Interviews: Frontier Developments - Kinectimals
Posted by Corbie Dillard
A furry Q and A
With Frontier Developments' Kinectimals giving warm and fuzzy feelings to anyone who gazes upon its array of furry cubs, we decided to sit down with studio founder David Braben to discuss the game's development and Kinect's future.
KINECTaku: How did you guys come up with the idea for Kinectimals? Were you inspired by any titles in particular?
David Braben: Back in 2003, we did a game called “Dog’s Life”, which was a game about the world as seen from the point of view of a dog. This was our first foray into making games other than for hardened gamers. We’ve wanted to make another animal-focused game ever since.
KINECTaku: How long was Kinectimals in development?
DB: It was about 18 months since we first saw the early versions of what was then “Natal”, but “Kinectimals” was formally in development for a little under 12 months.
KINECTaku: Were there any aspects of Kinect development that proved to be particularly challenging? For example, how did you maintain an intuitive interface when there's no physical controller?
DB: It felt like we were starting with a blank page – we didn’t even know how we would pause the game! Our previous experience with making games for a broad audience, especially with children, is that it does need to feel natural. Throughout development we tested the game with children, and saw what worked well and what didn’t.
KINECTaku: The game tends to feel geared far more towards a younger audience. Was that something you guys were aiming for?
DB: Yes – we wanted to make something that would appeal to families – to broaden the appeal of Xbox.
KINECTaku: The Xbox 360 traditionally has quite a mature user base - do you think it was a risk developing such a child-friendly title for the machine?
DB: All development is a risk, but yes, in a sense this was an extra risk. The intention is to bring new people to the machine, and it looks like that is working.
KINECTaku: The game tends to leave the player with a lot of freedom in choosing what activities they want to perform. Why the decision to pace things this way?
DB: This is not just about pacing, it is about doing what you find the most fun. If you don’t make a choice then your animal will still go and get something from your toy box and suggest it, so the player will always have something to do, whether they chose it or not.
KINECTaku: How were you able to replicate the animations of the animals so accurately?
DB: Each animal has around 2,500 animations which are blended together to make up its movement. This is controlled by a system we have in-house where animators have complete control of how these animations work together.
KINECTaku: Do you guys have any other Kinect titles in the works?
DB: Yes (wink)
KINECTaku: Were there any things you wanted to do with the game but were unable to, and is there any chance we might see a Kinectimals 2?
DB: Who knows?
KINECTaku: The Kinect launch lineup is pretty diverse, but do you think we've seen everything that Kinect is capable of?
DB: No. Quite the opposite. There are a great many things to come, I think – especially with the use of voice, and uses in combination with a controller, and doubtless a great many things none of us has though of yet!
Thanks to David Braben for his time, and be sure to read our Kinectimals review for the full verdict on the game too.