Over the Hedge Interview

Article

posted 5/9/2006 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann

It’s that time of year again, with summer movie season right around the corner that can only mean that summer movie games are likewise on the horizon.  Each year there’s a crop of games that related so some big screen release and this year is no different.  What is different is that the games are actually stating to get better.  When we were offered the chance to talk to the developers about the upcoming Over the Hedge tie-in game we decided to ask a few questions about how they approached the material as well as the usual questions about the game. 

 

GamingNexus: Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project?  How long have you been in the gaming industry and how did you get started in this field?

I’m Rich Santiano, the Project Manager on Over the Hedge. I work with both the publisher, Activision, and the people here at Edge of Reality to make sure all of the project deadlines and goals are met on time, while sticking to the overall vision of the game.

I’ve been working in the gaming industry for about 7 years. Being as passionate as I am about games, I knew I wanted to work with games in some capacity. I’ve worked in game sales, support, and development throughout my career. Development appealed to me the most, since that’s where you get to see it all come together, from the inception of the game to putting it on the shelf.


GamingNexus: Did you read the Over the Hedge comic before you started working on the game or were you new to the material?

Rich Santiano:  No, I wasn’t previously familiar with the comic before we started work on the game.  But once everything was decided, we began collecting the comic material.  We have their books lying around; you can walk around our office and see several comic strips that people have found particularly funny or inspiring posted up on doors, walls, and computer desks.

 
GamingNexus: Did the authors of the comic have any input into the game?  Did you use any of their old plotlines as source material?

Rich Santiano:  Though Michael Fry and T. Lewis didn’t directly collaborate on the game’s plot, we hope to have captured the ideals and creativity of their characters through our storyline.  We used the spirit of the comic to portray how imaginative the characters are when dealing with the encroaching


GamingNexus: Will the game follow the plot line of the movie or are you going with the supplemental route with the game (playing events that happen before or after the plot of the movie)?  Will the game fill in areas of the movie that were cut out or deemed unnecessary to the plot?

Rich Santiano:  We’ve taken the characters from the movie and placed them into a completely new, exciting storyline that takes place after the film.  The animals perform heists to gather food and toys for their woodland home while keeping the Exterminator and his drones at bay.  We hope to extend the experience of the movie and allow our audiences to experience the characters for themselves.

GamingNexus: What is the design process that you go through when you are working with a game based on a movie?  How much access did you have to the movie?  How did you come up with the various mini-games and action sequences in the game?

Rich Santiano:  Edge of Reality became involved when there was already a script and a storyboard version of the film. Movies are in pre-production for several years, typically, which is a difference between the creation of games and films.  DreamWorks and Activision were really great; we were provided with tons of assets that they used for the movie (concept art, pictures of their fully rendered models, color palettes, etc.).  We basically hung on for the ride.

The mini-games gave us the opportunity to have fun with the mechanics and game-play that we couldn’t fit into our main plotline. We wanted the player to compete with the other characters, to contrast with the normal co-operative game-play with the main storyline.



GamingNexus: With Over the Hedge being a CGI movie where you able to use any of the model assets from the movie and scale them down or did you have to start from scratch?

Rich Santiano:  We built our own models using the DreamWorks assets as reference.  Many characters went through several re-designs, for the movie and in the game.  We kept it as true to the movie as possible, but you can see some of our own unique spins on the characters.

 
GamingNexus: Were you able to secure any of the voice talent from the movie or did you have to re-cast the roles?

Rich Santiano:  We have different actors in the game and we’re really impressed by how well they captured the feel of the characters.

 
GamingNexus: Which characters will you be able to control in the game?  Are there going to be characters that you can unlock as you play through the game?

Rich Santiano:  Gamers play as RJ the Raccoon, Verne the Turtle, Hammy the Squirrel and Stella the Skunk.  The great thing about Over the Hedge is you can play any of these four characters throughout the entire game.  There are also appearances as NPCs from the rest of the characters in the movie and new unique characters to the game.


GamingNexus: Can you talk about the multiplayer aspect of the game?  Is it strictly co-op or is there a head to head mode?  Can you perform combo moves with the other player in the co-op mode?

 
Rich Santiano: 
The main plotline has co-operative game-play; play with a buddy or let the AI help you progress through the game.  You can perform several special team attacks that do extra damage.

The mini-games are what showcase competitive head to head modes.  They have fast-paced action and are all about going for the win!

 
GamingNexus: Can you describe some of the mini-games that are in the game and how they fit into the plot of the game?

Rich Santiano:  The team chose the mini-games based on what best fit the game’s storyline.  In the game we see the characters riding on a golf cart as well as using their golfing abilities. Mini-games based on driving golf carts and golfing targets were therefore a natural fit. The RC racing car mini-game arose from the desire to allow race track style of game play yet present it in a unique way.

 

GamingNexus: Other than the various control schemes are there any differences between the Xbox, PS2, Gamecube and PC versions of the game?

Rich Santiano:  No.  All three consoles and the PC version will have the exact same content. However the GBA and NDS version each offer different storylines and modes of play that perfectly fit that platform.

Thanks to Rich for taking the time to talk to us and to Wiebke for helping to set this up.