Donkey Kong @ GDC 2011

Fri 4th Mar 2011, by | Gdc2011

If you ever have the opportunity to work on a Donkey Kong title, don't ask questions, just do it.

Shigeru Miyamoto himself says "Donkey Kong is my baby and you better get it right," it tends to leave just a little bit of pressure on your shoulders. Yeah… just a little bit. This was exactly the case when Nintendo came to Retro Studios to have them resurrect the Donkey Kong Country series with DK: Country Returns for the Wii. Today, Retro Studios (all wearing Donkey Kong-ish red ties) held a panel to talk about the challenges in creating a new DK: Country title. As I noted, they worked directly with Nintendo and the father of DK, Shigeru Miyamoto.
One of the main things that Miyamoto wanted to have in DK: Country Returns was the ground pound manoeuvre. This actually proved a bit of a challenge for Retro as their approach to this did not initially resonate with Miyamoto. At first they had DK pounding the ground one hand after the other. Just a plain and simple "left, right, left, right" animation. Like a giant walking in fast forward. After Miyamoto was less than impressed with this animation, Retro went back to the drawing board and, instead, made an animation that has Donkey Kong pound the ground in a 1-2 punch fashion over and over again; much like a horse galloping. It seems like such a small detail but it was amazing to Retro how that small improvement changed the feel to the manoeuvre and also adds to the whole feel of the game.
The devs at Retro caught Miyamoto controlling DK and just running back and forth for 10 solid minutes. No one could figure out why until he said "It looks like DK is blowing." Everyone was like "What the hell?". Miyamoto had been analysing DK’s "turn" animation when he transitions from right to left (or vice versa). DK would kick up some dust and it looked almost like he was blowing out air. So Miyamoto says "It might be fun to make DK blow on things." The lights didn't instantly come on when the idea was brought back to Retro Studios but that's how the blow manoeuvre came about in the final product.
The panel of speakers constantly compared DK with their previous Nintendo hit Metroid Prime. I’m not sure exactly why that is because these are two totally different games so it doesn't seem fair to compare the two. Maybe it's because they are just used to making such a complex game as Metroid Prime and instead now having to make a game which is much less complex and just as fun.
The co-op multiplayer function was really pushed in DK: Country Returns. In the original DK there was a co-op multiplayer function but you would your partner in and out. There wasn't a way to play simultaneously. Shigeru Miyamoto wanted Retro to really focus on the single player aspect but a single player DK title had been released just a few years ago on the GameCube in the form of DK: Jungle Beat and they really wanted to set Country Returns apart from Jungle Beat. Also, after seeing four players play simultaneously in The New Super Mario Bros. Wii, They absolutely insisted on pushing the multiplayer.
One of the biggest hurdles that needed to be climbed seems like a generic statement. "To make it look good and make it run efficiently." Seriously, what game developer doesn’t want to do that? As an example, Retro ran into a few issues with the "cling" feature where DK and Diddy grab hold of grass and vines on walls and the walls would curve. The system simply didn’t work and they had to completely scrap it and start over.
Sure enough, as work progressed on the game, Shigeru Miyamoto told the Retro team, "I'm looking forward to playing this with my family and enjoying it." Again, no pressure!

Related links:
GDC 2011
Donkey Kong

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