How Mass Effect 3's Wii U port got in the hands of a little-known Australia studio
Why is an iOS game developer behind the upcoming Wii U port for Mass Effect 3?
Last month it was revealed the Melbourne-based Straight Right, which was previously known for its work on the iOS version of Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed, was working in conjunction with BioWare on one of the most anticipated titles for this year's most anticipated platform. CEO Tom Crago tells Polygon how Mass Effect 3 came to be in the hands of this Australian studio.
Straight Right is more than an obscure iOS company, it is actually the sister company of Tantalus, one of the better known developers in Australia, says Crago. Tantalus has a history that runs back to the early '90s. In 1994, the company began as a conversion studio, working alongside Sega Japan, Psygnosis, Midway, and others. While Straight Right might not be as well known, both companies share the same studio and technology, and more importantly admiration for BioWare.
"Who is Straight Right?"
"We've been admirers of BioWare for a long time and had actually wanted to work with them on the DS a while back. Tantalus did Unreal II on Xbox so we had some experience with challenging ports, and with the Unreal engine. We also have a great relationship with Nintendo, in that they published one of our titles on GBA and in so far as we've always supported their platforms. So I guess the planets aligned and we were able to convince BioWare to trust us with their baby."
Last year the team worked with EA to develop the iOS version of Shift 2. This was the first game shipped under the Straight Right label, which according to Crago represented the studio's push toward core games.
"I suppose we developed that label as a way of signifying a transition into a new, core space, with an emphasis on digital releases. The Tantalus brand will continue with our licensed and kids stuff but with Straight Right we're trying to connect more meaningfully with the people actually playing our games. At least that's the plan."
Making a more intuitive 'Mass Effect 3'
BioWare is still in control of development overall, however. The North American studio can "take control of the wheel whenever they want to," says Crago, but through the development cycle they have proven to be supportive with Straight Right's own creative contributions.
"Taking a step back, we're taking a game that was exceptionally good on PS3 and 360 and bringing it to a platform that really should suit it even better," he says. "Our primary goal is to use the GamePad to enhance the experience, to make it faster, more intuitive and more fun. I'd like to think that people who had played ME3 when it was released could pick it up on Wii U and say that they enjoyed it even more. And of course we know that for a lot of people playing the game on Wii U will be their first contact with the Mass Effect universe. We want to create an experience that stands out for them too."
Following the release of Mass Effect 3, Straight Right will continue to develop for the Wii U console, Crago adds, although the studio hasn't given up on iOS or other platforms just yet.
"This industry is pretty volatile, you always have to be thinking about what's coming next"
"We've made a few bets on Wii U actually so we're certainly hoping it does well. In addition to ME3 we have an original Wii U title in development, and we've started on another big game in a well known franchise that will be released in 2013. But you can never put all your eggs in one basket and we're continuing our efforts on iOS and on other platforms. This industry is pretty volatile, you always have to be thinking about what's coming next."
Like the console itself, Mass Effect 3 for Wii U has no release date as of yet.