What's it like making next-gen titles at one of the biggest developers in Australia?
Redtribe isn't a development company that makes too many headlines, but the relatively new studio is one of the biggest in Australia and has just finished work on Looney Tunes: ACME Arsenal for Warner Bros Interactive. We caught up with Chris Mosely, Chief Executive Office at Redtribe to discuss how the new studio is getting on in this most tricky of industries.
VideoGamer.com: Redtribe will be a new name to many gamers. What is the company's history?
Chris Mosely: Redtribe was established in 2003 and our team comes from the four corners of the Globe. Prior to establishing Redtribe I was the founder and CEO of Bluetongue Entertainment which became one of the most successful and renowned Game development studios in Australia and produced Jurassic Park Operation Genesis (PS2, Xbox & PC) and Star Ship Troopers Terrain Ascendancy (PC).
VideoGamer.com: Looney Tunes: ACME Arsenal is Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment's first EMEA title. Are you under pressure to deliver a solid title, especially with such a high profile licence?
CM: Absolutely but you find this with every title. Looney Tunes is one of the most loved and critically acclaimed franchises of Warner Brothers Cartoons. We focussed on the most classic and revered elements that `plug into' gameplay... such as whack-and-smash Melee combat - and the hilarious ranged weapons (e.g. the boxing glove, the pie launcher... ). The entire team brainstormed how to translate things like custard-pies-in-the-face into a fun-to-use weapon. We also looked at all the ACME and A-1 gadgets and weapons from the Wile E and Roadrunner cartoons; the `ACME Correspondence Course Boxing Lessons' inspired the boxing-glove gun. With the gameplay we wanted to reward the player for skill, not punish them for errors, so the Combo combat system was created in a unique way by our Combat team... in studying literally hundreds of the classic cartoons, we also found out the "Top-Ten most-frequently-used weapons in Looney Tunes", a lot of which were Melee weapons - including things like: banjos, baseball bats, mallets, axes - also shotguns, rockets, TNT - and a meat cleaver.
VideoGamer.com: Any game with the Looney Tunes licence automatically looks like a kids game. Is that the case here or can adults enjoy the game too?
CM: Yes - adults certainly can enjoy the game. Like cartoons such as The Simpsons or Futurama, there is a whole other level in there, for adults to appreciate. The average gamer's age these days is 28 - and though the game is E10+ and up (in the US), it is literally meant for everyone, including adults. It was also interesting to see some research on the most popular characters, guys often like Bugs and Taz, and girls like Tweety... most people remember these cartoons from their childhood. We even had a special mission to get as much `Looney Nostalgia' as we could cram into the game, just those special Looney things that stick with you... the giant robot that the Evil Scientist is building in WATER WATER EVERY HARE, the giant scope from HAREWAY TO THE STARS, and `bad guys' like Nasty Canasta - and Hugo the Abominable snowman.
VideoGamer.com: You've been working on 360, Wii and PS2. Has it been hard to create a game to the strengths of each platform?
CM: The team knows the strengths and weaknesses of each platform so we develop each to `play to the strengths' during every stage of development. For example - the graphics on 360 are going to be the most hi-res, so, you create for that scope initially - and then the Environment or Character Artist lowers the res for the other platforms. Also you think about online components, like Deathmatch... and PS2 is great at shifting polygons around, and you know in advance that driving games and mini-games always seem to do well on that system - so we had an extra ROADRUNNER RACE game as a bonus for the PS2. Out of the 3, Wii has the most innovative control system so you focus more on each of there individual strengths as you develop on each platform.
VideoGamer.com: It certainly seems that some developers have adapted to next-gen hardware a lot quicker than others. How have you found the move from the PS2/Xbox to the PS3/Xbox 360?
CM: Redtribe was one of the very first in Australia to develop for next-gen and we initially spent two years developing our engine. The move for us was very smooth, as our engine is constantly developed and refined on pc and then is ported across. Our engineering teams have been working on the PS3 for a year with very few issues.
VideoGamer.com: We've all heard how much more expensive games are to make these days, with big next-gen products needing budgets of tens of millions. How have you managed seeing as you're a relatively new studio?
CM: Our production and management processes are very streamlined and efficient, and we're quick to adapt. We use Agile methodologies, rapid-prototyping of technology, and daily Scrums (teams meetings). Redtribe was also very well funded by Warner Brothers and they also provided an amazing amount of dev kits; if we needed it, all we had to do was ask.
VideoGamer.com: Is the lack of a PS3 version anything to do with budget constraints?
CM: No, after discussions with Warner Brothers Interactive it was decided that the 3 SKUs we had were enough, however it was decided by both parties to develop Xbox LIVE half way through the development. Looney Tunes is such a popular global franchise that we wanted to make it for as many people as possible to enjoy - and over 111 million PS2s can't be wrong... PS3 is still gaining ground at over 5 million, as it's selling into the market, so it seemed wise all round to go for those 3 platforms - and so, reach the biggest audience
VideoGamer.com: Internet message boards are full of people arguing over which system is the best. From a game development point of view what do you think makes for better games: increasing power of hardware or new, innovative controllers?
CM: Both! It usually depends on the game... if the game has a large `Melee combat', sports-related component or control of a vehicle via a joystick the Wii or PS3 is perfectly suited. Also, things using gravity and inertia as play-rules, such as a ball-maze game... If you need to herd vast quantities of NPCs around onscreen in real-time, or you want over the top visual effects and particles (eg things like: a Frame Rate of 60fps, Hi-poly modelling of Characters & Environment assets, use of different texture maps on the same model - like Diffuse maps, Specular and Opacity maps, Normal maps - most of which are the biggest recent advancements in a highly-detailed `look'... and Displacement mapping, Real-time soft shadows, HDR lighting, better physics, bigger-sized asymmetrical texture maps, Real-time volumetric particle FX, Better node-based shaders, Hi-def hardware support... and 1080i res) and/or loads of procedurally-generated stuff, then go for the steroidal processor. Also, the other next big step for games is better AI, and smarter pathfinding - which can also munch processor speed... it's all about finding a balance between what your core game experience is, why that's fun, and where the WOW-factor comes from. Sometimes you discover a different spin on it when your game engine and core system is prototyped and "tells you where it wants to take you".
VideoGamer.com: Being newcomers to the industry do you have any views on what's good and bad with game development at the moment? Are there any practices that you actively try to avoid at Redtribe?
CM: The Company is relatively-new but we have a lot of games veterans from across the globe and from a variety of backgrounds - ie Traditional Games Development, Engineering (all disciplines), Film , TV, Music, etc. The one practice that we do avoid is crunch time and this is achieved through processes and planning; our Project Managers keep an eye on the development and we generally are a month ahead of the true milestone. Weekly Scrums are invaluable and our prototyping team also ensure that we are constantly developing our engine and getting real bang for our buck. We also ensure that the entire team has Christmas and New Years off so we give everyone an extra two weeks of annual leave per year; we have found this to be one of the most important things you can do as far as development; Rest and family time.
VideoGamer.com: Looking ahead to future titles, are there exciting things in the pipe-line? Do you plan to work with Warner Bros again?
CM: Yes we are currently in discussions with Warner Brothers. Watch this space for more details... www.redtribe.com