Wreckateer was a game that made a bit of a splash at the Xbox Spring event earlier this year. The combination of blowing up castles with solid Kinect controls made solid for a very solid impression on the press at the event. We were lucky to get an interview with Dave Lang, the CEO and Project lead for the game to give us the inside scoop on how the game came about.
How did you come up with the idea for Wreckateer?
The original spark of inspiration came from our general obsession with Boom Blox. We started talking about the competitive modes in Boom Blox (specifically the mode similar to the Warlords arcade game), and figuring out if it would be possible to have a similar experience with the Kinect. From there we decided we’d need a different launching/aiming mechanic, and continued to spitball ideas from there.
Was Wreckateer always going to be a Kinect game? Will there be any controller support or is this a Kinect only experience?
Yes, always 100% Kinect from day one. One of our design tenets was “Everything in the game has to be more fun to do with the Kinect than it would be with a controller.” If that wasn’t true for any given feature/mechanic we pulled it from the game.
What’s been the hardest thing about developing for the Kinect? How long did it take you to find tune the gestures in the game?
Could you talk about one set that you started with and decided to scrap and why?
This is our 3rd Kinect project. Prior to this we did some pick up work on Kinect Adventures, and then the XBLA team tapped us to help get Matter off the ground. From those experiences we had a good idea what stuff worked really well on the Kinect, and what stuff was best to avoid. In general we favor broad, big movements over super precise ones. One specific mechanic we struggled with was the “activation” action (what you do to activate a shot’s special ability). We went through several versions (clapping hands, punching towards the screen, etc.) before settling on the “Y” pose. Given that the player is constantly waving their hands in front of their body to direct the shot, we had a hard time determining when the player was waving versus clapping.
What is it about destroying castles and buildings that is just so fun? What kind of things are you doing to amp up that experience?
It’s like kids with building blocks, they build up structures just to knock them down. Destroying stuff is just fun. What sets our game apart is the in-air control we give the player. It’s not about pointing, aiming, and watching the shot. The player is engaged the whole time the shot is in the air, and it makes it feel even better when you get some awesome destruction.
Are you surprised that nobody has brought this genre or type of game to the Kinect yet?
It’s one of these things that’s obvious in hindsight, so yes, kind of.
The game is drawing a lot of comparisons to Angry Birds and Boom Blox? Are those similarities intentional? Did those games have any influence on Wreckateer?
Yes it’s kind of hard to hide our influences in this game! If we had to break it down we’d say it’s 33% Angry Birds, 33% Boom Blox, 33% Burnout Crash Mode (after touch of the shots). The thing that people (I hope) take away from the game after playing it is that it’s a very unique experience, and a very different game from our original points of inspiration.
Console gamers expect a bit more depth than say Angry Birds, what is being done with the game in that sense to satisfy that expectation?
I’ve already talked about the in-air controls, and this is a lot of it; using the waving mechanic to hook or slice shots that would be otherwise impossible to hit. The other thing we don’t talk about that much is our Bonus Icons. In short, you get awarded Bonus Icons for destroying things in skillful or stylish ways. There are Bonus Icons for performing Bank Shots, doing massive amounts of damage with one shot, or scaring the mess out of Goblin; There’s about 30 in all I believe, and once you discover what these are and how you get them, the game changes from point-aim-shoot to planning out your shots ahead of time to get as many Bonus Icons as you can along the way, thereby getting a higher score. This is where the depth comes from.
Obviously, there are more than just simple cannonballs being launched in the game, can you tell us a little bit about the different shot types and how the user will use them differently?
We’ve got six different types of ammunition in the game. My two favorites are the Lift Shot and the Flying Shot. The Lift Shot is very big and very heavy. It does tons of damage when it hits its target, but the downside is it doesn’t travel very far. To reach most targets the player will need to use the shot’s special ability. When activated, the shot gets a lift forward and up, and it’s the only shot that can be activated multiple times during one shot. It’s a lot like skipping a stone towards your target. The Flying Shot is pretty self-explanatory. Once activated wings pop out (which the player controls with his arms), and the player can glide it into the castles in the distance.
Does the game use any kind of physics engine that will have an impact on gameplay (i.e. I can knock one tower down and use it to take out another tower or bridge)?
Tuning the Physics took a very long time. We started off with Nvidia’s APEX destruction technology and customized it a bit to get results that both looked good and play well. The Physics are predictable enough to roughly predict what will happen when you launch any given shot into any given structure, but there’s enough randomness in there to make each shot a little bit different.
Will the game have any kind of co-op or multiplayer features?
We’ve got local competitive multiplayer. It’s a 2-player turn based mode, where each player takes turns s destroying their own instance of a given castle. It can be a ton of fun, especially on some of the more challenging maps where every shot counts.
Is there anything we missed that you think is important?
We’ve also got a feature we call “playlists” that you can use in single or multiplayer. If you’ve got a favorite handful of maps, you can put these into a playlist, and go through the maps in any order you want. Love levels in the snow with Lift Shots? No problem just make that playlist and go to town.
We'd like to thank Dave for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Corey for helping to coordinate the interview