Gamasutra Q&A: Designing the gorgeous metroidvania Ori and the Will of the Wisps

May 18, 2020 | By John Harris

Released earlier this year, the “metroidvania” Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the critically-acclaimed, commercially successful sequel to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest. ​Gamasutra spoke with Thomas Mahler, CEO and creative director at Ori developer Moon Studios about the creation of Will of the Wisps and some of the design decisions that made the game a success.​

Metroidvanias are a lot more common now than they were even in the GBA era, when we had to await whatever Nintendo or Konami put out. What new things does Ori and the Will of the Wisps bring to the genre?

With Ori and the Blind Forest, our goal was to elevate platforming in metroidvanias and deliver that element to a level of quality that could even compete with the stuff Nintendo puts out, which was quite the lofty goal, but I think we delivered on that.

Back when we started working on Ori and the Blind Forest, metroidvanias were almost non-existent on the market. It was almost unfathomable to imagine one of the bigger publishers to invest heavily into a metroidvania-title… fans of those games have always wanted Konami to make an HD 2D Castlevania and that never happened… so that was another one of our goals: Deliver an outstanding visual experience that really shows the world what a 2D metroidvania could look like in today’s time.

Our goal with Will of the Wisps was to not just deliver a phoned-in sequel, but to elevate every pillar of Ori and the Blind Forest to a crazy degree. We wanted Ori and the Will of the Wisps to become a sequel akin to how Nintendo improved upon Super Mario Bros. when they made Super Mario Bros 3. We really tried to perfect all the elements that were introduced in Ori and the Blind Forest: The visuals had to be way better, the combat had to be far more engaging, the story had to be expanded upon, we wanted the whole progression loop to become more satisfying…In the end, I think we’re quite proud of what we shipped and hope that Ori and the Will of the Wisps will be remembered as a sequel that “got it right.”

Ori has a gratifyingly graceful and rapid movement. How did you manage to pull that off?

Simply through our insane iterative polish process. Platforming is one of the core elements in Ori, so we knew we had to get that element perfect. We spent a crazy amount of time just trying to make the movement as fun and satisfying as possible and there’s so many things that go into that. The controls had to be fine-tuned for an ungodly amount of time, the animations had to be top-notch, sound effects had to play into the mix, particles, etc. Many times in game development multiple things across multiple disciplines have to be tweaked just right before something starts to feel really fun to play.

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