Kameo: Elements of Power Interview

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The November 22 North American launch of Microsoft's Xbox 360 is fast approaching, and with it will come two titles by famed development studio Rare exclusive to the platform. Perfect Dark Zero is the prequel to the legendary first person shooter Perfect Dark (N64), and Kameo: Elements of Power is an original action/adventure title featuring a shapeshifting heroine. Kameo is getting a reputation among those who have gotten the chance to check out the system's launch titles for being one of the most graphically impressive first-gen 360 titles, and outspoken Xbox executive Peter Moore has cited Kameo as his favorite Xbox 360 launch period game. I was fortunate enough to be permitted to ask some questions of the Kameo's lead designer George Andreas and--even better--I got some answers. And here they are!

Shack: Kameo has famously been in exclusive development, at various times, for three separate consoles: GameCube, Xbox, and now Xbox 360. Looking back, how much does the finished game reflect its original design?

George Andreas: The core of the original game concept is still intact. Find warriors/monsters and use them to progress through the adventure. But it's the execution of this core concept that has evolved more than anything else during production. There were also other features of the original concept, but we decided to drop these so we could focus the teams efforts better. At Rare we always try to aim high at the start of any project, it's how we've always worked. But we don't have very big development teams and I think in reflection, we may have been a little over ambitious at the start of this one!

Shack: In the move from Xbox to Xbox 360, were there any additional features or capabilities you have been able to include in the game?

George Andreas: Because of the extra time, we've been able to include plenty of new features for the one player adventure and also added some new multiplayer elements. We have co-op spilt screen now - that's something we didn't have on Xbox, and it really is a fantastic addition. We also have Co-op over live and system link, but that's going to be released shortly after the game comes out. We also have a battle scoring system that is now tied into Leader boards over Live.

In the one player mode, we have new areas to explore, in particular, we have a unique battlefield area that really shows off the power of the new machine. We can get up to 5000 characters on screen at one time over this expansive area. We've also added in a few extra moves for all the 10 warriors. We also have full speech throughout the game, day to night routines for individual characters, and a whole heap of other stuff. It really is a far better overall package than it was on Xbox. Of course, you can't really talk about the 360 version without mentioning how much improved the graphics are compared to the Xbox version. Kameo really has grown up and found its home on he 360.

Shack: Kameo is best known for the player's power to take on the forms and abilities of various animal warriors. From what we've heard, there are quite a few of these varying forms, each with unique moves and play styles. How does this play out from the player's perspective in terms of absorbing all the various controls and situations?

George Andreas: The player is given 3 warrior forms to start the game with. We throw them into the action very quickly and teach the player how to use each warrior to get through the first level. We teach them about the basic combat skills needed and how each character's abilities can be used to traverse the landscape. Once you play through the first level, you completely understand the game.

With any game, we always try and structure it well so the player is not totally overwhelmed by the new controls, but with Kameo that's an even bigger issue to deal with because of the underlying complexity of the game mechanics - every warrior form looks and feels different to play. That's where good solid testing comes into play. We spent a while ironing out any potential issues that testing threw up and their feedback really helped to mould the first level's difficulty curve and subsequently ease the player into the experience.

After the first level, we then slowly introduce new elements and gameplay challenges to take advantage of the next warrior form. We have tried really hard to make sure that the player can spend some time with a new warrior and learn about it's abilities before throwing them into dangerous situations.

Continue to the next page for more on Kameo.

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Shack: What types of gameplay will we be seeing when Kameo is not in one of her animal forms?

George Andreas: Kameo can do all sorts of things when not using a warrior. She's by far the fastest character to use to get around the landscapes if you use her hovering technique. She also has an ability the warriors don't have that is vital for getting the warrior forms back. But we'll leave that for you to discover. Kameo is the only character that's able to ride the steeds (horses and dino's) on the battlefield, having the ability to ride a hard headed horse over a hill over towards 3000 charging trolls has also got to be useful! Kameo is also integral to some of the adventure sub quest challenges and really is best used when conversing with the locals.

Shack: Slow motion effects have been a popular gameplay element in games over the past few years, and Kameo includes such a mode with its warrior focus. What sets Kameo's take apart from the rest?

George Andreas: For me, warrior focus really is the ultimate form of personal expression. If you get good at the game, it's a real show off feature. Players can combine their warriors moves most effectively when in warrior focus and it's only in warrior focus that you can score huge amounts of battle points. The more brutal you are to the trolls, the more points you score, and believe me, you can be very, very brutal in warrior focus! There are also a few areas of the game that we've made very challenging with lots of projectiles and enemies attacking the player at the same time - especially towards the end of the game - and using warrior focus in these situations suddenly increases your chance of survival and experienced players can turn the tables in the heat of battle.

Shack: What are your favorite forms, and are there any that are particularly unique or odd?

George Andreas: My favorites are Flex and Thermite. They both very odd looking but offer so much to a first time player, but become almost untouchable in the hands of a seasoned Kameo player. For me, most of the warriors in the game are quite unique in the way they look and play.

Shack: Will Kameo feature any Achievements for display on players' gamercards, and if so can you share a couple examples? There haven't been many details regarding how these will work for single-player titles.

George Andreas: Yes we have plenty of achievements in Kameo. Most of these revolve around the single player experience and having to do certain objectives the game - like killing a boss and rescuing an ancestor, for example. We have others that are connected to how well you can score in the action sections. Getting A grades in these will take some time and plenty of skill. It's great how you can combine the achievements from all your 360 experiences and see your gamer profile constantly improve.

Shack: Are there any less well-known features of the game you'd like to share with our readers?

George Andreas: The sense of discovery will be lost if we reveal too many now! We've really spoken at length about the features we're happy sharing with everyone at this stage, but we always like hold something back so people can experience it themselves for the first time.

Shack: Do you have any plans to make use of the Kameo IP in the future?

George Andreas: It really all depends on how successful Kameo is. If the game does well, then we will definitely consider doing a sequel as well as other Kameo related projects. We feel we can do so much more with the IP in general - there's SO much potential. We've really only just started to discover the possibilities for this type of game and we really believe we can expand the Kameo franchise into all sorts of other territories too.

Shack: Peter Moore mentioned the other day that Rare is developing two more Xbox 360 games besides Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo: Elements of Power. Can you comment on this at all?

George Andreas: Yes I can, actually. One is called... Er.. Oh, the names escape me. Er, no. Sorry. I can't remember...

Shack: And finally: KAM-ee-oh? KAH-me-oh? Kuh-MAY-oh? I'm thinking the first one?

George Andreas: First one.

Shack: Thanks for your time!

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