse, it’s completely contradictory.


Guacamelee, which I *almost* got to play.

The Nindie program has so much potential. For starters, if I were in charge of the program, I’d give a lot more power to developers. I understand Nintendo want to protect their hardware and their reputation from shoddy, half-baked games – spend 5 minutes in the ‘Indie Game Developers‘ Facebook group and you’ll see the kind of spam Nintendo are afraid of amongst genuine talent – but this shouldn’t stifle genuine creativity. They’re losing ground to their competitors, while the Wii U and GamePad combination is one of the most indie-friendly pieces of hardware I’ve seen. There’s so much potential for the types of high-risk ventures exclusive to this hardware that AAA developers, including Nintendo themselves at times, are afraid of trying out. Exactly the same is true of the Nintendo 3DS. I really want Nintendo to get their shit together with this one, because I so want to make games with their hardware.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Four-and-a-half-th Week

I know I said I’d be doing a weekly update on my animal crossing journey, but recently I did a little rejig of my A-level choices and swapped out Geography for Further Maths, an option that will be more useful for a Computer Science degree I hope to do at Cambridge, if I get accepted (fingers crossed on that one). As a result, I’ve had a ton of further maths piled on top of my workload (well, the whole AS, nothing too strenuous .-. ), and I’ve only found time to work on my blog now. So enough of my life, let’s see how my virtual life is going!



This is Club LOL, which I mentioned in my last post. K.K. Slider, a returning character, is the DJ you see in the background and each night after 8 pm, he puts on a DJ set. In the afternoons before K.K. starts performing, you can bring any piece of fruit to Dr. Shrunk, who will proceed to hop on stage and tell one of his world-class ‘jokes’. This will allow you to use a new facial expression using the touch screen menu. On Saturday nights, K.K. Slider will play an acoustic set of one of his songs, and will give you a physical copy for you to either hang on your wall or play on your stereo at home. You can also request any song you want, although you can only get one record to play each week.



This is the Dream Suite, a public works project that becomes available seven days after you become mayor. It allows you to upload your town to the Internet once a day for other players to play around in without actually messing up your town; they ruin a copy, so don’t worry. In turn, you can visit other player’s towns if you have their Dream Town Code. I have not yet used this feature, but it looks to be a great feature.


Two other noticeable changes have happened in Main Street: firstly, the shop has been upgraded to Super T&T, which stocks wall-mountable items as well as more wallpaper, flooring and tools, and secondly the hair salon, Shampoodle, has opened above the Able Sister’s shop. The former is unlocked when you’ve spent at least 25,000 bells in the shop, but also it’s been 10 days since T&T Mart opened and also 10 days since the garden center opened, and the latter when Kicks has been open for at least 10 days and you’ve spent 10,000 bells in both Able Sister’s and Kicks combined. I like my hair how it is (even though my Hero’s Cap covers it completely) so I’m not going in there any time soon.



Another public works project I’ve completed is the second story of the museum, which will become available after you’ve donated 20 items to the museum with at least one donation in each category of items then talked to Blathers. The second floor allows you to purchase exhibition rooms from Celeste, the owl you see here, for a fee of 10,000 bells; this allows you to display whatever items you want in an 8×8 space. You can also purchase items from the small shop you see here, including some of the silver tools.

I will continue to build public works projects, and hopefully next week I will have progressed more and will have more to show, but I hope you enjoyed reading.


Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Second Week

This week I have continued my Animal Crossing adventure, and have progressed quite a bit. Firstly I’ve unlocked a couple new shops: a shoe shop, and an upgrade to Nookling Junction.

animal_crossing_14The shoe shop, called Kicks, opens up after you spend 8000 bells in the Able Sisters’ shop and if it’s at least 10 days after the town was created. It’s run by a skunk called Kicks (surprisingly) and there’s shoes and socks for sale. On the other side of Main Street, an upgrade to Nookling Junction has appeared, after they were closed for a day on Wednesday; it is called T&T Mart, and it sells much more than the smaller shop. One notable thing is that this shop actually sells slingshots, which is helpful after playing the game for two weeks without and watching dozens of balloons fly past my town. Apparently you can hit balloons with your net as they pass the edge of the cliffside near the beach, but I never found an opportunity to do that. Ah well. The store also has wallpaper and carpet, one more set of furniture for sale, three tools per day rather than two and two fortune cookies, as well as medicine and the all-important catalog, accessed through a machine in the corner.

animal_crossing_15Somewhere in the English translation the sun got lost it seems, as it always seems to rain in Dan Town, at the end of June. But that’s what umbrellas are for, I guess. I’ve been customising my house a little too, and I’ve not really decided a theme, but I’ve changed my roof, fence, door and exterior to look a bit better (or maybe worse, depends on your opinion).

animal_crossing_16I’ve also met Dr. Shrunk, who will appear outside your house and ask you for the signatures of six of you neighbours to build a new facility called Club LOL. He’ll appear when you’ve upgraded your shop to T&T Mart and if you have a 100% satisfaction rating. If you’re able to build public works projects, you’ve done this already. Now that I’ve got the signatures I just have to wait until it’s built. K.K. Slider plays here on random days, and Dr. Shrunk can teach you new facial expressions with his “comedy”, so I look forward to seeing this built. I’ve also paid off enough home loans from Nook to be able to build a second story for my house, so I’ll be able to properly theme my house now.

animal_crossing_18I’m starting to concentrate on my town’s appearance more too, as I want to improve citizen satisfaction (apparently everyone hates my town, according to Isabelle). In this game, it also seems that flowers grow super quick, which in a way is good, but now parts of my town are overflowered. If that’s a word.

animal_crossing_17Like this. Flowers are good but this looks ugly, so I think I should move some of them into bare areas. I’ve started a new public works project to build the Dream Suite, which is pretty near to completion. This allows players to travel to another player’s town and play around without repercussions, and you can upload your own town to the Internet so others can visit it. This allows the trading of custom designs, but one odd feature is that you can’t take any items back with you. I suppose this is to prevent cheating.

One thing I forgot about last post was the Happy Home Academy, which replaces the Happy Room Academy from Wild World. When you StreetPass someone, a model of their home appears in the Happy Home Showcase north of Main Street, which you can enter and even order furniture from via the catalog. It’s great for finding that last chair or table you needed to complete a set. I hope to do an update on my AC journey every week if possible, so stay around!


Animal Crossing: New Leaf – My First Week

Last Saturday, I purchased the latest in the Animal Crossing series on the Nintendo 3DS. Having played the popular DS game Animal Crossing: Wild World, my expectations were high, and luckily Nintendo have pulled enough out of the bag to seduce back the AC community to this new beginning.

My first impressions as I moved into my new town (named Dan Town, screw innovation!), the first feeling was of nostalgia almost, the feelings I had back at the start of Wild World flooding into my mind. The memories of being plunged into an unknown town, left to do whatever I want without much guidance, the gentle introduction into the game with a short tutorial working at Tom Nook’s store, the life bursting out of the town at every seam. New Leaf goes further by declaring you the mayor as soon as you step off the train!

animal_crossing_3The first few hours will be spent settling in, being shown all the things to do, it’s a lot more expansive than Wild World’s tutorial. All the AC staples are there, from Nook building you a new house, selling your fruit and shells to the shop for profit, picking up tools from the shop to start catching bugs and fish. But New Leaf goes further: now you can choose exactly where to build your house and when you want to expand it (no more monopoly for you, Nook!) by talking to Nook, who is now an estate agent. There’s a new shop in town called Re-Tail that allows you to sell all your items, but it also acts as a flea market for you and other villagers to put your stuff for sale at whatever price you want.

animal_crossing_8I like being the mayor of my own town now, as it gives a much higher level of freedom to the gameplay. You can plan Public Works Projects (basically stuff to put in your town, like bridges, benches, stuff like that), then you and your villagers donate to Lloid the gyroid, who will station himself at the site you choose for the works (well, he’s standing at the site of my new bridge at least), to reach the required amount of funds. It’s nice that the townsfolk help out, but boy are they slow! I’ve donated pretty much everything so far, perhaps they’ll put their hands in their wallets later on. The cheapskates.

animal_crossing_7The one thing that really annoys me is that I’ve seen hundreds upon hundreds of presents flying past the sky like this, but do I have a slingshot? Heck do I! The shop is still pretty small and such it only has two tools a day, but they’ve always been fishing rods and bug nets, it seems. Oh well, it seems easier to shoot the out of the sky now though, as they are closer to the ground, and the 3D effect will help people judge how far it really is away.

animal_crossing_2The sheer amount of Nintendo-related stuff in this game is quite huge. In the new Nookling Junction store (basically Nook’s Cranny, but run by the Nookling twins), they sell fortune cookies, and showing Timmy or Tommy the fortune inside may net you a prize; it seems to always be a Nintendo item, such as the Metroid gear I’m wearing here. This is the interior of the museum, in the bug section. I enjoy looking at all my progress capturing these little critters, although I’m not very far yet. I have noticed Blathers is less, well, blathery, which may be good news to some, but others like me sorta enjoyed his ramblings, as it added a degree of character to the game. However, you can donate multiple things at the same time now so this is a welcome addition for me.

animal_crossing_4The inside of my house is also beginning to look very ‘Nintendo’ too, as the wall, floor and ‘?’ Block were all fortune cookie prizes. The rainbow screen was a free downloadable item, just talk to Pelly or Phyllis at the post office and ask for a gift. Little touches like the light filtering into the room from the window are pretty cool, as is the ability to put stuff on the wall now (I have a rabdom diploma on the wall, but it’s not in view here).

animal_crossing_9A week into the game, I have only just started to unlock new stores along Main Street, an area accessed at the top of the main town. Today a flower shop opened near Nookling Junction, and I really look forward to seeing what the other stores will look like, such as the abandoned house at the left of the picture here. One major addition to the game is Tortimer Island. As he is no longer the mayor, he is in charge of an island where it is always summer. You can take the boat there after a few days (and along the road Kapp’n will sing some fairly humorous sea shanties along the way), and on this island you can challenge your friends to minigames such as bug catching, matching buried items, gardening, pretty much everything. Or, if you’re like me, you can play by yourself. You can also catch bugs, fish etc as normal and take them back to the main town, including some rare fruits that grow in the resort area and non-native fruits growing in the activity area.

animal_crossing_10Diving into the sea is a new activity, although I only got the wet suit yesterday (purchased at the resort shop for 50 Tortimer medals, which you win in the minigames), so I haven’t been able to do it much. It’s nice that new ideas are still making the way into the game, however, and I look forward to diving for even more stuff to donate to the museum or sell. the game is similar enough to the older games to appeal to the experienced crowds, but fresh enough to give all players, new and old, a new experience. Tiny features expand on older ideas, such as sneaking while holding the net, which is actually needed to catch some bugs.

animal_crossing_12In short, there’s too much to write about in one review, so I’ve decided to do a couple more, perhaps I will document my journey through the game and write about new features as they come up. It’s feature packed, it’s awesome, you need this game, go get it now! And have fun with your social life’s replacement.