Prismatic Games, the developers behind Hex Heroes, have posted an interesting update regarding the Nintendo Switch on their Kickstarter page. If you’ve followed the campaign, you know that Hex Heroes is planned for release on PC/Mac/Linux, but the biggest console they’re pushing for is the Wii U. The game will be a multiplayer co-op RTS game, with four players using the big screen to act as the various “units,” while another player uses the GamePad to strategize their actions.
So what about the Nintendo Switch? The biggest selling point of the Switch is that you can take it apart and utilize it as a tablet on the go. Seeing as a tablet is involved, it would make sense that Wii U games run on the thing, right?
But Prismatic Games isn’t sure. The trailer doesn’t reveal whether the Switch can run different displays the way the Wii U can. They acknowledge that this seems possible with two or more Switches, but they aren’t sure how the gameplay of Hex Heroes would translate to that kind of situation. Can four players even all huddle around the same tiny screen?
Even if everything works perfectly, the biggest issue Prismatic Games foresees is network programming. If they were to port the game over to Switch (assuming the port itself isn’t difficult), they’d still have to make the game able to communicate seamlessly with other Switch devices.
“It’s said in the biz that adding networking to a game (in the online sense) automatically adds a year to development,” the update states. “Who knows, maybe setting up the local networking will be as easy as mapping controls.” They also hope there will be documentation on setting it up, like with the 3DS.
All of this brings up an interesting point about the Nintendo Switch: it’s a game-changer, but it’s also a development-changer. Porting your game to the console isn’t just a matter of fitting it onto a cartridge. Depending on how complex the local networking is on the console, it could require a lot of effort for developers to move their games over. Will it be worthwhile? Nintendo has announced a large number of partners, so maybe they’ve figured out a way to simplify it.
For consumers, the Nintendo Switch looks amazing. But for developers, the trailer raises more questions than answers. Can you transfer your old games, assuming the Switch is backwards compatible? Will old hardware/controllers work? What kinds of things can the tablet itself even do? Hopefully these questions will be addressed in the coming months.
It is worth noting that Nintendo has a good track record with backwards compatibility. The Wii U could run Wii games, and the Wii could run GameCube games. Likewise, the 3DS could run DS games, the DS could run Gameboy Advance games, and so on. Given the portable tablet feature of the device, it would seem odd for Nintendo to break that streak here. The Switch does use cartridges however, and doesn’t appear to have a CD drive, so it may rely on downloadable software alone.
How do you feel about backwards compatibility? If the new console doesn’t support any old hardware or software, will you still “Make the Switch”? Will you hunt me down for making that horrible pun? Let us know in the comments!