Results from Game Design Challenge: Save the Wii U

By Danny Cowan [08.13.13]

 It's no secret that Nintendo's Wii U console is struggling to find an audience. Despite the unique possibilities offered by its unique tablet peripheral, the Wii U has seen low sales since its launch last November, and prominent publishers are abandoning the system in favor of established markets.

Nintendo itself admits that it has underestimated the difficulty involved in shifting to HD development, and is betting on new entries in its core franchises to shore up sales. Wii U ownership will need to pick up soon, as the system will find itself in direct competition with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One when both consoles launch later this year.

What would you do if you were put in charge of saving Nintendo's flagging hardware? As part of our latest Game Design Challenge, Game Career Guide challenged its readers to design a system-selling game for the Wii U. Here are our top picks.

Best Entries

Valeria Reznitskaya, Independent Game Designer, Legend of Zelda: Tomorrow's Guardian (see page 2)

João Gabriel Guedes Pinheiro, Student of Game Design in Univali, Brazil (see page 3)

Bernard John (B.J.) Badger, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy alumnus, Sheikah: Rise of the Shadow People (see page 4)

Jacqui Zarka, Freelance game designer and Vancouver Film School alumnus (see page 5)

Chris "Venks" Dunson, Berathen Games, Pokemon Seeker (see page 6)

Valeria Reznitskaya, Independent Game Designer, Legend of Zelda: Tomorrow's Guardian

After the dynamic motion-based combat of Skyward Sword, it's difficult to imagine how the next entry in Nintendo's Legend of Zelda franchise could take advantage of the Wii U's GamePad without feeling like a step backwards. For this challenge, I decided to examine what the series would look like with a much smaller emphasis on sword fighting. I believe my solution can bring new life to both the franchise and the Wii U - by shining the spotlight on Zelda herself.

As the wielder of the Triforce of Wisdom, Zelda has traditionally avoided direct confrontation, choosing instead to plan from a distance and use ranged weapons when necessary. These aspects of her character make her the perfect protagonist in a GamePad-centric Legend of Zelda game.

In this hypothetical game, Princess Zelda once again sees premonitions of a grim future, but this time no one hears her warnings. Having no other choice, she takes up a bow and sets out to stop her visions from becoming reality.

Rather than "Courage," the core of this game is "Wisdom". Instead of rushing into situations, the player must learn the environment and use it to avoid detection, set various traps and attack enemies effectively from afar. This game brings the series's tradition of exploration to new levels by turning the game world itself into Zelda's greatest weapon.

Controllable with an analog stick, Zelda appears in the traditional third-person view on the main screen while the GamePad shows a first-person view through Zelda's eyes. This dual-perspective allows the player to stay aware of peripheral dangers even while using the GamePad's motion detection to aim ranged weapons.

Aware of her own importance, Zelda will prioritize defense when a fight cannot be avoided. When Zelda equips a shield, the player can direct it by moving the GamePad. Using the shield to strategically redirect projectiles is key to surviving confrontations as well as manipulating the environment.

The GamePad screen will also allow the player to see Zelda's premonitions. Occasionally, an image may appear over an object in the view, and tapping it will show the player a vision of the future. Depending on the image, the vision might be a glimpse into the future Zelda wishes to avert, an optional hint about a desired outcome, or a preview of an event about to occur. Looking ahead in this way is an important mechanic and theme throughout the game.

As Zelda grows stronger, the Triforce of Wisdom allows her to "see" structural weaknesses, invisible platforms and fake walls. The player can use this information, visible only on the GamePad, to augment the third-person view and take even greater advantage of the environment.

Games in the Legend of Zelda series sell systems, but both its fans and developers seem to agree: the formula is getting stale. A game that emphasizes its tactical elements would give the franchise a fresh, Wii U-appropriate interpretation without straying from its core.

João Gabriel Guedes Pinheiro, Student of Game Design in Univali, Brazil

One of the most important things that I should know before saving the Wii U is knowing his potential, understand what is missing and make it work. So, I plan to offer an unique experience, with a heavy focus in the concept of the dual screen.

So, my idea is a game with three different genres, the Strategy, the RPG and the Action. The game tells a medieval story, in which you can customize anyway you like, and in that game, your task is to command the armies of man against the evil forces. What's different of a PC game, for example? Thanks to the unique gameplay offered by the Gamepad, the gamer will be seeing the action in the TV, while, in the Gamepad, will be commanding his own army.

How can it work? A lot of people are asking for mature games for the WiiU. And almost nothing is more mature than war. In my vision, my game is brutal, even with the fantasy. I want to, at same time, offer an experience to the people who just like to slash enemies - to these kind of players, you will be able to be The Hero, and almost forget the Management aspect of the game -, to people who like planning, but not taking part in action - that player will be enjoying a rich universe, with different types of soldiers, and the Hero can even be in his own house, while the "Commander" is in the battlefield.

In the controls scheme, you see that I put some different controls, like attack or guard. So, if you think "Oh, I should be in the middle of that fight", your hero, if you want, will be in there, and you will have full control of his actions. So, at same time you can be giving orders to your soldiers on the gamepad, you can be fighting in that same battle with your soldier. If you wish, you can, also do both of them, giving commands while fighting this war.

After each battle, you manage your Empire. In the Gamepad, you will be sending your resources and soldiers to each zone of your empire, like in the last control screen, and, in the TV, you will be seeing, in a cinematic way, everything happening. So, if you are sending your soldiers to another city, if you choose that, you will be seeing the soldiers walking through the gates, and the crowd reacting to that. And using the analogs, you interact with the town, so, if you want to buy a certain armor, for example, you go to the blacksmith and you buy that.

Bernard John (B.J.) Badger, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy alumnus, Sheikah: Rise of the Shadow People

Sheikah: Rise of the Shadow People is a spin-off from the The Legend of Zelda series. It follows the exploits of Sheik (different person than disguised Zelda), first of the clan of mysterious shadow people who are seen serving the royal family of Hyrule as guardians and agents in previous Zelda games. For Zelda fans, the release of a new game in the series does not represent merely the potential for a familiar yet fresh experience of fun; it is a vital piece in the growing lore of a vibrant fantasy world. Sheikah feeds this hunger for new knowledge and history while providing a stealth-heavy twist on traditional Zelda gameplay.

The TV screen and Gamepad screen are used to provide two different perspectives on the game world in Sheikah. The TV displays an angled overhead perspective of a three-dimensional world, much like Metal Gear Solid. This is the primary view used for navigating obstacles and taking action. Meanwhile, the Gamepad shows a straight-down, two-dimensional, map-like representation of the current area, including symbols for key elements. This perspective gives a view of the world which can be zoomed in and out at will, useful for planning routes and tracking enemy movements.

Light and shadow play an integral role in the mechanics of Sheikah. While in shadow, Sheik is undetectable to most enemies and can perform silent takedowns to eliminate foes. Fighting in the light is possible, but risky and heavily reliant on surprise tactics. Manipulating sources of light allows Sheik to move the shadows to more advantageous positions. There are also some monsters even more attuned to darkness than Sheik; light may become Sheik's ally against these.

As with traditional Zelda games, a growing arsenal of weapons, tools, and techniques provides the player with increasing mastery over the game world in Sheikah. Some classic Zelda items fit very nicely with the game's theme, such as the hookshot, boomerang, and deku nuts. Here are a few new ones:

Jacqui Zarka, Freelance game designer and Vancouver Film School alumnus

Nintendo's largest strengths have always been in uniting opposing types of gamers around one console. Just as the Wii brought families together, the WiiU has the opportunity to mend the gap between hardcore gamers and their casual counterparts. Two of the most popular game types right now are the shooter genre, and the social/mobile market. The WiiU's tablet combined with console offers a chance to bring these two markets together.

The player has command of a pirate spaceship with the goal of hunting down other ships in the galaxy, breaking in, killing off the crew and dragging it back to a port to sell for sweet pirate booty. To do this, you will need two players, the Infiltrator and the Navigator. The Infiltrator jumps off ship to board the other vessel in typical first person shooter manner using the main television and standard controller. While the Infiltrator is making his or her way through the ship, it is the Navigator's job to use the tablet to hack into the other ship's main computer and ease the way for the Infiltrator. Both players will work together using separate mechanics for the joint purpose of capturing the ship. In the event that couch co-op is not an option, players can use the Internet to find another player or a detailed AI could be implemented to act as the other role.

The Navigator's role is easily compared to the casual gamer. A series of code breaking mini-games are played to access the mainframe which acts as a hub for other puzzle-based games. To access the main hub, the player will be able to view a series of blinking lights after which they must replicate the pattern. Once inside, a game similar to Pipe Dream can channel the enemy ship's oxygen out, leaving enemies that the Infiltrator comes across sluggish and tired. Fitting puzzle pieces together unlocks the minimap for the Infiltrator, allowing them to view the ship's schematics. Playing around with circuits could overload the security systems, allowing the Infiltrator to go through previously unlocked doors.

While the Navigator is playing on the tablet with casual puzzle games, the Infiltrator is playing a high-octane first person shooter game against the security personnel of the enemy ship. The Infiltrator has two options, they can rush to the bridge and avoid causalities. If the Infiltrator captures the Captain, they can force all enemies into escape pods allowing them to hope for rescue while you make off with the ship. Otherwise, the Infiltrator can systematically eliminate enemies with their own customizable loadouts, paving their way to the bridge with bloodshed.

In addition to the single player campaign, a multiplayer aspect could be added as well. Teams of 4 (any mixture of Navigators and Infiltrators) would compete over who takes over whose ship with the Infiltrators racing to get to the enemy team's Navigator to delay their progress. Navigators would upload counter-Intelligence or play defensive games to put up a firewall to prevent the enemy teams' hacking.

Chris "Venks" Dunson, Berathen Games, Pokemon Seeker

Explore various environments in the Poke'mon world in striking high-definition.

In Poke'mon Seeker you play as a young Rare Seeker in the brand new Kisaka region. Rare Seekers are Poke'mon Trainers that accept missions to find and capture the most rare and exotic Poke'mon. Rare Seekers use their Seeker gadgets and employ the unique abilities of their Poke'mon to solve puzzles, avoid feral Poke'mon, and capture their elusive prize.

While featuring classic stadium modes like Poke'mon Colliseum and Poke'mon Battle Revolution this game features a single player mode that hopes to capture what it truly means to live in a world with Poke'mon. There will be six different environments to explore. Each environment will have segments initially blocked off that can only be unlocked by finding the right Poke'mon to navigate pass that specific obstacle. Along with your missions to obtain rare Poke'mon in each region the player will also have optional side missions where you can help out Poke'mon Trainers by sharing your map or pictures to help them locate specific Poke'mon.

The game will primarily play using the WiiU Gamepad. The game will take advantage of the two screens with two different Seeker gadgets. The first gadget is the Seeker Map. The Seeker Map will place down tiles for every area you've explored, but it doesn't take note of anything in the area. Using special tiles and annotations you can place with the GamePad's stylus you can point out areas to avoid such as wild bug Poke'mon nests and places to come back to such as Poke'mon drinking grounds.

The second gadget is the Seeker Camera. The player has three cameras they can place in strategic locations to have eyes all around the habitat. As you explore you can switch the WiiU Gamepad's screen between any of the cameras so you can view what is currently happening in the area. So if you find fresh tracks of the rare Poke'mon you're trying to find its a good idea to quickly look through the various cameras to see if the Poke'mon is nearby. Then you can switch to the Seeker Map and use tiles to indicate the rare Poke'mon's typical walking route.

Additional Features:

*Use the GamePad's motion control in conjunction with your Poke'mon for puzzle solving.

*Connect with the 3DS to upload Poke'mon from your copy of Poke'mon X or Y to use in your hunt for rare Poke'mon.

*Show off your rare Poke'mon in various modes including Multiplayer. You can have traditional Poke'mon Battles against 3DS users or all grab Wiimotes to try your hand at fun mini-games.

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