Super Ubi Land: Wii U’s Diamond in the Rough

In our first showcase we examine the Wii U's upcoming title Super Ubi Land!

Nintendo has always delivered promising 2D platform games and they are continuing that tradition to this very day. One studio that is keen on delivering a classic 2D platform experience that pays homage to games like Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country is Notion Games. I've personally had the pleasure to be involved with this studio from the beginning and would like to shed some spotlight on this tiny studio with big dreams.

Andrew has always had a passion for gaming and drawing. Andrew's artwork is really something special and over the years he has progressed into an amazing artist. Here is an example of his progression from the year 2008 – 2013
Andrew formed Notion Games in 2011 after working as a character artist for Edge of Reality on The Sims 3 Pets. Andrew's first project was a simple endless iOS game called Up Up Ubi. This is a game with rich environments, plenty of unlockables, and a stellar soundtrack. Working with producer Calum Bowen and a 3 man development team; Up Up Ubi released in early 2012. The game was met with praise from gamers and even garnered some positive reviews from critics. 
Andrew immediately went to work on his next title, this time doing all the artwork and programming for what would soon become known as Super Ubi Land. I recently had time to catch up with my good friend Andrew and he has agreed to come on board and share some insight on his career, and how Super Ubi Land came into fruition. 
JM: Hey Drew let's start this off by letting the people know a little bit about you.
Andrew: My name is Andrew Augustin and I am 24 years old. I am an award winning graphic designer, 2D artist, and game developer. I have lived in Austin, Texas almost my entire life and I love it here. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, and at age 22; I was hired by Edge of Reality/Electronic Arts as a concept artist and world builder. I have done work on The Sims 3 Pets and also a cancelled EA project that I cannot name. 
After finishing that game, I decided to start my own 2D game development company, Notion Games, LLC. My first game, Up Up Ubi, is out now for iOS devices and I am currently working on Super Ubi Land for PC, Mac, Linux and the Wii U. 
JM: Can you let our readers know how Ubi came to life and the original concept for your first game?

Andrew: Ubi is a cute little alien named after the Ubi sweet potato. He was created as a simple character for me to practice making games with.  I was originally going to start off with Team Notion as my first game, but I immediately figured that would not be a smart idea so I came up with the concept of Ubi. Up Up Ubi, my first game starring Ubi the alien, was a way for me to learn how to create 2D art sprites for games. I wanted the project to be simple yet fun and rewarding.

Matthew Jones and I played around with ideas and came up with the idea of Ubi falling constantly and players having to keep him afloat by placing balloons beneath him while destroying enemies that appear on screen. It’s a simple idea, but definitely not an easy game to play because it requires you to multitask.

JM: How does it feel to garner success without a college degree and learning how to program and design a game all by yourself?

Andrew: I’m definitely not making all of this happen by myself.  I have been very fortunate to be able to get professional experience and to be able to meet great people to help me along the way. I would for sure not be at this point in my career if it were not for people spreading the word, buying my games, pledging to my Kickstarter, and just showing the great amount of support that I have been receiving thus far.

JM: What would you say to up and coming developers trying to get a foot through the door of the gaming industry?

Andrew: I cannot stress enough that you have to develop a great work ethic. Make it a habit to work on your skills as much as possible. Create online portfolios, promote through social media sites, and network with as many people in your field as possible. Twitter is a great place to get in touch with your favorite artist, developers, programmers, etc.

I would say to trust your gut and make games that make YOU happy. You will always get people talking about how much they don’t “like” your game, but don’t take it personal. Everyone has different taste so don’t let it deter you from what you want to create.

JM: Would you mind telling us about some of the hardships you faced as a developer?

Andrew: One of the main hardships that I have as a developer is finances. Notion Games, LLC was founded only a year ago with me only having $5 grand to apply to hardware, software licenses, etc. Doing this full-time and not having a job is a really tough thing to endure, but it’s what I have been doing. I’m hoping that once my projects are released they’ll get enough support for me to not only worry about finances, but to also be able to hire extra help to create bigger and better games.

Coming up with ideas and tweaking them to be even better is definitely a challenge. What I have realized during the development of Super Ubi Land is that the ideas tend to fall in place and you tend to tweak things as you go. It’s somewhat a natural progression and the end result may be something that I never intended but am happy with. 

JM: What games would you say influence you as a developer?

Andrew: I am influenced a lot mostly by old school 2D games like Streets of Rage 2, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario… basically what everyone else always says. I am intrigued by character creation and how personal games can feel if there’s a character they can relate to, or just enjoy pretending to be. I think back to my childhood all the time and want to bring those feelings and experiences back. 

JM: How did you link up with Nintendo for your project and are your receiving any help with porting to the Wii U?

Andrew: I got a message from Emily Rogers (a journalist for Not Enough Shaders) and she literally told me that she could help me get onto the Nintendo platform. I had no idea who she was at the time and I was pretty excited, but cautious at the same time.

She gave me advice about what to do to touch up Super Ubi Land and how to contact Nintendo to see about approving Notion Games as an official developer. I then put together a nice PDF with information about Notion Games and Super Ubi Land.

Not too long after that, I received an email from Dan Adelman (awesome guy) who wanted to set up a phone interview with me. During the interview, he gave his thoughts about the game and seemed impressed that we had set up such a clean PDF for Super Ubi Land. Dan also explained the approval process in detail.

I followed the advice and listened to the process that he explained and applied. A few weeks later Notion Games became an official Nintendo Wii U developer.

Notion Games has teamed up with Maestro Interactive Games to bring over Super Ubi Land to the Wii U. We could not bring the title over otherwise, because I am still learning programming and I’m currently focused on PC, Mac, and Linux.

JM: Do you have plans to bring Super Ubi Land or Up Up Ubi to other consoles or mobile devices?

Andrew: I would love to have Super Ubi Land on handheld devices like the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita. I don’t have plans to bring them over because I haven’t found anyone to help port to those consoles. I really would like to find a programmer in the Austin, Texas area to help Notion Games and be a part of the team so we could bring our games to as many platforms as possible.

JM: What would you say is the biggest lesson you've learned as an indie developer?

Andrew: A lot of people who want to make indie games don’t truly realize all of the work that goes into making games, even “bad” games. To take a game idea and bring it to completion is a ton of work and is very draining, even if you LOVE making games. There are days where I look at my game(s) and wonder when it’ll ever get finished.

JM: Are there any other projects you plan to work on after Super Ubi Land releases?

Andrew: I have so many ideas and projects that I want to work on. The next project I’m going full force on is a 2D beat-em-up game called Team Notion. In the future, I do plan on making games similar to The Legend of Zelda, Contra 3, and an extreme Dodgeball game featuring characters from Notion Games.

JM: Who are your favorite developers? 

Andrew: My favorite indie developers right now are AckkStudios, Konjak, and Tribute Games. They all embrace the 2D game culture and definitely put out some great content.

I love Kojima productions, Capcom, Level 5, Atlus, Namco Bandai, and Naughty Dog. These big guys in the industry seem to come out with games that I really enjoy playing. Uncharted series, Persona 4, Metal Gear Solid, Marvel vs Capcom, Resident Evil 2, Tales of Vesperia… the list can go on forever with these developers/publishers. 

JM: What are you currently playing?

Andrew: I am currently playing Ni No Kuni, Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3, and Persona 4 Golden to name a few. I am trying to play any new rpg to support the genre! 

 JM: Anything else you'd like to add before we go?

Andrew: I’d like to thank Junkie Monkeys for the amazing interview. I’d also like to give thanks to Emily Rogers, AckkStudios, Dan Adelman, Pure Nintendo, Nintendo Everything, and all of the supporters who have bought my games and helped spread the word about Notion Games. These things really boost my morale and keep me  wanting to bring you the best projects I can possibly make.

JM: Thank you for your time Drew, we are looking forward to Super Ubi Land and many other titles from your team for years to come.

Before we wrap up this showcase we want you to check out some testimonials from Notion Games' previous title as well as Super Ubi Land. 
If you want to support Super Ubi Land make sure you hit up Notion Games' Kickstarter campaign. You can do so by clicking here.