ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.7 - OCTOBER 2000
There's Humongous Rewards in Edutaining Little Kids
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Complexity Through The Ages
The Backyard Sports games contain as much complexity as an adult game. They offer variations such as single play, seasonal play and the ability to track player statistics. Each Backyard Sports game begins with an approximate 800 page script of positive and self-esteem building comments and the lesson that all children can play, though each child has different strengths.
Brianna Scurry, former goalkeeper on the U.S. Women's Soccer Team, is just one of the professional female characters you can find on Backyard Soccer MLS Edition. © 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved.
A unique aspect of Backyard Soccer is the inclusion of female sports stars, something not seen in football and baseball...yet.
"We have tried to build in some important lessons, one being that each child can contribute, even Kenny who can 'kick' an extremely accurate ball from his wheelchair," explains Stringer. "It's exciting for me to be able to add the professional female characters, showing young girls that they can also aim for a future in sports."
© 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Adding to the developmental challenges for Humongous Games is that unlike a game that is geared for one specific age group, a Humongous Entertainment game offers repeat play for children over an extended life period. For example, the recently released game, Putt-Putt Joins the Circus reflects an age appropriateness from three to eight.
This is accomplished through games that are not level based, such as an adult first person shooter game would be. Instead the on screen interactivity is continually broadening. Additionally the games are not one goal oriented, instead providing numerous concurrent goals, which are attainable at different developmental ages.
"Any one who has children, or has worked with children, knows that a three year old is very different emotionally, physically and mentally from an eight year old," says Stringer. "One of our challenges is to be able to create games that will continue to educate and entertain throughout this growth period."
SPY Fox. © 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Animation and Outlets
In addition to the writing staff, creating any of the Humongous Entertainment and Humongous Sports titles also takes a full compliment of at least seven animators that create each frame the old fashioned way...by hand. For each game, this team is required to create hundreds of thousands of frames, even more for the sports games due to the multiple characters and hundreds of possible on screen interactions.
A Junior Adventure game, such as the new SPY Fox title scheduled for release first quarter 2001, may have two to three times as many frames as a half hour cartoon show.
"Our artists first animate traditionally and those drawings are scanned in," says Carlton. "The computer is used to color, ink, paint and animate, but the games have the warm traditional animated movie feel because we use movie techniques in order to squash, stretch, overshoot or blur frames."
The company relies on an animation software program they developed, though they do use Maya for some of the 3D animation on the sports games as it provides a real-time feel for the players.
Another pro, Brett Farve, scoring points for Humongous. © 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved. Freddi Fish, another interactive friend fostering learning for Humongous. © 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved.
"Everything we do is very film-like in that each release is first storyboarded -- in effect played all the way through before the art process begins," says Stringer.
Backyard Football is expanding its game play -- Playstation and Gameboy, here they come! © 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved.
The company employs more than eighty artists who in general all share a hand and have strong animation backgrounds. Releases usually take just under a year to develop, in comparison with the 18 months that adult/traditional games often take.
"There is a tremendous talent base here and we have all gone through the learning curve together so we are good at what we do," says Carlton. "There is a misconception that we must not work as hard on 'children's' titles, but in reality they are more difficult because of the scripting. People love this company; working here even though it is difficult. Of course, we are so good at it, it doesn't seem so from the outside."
The next hurdle for Humongous Entertainment and Humongous Sports titles is the transfer to Playstation and Gameboy Color scheduled in time for the 2000 holiday season. The move to the console market is a result of the release of new generation machines, in particular the Playstation 2.
"The children's market has a price sweet spot of around twenty dollars," explains Stringer. "In the past, royalties to Sony made the cost of developing for the console prohibitive. With the new generation machine, those costs are drastically reducing. Gameboy already sells well into the children's market paving the way for our games."
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