Over the last year, things have been changing here at Rare HQ. Many areas of the studio have been given a nip, tuck and facelift. Those areas in need of a little TLC have been rejuvenated. But our lovely new spaces meant that we were left with a lot of homeless furniture. Rather than stockpiling it for Bonfire Night, the furniture was sold off – raising nearly £800 which will now be donated to charity.
The decision of which charity to help with the money raised was left to the Rare Events Team, and they decided that SpecialEffect was the perfect choice. The ladies and gents of SpecialEffect dedicate themselves to using technology to enhance the quality of life of those living with disabilities, and much of this work revolves around giving them access to games!
With some very clever and impressive controller modifications, the organisation can give children with a wide range of disabilities the chance to play games and share the fun with friends and family. Whilst they’ve made excellent use of Kinect they also incorporate things like eye movement input, a variety of custom speech setups and heavily modified joysticks for children with specific needs such as playing using only their feet.
Mark from Special Effect had this to say:
“From the feedback we’ve been getting from the amazing people we support, it’s clear that we’re not just helping people to play games so they can pass some time. Helping people with disabilities play helps them to maintain and create social relationships, it helps keep their mental faculties active and satisfied, it builds confidence, and it assists with development and learning in younger people. This isn’t just about giving people a blast on Call of Duty or DiRT, it’s about giving them a whole new part of their life.”
So hopefully this donation will have a great effect on many people’s lives!
In further support of SpecialEffect, a five-a-side football team from Rare will be heading to Wembley Stadium’s Powerleague venue next month as one of 16 teams vying for the SpecialEffect Trophy…
Dean from the Rare Events Team writes…
An event like Comic Relief never goes unnoticed at a place like Rare. With it being that time of year again, it seemed appropriate to give everyone a few minutes away from developing awesome games by doing something special. Oh, and to raise some money for a good cause in the process.
After much deliberation by Rare’s own Events Team, it was decided that putting a smile on everyone’s faces required something that crossed all beliefs, social boundaries, races and ages. There was only one thing that fit the bill… appealing to employees’ stomachs in the form of sugary, E-numbery, cakey goodness.
Of course, the Events Team weren’t about to go all Nigella on their own, so the challenge was set for the entire studio to put on aprons, raid the baking aisles at the supermarket and create their own treats to share with cake-hungry colleagues. A small prize and bragging rights would go to the eventual creator of the tastiest effort, judged by in-house chef extraordinaire David.
So at 10:30am on Red Nose Day, Rare’s central hub was a sight for sweet eyes as cakes in abundance filled the room. Cardamom cupcakes, scones (or scones) with jam and cream, chocolate, red velvet, lemon drizzle, cakes shaped like our own Banjo (fittingly, made by Banjo’s creator) and even unicorn ‘leavings’ were there to entice our talented team. Within minutes the entire studio was bouncing off the walls on a sugar high with little but crumbs and an almighty heap of washing-up remaining.
We’ve had the official News story on this month’s Kinect Sports: Season Two BAFTA win, but we thought it was worth complementing with a report direct from the scene. So we pinned down Simon, one of Rare’s delegates for the evening, and persuaded him to hand over a folder full of pictures and a rundown of the event from the rough vicinity of the red carpet and champagne seats….
Simon: The night started with the ten of us meeting outside our hotel, donning pretty much the same black tie attire, ready to set off to the Hilton on Park Lane. We were handed our golden tickets for the event before jumping into black cabs for the short ride.
Once we arrived, we made our way into the front entrance and then found out there was a red carpet around the back! As we realised this may be a once in a lifetime chance, we walked back outside, around the hotel and down the red carpet. No-one asked for our autographs for some reason, but it was worth it all the same…
We made our way upstairs for the champagne reception. The room was packed with invitees all dressed to the max, and we enjoyed catching up with some ex-Rareites whilst sipping the enormous amounts of champagne on offer. The room was quite large but you could hardly move, and after a couple of glasses of champagne it really started to heat up.
On February 22nd, Rare dispatched the athletic equivalent of a hardcore SWAT team to the Birmingham National Indoor Arena. The reason for this was the Birmingham Bolt, a charity sporting event for UK Midlands businesses to compete and raise money for charity. With us having a couple of Kinect Sports games under our belts, it seemed rude not to.
Ex-Olympic 400m and relay runner Daniel Caines was on hand to commentate: no pressure then. But one hotly contested afternoon later, as the event drew to a close and the smoke cleared in and around the charity Thunderdome, the Rare squad had left their mark by finishing third overall. Contributing to this result was the long jump gold claimed by our man Simon, along with Eoin’s second place in the 400 metres. Not half bad!
Congratulations and thanks to all who took part, both for the result and the money raised. The full entry fee went to The Birmingham Civic Society’s Next Generation Awards, which works with over 13,000 young people in Birmingham to help them make a positive contribution to the city. Meanwhile all sponsorship money raised by Rare (and boosted by Microsoft) goes to our nominated charity for this event, Cancer Research UK.
Enjoy the pics of our dashing team in action. Or loitering around, or posing… but mainly in action.
It’s no longer Kinect Sports: Season Two launch week, so here’s a round-up of some of the best review comments so far. And to spice it up, we’ve thrown in a few photos from the Rare on-site launch party/comedy awards ceremony last Friday, with Voice of The X Factor/Kinect Sports and all-round top bloke Peter Dickson hosting. There he is, look! Second picture! We’re not lying! He came to our late-night bash in Birmingham too, but you’re not seeing any pictures from that.
“As much as we loved the original, there was a feeling that it would take another year before we really got the Kinect Sports game we all hoped for. Thankfully, that gut instinct has proven to be entirely correct; Kinect Sports: Season Two is bigger, bolder and even more enjoyable than its illustrious forerunner, making it arguably the title of choice for Kinect players this holiday season.” – Kinectaku
“We’d go as far to say Kinect Sports: Season Two is the defining party sports game for the Xbox 360. Said it. It’s out there. Can’t take it back.” – DIY
“Let your guard down long enough and you’ll soon find you’ve lost hours flailing away to the game’s genuine charms.” – Tech Digest
With only a fortnight to go (less in some territories), promotion is underway in earnest and the fair name of Kinect Sports: Season Two is surfacing in all kinds of situations. TGS, EG Expo, GAMEfest, GAMES11 and rAge were among the last wave of public gaming events, so let’s rummage like maddened raccoons to unearth what’s been going on since then.
The G3 (Gaming and Giving for Good) fundraisers in the US were a big deal, with actors, musicians and sports stars ranging from Anthony Anderson to Ryan Merriman via Brea Grant and Carol Rodriguez stepping into the G3 Miracle Lounge to field Kinect and Xbox 360 Game With Fame challenges from online competitors in aid of a great cause, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. That was a big sentence. Meanwhile, Kinect Sports went solo in GameStop’s own G3 Game With Fame, inviting people to meet and compete against basketball stars Shawn Marion, Andrew Bynum, Brandon Roy and Landry Fields in four different stores from New York to West Hollywood.
CollegeFest 2011 drew a few diverse faces of its own into the Sports fold, while Canada went with football stars for its own official event – the Kinect Sports: Season Two All Star Challenge, still live at the time of writing – which offers entrants a chance to hike over to Toronto and face off against Damon Allen and J.P. Arencibia.
In the UK, Season Two picks up where Kinect Sports left off in sponsoring the latest series of Sky’s knockabout sports quiz A League of Their Own on Friday nights, and also joins the ‘Your Kinect’ Experience in ferrying its fashionable booth from the Metro Centre down to London’s Westfield and the Clothes Show Live in Birmingham, luring in thrilled gamesplayers and alarmed shoppers to get hands-on and “play Kinect in your own personalised room”.
Also in the UK, press and Xbox webmasters recently headed down to The Gathering 2011 preview event in Reading to play games, watch presentations, mingle and compete with the Xbox EMEA team and devs including Rare’s own “Big Fun” and “The Missile”. Far-flung Singapore then got its own Kinect Magic holiday preview event where the likes of Beatrice Chia and Mark Richmond turned up and got stuck in. We’re a bit envious of the Singaporean contingent’s fancy Season Two decor.
The TV ad for Season Two is now circulating online, so you should be seeing that pop up on your actual telly very shortly. In the meantime, let’s not forget that Kinect Sports (original flava) is nominated in the Best Sports category at this year’s Golden Joysticks, or that pre-ordering Season Two through listed retailers in certain territories will get you the Bonus Old School Avatar Pack. Superstylin’.
(Image credits: Casey Rodgers/AP Images for Microsoft, Graeme “The Badness” Boyd)
Last week, Kinect Sports: Season Two made an appearance at GAMES11, a three-day consumer event which is fast becoming a major fixture in the Middle East’s gaming calendar.
Much like the recent GAMEfest shenanigans, there were no official Rare bodies on site, but thanks to a fortuitous alignment of the planets I happened to be on holiday in Dubai at the time. And so, in a shameless attempt to earn myself employee of the month (unlikely), I dragged myself away from my poolside sun lounger to seek out some blogworthy snaps.
The event took place at The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping, leisure and entertainment ‘destination’ which contains over a thousand wallet-busting stores, and is (according to Wikipedia) the same size as more than 50 football pitches. Undeterred, I set off with my trusty map in hand, determined to track down the ice rink, which I’d been reliably informed was close to the event.
After a few wrong turns, a brief stop in Starbucks and a financially crippling thirty minutes in Bloomingdales, I finally arrived to discover that the event wasn’t near the ice rink… it was on the ice rink. Presumably the event organisers had set about the ice with hairdryers the night before or (more likely) had applied some terribly clever ice carpet that prevented everyone from sliding about.
We’d heard that Kinect Sports: Season Two would be part of the Xbox 360 and Kinect presence at the Birmingham NEC’s inaugural GAMEfest event, so even though no official Rare attendance was required for demo or interview duties, a few of us still headed over to scope it out on the first day. Well, 20 minutes down the M42, it would have been rude not to.
The show turned out to be a good size and well-publicised, the usually labyrinthine route from the NEC car parks lined with posters and flags. It was clear upon sweeping through the entrance that it was also set to be well-attended. Of course we’re not talking E3 or Gamescom here, but with no shortage of pre-release big hitters – from Arkham City and Skyrim at one end to the Big Threes (Gears, Battlefield and Modern Warfare) at the other – the queuing action was nothing to be sniffed at.