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Kinect Sports Rivals at ChinaJoy

Since KSR was announced around this time last year, we’ve had Rare reps out promoting the game across the world from its Gamescom debut in Cologne to the Tokyo Game Show, Eurogamer Expo in London, Paris Games Week and of course Comic-Con in San Diego only a few weeks back.

One place we hadn’t really covered was Asia, but now with the market opening up and the Xbox One about to launch there with KSR and a clutch of other games among the advance guard, ChinaJoy 2014 presented itself as the perfect time and place. This time around we sent Pete and Nick from Rare to do the on-stage honours. Here’s Pete with a rundown of how it went!

28/07/2014

Arrival! Nick and I got to the hotel on Monday morning, freshened up from around 18 hours of travelling and decided to go for a walk around Pudong district to get the lay of the land. Our hotel was close to Century Park so we began our journey there and ended up at the Shanghai Tower and World Financial Center.

We popped into a shopping mall to take a look around and were surprised to find a lot of influential Western shops and brands. On the way back we took the scenic route, walking along the Huangpu River while the sun began to set.

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29/07/2014

On Tuesday we ventured out to the Microsoft offices in Shanghai where we met up with several other Microsoft representatives participating in ChinaJoy. We had lunch at the Shanghai Min, where our host ordered several local dishes including jellyfish and others probably best not to mention!

During the afternoon we toured the local tech shops and grey markets where you could purchase imported electronic goods. Later we went over to the convention centre to help with setup, finding the team hard at work putting the finishing touches to the Xbox booth. The Shanghai New Expo Centre is absolutely massive.

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15
Aug
2014

Crowning a KSR World Champion

After months of intense competition, the Kinect Sports Rivals World Championship concluded with all the drama and spectacle you’d expect from a live public finale at Comic-Con. Organised by Microsoft and supported by Rare, the Championship offered some exceptional prizes for digital athletes who could prove themselves the best in the world, both in the qualification stages and on a physical stage in front of a buzzing Saturday night Comic-Con audience.

Adam and Darren were Rare’s men on the ground, helping out the Xbox team, spending time with the 11 finalists (from eight different countries) and live tweeting from the Championship showdown. Now that it’s all over, here’s Adam with a first-hand perspective on the whole thing!

Comic-Con is massive. And by massive we mean a heaving great spectacle of popular culture plastered across San Diego for four sweltering days. Regardless of your interests, there will be something here to sate your appetite. Ranging from the most niche comic books through to Hollywood’s billion-dollar franchises, Comic-Con serves to remove any fandom battle lines and unite the attendees in a celebration of their beloved IPs.

As ever, Xbox had a huge presence at the show – painting the town green with a stand in the main convention centre and the dedicated Xbox Lounge at the adjacent Hyatt Manchester hotel. Given the scale of Comic-Con, it seemed only fitting that Kinect Sports Rivals should go big and match the event’s epic scale by hosting our World Championship final in front of the cosplay hordes.

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Having arrived in San Diego late on Tuesday night, we headed down to the Xbox Lounge early on Wednesday morning to ensure the Kinect Sports Rivals booth was up and running for the event’s opening on Thursday. Having made a textbook British error of walking from the hotel to the Lounge, we arrived with a crispy pink hue and found ourselves sporting a gorgeous shade of sunburn for the remainder of the event. It did however complement our Xbox branded T-shirts perfectly. Swings and roundabouts.

Stationed next to Dance Central, we had everything up and running by late afternoon and following a quick pit stop at the hotel we were back in the evening for final preparations ahead of the public opening. Thanks to our Marketing team, we were given passes to attend the Comic-Con preview evening in the main convention centre and rapidly found ourselves submerged in a sea of cosplay, jumbotrons, giveaways galore and more film props than you could wave a sonic screwdriver at.

KSR_Champ_Photo2_sm2   KSR_Champ_Photo3_sm2   KSR_Champ_Photo4_sm2

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04
Aug
2014

Remembering Jon Mummery

JonMummery1_smWith the videogame industry still being relatively young, it’s especially sad when any of its talented figures pass away. Unfortunately, that’s the news we heard this year about Jon Mummery, who joined Rare back in 1998 and worked here for over a decade before moving on to other prestigious studios like Starbreeze and Crytek.

During his time as a Senior and Lead Animator at Rare, Jon made significant contributions to games ranging from the original Perfect Dark on N64 through to the Xbox 360 Kinect Sports titles, taking in Viva Piñata, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Perfect Dark Zero and both of Rare’s DS releases along the way. He was credited on four BAFTA-winning titles during his animation career, and as an artist of many talents he was previously influential on the Brighton graffiti scene, where a tribute wall has now been painted in his honour.

Jon lived with cystic fibrosis from birth, and finally lost the battle in March 2014 at the age of 41. We wanted to leave a permanent post here to mark his accomplishments and the impression he left on those around him, so we asked some of Jon’s Rare colleagues to share their memories.

Louise O’Connor, Art Director:

“Jon and I started working at Rare as animators within a year of each other. He was on the PD team, I was on the Conker team. Unsurprisingly we had little contact with each other during our early years. It was only after we started working together on our central art services team that we discovered our shared passion for all things animation. We began talking seriously about how animation was viewed in the studio, and eventually went on to help mentor and structure our animation team. We organised life drawing lessons, weekly animation reviews and mini animation projects.

“In all my time working with Jon, I never knew he was ill, not until just before he left. He was so positive and easy-going that it was impossible to believe he could be ill – he never let you know. I admired Jon greatly, as an animator and as a colleague. He was so dedicated to our studio and to his team and to his friends, and it is truly heartbreaking that Jon has passed away. He’ll be sorely missed, but his legacy of friendship and mentorship will live on in the hearts of the team he helped build at Rare.”

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06
Jun
2014

Kinect Sports Rivals Tracklist

Champions and contenders! Are we all enjoying life on the KSR island with its motivational musical backdrop? Many players have asked for this information since the game was launched, and we haven’t seen the breakdown posted anywhere else, so here it is for your easy reference: the official hand-picked list of licensed tracks as featured in Kinect Sports Rivals. Enjoy!

KSR_Tracklist

* Alive (Zedd Remix) – Empire Of The Sun
* Are You Ready For Me – The Unknown
* Baby I Call Hell – Deap Vally
* Collide – Youngblood Hawke
* Come And Get It – The Unknown
* Feel So Close – Calvin Harris
* Forever (feat will.i.am) – Wolfgang Gartner
* Gold Dust (feat Ms Dynamite) – DJ Fresh
* Ilium – Alex Metric & Mark Yardley
* Let’s Go (feat Ne-Yo) – Calvin Harris
* Loveline (feat Haz-Mat) – Brookes Brothers
* Me And You – Nero
* Overtime – Cash Cash
* Right Action – Franz Ferdinand
* Start A Fire – Madison
* Technicolor – Madeon
* Technologic (Digitalism Remix) – Daft Punk
* Time To Realize – Lemaitre
* Wake Me Up (feat Aloe Blacc) – Avicii
* We Can Only Live Today (feat Billie) (Lemaitre Remix) – Netsky
* Where I Really Want To Go – Young London

All additional music is original work by Rare institution Mr. Robin Beanland.

17
Apr
2014

Meet the KSR Cast: Kyle Soller (Max)

While casting and recording for Kinect Sports Rivals throughout 2013, we got the chance to work with some highly talented, extremely versatile and occasionally hilarious acting talent. And it wasn’t confined to the voiceover booth: for KSR‘s team and training cutscenes we decided that full performance capture was the only way to go.

So we hauled our actors down to Shepperton Studios, stuck them in bodysuits and headcams, and let the magic happen. Then we got them to answer a few quick questions so that we could introduce you to the fine people behind the characters (in the English-language version, at least).

This week: Viper Network’s hyperactive tech and meme aficionado, Max. Or more accurately, fast-rising stage and film sensation Mr. Kyle Soller.

KyleSoller_smQ&A: Kyle Soller

Rare: Can you give us some background on yourself and how you got into videogame acting?

Kyle Soller: I was born in Connecticut and raised in Alexandria, Virginia. I was forced into acting from a young age – my mom wanted me to learn to stand still! it stuck and this was my first experience of video game acting.

Rare: Was this your first experience of performance capture? If so, how was it? If not, are you worried that you’re starting to like the suit?

KS: I loved it! it was a lot of fun. I took too many pictures of me in the condom suit (can I say condom suit?) with the bobbly lights on it.

As far as the performance capture aspect, it was a type of acting that I had to get used to very quickly but everyone made it so easy. It was really cool.

Rare: Where are gamers and non-gamers most likely to have seen (or heard) your work before?

KS: For the gamers – all the games I’ve done haven’t come out yet! So look out…

For the non-gamers, if you go to the theatre you may have seen me at the Young Vic, Royal Court, Apollo Theatre, or National Theatre…

Rare: How would you describe your character in Kinect Sports Rivals, and why do you think people should sign up for his team?

KS: Max is the master of the techno match! Or at least he THINKS he is. He’s got a lot of brains, is a whirlwind with any kind of gadgetry you can imagine, thinks very quickly, eats too much sugar and E-numbers and gets WAY too excited, but he means well.

He’s also in love with Zara. Just a little bit. OK, maybe a lot. But she is TOTALLY out of his league.

Rare: Did you have a particular favourite scene to shoot on the day?

KS: I had a such great time doing all of them – I can’t choose! but I guess the running joke of being secretly in love with Alana Maria (who played Zara) and trying not to let her find out was pretty fun.

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15
Apr
2014

Meet the KSR Cast: Alana Maria (Zara)

While casting and recording for Kinect Sports Rivals throughout 2013, we got the chance to work with some highly talented, extremely versatile and occasionally hilarious acting talent. And it wasn’t confined to the voiceover booth: for KSR‘s team and training cutscenes we decided that full performance capture was the only way to go.

So we hauled our actors down to Shepperton Studios, stuck them in bodysuits and headcams, and let the magic happen. Then we got them to answer a few quick questions so that we could introduce you to the fine people behind the characters (in the English-language version, at least).

This week: the solid steel backbone of Viper Network, Zara. Or more accurately, the outrageously good fun to be around Alana Maria.

AlanaMaria_smQ&A: Alana Maria

Rare: Can you give us some background on yourself and how you got into videogame acting?

Alana Maria: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Detroit, Michigan. I’ve been in the entertainment industry in one form or another since the age of 12 and have always had the full support of my family. I got into video game work a little over a year ago simply because my voice fit the look of the character.

Rare: Was this your first experience of performance capture? If so, how was it? If not, are you worried that you’re starting to like the suit?

AM: This was actually the second game I’ve worked on that required motion capture and I have to say, I am TOTALLY addicted to putting on that horrible body-hugging velcro suit! Even though it makes you feel like sausage meat being squeezed into its skin, that suit is somehow very liberating. LOL – seriously!

Rare: Where are gamers and non-gamers most likely to have seen (or heard) your work before?

AM: Some gamers might recognize me as the voice of Tisha in Far Cry 3. Non-gamers who like to hit up the clubs and dance to classic house music might recognize me for my work with American house music producer MK. Billed as MK featuring ALANA we hit #1 twice in the US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play Chart with our singles Always and Love Changes.

Rare: How would you describe your character in Kinect Sports Rivals, and why do you think people should sign up for her team?

AM: I would describe Zara as a no-nonsense FIERCE GLAM DIVA! A word of advice: you should only sign up for her team if you are seriously talented and focused on winning. Walk in the door with your head already in the game as she’s got no time to give the positive pep talk. Join Viper Network with your eye on the prize or don’t join at all!

Rare: Did you have a particular favourite scene to shoot on the day?

AM: I had a fantastic time shooting EVERY scene so I don’t really have a favourite. The team made work feel more like play and we had plenty of laughs. The highlight, though, was working with Kyle Soller who played Max and made the whole day a barrel of fun. Aaah, good times!

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31
Mar
2014

Meet the KSR Cast: Chipo Chung (Eve)

While casting and recording for Kinect Sports Rivals throughout 2013, we got the chance to work with some highly talented, extremely versatile and occasionally hilarious acting talent. And it wasn’t confined to the voiceover booth: for KSR‘s team and training cutscenes we decided that full performance capture was the only way to go.

So we hauled our actors down to Shepperton Studios, stuck them in bodysuits and headcams, and let the magic happen. Then we got them to answer a few quick questions so that we could introduce you to the fine people behind the characters (in the English-language version, at least).

This week: willowy Wolf Clan leader-in-training, Eve. Or more accurately, the marvellous and ever-enthusiastic Chipo Chung.

ChipoChung_smQ&A: Chipo Chung

Rare: Can you give us some background on yourself and how you got into videogame acting?

Chipo Chung: The game I’ve spent the most time playing has been Pac-Man, the old-school arcade version, but on my computer. My record was thirteen hours straight, and I was stark raving bonkers by the end of it. Working on CG is obviously a total different level. And I’m psyched about it, coz post-Lord of the Rings and Avatar, it may be the way acting goes in the future, so I’m excited to be in the first wave of actors learning the technology.

Rare: Was this your first experience of performance capture? If so, how was it? If not, are you worried that you’re starting to like the suit?

CC: My first experience was a workshop with Andy Serkis, who obviously is the hero of the form. The CG figures weren’t fully functional, and he was making us create physically extreme characters. I got very confused and my character looked pretty silly. This time round, I loved it and understood it better. I was boogying and dancing throughout the shoot, coz I liked to see how my CG character moved. I liked shaking my booty.

And yes, I am worried I’m going to start liking the suit. I would love to do more facial capture, because that’s what compelled me about Gollum – seeing the human soul behind the animation.

Rare: Where are gamers and non-gamers most likely to have seen (or heard) your work before?

CC: I place gamers in the same general category as sci-fi fanatics, so I’d say my work on Doctor Who and on Sunshine is where they may have come across my name. My Who character Chantho was a different kind of puppet coz I was under tonnes of prosthetics with an animatronic motor on my head – she was the best mask ever. Can’t wait to see how my character comes to life in this game.

Rare: How would you describe your character in Kinect Sports Rivals, and why do you think people should sign up for her team?

CC: I liked my character because she was a revolutionary. I know it’s just a game, but she was grounded in truth. It is up to the younger generation to teach the older and that’s what she’s doing with her dad. She definitely grows into a charismatic leader, and she kicks ass!

Rare: Did you have a particular favourite scene to shoot on the day?

CC: I loved the entire shoot, especially working with James, the guy playing my dad – he had the most amazing voice, he cracked me up. It’s always the outtakes that are the most fun, but I don’t suppose you’ll see those in the game!

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27
Mar
2014

Meet the KSR Cast: James Goode (Vargu)

While casting and recording for Kinect Sports Rivals throughout 2013, we got the chance to work with some highly talented, extremely versatile and occasionally hilarious acting talent. And it wasn’t confined to the voiceover booth: for KSR‘s team and training cutscenes we decided that full performance capture was the only way to go.

So we hauled our actors down to Shepperton Studios, stuck them in bodysuits and headcams, and let the magic happen. Then we got them to answer a few quick questions so that we could introduce you to the fine people behind the characters (in the English-language version, at least).

This week: weathered Wolf Clan wonder and long-term chieftain, Vargu. Or more accurately, well-spoken and not even slightly shouty gentleman Mr. James Goode.

JamesGoode_smQ&A: James Goode

Rare: Can you give us some background on yourself and how you got into videogame acting?

James Goode: I started out years back voicing the main character on the popular LeapPad kids platform, and the same guys who run those studios started to cast me regularly in other games. I guess I became a bit of a standing dish!

Rare: Was this your first experience of performance capture? If so, how was it? If not, are you worried that you’re starting to like the suit?

JG: Yes, I popped my cherry in performance capture doing this game. The sense of freedom you get as an actor is the thing I most enjoyed – your body is no longer a limiting factor, so you are free to play.

I’m a pretty skinny fella, so pretending to be a man-mountain like Vargu was huge fun.

Rare: Where are gamers and non-gamers most likely to have seen (or heard) your work before?

JG: Apart from the aforementioned LeapPad, I tend to pop up unsung in voiceovers all over the place, but gamers (or their kids) might have caught my villainous side in James Bond 007: Blood Stone, or more recently heard me as a myriad of crazy characters in the hilarious Lego City series.

Rare: How would you describe your character in Kinect Sports Rivals, and why do you think people should sign up for his team?

JG: Vargu is a very straightforward character – you’d definitely want him on your side in a battle. Tough and incredibly strong, loyal, doesn’t have a ‘side’ to him, will praise you only when it’s warranted but still encourage you when you’ve messed up. I find him appealingly soft-centred, especially when it comes to his beautiful daughter.

Rare: Did you have a particular favourite scene to shoot on the day?

JG: No one scene in particular – the whole experience was a delight!

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21
Mar
2014