Winx Club series
We are the Winx! A phenomenon in Europe, the Winx Club are a group of fairy girls with amazing magical powers and attitudes to match. Winx Club: Quest for the Codex for Nintendo DS is a side-scrolling shooter with six mini-games; Winx Club: Mission Enchantix adds new gameplay and enhanced minigames, while Winx Club: Your Magic Universe adds support for Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and a personal diary, recalling Powerhead titles of old.
Winx Club: Quest for the Codex was our first Nintendo DS game, and as such, we spent a lot of time working on new systems for the new platform. Although the DS was a lot like the GBA, there was enough new stuff to keep us occupied. The main component of the gameplay of this game was a side scrolling shooter, with big 3D animated characters and parallax tiled backgrounds, plus a collection of minigames and an outfit customizer. We chose to use a tile engine created by a friend's company to run the scrolling gameplay (and the world collision physics), so we could spend more time on the rest of the libraries. This turned out to be a really good decision, as we were able to focus on the gameplay and levels themselves, rather than the mechanics of the DS's new DMA system and how it related to tile maps and VRAM layouts.
As lead programmer and also gameplay programmer, I had to split my attention between the new platform support libraries and the side scrolling shooter code. One of the most fun experiences I had on the project was shortly after I had finished some really annoyingly complex hardware support library, and the next task on my list had me going right back into gameplay: boss fights. This was the year after Shadow of the Colossus came out, and that game really gave me the desire to create some cool boss fights, so being able to dive right into that was extraordinarily fun and inspiring. There was definitely a point at which I had to take a step back, remind myself I was working on a game for 12-year-old girls, and make things a whole lot more straightforward than I had been. But in the end, I'm very happy with how the gameplay came out.
Winx Club: Mission Enchantix was a direct sequel to our first Winx game, so there was plenty of code reuse, which is always good. This was one of my first games as Technical Director, and entrusting the lead programmer role to someone else took some getting used to. Because there were other projects demanding my attention, I really had to limit my role to advisory, and after planning out tasks and discussing some implementation details with the rest of the team, I left them to their own vices (while still checking in, of course). Ultimately they did me proud, and the sequel was solid, keeping the good things from the previous game and excising the things that failed in the original.
Winx Club: Your Magic Universe was Powerhead's first digital planner game in eight years (since the E.T. Digital Companion in 2001) and our first online (Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection) title. It allowed players to connect to their friends online and write messages, voice chat, trade data, and play any of the included six minigames multiplayer, cooperative or competitive depending on the game.
We reused the multiplayer library from Imagine: Soccer Captain, and added an interface to TCP/IP sockets as an alternate transport layer (so the game would still work in local wireless as well). In preproduction, while we were writing the TDD, I made sure that we had a multiplayer design for each minigame that would minimize the effect of round-trip lag between the two players. This allowed the games to feel identically lag-free whether people connect locally or online. These simplified multiplayer designs worked perfectly, and made the addition of Wi-Fi support much less risky.