Child of Eden: 'This makes Kinect worthwhile for core gamers'
15th Mar 2011 | 16:22
Microsoft's seen huge success with Kinect since its November launch last year. According to MS figures, it's already sold ten million units worldwide.
But according to Tesuya Mizuguchi (Rez, Space Channel 5) studio Q Entertainment, Kinect's early adopters are still waiting for that core gamer experience to "challenge their senses" - and Child of Eden is it.
At first glance the colourful title is a strict spiritual successor to the cult-classic PS2 and Dreamcast shooter - and admittedly with a controller it plays virtually the same. But stand in front of the Kinect sensor and extend your arm to spray colourful, psychedelic bullets across an spectacular screen display, and a whole new level of immersion is added to the traditional 'synaesthesia' experience.
We recently sat down with Q Entertainment producer James Mielke to discuss Kinect, audience and how many beanbags are in Mizuguchi's office.
Ubisoft seems to have really thrown its support behind Child of Eden...
Ubisoft has been, probably the optimal publishing partner because it's not just a traditional third-party publishing relationship, they've supported us a lot in terms of technology and creative support. They're really working with us to let us realise our vision for the game.
Between getting the Kinect stuff up and running and doing stuff like the Journey project, where we solicited pictures from people of happy memories in their life, which we're putting into the game. That takes a lot of co-ordination and effort and they've been really fantastic about helping us do that.
I think it really reflects well on them - they're coming out with this really ambitious, innovative title that doesn't follow in the lines of other genres. They're taking a chance and it is really cool to work with a company like that.
Do you think in some ways Kinect has always been part of Mizuguchi's vision for the game? That if he could have had this technology years ago, this is what you would have been making?
He said it himself, so I'm going to steal a little bit from him but to him this is kind of his life's work - the culmination of his life's work and life's theme. He's always got these positive emotions and messages he's trying to get across; love, happiness... It's a bit like future techno-hippy but he's been consistent about it, that's for sure.
He's always trying to create something that's a little bit different. It's not to say that shooters or gory games are negative. They're all good fun, we all love them but since other people do those games very well he wants to stick to the games he knows. What he knows is a good feeling - how to take pleasure in simple things. He wants to tell stories about love and things that might cause an allergic reaction in some masculine gamers but he doesn't care about that.
He wants to create something that people will remember fondly. When you have those really warm moments when you finish a game and there's something special about it - games like Ico. That's the sort of mentality that he's got.
This whole thing is about the story he's been developing for years with Genki Rockets, the character Lumi who is actually the singer for Genki Rockets. It all ties together. It's a real multimedia crossover. It's safe to say this is the ultimate example - this is Mizuguchi in a capsule.
Do you think it's fair to say this is the anti-Gears of War then?
I think we're just going to kick Cliffy B's ass! I love kicking Cliffy B's ass! No, I love Cliffy B, but yeah Gears of War is a fun, visceral experience where you get to kill the shit out of some people in Gears of War. I love Gears and can't wait for GoW 3.
But when you want to have a chilled, blissed out audio-visual experience that is like nothing else you or your friends have ever seen, when your friends come over and you want to make your audio-visual system sing, this is the game to do it.
It's so expressive and it is the reason why I went to Q Entertainment. When he showed me a tech demo for what the target visual was for the end of Child of Eden's development I was like 'oh man, I've got to be a part of this'.
I'd never seen anything like it before. Moving video textures on particles and cubes... it's such a mind trip. I don't want to play games that are super-realistic all the time, because I play games to get away from the things you see in real life. I play games to do things you can't in real life.
So Child of Eden is really an extension - you extend your hand and a shot comes out, you're purifying things wherever you put your hands - it's really immersive. That's a word that is thrown about a lot but this is really something that is unlike any other game experience. I think people will see that when they try it.
What kind of audience are you expecting Child of Eden to reach?
Everybody who plays it loves it. There's a real big difference between looking at it and then playing. A lot of people have said that when you watch it it is interesting but when you play it... that is when it clicks.
So we hope that everybody in the world buys a copy because that would make us very rich but that's probably not going to happen (laughs). As long as whoever does buy it enjoys it - that's our mission.
I think the core gamer is going to adopt it first. So many people bought Kinect and they're still buying it. Now that they've got their early library out of the way, they've played those games and see what it can do. Now they want something to challenge their senses - they want a core game that is going to make them feel like it was worth it, and they can only enjoy it on Kinect. I think this is that game.
Hopefully with word of mouth they evangelize it and get girlfriends to check it out. You're not chopping heads off, ripping people's spines out - you're shooting flowers. There's a beautiful result in everything you do. How can you not want to give that a spin? That's that kind of game that infects people in a good way and makes them want to try it. If they do that then I think we've achieved our goals.
Of course the game is also playable on PlayStation Move...
When we first started developing the game it was before we knew about the Kinect technology - it was originally designed around the controller to play similarly to Rez. But when Microsoft unveiled the Kinect tech we were able to see what it could do because they showed us Kinect applied to a racing game, to a painting application, so on and so forth.
But for some genres it doesn't make much sense to me because if I'm suddenly doing something with my hands that isn't natural in real life, like racing where I get into a car and expect there to be a steering wheel, that doesn't feel natural to me. If I'm playing a shooting game and I'm pretending to hold a gun that doesn't feel natural because it's a surrogate... I feel like I'm faking it.
With Child of Eden you're extending your hand and what's happening on screen is a direct result of what's shooting out of your hand. So it's like you're Iron Man and you're shooting a repulsor beam... you're Spider-Man and you're shooting a web. That feels natural.
With Child of Eden when I first started working on it I thought I'd probably play with the controller and then when people came over to my house and I wanted to impress them I'd show them the Kinect version because it's much more physical.
Now, after we've spent the last few months really working on the Kinect code and making it play as smooth as it does, I really think that's the way to play it. It's really cool when you get your technique down and you know which enemies require lock-on, the tracer, a combination of both... it feels so cool playing it.
Is the Move version still coming then?
I can say we have announced it for other platforms but that's all we can say at the moment.
Q is quite an experimental studio. Now that you've adopted the Kinect tech do you see this going forward? Do you have ideas of where to go next?
We do definitely have a lot of ideas. When new hardware is sprung on you the mind usually goes to the typical genres and you think 'how can we make a racing game, platforming game, fighting game, an RPG', but then you start to think between the genres.
With what we do with the audio-visual side of things now we've had some time and experience we can envision what we can apply this to. We want our next game to challenge people more than Child of Eden. We've built up a certain expectation with this title and we want to create continually innovative things. Technology allows us to do that.
What we're going to come up with and what ultimately gets picked up by the publishers remains to be seen but we're always thinking about new ways to use the technology.
Q also made what is widely regarded as the best PSP launch title all those years ago, Lumines. Is the NGP something that interests you?
As with any new technology we're always thinking about it, but we don't have anything to announce right now. We're always looking into whatever is new and what we can do with it.
What's the working environment like at Q? Are you guys just pretty much sitting on beanbags and listening to music all the time?
(Laughs) We do actually have some beanbags. We don't all work on beanbags but the working environment at Q has a lot in common with the traditional Japanese working environment. There's a lot of programmers, artists, coders and tiny desks but that's just due to the physical nature of Tokyo - everything is small.
In terms of the working relationship it's very collaborative and very open. Mizuguchi gives people a lot of freedom to come up with ideas and implement them because, he can't do it all, he has overarching vision but has to bring in people to figure out what the hardcore game mechanics are, what the art direction should be like, the sound design, how the interface should be...
Everybody has their role but its a very unique role in the Japanese gaming environment. I'm sure there are lots of other cool working environments too, but I don't know, I don't work in them. Working at Q is very fun and very cool.