Super Monkey Ball Adventure Developer Diary
Traveller’s Tales, the developer of the brand new story-driven Super Monkey Ball Adventure game is keeping an online Developer's Diary and we'll be keeping running tabs on it right here. This feature will be updated every time Traveller's Tales sends us a new entry, so be sure to check back often. In case you're wondering, Super Monkey Ball Adventure is due out this June for the PS2 as well as the PSP.
SMBA Dev Diary #3
Monkey ball always had a unique art style that could be referred to as a colourful kids comic. Previous games showed hints of environments in both the puzzle tray environments and the cut scenes and we had to then realise these environments into full three-dimensional worlds, whilst keeping with the original style.
The first area that needed to be designed was the home of the monkey ball team, Jungle Island. The main inspiration came from the cut scene at the start of Super Monkey Ball 2, when Dr. Bad-boon came to suck up all the bananas for himself. This brief cut scene showed a tropical island with small wicker huts and lots
of palm like banana trees. Once we had this reference and our changing rooms style sheet (see diary 2), we moved onto the task of putting textured objects into the environment to give us a feel of the place, and the direction it may take.
When we knew we were heading in the right direction, we started to compile ideas for the other worlds. By then we had an idea of what each worlds story would be and from this we found out what kind of places we wanted those stories to be told in. We had to ensure that the game had a constant art feel so the characters would not look out of place in each of the environments, but we wanted to make the environments all very distinctive. This caused the hardest problem, but we had very talented concept artists.
Working closely with Brandon Smith at Sega Europe and Nagoshi san at Sega Japan we were able to identify overall world styles that fitted within the global brief from Sega. After the styles, tone, and storey were set, Sega gave us the go ahead for each of the levels, we went through the process of mapping out how we wanted each to play, and over several cycles, came up with a basic layout which became the levels.
SMBA Dev Diary #2
It’s not everyday that a small but respected British developer gets the chance to work on a huge license that originated in Japan. At first the proposal was overwhelming and we wondered at our ability to do the franchise justice, but then we realised that the easiest way to approach was as any other game we develop; what is the core gameplay and what do we want the experience to be?
In previous versions of Super Monkey Ball the player experiences the game through a monkey in a ball and has to negotiate a variety of puzzle stages in order to complete the game. In addition to this, and arguably the more popular aspect of the previous releases, was the inclusion of the mini-games.
When Sega first approached us over the development of the
next title they were keen to take Super Monkey Ball in a different
direction. It was important that the core of the game still remained along
with the mini-games but it was just as important for the new worlds to be
fun places to be. We were lucky enough that Sega and Nagoshi-san (creator of
Super Monkey Ball) to give us the freedom to come up with the ideas for the
gameplay and pretty much a blank sheet with regards to what the world looked
Throughout the development of the game we’ve had a very close relationship with Sega. We’ve been able to get feedback on all aspects of the game at an early enough stage to ensure that their vision and ours could be realised.
One thing that become abundantly clear to us was having the ability to use all of the additional ball mechanics in the main game rather than keep them separated to the minigames. This did provide us with a problem of ensuring that game could not be broken when using these abilities, especially when a task was developed with a specific ball-mode in mind. However, given the abundance of minigames that previous Super Monkey Ball games had we had to pare this down to a manageable number. We wanted to have around five good, solid mini-games in Adventure three of which were to come from previous titles.
Working closely with Sega we eventually chose Race, Boxing and Target, not only for the fun of the gameplay but it also gave us the widest choice of gameplay mechanics. We also realise that there will be fans out there wondering why their favourite minigame didn’t make the cut. Well, maybe it didn’t – get over it!!! Along with those three we also developed a further three games; Tag, Bounce and Cannon, details of which will be forthcoming.
Probably one of the biggest issues we had was getting the feel of the game right. In the very beginning Nagoshi-san allowed us to interpret the gameplay from the original titles. As we released each milestone we were still not happy with the handling as we were missing that quintessential feel of what Super Monkey Ball was all about. Nagoshi-san kindly gave us guidance and the astounding knowledge he had of the game so that we could tweak our engine and physics to match as closely those that fans of the game are used to. The result is something that is very close but has additional subtleties that allowed us to further tweak the gameplay to suit what we wanted to achieve.
Recently we attended the first preview launch of the game at London Zoo and were extremely pleased with the reaction that we got from the press – although at the time of writing we haven’t seen the previews yet, so fingers crossed! It was apparent that there were a number of Super Monkey Ball fans in the audience that were very sceptical over how Super Monkey Ball would transfer to an adventure realm. From the feedback we had on the day it seems that we have been able to achieve our aim; to take Super Monkey Ball in a new direction that not only fits with previous versions of the game but gives the player a completely new and refreshing world in which to have fun!
SMBA Dev Diary #1
The challenge for Super Monkey Ball Adventure was an interesting one; 'We want to move Aiai and his friends away from just the puzzle stages and in to more of an adventure.' This was an intriguing proposition, how to take a well-known and popular franchise and take it in a different direction. A large undertaking given the short amount of development time proposed!
Two things were definite from the start as we began to investigate what this new project would entail. We wanted to ensure that you could swap between the different ball modes during the adventure and that the environment was fun to play in. If we had a standard two-legged character this is fairly a straight forward proposition but when that character is in a ball the dynamic of the environment changes. For example, in order to travel the different levels we have to design each level with a ball in mind that cannot jump, double jump, swing, etc. from the environment. We also have to ensure that the environment is kept realistic to the main inhabitants of that world without too many ball-friendly mechanics such as ramps and lifts.
Another challenge we had been given was the look of the game. Our previous project was Crash: Twinsanity where the graphical look was very much in keeping with previous Crash games. With Super Monkey Ball Adventure we we're asked to create an environment that was bright and colourful - the reference for this was the Honda advert with the flying engines and the cute little bunnies!
Keeping in mind the above considerations we set about developing a six-week prototype to give an idea of what the game and the environment would feel like. Jungle Island was the first world that we would develop as we had a fairly good idea of what was required. It also turned out fortunate that one of senior artists was involved with the Honda advert!
We set about designing a small task within a basic environment that allowed the player to roll around and collide off of the environment to perform jumps. As the prototype developed we began to look into what the other worlds would look like and what the influences for those would be. In the past, trying to get across the idea and flavour of any particular area of a game was done through concept artwork. We had a number of ideas on how to achieve the required feel to the worlds and ended up using a style sheet like those from the house makeover programmes! That actually ended up working really well. We picked the focal points within each world and gave examples of how this would look and what inspired us for those areas. The result ended up with each sheet having concept game artwork accompanied with real world photos. The result was that SEGA knew exactly the kind of environment that they would get in each area. In a couple of cases they came back with comments and requests of slightly different influences and these were then reworked with these influences in mind.
It was important to SEGA that rather than just provide a basic story we also include some depth. To this end each of the worlds has a slight touch of a moral story, not enough to ram down the player's throat but hopefully enough for them to think that it's a nice little touch.
At the end of six weeks we had a proof of concept showing how the game would progress and the style of gameplay. With the style sheets for each world we had a clear idea of each location and what it would look like. We had a design that still needed further detail but was enough for us to begin production on the game.
4/19/2006 Aaron Thomas