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The Tepid Seat: Kinect Sports

For various reasons, some beyond our control and some within our control but involving dangerous wild animals, it’s been a long time coming back. But today, finally, it is upon us. You submitted the questions, we got Rare folks to sit down and answer them. Or, technically, answer them while running around emitting a high-pitched whine and trying to do two dozen other things at the same time.

In this edition: Kinect Sports team designers Travis Ryan and Paul Collins. Knowledge dropped!

Jump up, and down, this question’s passed, around.
     I’ve always wondered what the process was like for Kinect Sports when it came to implementing an idea into the game. Obviously there’s the set sports that come with the disc that have their own origins, but it’s the creative fodder added to the DLC packs that must be interesting to see the development pan out around the studio. Is one employee sitting at a table when he suddenly jumps up and starts impersonating Blazing Banana, or is it more of a team thing where the entire studio undergoes a stage of sports ideas before carrying it off to their own field of expertise?
     Flumpet Flavor of the month,
     Steve aka Lerako

TR: Herding new ideas is a tricky process, not dissimilar to herding kittens with wool. There are usually so many ideas pinging around the office that we have to wear protective gear. When developing full sports we home in on those with high popularity, fan requests and things that just sound plain fun to play! As we’re talking about Kinect, we then try to get a feel for it before a single finger taps the keyboard. You can get a feel for a sport pretty quickly and establish whether the core interaction is fun to perform, fun for others to watch and so on.
     When we get to the slightly sillier activities we always take the core elements of a sport and throw fun stuff at it until it sticks. See our Prize Driver golfing game show and Darts shenanigans fending off hungry zombies…

I have your game Kinect Sports, is still the best of all games I’ve played. But one thing bothers me. Why is Bowling for up to four players? Often I meet with friends more, and then we wonder who will play. You will not issue a patch that would extend the possibility of players? Thank you for your reply and sorry for my English.
     Peter Neveril

TR: Blimey, I bet you make the girls blush with such a generous portion of friends. Technically we limit it to four players for a number of reasons, mainly to keep the offline/online player synched up and in line with restrictions on the number of active profiles available on the box.
     How about a tiddlywinks league, pro rules, to determine the participating four?

PC: It’s great that you want to get more players involved – my advice would be to set up your own mini-tournament when you have a large group playing Kinect Sports Bowling. That way everyone can feel involved even when it isn’t their turn!

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19
Dec
2012

Rare Life: Designer

It’s been a while since we did our last batch, but with the games business having blossomed into a hotbed of ongoing recruitment, it seems like a peachy time to bring back Rare’s in-house staff profiles. Hopefully these will prove informative for those hoping to get into a particular line of work, but also entertaining enough to be worth a read for anyone interested in Rare or a general industry career.

In this edition: Gavin Price, Designer. Bear witness to the inner workings of the Gavster’s mind.

Rare: What’s your background and how did you arrive at Rare?

Gavin Price: My background was just being a huge games enthusiast. I knew from a young age I loved videogames and as I grew older the thought of making them really appealed. I was on a programming course at college before fate intervened and I applied and took a testing/QA role at Rare back in ’99. 18 months later I went down the design route and haven’t looked back since (though I’d like to finish that college course one day)…

Have you found yourself doing the job you always thought you’d do?

Yes and no. I tried not to define how I’d be making games early on – even though I was on a programming course it was mainly to get a foot in the door. When I started in QA, over time I figured out what role I thought best suited me and worked at it from there.

What are your main responsibilities on the average game?

Early on – ideas! Then planning and implementation, as designers here can turn their hand to anything (levels, control mechanics, systems, UI – it’s really fun and diverse), followed up by polishing (UR and fixing bugs). Some would also say that bringing in cake from a much-loved local cake-making business is in there too.

Which Rare games have you worked on, and what’s been your biggest achievement?

Loads – my first job was testing Jet Force Gemini on N64 (and then all of our other releases in the 18 months or so that followed). Design-wise I’ve worked on Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Viva Piñata, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Kinect Sports 1 & 2 and the current secret project. Also one or two prototypes that didn’t make it into production.

Biggest achievement… hmm, the BAFTAs for KS 1 & 2 are amazing, but on a personal level I’m still proud of not going crazy from editing a bazillion Piñata assets around their various behaviours and rules. And naming things in a classic Rare fashion, be it Piñata names that HAD to sound like chocolates/snacks/candy or coming up with fun names for activities in KS2. I love doing that stuff!

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30
Nov
2012

Rare Life: Character Artist

It’s been a while since we did our last batch, but with the games business having blossomed into a hotbed of ongoing recruitment, it seems like a peachy time to bring back Rare’s in-house staff profiles. Hopefully these will prove informative for those hoping to get into a particular line of work, but also entertaining enough to be worth a read for anyone interested in Rare or a general industry career.

In this edition: Steve Mayles, Character Artist. Open up, Steve. Guh-huh!

Rare: What’s your background and how did you arrive at Rare?

Steve Mayles: I was in my last year at sixth form when I was interviewed by Tim and Chris Stamper for a role as a Trainee Graphics Engineer. There were no computer art/animation courses in those days (1992!) and I was adamant that was what I wanted to do as a job. So I turned up in my bad suit with mullet-style hair, showed some of my A-level artwork and a few images I had slaved over in Deluxe Paint on the Amiga 500.

Have you found yourself doing the job you always thought you’d do?

Pretty much, yes. I specialise in character work now, but when I started I just wanted to do graphics. My first job was finishing off the character and animation work on Battletoads Double Dragon for the NES, which looking back was a pretty cool first project! After that it was characters and animation for the next 10 years or so, then recently concentrating on characters, as jobs have become more and more specialised.

What are your main responsibilities on the average game?

Responsibilities will change depending on what stage the product has reached. Early on, it might be more about exploring concepts in 3D to nail a style, maybe some research into different ways of doing things and deciding the right approach for the game. Later in production, when everyone knows what they’re doing, it’ll be more about creating specific assets to go into the finished game and giving feedback, especially if outsourcing assets. Towards the end, bug fixing and trying not to break the game! Throughout development there will be various asks for promotional renders; these really ramp up close to the end.

Which Rare games have you worked on, and what’s been your biggest achievement?

*Takes a deep breath* Battletoads Double Dragon for NES and SNES, Donkey Kong Country and Diddy’s Kong Quest for SNES, Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie and DK64 for N64, Grabbed by the Ghoulies for Xbox, Viva Piñata, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Kinect Sports and Kinect Sports: Season Two for Xbox 360.

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31
Oct
2012

Rare Life: Tools Engineer

It’s been a while since we did our last batch, but with the games business having blossomed into a hotbed of ongoing recruitment, it seems like a peachy time to bring back Rare’s in-house staff profiles. Hopefully these will prove informative for those hoping to get into a particular line of work, but also entertaining enough to be worth a read for anyone interested in Rare or a general industry career.

To kick us off: Rich Nguyen, Tools Engineer. Take it away, Rich!

Rare: What’s your background and how did you arrive at Rare?

Rich Nguyen: I began working at Rare pretty soon after finishing my Computer Science masters at York University. All my course mates were jumping into business jobs in London. I was sure I’d enjoy my career most if I did something I was really passionate about, so I looked into games programming rather than the FTSE 100.

Have you found yourself doing the job you always thought you’d do?

No! I had assumed that I would have been part of a games team, but my time at Rare has been far more organic than that. I have always had an interest in audio, and when my team picked up on this I was given work developing audio software for Banjo-Kazooie N&B. It was a brilliant way to focus on core technology whilst contributing to Rare’s latest title. Since then I’ve naturally grown into a tools engineer.

Which Rare games have you worked on, and what’s been your biggest achievement?

My first game was Banjo-Kazooie N&B, then I was part of the tools team for the duration of Kinect Sports and Season Two. I learnt a lot about the runtime during the first one, and was ready to take on some more engine and tools work for Season Two. But there was a need to for someone to take care of the audio asset pipeline in Season Two, and that turned out to be a full-time job for me! I had to create a bunch of new tools and systems for Season Two that allowed us to work effectively with our partner studio in Canada. I’m proud of the final transatlantic audio workflow we ended up with, so that’s my biggest achievement.

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24
Sep
2012

Kinect Sports: Season Two June Records

Yessir. Time to see how your performances have improved since we posted the first set of Season Two records back in March. And it’s looking good, with quite a few scores sharpened up! For this edition we’ve also added activities from Challenge Pack #2 and the Basketball Challenge Pack, giving you even more big numbers to lock into your sights.

Just like the earlier records, most of these scores and times were logged during online play as the servers can’t generally track offline results. In the cases of any impossible-looking results or gaps in the data, we conferred with the sports’ designers and testers to either fine-tune the figures to something more plausible or substitute some of our testers’ top accomplishments.

If you’ve got proof (e.g. video, photo, uploaded to Facebook) that you’ve crushed one of these scores or times, send it our way and we’ll see how it stacks up!

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22
Jun
2012

Top 5 Script Tweaks in KS: Season Two

The inspiration for this list was the Top 5 Lines Lost From Nuts & Bolts feature a while back; as it turns out, motivational sports commentary is a very different business to spouting witch-themed rhyming couplets and tangential weirdness for Jinjos. So this job came with its own set of challenges on top of many of the development considerations already encountered. We thought a quick glimpse into the process might be of interest. Unleash the examples!

TOP 5 SCRIPT TWEAKS IN KINECT SPORTS: SEASON TWO
According to… Leigh Loveday

1.“Stay frosty. That mole is trouble!” – Golf Commentator
Changed because… some of the activities were still being devised even as scripts needed to be written (the workings of the huge localisation machine and legal/geopolitical checks bring those deadlines way forward). As the first proposed Golf activity, Holey Moley would have challenged you to sink a putt past the disruptive beast – but it got replaced, so the script needed a rewrite. Turns out mole puns are trickier than you’d think anyway, so stumping up 10-20 variations on every line was challenging enough to take the edge off the game’s retirement.

2.“Human mind gone blank! Reboot!” – Darts Calculator
Changed because… quickfire maths lark Smart Shot in Challenge Pack #1 was all set to be voiced by the calculator mascot, before that role reverted back to the announcer as time ran out for new voice casting and the treatment needed to make it sound ‘computery’. Among the lines rewritten was the example above, which would have been triggered if you took too long to throw. Leaving it in there would have made the human Darts announcer sound like he was having some kind of breakdown. Darts runner-up: use of the phrase “three in a bed” (i.e. three darts in the same scoring area) was discouraged in case people somehow misinterpreted what we were trying to say…

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31
May
2012

Basketball Challenge Pack Reaction Rundown

A couple of weeks into the life of the Kinect Sports: Season Two Basketball Challenge Pack, here’s a bundle of encouraging comments and feedback that we’ve found strewn from one end of the internet (yes, it does have ends) to the other. Showering our Basketball mascot Dunky Dino with praise and constructive criticism is all that prevents him from going feral.

Kinect Sports: Season Two add-on satiates basketball jones (XboxKinectFans)

Dunk Some Baskets in Kinect Sports: Season 2 (TrueAchievements)

New Kinect Sports: Season 2 invents a new sport called ‘basketball’ (Joystiq)

Basketball DLC added to Kinect Sports Season 2 (Capsule Computers)

Kinect Sports: Season Two Basketball Challenge Pack’ Review (Game Rant)

Kinect Sports: Season Two Basketball Challenge Pack DLC Review (The Controller Online)

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20
Apr
2012

Challenge Pack #2 Reaction Rundown

It came out in March and added six new activities to Kinect Sports: Season Two free of charge, we rounded up some coverage and social media/comments thread feedback, then definitely didn’t forget to compile and post it. It’s right here. Witness: things that people said about Challenge Pack #2!

Kinect Sports Season 2 Gets Second Challenge Pack DLC (Kinectronic)

Grab the Kinect Sports Season Two Challenge Pack #2 for free (123Kinect)

Kinect Sports: Season Two Challenge Pack 2 Arrives (TrueAchievements)

Kinect Sports Season Two Gets Some Free DLC (The Controller Online)

Free Kinect Sports: Season Two DLC Adds Darts Vs. Zombies, More (Game Informer)

Zombies invade Kinect Sports: Season 2 DLC (GameZone)

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18
Apr
2012