Ever wanted to know what goes into making a movie tie-in game? Well we did and here's the result.
Please introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project? What kinds of things do you do on a daily basis? How did you get into the game industry?
Hi, I’m Donna Woo, Associate Producer on Shrek Forever After with Activision.
As an Associate Producer, I have a variety of responsibilities that change from project to project. In general, the Associate Producer is the point person for the developer, the licensor (in this case DreamWorks), outside vendors (such as writers, composers, etc) and internal departments such as Marketing, Public Relations, Legal, Quality Assurance, and Localization. Daily tasks include milestone reviews, submitting the game to ESRB for a rating, licensing fonts for in-game use, payment processing, and managing the game script voice over recording, sound effects creation, and music creation and licensing.
I started in the game industry 7 years ago in QA. Through the years, I’ve worked up the ranks and have been in Production for about two and a half years now.
Can you walk us through the process of creating a game based on a movie? Do you start with the script or are you brought in later in the creative process?
The process usually begins when there is a script or story synopsis available from the movie licensor. This gives the team a starting point for coming up with ideas on what kind of game to make. The developer creates a Game Design Document that outlines their game idea, which is reviewed by Activision and DreamWorks and reworked if necessary to create a plan that everyone is happy with. This becomes the foundation for the game. Often times, the movie story will change while the game is in development. The team works closely with DreamWorks so that any changes are identified as early as possible and the best effort is put in to accommodate the changes. While in development, the game is reviewed at major milestones with DreamWorks to ensure that they are frequently updated with how the game is coming together. Having a good working relationship with the licensor is one of the most important things in creating a movie based game.
What are the key components of making a good movie-tie in game? What are you doing now that you've done differently in the past?
Communication is one of the most important things – making sure that the developer is creating characters and environments that are in line with the licensor’s vision is crucial in creating a game atmosphere that matches the movie. Incorporating many movie characters is something that we did in the Shrek Forever After game to create a true Shrek world experience for the player. It also was nice to have few key voices reprise their movie roles in the game. Fans will recognize the voices of Rumpelstiltskin, Cookie, and many of their favorite Fairy Tale Creatures. In addition to being able to play as the primary characters – Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Puss In Boots – the player will run into familiar characters such as Pinocchio, Gingy, the Three Little Pigs, the Three Blind Mice, the Magic Mirror, and many others! The game will also feature some of the new characters seen in the upcoming film as well as some fun characters from past Shrek films that do not appear in the new film.
We are excited about many new game play features that have been incorporated into the Shrek Forever After game. On the console versions of the game, we have incorporated 4-player drop in/drop out co-op, licensed popular music from the movie, and have two worlds that the player can switch into and out of – the alternate and normal versions of Shrek’s world. The DS version of the game is DSi compatable and uses the camera functionality in the Ogre Artist section of the game. Both games share a musical score that was developed by a composer who also worked on the movie, which made our music both new and right in the spirit of the Shrek franchise.Who is your target demographic for Shrek Forever After? What kinds of design challenges does that present and how to you cater the game to them while making it accessible to other groups?
Our target demographic includes kids and anyone else that are fans of the Shrek franchise. Some of the design challenges we encountered involved creating a balance between puzzles, combat, story, and exploration. We held focus test sessions to ensure that the puzzles were fun and on target for even the youngest in our audience, while keeping the puzzles interesting enough to entertain an older audience as well. The team worked hard to create an entertaining story for the game that follows the film plot, while also offering something new and exciting for fans that have already watched the movie.
Did you have access to the models and assets from the movie or did you have to create them from scratch?
Yes, we worked closely with DreamWorks to match the game as closely as possible to the movie. They provided 3D models and renders of all characters, as well as reference art so that the game models could be as close as possible to their movie counterparts.
There's an element of shifting between different versions of Shrek while you play the game, can you talk about how this works and how the two versions differ?
In the upcoming film, Shrek makes a deal with the smooth-talking Rumpelstiltskin and finds himself in a twisted, alternate version of Far Far Away – where Rumpelstiltskin is king, ogres are hunted, Puss In Boots is a pampered house cat, and Shrek and Fiona have never met. In the game, players will be able to travel between the alternate reality and Shrek’s normal world via the Magic Mirror to find hidden treasures, solve puzzles, and progress in the game. For instance, our heroes may encounter a bridge that is broken and impassable. To cross, they must switch worlds to one where the bridge is undamaged. The alternate reality is a world full of enemies and danger while Shrek’s normal world is full of friendly faces.
Is the game fairly linear or are there branching paths to increase re playability? What other things have you done to make replaying the game worthwhile?
Initially, the game follows a linear path to compliment the story of the upcoming film. However, as players advance through the game, they will unlock new and more powerful skills. Returning to a completed level with these new abilities enables access to areas that were previously not reachable. In these secret areas, players can discover new puzzles, side missions, hidden treasures, and more! The Ogre Camp acts as the game’s hub. Here, the player can visit Cookie’s store to purchase new power-ups and upgrades as well as revisit any of the completed levels in the game. With the new power-ups and upgrades, players can customize their combat experience – it takes more than one play through to fully upgrade all of the power-ups.
Can you talk about the multiplayer portion of the game? What kind of modes can we expect to see and which one do you like the most?
The game features 4-player local drop-in/drop-out co-op, allowing up to four friends to team up and play as their favorite characters from the Shrek universe – Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, and Puss In Boots. Each character has his or her own special skills and abilities, and players must work cooperatively to solve challenging puzzles and battle new enemies.
We'd like to thank Donna for taking the time to answer our questions and to Wiebke for coordinating the interview.