Boom Ball 3 for Kinect Interview
Interview with Aki Kanerva, Founder & Lead Designer at Virtual Air Guitar Company
A staple I do in all interviews in order to start things off is to ask that you elaborate a bit about your game that people might not know?
Aki: We’re a small indie studio that specializes in motion games. Boom Ball is our most popular series, and it’s all about using ping-pong skills to bounce balls, smash blocks and cheerfully blow stuff up. The game is suitable for all ages, shapes and sizes.
This is the third entry, what were some of the goals with keeping the experience fresh for those that have played the previous releases?
Aki: We have a bunch of upgrades that benefit both new and returning players: lots of new high-quality content in the form of detailed scenery, improved graphics and effects, and plenty of animated cubic creatures.
On the mechanics side, there’s new difficulty settings for higher challenge (the Turbo mode in particular feels like a whole different game), new and creative uses for old puzzle elements, unlockable customizations, and even Kinect photos.
In regards to the environments, what sort of worlds can players expect to blast blocks on?
Aki: Our design goal with the environments was to take the player on a holiday trip around a magical world and even in outer space. The visual style is more dreamlike this time around. The idea came from a postcard, slightly faded, but all the more treasured because of nostalgic memories.
You start off in the French countryside on a sunflower farm, watching sunsets and sunrises, complete with accordion music. From there, you travel through desert sands and cacti, misty rainforest jungles with mysterious temples, the underwater metropolis of Atlantis, and four different planets filled with quirky aliens. In total, we have almost 30 different scenes.
What’s new in terms of general gameplay and can you describe the goal behind granting players the option for customizing their paddles? Mine is a stuffed Mooshroom, it’s a hilarious feature!
Aki: We’ve kept all the mechanics that fans of the series have enjoyed, so the classic ping-pong gameplay that makes Boom Ball fun is still there. We’ve just built new and interesting levels around them.
Levels have been designed to fit in with the world and scenery. Every level features multiple waves, keeping the pace dynamic. Every wave is animated, and they feature blocky animals, characters, jokes and new surprises all through the game. Our level designers really outdid themselves on this one.
We also have a new bonus type, the Explosive Ball, which blows up several nearby blocks on impact (plus explosions), and can also be used tactically to clear metal blocks.
After Kung-Fu, we’ve wanted every game to have a way of adding your own personal touch by taking photos with the Kinect. You can use it to make the game your own and share it via clips or streaming But we only do it if it fits the game in a meaningful way. In Boom Ball 3, we decided early on to add a variety of paddles, so being able to add your own photos to them fits with the theme.
Could you briefly elaborate on the new difficulty settings and how those affect general the core game?
Aki: Boom Ball 3 has three difficulty settings. Normal feels the same as previous Boom Ball games. In Fast and Turbo modes, the balls fly faster, requiring faster reflexes. Additionally, you only have 3 balls instead of 5, so you’ll really need to focus on playing. Put together, that should give a fair challenge, both for veteran players and those new to the series wishing to have their skills tested from the start.
As a reward for playing on higher difficulties, you earn more stars for completing each level. Collecting stars unlocks new skins for your paddle, such as unicorns or astronauts, or even flaming or electric paddles. And with faster ball speeds, you’ll be able to reach faster level times as well.
All three difficulties are unlocked from the start. You can change the difficulty at any time and you won’t lose any progress when doing so.
The cooperative multiplayer has been enhanced, what’s new there and why was it important to have that option for players to work together?
Aki: Kinect really shines when you have people playing together in the same room. Combining physical movement with working together towards a common goal is a great way to spend time with family or friends. So, Boom Ball 2 introduced multiplayer to the series.
We had feedback from a couple of users that the positions where players needed to stand were a bit far apart. For Boom Ball 3, we redesigned multiplayer so that players can stand anywhere they like, far apart or close together. Both players are responsible for their own half of the level. All of Boom Ball 3’s levels have been designed with this principle in mind. For example, there’s more multiballs than ever to keep both players active.
What are your thoughts on the state of Kinect, its recent production stoppage and rare expensive large cord required for owners to use it on their Xbox consoles going forward?
Aki: Well, there are quite a few Kinects out there. All those devices will keep working normally. We’ll keep making Kinect games for as long as people keep buying them. Additionally, all our games run fine on a regular Xbox One model.
Like with your recent Air Guitar Warrior: Gamepad Edition, would the team be interested in possiblyworking on more controller based titles in the future or perhaps venture into the realms of VR/MR/AR since that’s similar to motion?
Aki: We’re constantly evaluating all kinds of platforms and opportunities. Technologies keep popping up and disappearing at an extremely rapid pace. What looks great today might not have many users tomorrow, so we need to choose carefully before making a commitment. For example, VR gaming is not a great place for small indie studios right now.
So, we’re keeping our ears open, and there’s all sorts of interesting leads happening. I hope I can share something soon!
Could you kindly tease us on what’s coming in the future and what fans of the Kinect might be able to expect?
Aki: Our next Kinect title will be called “Kinect Funhouse”. We’re aiming for a spring 2018 release. It’ll be fun times for the whole family!
Lastly I would like to leave a spot for you to say something or go over anything I might have missed during the interview?
Aki: A huge thanks to all the Kinect fans out there! You’re the reason we can keep doing what we do.
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Read our Boom Ball 3 for Kinect Review