Of all the videogame studios producing high quality games that are child and family friendly, none are better than KingsIsle. Founded in 2005, this private company has produced the critically and commercially successful games Wizard101 and Pirate 101. The company recently released their latest game Rise & Destroy. (You can download this game for free for iOS and Android.) Wanting to learn more about Rise & Destroy, the game’s Lead Designer – Scott Kiraly – allowed me to interview him about his career and the game.
Nicholas Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to get into video game development? Was there a game that specifically inspired you?
Scott Kiraly: I’ve known for a very long time, actually. I grew up playing video games and it’s still a big part of my life today. When I was younger I played countless hours on the Super Nintendo. I can remember playing through Final Fantasy II, The Secret of Mana, and all of the other great RPG’s on that console and loving every minute of it. As I’ve gotten older and started a family of my own, I’ve continued the tradition of playing games with my kids.
I play far too many games to pick just one that has inspired me. Now with how accessible games are on mobile devices, my play-list has exploded. It’s incredible how many different types of games I can play at any given time on my phone or tablet, and now I have the opportunity to add some great games to that space!
Yanes: You graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Computer Animation in 2000. Given how quickly this field changes, how did this education help you learn how to grow with this industry? Looking back, what suggestions could you offer to students currently majoring in computer animation and similar fields?
Kiraly: I started as an artist, which is why I gravitated to the computer animation degree. The program at UCF was very versatile and allowed me to dive into just about anything I was interested in. The equipment was there, the software was there, and there were plenty of talented people to learn from. I soaked in as much as I could, and left college with a pretty solid foundation to get started in the field.
My first game job was as an environment artist. I really liked it, and continued on that path for a few years. Over time I started digging into more design-oriented tasks such as scripting and gameplay implementation. I really enjoyed it, and soon after I was asked if I wanted to take on the design lead role for a new project. I was thrilled, and took the opportunity. Many years later I’m still doing the same thing and loving it.
My art background has helped tremendously in design. Understanding another discipline has helped me to make more informed decisions and in some cases avoid potential issues before they even arise. The advice I can give is to make sure that you not only focus on your core discipline, but also try to understand the others as well . . . and more importantly how they all fit together. A great game is a blend of all the talents on the team, and getting to that point takes a great deal of communication and coordination.
Yanes: On this note, Florida has been working to further develop the gaming industry in the state for years. What do you think the state could do to attract more developers to the area?
Kiraly: That’s a good question. I worked in Florida for years and have often wondered why it hasn’t become a bigger destination for game development. The area is great, the cost of living is completely reasonable. It seems like a good place to set up shop.
The fact is, people aren’t. It just doesn’t seem to be a popular choice, so it isn’t attracting anyone else to follow along. If a few larger studios would make the jump, I think others would follow suit, and before long the industry could grow.
I waited a good bit for that to happen, and ultimately it did not. That’s one of the reasons I took an opportunity here in Austin, Texas with KingsIsle Entertainment.
Yanes: What was the inspiration for Rise & Destroy? Were you influenced by any classic scifi films or TV shows?
Kiraly: This may come as a shocker, but Godzilla may have come up a few times during development! In fact, it inspired Trevor Wrecks’ mouth-laser beam attack.
We spent time looking at various monster movies (there’s nothing better than a binge session or two of MST3K) and games to pick out the things we really liked and wanted to capture in our game. It’s always a good idea to do your homework first and try to identify what worked and didn’t work with other projects before you dive headlong into it.
Yanes: Playing Rise & Destroy is pure fun. How did you decide on this type of gameplay?
Kiraly: First off, thank you! We really wanted to bring a larger console-like experience to the mobile platform. We wanted to capture big excitement, fluid movement, and a sense of environmental scale that just isn’t seen very often on mobile devices.
This got us thinking about how cool it would be to play as larger-than-life monsters stomping around a city causing destruction. Then we thought what if the buildings could collide with one another and cause even more destruction…like dominos?!
Rise & Destroy was born. We started experimenting with the destruction idea and it was a ton of fun. We knew we were on to something, so we started designing the monsters and their special abilities. Each monster brings a unique style of destruction to the game which can be used to overcome specific obstacles. Some can leap great distances, others can fly, and some can even burrow under the ground. It’s up to the player to experiment and use the monster they think is the best for the job and the most fun to play!
Yanes: When developing this game, what were some of the design challenges your team had to overcome?
Kiraly: We really pushed the envelope with Rise & Destroy. We knew we had to capture a very dynamic experience with all of the destruction and combat, but we also had to ensure players felt in control and could play it on a wide array of mobile devices.
We spent a great deal of time focusing on the controls and the interface. We went through much iteration, and I feel we landed in a good place. There’s a lot going on in-game, but it can all easily be controlled with the tap of your finger.
Yanes: The visual design for the game looks like a nice mix of modern animated movies and cartoons from the 80s and 90s. How did the game’s look evolve?
Kiraly: We have phenomenal artists at KingsIsle. You can see this with all of our games, and Rise & Destroy is no exception.
We knew we wanted to capture a colorful, fun, cartoon atmosphere and I think we really nailed it. Kevin Chin, the Concept Artist for Rise & Destroy, worked closely with Sean McIntosh, our Art Director, to create and shape the overall style for the game. Through iteration and collaboration we ended up with the endearing cast of Monsters you can find in-game crushing, leaping, burrowing, and stomping their way through beautifully crafted environments.
Yanes: KingsIsle prides itself on making family friendly games. How did you figure out how to depict the game’s violence so that it kept kids engaged but that parents would also be okay with it?
Kiraly: Humor! At every turn we did our best to keep it funny and light. When the monsters attack the humans they do so in silly ways. Such as leaping into the air to come crashing down with a flying elbow, or using a drop-kick to send the humans spiraling through the air. We took special care with all of the animations and visual effects to keep everything stylized and light-hearted in order to give the combat a cartoon-feel.
Yanes: Rise & Destroy has great characters and fun story. Are there any current or long term plans to adapt them to other mediums? Beyond multimedia adaptations, what are some other long term plans KingsIsle has for Rise & Destroy?
Kiraly: Rise & Destroy is the beginning of our new adventure into the mobile landscape. We hope the community falls in love with it, as well as the other games we have on the horizon. Personally, I think the characters and personalities we created with Rise & Destroy would be perfect for a Saturday morning cartoon! How else would we uncover more of Flutterspy-042’s back story? I mean, what happened to Flutterspy 1 through 41?
Yanes: Overall, when people play Rise & Destroy what do you hope they get out of it?
Kiraly: Enjoyment! I really feel we’ve crafted a special experience that is pretty rare for the Mobile environment. I hope players have as much fun playing the game as we had creating it!
Yanes: Finally, what are some other projects KingsIsle is working on that fans can look out for?
Kiraly: I can’t give away any particular spoilers, but I can say that Rise & Destroy is the first of many great games that KingsIsle Entertainment will be bringing to mobile. I feel we’ve done an excellent job of creating fantastic games in many different genres, so that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So, be on the lookout!