A Rare Kameo Interview
Red is Matt Carter and other is Chris Allcock.
Both are Assistant Designers on Kameo.
Q: Some games come from pieces of other games; some are an epiphany while standing in line at the bank, where did the idea for Kameo originate?
A: (Matt) The original concept came from lead designer George Andreas and concerned the catching, evolving and using of different kinds of creatures. The ability to control the diiferernt forms was initially also accompanied by the notion of having some of these creatures follow the player around and act on their own. Over time the design was refined to concentrate on the core elements that people seemed to enjoy most, namely the morphing and the fighting/ overcoming obstacles. We also added some more adventure elements to help balance the game out a little and arrive at the position you see today.
Q: Kameo has been looked at as a graphical thing of beauty, how important is the storyline in Kameo?
A: (Chris) Ultimately with Kameo, the core gameplay experience is about transforming into Warriors and learning to combine all of these vastly different abilities together. So you’re not looking at as much storyline or character development as, say, a Final Fantasy game. We have a cohesive world and everyone has reasons for what they do, but we don’t want a ten minute FMV getting in the way of the fun. I’d say the story’s probably similar to Zelda, in that regard – it’s simple and engaging, everyone has an idea of what the overall aim is, but it shouldn’t keep you away from your game.
Q: Please give a little back story to the world of Kameo.
A: (Chris) It’s about jealousy, really. Kameo and Kalus are Royal Elves, sisters, and since Kalus is the elder sister she stands to inherit not only the throne, but also control of these powerful Elemental Warriors and the ability to transform into them, gaining all of their powers and abilities whenever she wants. This is a bit of a problem, because while Kameo is popular and successful, Kalus is spiteful and proud.
Things come to a head when Kameo’s family get together and decide that it’s Kameo, not Kalus, who should inherit all of this power and Kalus is none-too-happy when she finds out. Feeling betrayed, she’s spurred on to releasing the Dark King Thorn, leader of a brutish race of Trolls.
Thorn’s jealous, too, because his Trolls can’t use magic like everyone else and they’re living as outcasts... so he forms an uneasy alliance with Kalus, kidnaps Kameo’s family and sets about wreaking havoc in the land. Kameo’s got to trek out into the world, recover the Elemental Warriors, find her family and face an ultimate confrontation with her own flesh and blood, not to mention the biggest, baddest Troll who ever lived...
Q: Can you give us an idea on how big the Kameo world really is?
A: (Chris) If you’re a good player and you’re really just trying to get through to the end, you’ll probably finish the game in around fifteen hours... but you’ll be missing an awful lot. It’s all optional, but you can find fruit and then give your favourite Warriors new abilities, there are secret mini-games to find, tons of unlockables and sidequests, the ability to explore the world after you’ve finally faced off against Thorn... All that goes without mentioning co-op, hi-score leaderboards and downloadable content.
You get as much out of Kameo as you’re willing to put into it.
Q: Was the delay and change of platform from Xbox to Xbox 360 a difficult adjustment to make?
A: (Chris) Initially it was pretty daunting; the game was about eighty percent finished on Xbox, and we were under no illusions as to what we’d have to do to make a truly “next-gen” game. We had a very short amount of time to upgrade each and every character, object and location from “looking good on Xbox” to “looking better than anything else”, and that’s without the rigorous testing and level of polish that Rare is famous for!
Of course, we knew that we couldn’t just upgrade the graphics to “next-gen”;this was a chance to return to the drawing board and pick up on some of those ideas – like the Badlands – which were simply too ambitious for any console before. From an audio perspective, we had these fantastic synth tunes and lots of text conversations, but the move to Xbox 360 was a great excuse to go the extra mile there too... the Prague Symphony Orchestra and a suite of veteran voice talent beckoned!
Q: What changes or enhancements were brought to the game when it was moved to the Xbox 360?
A: (Chris) *Laughs* What, you want more? Well, then... Talking about the co-op for a moment, we had an eighty-percent finished game with most of its structure and puzzles in place, and then we had the notion of a co-op mode. That was a challenge. We experimented with making the whole game, every last bit of it, co-op compatible but ultimately that got whittled away to the sections that were realistically achievable and that people would enjoy playing most.
We’ve seen people, casual gamers and even new gamers, teaming up together to take out enemies that a hardcore gamer would barely break a sweat over... and having great fun while they’re doing it. I think it’s important to remember that not everyone grew up on Zelda and Halo – Xbox 360 is going to be enjoyed by a whole new group of people for whom even pressing a button is a new idea, and they can team up together to learn things that we take for granted.
In addition, we’ve had several e-mails from parents; they’ve been thanking us profusely for making a game that they can finally play together with their kids, something that doesn’t involve guns or frag grenades. So co-op is definitely an enhancement, and it’s one that can be enjoyed by an audience that’s been largely excluded up until now.
Another enhancement that we’ve not touched on too much is the notion of being able to play for high scores, and then upload those to leaderboards. You can get a high score or a fast time for each of the action sections, and we’ve got all sorts of different leaderboards for them. Since there are so many ways of fighting and combining your warriors, it’s a chance to face off against the world’s best in an entirely new arena. You all know who comes out on top at shooting or driving... what about smacking a dozen Trolls up in the air while dodging dragon fire in slow-motion?
Q: What were some of the determining factors involved in deciding the look and feel of the game?
A: (Matt) The look of the game is something that we’ve developed as we’ve gone along. It’s always been in the fantasy style as we wanted the game to be broad appeal. However, the game originally used to have a more cute, cartoony look on Gamecube. Then when we moved to xbox we added more detail and ‘toughened up’ the general appearance of the characters. The move to Xbox 360 then allowed us to build on this add even more detail and realistic effects. The feel of the game has always been something we’ve wanted to be as flowing and intuitive as possible in terms of controls. This is why the morphing is all in real time at the touch of a button. Regarding the gameplay we tried to include multiple options for the player so that they can choose to approach things in their own way. For example many enemies can be beaten in lots of different ways and we haven’t forced people to collect particular upgrades or objects.
Q: With emphasis on on-line play for the Xbox 360, what Xbox Live co-op multiplayer options will be available for Kameo?
A: (Chris) We’re currently finishing and debugging Co-Op play over System Link and Xbox Live, and those will provide the same experience as split-screen... once you’ve completed an action section in the single-player game, you’ll be able to join a friend and work together for a high-score, or help out someone who may be struggling so that they can earn their achievements.
(Matt) Out of the box, people be able to play all of the main action levels in spilt screen co-op. Later there will be a download to enable players to use live too. This is a really great addition as the fun of working with/against a partner adds a lot of extra enjoyment to the game.
Q: Is Kameo slated for any downloadable content, such as new characters or areas?
A: (Chris) Co-Op over Live is our big downloadable showcase, but we also have lots of downloadable skin packs planned that will allow you to customise the look of Kameo and her Warriors. The first of these, the “Winter Warrior Pack”, will be available at launch on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Q: With Nile Rodgers producing and Steve Burke composing it’s obvious how important the music of Kameo is, how important do you think it is to the feel and mood of a game like Kameo?
A: (Chris) I’m a big game music fan anyway, but Kameo’s soundtrack, what Steve has created, is essential. You can listen to it as a stand-alone CD and it sounds as great as any film soundtrack, but it’s in the game that you’ll really get the full benefit because Steve worked really hard to tie the music into the action on-screen.
To use the Badlands as an example: you’ve got a quieter “wandering” theme that fits Kameo riding alone in this desolate wasteland, and then you’ve got the all-out battle theme that perfectly accompanies an enormous struggle between good and evil. Ride into the action and the music will dynamically change from one theme to another... move away and the music will follow suit.
Q: Games like Kameo always seem to get a great fan base, was the availability of a Fan site Kit for gamers something important to the game developers?
A: (Chris) I think fan-site kits in general are a great idea. Lots of people have the drive and passion to make a website that really speaks about their excitement for a game, the commitment to build a community around that game and enjoy it together. Not all of those people are going to be professional artists or sound technicians, and the fan-site kits really level the playing field and ensure that it’s the content of your site that matters, not who’s best with a paint program.
Of course, there’s the Official Kameo Website (www.kameo.com) to act as a guiding light for aspiring webmasters.
Q: What was involved in the development of the main character Kameo and the Elemental Warriors?
A: (Matt) The main character initially went through a lot of style changes starting from very cute through to other looks like a ‘tribal style’ and ending up as the elf you see now. We’ve also experimented with lots of different moves and abilities, but in the end we decided to concentrate the majority of these into the elemental warriors in order to encourage the morphing aspect of the game.
Q: Obviously Rare is like other developers and wants it's game to be a huge hit, but what do you think are the key elements (wow factors) that will set Kameo apart from the other games coming out for 360?
A: I think that we’ll be the title that can appeal most to a family audience... parents playing with their children, a boyfriend and a girlfriend or younger gamers who aren’t old enough to play the M-Rated titles that are available on launch day. We’ve got lush and vibrant fantasy worlds to explore, an adaptive difficulty system and at the heart of it we’ve got ten different warriors, each of which plays and controls in a completely different way. Oh, and we have real-time, free-roaming battles with several thousand characters engaged in combat simultaneously.
People have commented that it’s not easy to describe Kameo as being any one genre; it’s a new experience for a new generation, and when you combine that with fantastic graphics and a jaw-dropping soundtrack, that’s your “wow” factor right there.
(Matt) Firstly the fun, accessible gameplay which is designed to appeal to gamers of all ages. Being able to morph into any warrior you like at any time (in real time) gives a lot of flexibility and experimentation to the play style. Also we have the incredibly detailed graphics and sound which really are a step above what people have seen on current generation machines. On top of that we have stand-out new features like the battlefield with thousands of enemies on screen at once which is massively impressive.
Q: With the launch of the original Xbox, Halo was the launch title to have, how does Rare feel having not 1, but 2 titles that seem to be in the “Must have” category at launch, Kameo & Perfect Dark Zero?
A: It’s a tremendously exciting time. There are two very different titles with different goals, audiences and aims, but there are some things they share in common: fantastic graphics, innovative-yet-welcoming gameplay, lots of replay value and a rock-solid determination to be launch titles that light the way for this new generation of gaming and beyond.
(Matt) It’s absolutely fantastic! To have two major Rare titles available for the launch of a new system, and to have them so positively received is incredible. We’re very pleased.
Q: Microsoft has repeated many times that they really wanted developers to be able to concentrate on creativity as opposed to how to program for there system, how was it to developing a game like Kameo for the Xbox 360?
A: When a designer can ask a programmer for several thousand independent enemies and get “no problem” back as a reply, you know you’ve finally hit an age where the only constraint is the imagination and manpower of the team involved, not memory or CPU cycles. Designers, programmers, artists and musicians can let their imaginations run wild, turn to the devkit, and make that sucker dance...
(Matt) Developing for the Xbox 360 has been really great. It’s such a powerful machine that we’ve been able to break free of a lot of the technical restraints that were previously restricting our vision for the game. This has allowed us to massively increase the detail of the way the game looks and sounds as well as adding new play features that were previously not possible.
Thanks guy for taking the time from your busy schedules to chat with us addicts, thanks again!