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Making Knack: An interview with Mark Cerny

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Making Knack: An interview with Mark Cerny

December 20, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

Was that because it felt right? 

MC: What we found is that we needed to make a more complex and involved game than Crash Bandicoot if we wanted it to be a success in the 21st century. Crash Bandicoot had only two minutes and 15 seconds of narrative, and it used just two buttons. Even if the vision is to be in that sort of genre, to try to speak to the nostalgia that people have for the experiences of years gone by, it turns out you need to do five or 10 times as much today. 

When you tune the game -- you talked about doing playtests, and you talked about the game changing as you get a sense of what it is -- do you still do that more by feel, or do you do analysis, metrics, or anything more crunching? 

MC: We try to make a game that we believe in. We ask ourselves, what is the world, what is the gameplay, what is the story? But at the same time we want to make sure that it's playable and enjoyable for a very broad variety of people. So during the tuning of the game we try to reach out as much as possible to the game playing audience. 

At a playtest, I think if you ask the question "what should the storyline be," you probably won't get much of an answer... Frankly if you ask that question today, they'll describe Grand Theft Auto V to you, because that's what they're playing right now. So we have to make the game we believe in, but we also have to focus on how it is played.

How do you personally feel about the game and what you and your team achieved, and why?  

MC: I'm very proud of the team for creating an original launch title. It takes extraordinary effort to be out on the same day as the hardware and to do with a new brand speaks to the dedication of everyone at the Japan Studio. 

Were you anticipating the kind of mixed critical response you got?  

MC: There was definitely a very mixed response to the title. On the plus side, there is some appreciation of the core concept of a creature made from parts -- at the same time of course one can see the desire that this concept had been explored further. 

What do you think lead to it?  

MC: Expectations are very high for next-gen titles, and rightfully so! Everyone is looking to see how that factor of ten improvement in performance, or the more connected nature of gaming, is going to change or enhance the core gaming experience.  At the same time, it's pretty clear that the titles that unmistakably take advantage of that performance or connectivity are still well in the future. 

Have the challenges inherent in launching a new IP, and anticipating what audiences want, intensified in recent years? 

MC: Definitely the bar is very high, which speaks to the incredible talent in the games industry. Existing brands such as Grand Theft Auto continue to impress -- and though with new IP you have more of an ability to surprise people with the direction you take, you still will be launching alongside the latest version of Assassin's Creed or the like. 

Personally I'm looking forward to Ubisoft's new two IPs, Watch Dogs and The Crew.  I think the drop-in drop-out nature of The Crew will really work well with the social aspects of next-gen.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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Jarod Smiley
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Just make sure you make a Knack 2 Mark! My wife loved this game!

I think reviews would have been a lot more favorable as well if the title was priced lower than the standard next-gen game. Users generally loved it, while critics were very critical, I think a $40 or $30 tag would have made everyone just play it for what it is and not be so critical of what it doesn't accomplish.

The core is there for some very interesting concepts though, I hope it sells enough to fund a sequel!

Luke Baker
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I second the other commenter. I absolutely loved Knack. It is essentially, to me, a harder Crash Bandicoot that is more open. I don't know what reviewers were expecting.

Many people who actually own the game like it a lot.

It is one of my favorite games on the PS4 now.

The game is like an old-school platformer. I dig it and would buy a sequel someday too.

Jonathan Murphy
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Game was blah. Take More Risks!

Cid Newman
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I thought the games visuals were absolutely beautiful, the controls felt great, but the gameplay did get a little bit boring after awhile. It felt like one or two levels worth of gameplay stretched out to fill an entire game. Still, overall I enjoyed it.

Mike Smith
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Poor frame rate and long load times and mediocre game play. I was very disappointed.

Theresa Catalano
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It's a bit shocking how under-designed the gameplay is in Knack. It's almost as if it's not meant to have good gameplay, as if it's meant to be as simplistic and mind numbing as possible. Maybe they think the way to design a game for kids is to dumb it down as much as possible, and just have cartoons playing to distract you. In any case, Knack is certainly one of the big failures of the year.

Merc Hoffner
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I haven't played it yet, but this may go some way as to an explanation of what they were going for:

Unfortunately it sounds like the all inclusive approach hasn't assembled into a breakout product. I think this is probably a common facet of launch games, afflicted by a punishing schedule and fractured across appealing to early adopters, selling the machine's power, and selling the image of a machine for all demographics. This is too many task masters to create something simultaneously coherent and exceptional. The clearest exception to the launch problem in my mind is Mario 64 - and that was only achieved by delaying the whole machine. As powerful as he is, Mark Cerny could never hope for that kind of leeway, and we're evidently the poorer for it.