In the latter half of September, Producer Harry Robinson and Software Director Andy Dennison from the Rare fun club headed over to Japan to showcase Kinect Sports Rivals at the Tokyo Game Show. Now that he’s recovered, Harry gives us a rundown of how it all went. Read on for the skinny and some photos of the booth, TGS antics and Tokyo sightseeing. Jealous? Us? Not at all… (maybe a bit).
After a few long days speaking with people and demoing the game, I’m delighted to say that Kinect Sports Rivals had an incredibly good showing at Tokyo Game Show.
During the two press days, all four booths were in constant use, with members of the media playing, filming and conducting interviews to find out more about the game and the next version of Kinect. The Japanese teams handled all Japanese speakers and I covered all English speakers, including some TV stations in Canada, Australia and Thailand as well as a bunch of websites.
From what I could tell, all feedback was positive, with many people surprised at how much they enjoyed the experience. Wake Racing and Climbing were both on show, and I can’t count the number of times I saw the light click on in people’s heads when they started playing Wake Racing as intended (like a bike) and really got a sense of how the game is meant to feel when played properly.
The stage demos were a big hit too, with the build perfectly producing an immaculate ‘Harry-san’ Champion twice a day that blew people away. It was a perfect accompaniment to the Kinect evolution demo that preceded it, connecting so many of the technology threads into one mighty showcase. As well as being visible from the stage itself, this was also broadcast live to a huge screen above the giant Titanfall mech (accompanied by booth girls) that was a consistently busy spot throughout the day.
Those of you who keep up to date with Rare’s goings-on will know that we’ve been doing some fundraising work for SpecialEffect, a great charity set up to help people with physical impairments enjoy video games, adapting equipment to suit their specific needs. This month, SpecialEffect held a football tournament at (well, near) Wembley where games industry teams battled it out for honour and victory. Rare’s team captain James Thomas gives us a full match report!
Rare doesn’t have the best track record in football tournaments. I think through my 11 years wearing the R on my chest, we’ve turned up many times enthused and optimistic but sadly can only claim to have left having given it our best rather than with any trophy.
That was then, though. With a broadly new squad unaware of our previous demons, we set off on September 5th to Wembley to play in SpecialEffect’s charity football tournament, in the shadow of the great stadium itself. Also there were the likes of Konami, Codemasters, Creative Assembly, and a host of other industry names. The day doubled as a cheerful reunion for many of us as we caught up with old workmates who we hadn’t seen for years.
The tournament itself took a Champions’ League format whereby the group stages would lead on to a series of knock-out games before the final. In our group Rare were drawn against Creative Assembly, Splash Damage, and Freestyle Games, some of whom we knew a little about due to moles who are now working in our own Barns. Kicking our campaign off against Splash Damage, the fast feet of Joe and Amrit proved devastating as we eased past the boys in orange 10-1. Similar success followed against a similarly tangerine-styled Freestyle Games and the boys filled their boots again with a 6-2 victory. Compared to the 2-0s and 3-1s we’d heard emanating from the other pitches, we were in buoyant mood.
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