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Feature: 'Postmortem: NinjaBee's A Kingdom for Keflings'

Feature: 'Postmortem: NinjaBee's A Kingdom for Keflings' Exclusive

February 4, 2009 | By Staff

February 4, 2009 | By Staff
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More: Console/PC, Exclusive

In this Gamasutra-exclusive postmortem, NinjaBee president and designer Steve Taylor explain what went right -- and wrong -- while creating Avatar-enabled Xbox Live Arcade worldbuilding game A Kingdom For Keflings.

NinjaBee felt that a lot of small details went right with implementing the user-created avatars introduced with Microsoft's recent New Xbox Experience update, which the studio was understandably grateful for as A Kingdom For Keflings was the first Xbox 360 release to feature fully playable avatars:

"First, we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time for the new Xbox Live Avatars. We had a game based around an avatar character that (after some initial concerns about art style) ended up being a perfect fit for Microsoft's Avatar system.

Second, to combat the limited window of time we had to integrate Avatars, we worked out a detailed plan for how the implementation would work, including some contingency planning and prioritization of features in case anything needed to get cut. We ended up following this plan fairly closely, and knowing what everyone needed to be working on at any given time was nice.

Third, the small team at NinjaBee doing the integration work had the right skill set, expertise, and passion for the project. They dug in fast, solved some very difficult problems, and put in the extra time required to make everything work right.

Fourth, the extra technical and marketing support we received from Microsoft (as a result of being part of the New Xbox Experience launch) was hugely valuable. Of course, this is part of why we jumped on the chance be part of the Avatar launch, but the attention the game got was beyond what we had originally hoped for.

One thing that went wrong with the game's development, however, was the planned dynamic music system. The game's original design called for a flexible dynamic music system that avoided the monotony of the standard music loop by using a system of layered, changing riffs and variations.

"We put huge amounts of time into this from designers and programmers and audio people. We rewrote the code several times, spent many hours massaging the music assets, and wrote pages and pages of scripting. But...

While there were moments where it seemed like it was going to work great, the final results were ultimately not acceptable.

At the very end of the project we scrapped the dynamic flow of music and rewrote the system one more time, keeping only a simplified version of the dynamic layering of tracks based on city complexity. And even that is a subtlety that was easily not worth the effort we put into it."

You can read the full A Kingdom For Keflings postmortem, which includes more examples from NinjaBee of what went right and wrong while creating Avatar-enabled Xbox Live Arcade worldbuilding game (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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