Double Release Day! Zoo Tycoon and Tearaway

Feeling a little sleepy today after celebrating the release of two very different games that I had a hand in.

For a wee while now I’ve been busily working on Zoo Tycoon for the Xbox One at Frontier Developments. Yesterday, on Xbox One launch day, it was released! Animating animals running around, getting washed, eating, playing and hugging has been both educational and joyful. A few bits and pieces have made their way onto my latest showreel. Trawling the internet for videos of animals then watching them over and over again isn’t something most people get to do as a legitimate part of their working day. As you might imagine those searches did also inevitably bring some discomforting and downright horrifying results as well. Not all real life zoo tycoons are quite as respectful of their animals as you are compelled to be in the virtual zoos of the game.

On a happier note, the reviews so far have been very complimentary about the way the animals look and move *applauds chums*. The finished game certainly surpassed my expectations considering the gargantuan nature of the task. Everyone involved can be very proud of their achievements. Here’s a video of some of my colleagues talking about the game and gurning at a chimp:

Last year I spent a little time at inspirational game developer Media Molecule (more about that experience here) and the game I worked on, Tearaway, was also released yesterday. The reviews have been pouring in and they are pretty much universally gushing. Media Molecule have created a game which uses the Playstation Vita to create a unique and carefully directed gameplay experience that would be impossible on any other platform. The whole tactile concept of the game arose from the device it was developed for and the new storytelling and game mechanics it creates. That said, if you gave Media Molecule a deck of cards they’d probably come up with a uniquely entertaining way of using them. Here are some of them talking about Tearaway:

LostWinds2: Winter of the Melodias on IOS

Originally released on Nintendo Wiiware, Lostwinds 2: Winter of the Melodias is now out on IOS! Out of all the games I’ve been involved with this is the one I’m most proud of.

Click here to buy it on itunes “So good, like yummy cake” according to one customer review. Can’t argue with that.

LostWinds 2 is a great example of how good a game can be when the development team are given a lot of freedom to make a game the way they want it. Something I might come back to for a future blog post. For an animator it was a challenge as all the scenes are viewed from the side, the characters are always fairly small on screen (except giant rock creature Magmok), they all have quite a low polygon-count, a fairly low bone-count, and had to be rigged by the small animation team (4 of us at its peak towards the end of production). All of these are things that an animator would probably find frustrating in a different context but sometimes these kinds of limitations can actually free up the development process and make a game more fun to work on (and to play). I think it shows that the people involved in this game really cared about making something good and thrived within the constraints set by the platform and the time and resources available. Well done to those currently at Frontier Developments for the port to IOS. It looks more beautiful than ever as far as I can tell!

You can also catch up with designer and good egg Steven Burgess, the father of LostWinds, and his new adventures as an independent developer here: http://www.trialbyfun.com/blog/

Lostwinds mobile

At last, LostWinds is available on iOS! I didn’t work on chapter one but some very good friends of mine did. It’s a great, wistful, gentle little game made of 24 carat love. Working on the sequel was the most satisfying project of my professional life so far – so hopefully they’ll port that over as well if this one does well. The original LostWinds games on Nintendo Wii showed how brilliant a game could be when there was no outside publisher, no franchise and no film tie-in to distract the designers, artists and programmers at Frontier Developments. Sadly they also showed how sometimes even the highest rated, most loved games can be the least commercially successful when the platform isn’t marketed or constructed properly*. Purely anecdotally, even some very nerdy friends of mine gave up trying to buy it on the horrifically clunky WiiWare which was the only way of buying it up until now. The less geeky Wii owners weren’t even aware that you could download games onto the device. The release of these games on iOS will hopefully set the record straight and give the game the success it always deserved! It’s only £2.50 this time as well. Bargain!

http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/lostwinds/id477973472?mt=8

*allegedly

Kinectimals Mobile

Frontier's Kinectimals

Kinectimals has been around on Windows phones for a while but now it’s also available for iPhone and iPad. I worked on the original Kinectimals for Xbox 360 so there will be, at the very least, remnants and echos of my work in this mobile version. It looks like great fun and you can even make it look like your cub is in your house!

Download Kinectimals in the iTunes App Store.

Hopefully it won’t make you cry like this little girl