We get the lowdown on the new HTML5 development environment

Inside Nintendo’s Web Framework for Wii U

[This feature was published in the April edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

Studios have been registering to use Nintendo’s Web Framework since glimpsing the platform at GDC 2013. Martin Buchholz, manager of developer relations and support at Nintendo of Europe tells us more about it.

For our readers that don’t know, what is Nintendo Web Framework?
Nintendo Web Framework is a development environment used to develop Wii U software with HTML5 and JavaScript. Nintendo Web Framework enables you to use a variety of the Wii U’s unique features, including the Wii U GamePad, Miiverse, etcetera.

Why establish Nintendo Web Framework; is it about making the Wii U accessible to more developers?
Yes, originally the Wii U development environment required C or C++ knowledge, and now it’s possible for developers to use HTML5 and JavaScript for Wii U software development as well. Therefore, with the Web Framework, more developers can create different types of software and release them at different price points; which allows users to enjoy a greater variety of new software.

Considering the languages the development environment supports, is it predominantly conceived as a platform for app and small game development?
No, as mentioned previously, we expect that the additional development languages will increase the number of new Wii U developers who haven’t worked with Nintendo before, resulting in new types of games and services.

One example of this is Wii Street U powered by Google, which was created using Nintendo Web Framework. By using the GamePad’s motion sensors it’s possible to enjoy a 360-degree view by moving the controller, so this example demonstrates how you can create new user experiences by utilising two screens: TV Screen and the second screen on the Wii U GamePad. Wii Street U is currently available free of charge from the eShop, so you can give it a try.

Unity’s support for Wii U also opens the doors of Wii U development to more developers. What distinguishes what Nintendo Web Framework offers from what Unity for Wii U offers?
Unity is a game development environment with a 3D game engine at its core, which is used by many developers all over the world. Nintendo Web Framework was developed to run content created with HTML5 and JavaScript. As each environment has its own strengths in terms of technology, developers can pick the environment which best fits their needs.

Would you be able to spotlight some features the Nintendo Web Framework that the team behind it are most proud of?
Nintendo Web Framework can use Wii U’s standard features via JavaScript extension by default. Needless to say, output to the Wii U GamePad, and input from its devices, like the accelerometer and gyro sensor, are supported as well.

Web Framework also supports Miiverse, which is an interface allowing you to share your game experiences with people all over the world in various ways whilst playing games.

Indies and small studios sometimes believe the Wii U is a platform relatively closed off to smaller teams. Is it fair to say Nintendo Web Framework makes the platform more open than ever?
Nintendo is improving in various aspects to allow access to Wii U software development for indies, and small development studios. This time, Nintendo Web Framework makes the platform more accessible from a technical standpoint, so we hope that many more developers become involved with Wii U software development.

As Web Framework potentially diversifies the range of studios making games for Wii U, can you see the console starting to appeal to even more different audiences?
We can’t say anything at the moment, as no software built with Nintendo Web Framework has been sold yet. Of course, we do believe that there is such a possibility.

How do developers interested in the Nintendo Web Framework apply to gain access? Is that process relatively easily and welcoming?
Developers can apply at wiiu-developers.nintendo.com to register their interest. After submitting the form, a member of staff from Nintendo will get in touch with the developer regarding additional details, such as signing a platform NDA.

What support from Nintendo – beyond the provision of the Nintendo Web Framework itself – will the development environment’s users receive?
We have a support contact for developers, who you can freely contact with your enquiries. We support all types of enquiries, whether it is how to use the development kit, or about software packages needed, or anything else.

Did you have a message for developers considering embracing or using the Nintendo Web Framework?
I want to encourage developers to get in contact with Nintendo and give feedback, especially if you’re new to working on a Nintendo console. We are keen to get any feedback from developers: whether you’re creating a game or application and have comments, or if you want to request more technical features.


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