Some Work For Frontier Developments In 2011

I have finally got round to editing together a video of some of the work I did for Frontier Developments in 2011.

In Kinectimals: Now With Bears my main respinsibilities were for all of the grass in the game, making environment models and prop placement.

In Kinect Disneyland Adventures I created buildings in the park, along with space ship traffic in Space Mountain and finishing the Nursery environment in Peter Pan- along with Girish Srinivasagopalan.

Disneyland Adventures Vs Epic Mickey

Disneyland’s quietly becoming a bit of a video game star. In the last 18 months, it’s provided the inspiration for two separate big budget releases: Junction Point’s troubled – and dangerously lavish – Wii oddity Epic Mickey, and Frontier’s lovely Kinect: Disneyland Adventures.

Yet while both titles share a central preoccupation – an aging resort on the outskirts of Los Angeles – the end results couldn’t have less in common. Two games, one park: why are the final products so different?

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David Braben’s suggested that the (Frontier) team saw Disneyland Adventures as an opportunity to build on the imagineers’ existing work: to create the impossible versions of the likes of Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the Matterhorn that only video games could deliver.

The results are often dazzling. Pirates of the Caribbean no longer leaves you floating past a buccaneer party in full swing, for instance. Now, you’re rowing through the swamps, sneaking through the cobbled streets of a rowdy port, and engaging in sword fights and even dance-offs. The Haunted Mansion finally lets you out of those Doom Buggies so you can skulk around in the darkness, even if you are still on rails. You get to hunt ghosts instead of just watch them whizz by, while Madame Leota’s been freed from her séance table and now zips through the air around you.

Almost every ride gets the video game treatment, with only Small World hinting at the mechanisms and trickery that power the real attraction. In Epic Mickey, paradoxically, exposing mechanisms and trickery is the order of the day.

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The differences in the two games come down to audience, I suspect. Disneyland Adventures is very much a game for children, so you’re offered a fairly literal interpretation of the park on the surface, before you step indoors to see the rides like kids see them: as magical spaces where the normal laws of reality don’t apply. Epic Mickey, meanwhile, is a game that I have a feeling may actually be aimed at adults.

It’s about a version of Disneyland that has long been forgotten, and it’s a look at the park that revels in the things that a lot of grown-ups tend to enjoy about it. Things like the engineering cleverness that’s on display all around you: the way that rides are slotted together efficiently, and driven by everything from lasers and animatronics right through to the kind of tricks that 19th century magicians relied upon.

Kids enjoy the show, then, while adults appreciate the showmanship. Thanks to video games, though – confident charmers like Disneyland Adventures and even weird, difficult offerings like Epic Mickey – we can all get a chance to poke around the park and emerge with something to remember.

Check out the full article on Eurogamer: A Tale of Two Mickeys

Kinect Disneyland Adventures: First Review, 8.2

A good first review of my second game, Kinect Disneyland Adventures. NZGamer gave it an 8.2:

Kinect Disneyland Adventures is a worthy purchase. I ploughed into it expecting a managerie of gimmickry, Disney propaganda, and little actual gameplay. What I got however was a highly entertaining, well-polished hive of interactive entertainment. It beautifully encapsulates the essence of the beloved theme park and – considering New Zealand’s geographical isolation – could well be the closest a lot of Kiwi kids ever get to Mickey and his pals.

The game presents users with a virtual Disneyland, placing their Xbox Live avatars in the middle of a bustling theme park to explore. The in-game environment has been designed to mimic the real life location and those lucky enough to have been to the tourist trap in Anaheim, California will know their way around from the get-go.

Navigating the park is made fairly intuitive thanks to the Kinect technology. With your feet firmly planted in the comfort of your own living room, you can look around by twisting your body, or turning your shoulders in the direction you want to look in. Players then move forwards by pointing straight ahead, mimicking little kids going ‘mommy, I want to go to there!’ and thrusting their finger ahead. It takes some getting used to, but after some practice players of all types will be charging around Disneyland looking for things to do.

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But the main attractions in Disneyland are obviously the rides. This game includes over twenty different mini-games, all themed around a famous ride or set from the actual Disneyland parks. They include Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Alice in Wonderland, Tomorrowland, Haunted Mansion, the Matterhorn, and more. It’s here that Kinect Disneyland Adventures can be classified as a video game, rather than just an interactive walk-through. Each of these rides offers varied, fun gameplay that holds its own against other Kinect titles admirably.

Quite often these rides are broken down into chapters, or mini-games within the same theme. For example Peter Pan starts off with a virtual flying mini-game, where users spread their arms out and soar through the night skies, following Tinkerbell on their way to Neverland. Not long after that they’ll be duelling with Captain Hook himself, waving their arm around as if welding a sword on the deck of the Jolly Roger. Although it’s not the same experience as the actual ride in Disneyland, the chapters combined tell the story of the animated film and feel like a cinematic experience with plenty of interactivity along the way.

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Kinect Disneyland Adventures is a thoroughly enjoyable Kinect experience and highly recommended for the wee ones this Christmas. It’s probably not going to last more than a month and once played fully, is unlikely to be explored again. But for the reasonable price of under $70, is worth the price of admission for those households with the Kinect hardware at the ready.

Check out the full article on NZGamer: Kinect Disneyland Adventures

Microsoft Signs 8 Month Deal With Disney UK

Xbox has signed a promotional deal with Disney UK to support the November launch of Disneyland Adventures on Kinect.

The campaign, designed by UM London’s Ideation team with ad sales and promotions team Disneymedia+ UK, will include experiential events, presence on TV, digital and mobile platforms, as well as engagement through retail, social media, print and OOH, bringing the magic of the game to life.

Rory Behrman, Ideation director at UM London, said: “We are pleased to be working with Xbox on such a high-profile campaign, and this deal encapsulates what UM’s ideation team is all about – thinking beyond media. It’s not often you can open up a new retail channel for your client through the media deal you have delivered.”

Activities begin with Xbox’s sponsorship of the Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy Autumn UK & Ireland tour and will continue with Disney On Ice presents Princesses & Heroes throughout March and April 2012, with venues featuring experiential hubs equipped with Xbox Kinect stations. Here will also be Kinect Disneyland Adventures themed celebrations at Disney Stores across the UK throughout November. Sponsorship activity will occur across all Disney TV channels (Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior), together with print advertorials in Disney magazines.

The entire campaign will be supported through a microsite hosted on Disney.co.uk featuring interactive games, content from Disney On Ice as well as detailed information about Kinect for Xbox 360 and Kinect Disneyland Adventures. To drive engagement with the website, hosted competitions will offer hundreds of prizes ranging from Disney Store vouchers to family holidays.

Stephen McGill, director of Xbox and entertainment for Microsoft UK, said:
“We are thrilled to be working with Disney on this project. Kinect: Disneyland Adventures brings the magic of Disney straight into the living room and we are excited that Disneymedia+ has been able to showcase this through so many of their properties in such an integrated and innovative way.”

Check out the full article on TheDrum.co.uk: Xbox signs eight month deal with Disney UK