Caroline TRUJILLO: The general role of Production on any game is to facilitate the needs of the Development team and the creative talent that helps them get the game made. It often includes setting the game scope and defining the development schedules and tasks. Seeking for and the providing of Music, Sound Effects and any external licensing through contracts or outsourcing and negotiating the budget and deals to bring in extra support.
In addition, when dealing with a licensor like Disney-Pixar, we also nurture the relationship between the Licensor and the needs of the team. We evaluate requests form both the developer and the Licensor to the other to balance out what is needed for the game and what can and cannot be created or changed in the game.
Some of us bring additional skills to production that we use to help guide the project. I came from Game Design before I was a Producer and moved into production with the experience of both a Lead Designer and a Creative Director. I often use my knowledge of working “hands-on” in game development to judge tasks and to understand what the team can and can’t do at any point in development. I also give guidance on gameplay solutions and suggest alternate ways in which design and gameplay issues can be resolved.
In more simple terms, we are the parents to the children which are the talent. We spend our time making sure they have everything they need and shelter them from the things they don’t – as well as reprimand them when they need to be corrected or when they fall be hind or are not performing to expectations.
How did you become a videogame producer ? On what videogames did you work ?
I have been in the video games industry for the last 14 years. I started out as a tester to pay my way through the University and stumbled into game design soon there after. I spent 7 years in Game Design and have been a Producer for the last 5 years. The most notable titles I have worked on: Spyro the Dragon 1 – 3 and Spyro 5, Sly Raccoon, Ratchet and Clank, Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille.
How did you come on the Ratatouille project?
I have always been a huge Pixar fan and when I heard of the opportunity to work with Heavy Iron on then then up and coming game for the 2006 Pixar movie, I didn’t hesitate to apply. I then found out that Brad Bird, the director of Iron Giant, was going to be the director and I was exstatic about working on a property with such a high caliber of talent.
How would you describe the Ratatouille videogame, generally speaking ?
Ratatouille the game is influenced and driven by the story and the events of the movie Ratatouille but something to keep in mind is the movie is less than 2 hours long and we endeavored to create an 8 – 10 hour game experience. We added new environments either not seen or only implied in the movie. We also created a character control scheme in Remy that could empower the player – makes the player feel like he’s truly playing in the small world of the rat in Paris.
The game was produced both in France and in America. How did you deal with that?
The time difference actually worked in our favor. The development team was able to complete a full work day and deliver us content which we could then review our same work day and have feedback, responses and needed information and assets delivered to them by the time they showed up for work on the next time. We communicated daily via emails and had a few conference calls a week to discuss the game. Every 2 months I would travel to Bordeaux or Asobo Creatives would travel to Los Angeles to discuss and demo the game. Overall, we established a strong camaraderie with our friends at Asobo, creating a game we can all feel proud of.
For you, what was the most interesting in the process of making Ratatouille?
Watching the overall game vision become a reality. The game you see today is exactly what I had envisioned it could be… only better. I received great pleasure in seeing the game and all it’s components come together.
What was the involvement of the creators of the film in the game, the Pixar people ?
Pixar was involved quite intimately with the content as it was interpreted for the game – how Remy looked and felt to control and in defining what Remy could and could not do. They helped us capture the Pixar look of the environments on the small screen by providing us with detailed direction and examples of how the game world should look and what emotion they should evoke in the player.
Some sequences (the sewer sequences and the dream sequences) seem to appeal to concept arts (by Dominique Louis, for example) or storyboards (by Enrico Casarosa) initiated for the movie, but that didn’t make it in the final cut. Can you tell me about those sequences and how they got into the game ?
We started working on the games for the movie very early on in the Movie’s development. THQ/Heavy Iron began working on the game in the Spring of 2005, before the movie was fully envisioned in the form it was released. We were privy to tons of concept art and designs of what Pixar though could eventually make up the final story – many of these concepts inspired gameplay designs that didn’t make it into the movie but that we were allowed to incorporate into the final game.
Remy is a dreamer, through out the story of the film, Remy is following his dream to become a cook, to become a master chef, to make “good food”. We felt the dream worlds in the game would further express this to the player – and we were very conscientious of making sure that Remy was depicted in the manner in which Pixar had originally intended.
The story of the game is not quite the same as the movie’s. For example, there are more scenes in the sewer and the meeting between Linguini and Remy doesn’t happen that way in the film. How do you create such a game play and what kind of freedom do you have in creating a new rendering of the original one?
We needed to present to and receive approvals from Pixar Creative on all additional content that we were creating for the game, for anything that didn’t already exist in the final movie. To tell the story in the game and to give the player an interesting experience unique to the game, we added additional gameplay in the Seine River, in the Paris Sewers, the Les Halles influenced market and along the Paris rooftops. Pixar was very much in favor of build on the movie worlds for the gameplay environments.
What are the differences between the stories and game play for the different game sets (PS2, WII, PS3, XBOX).
The story for these games was basically the same, although there were some small differences in the gameplay missions and tasks. The Wii game had additional content added that utilized the Wii controller and the basic character controls were modified to work using the Wii-mote. The Dream Worlds were unique both in design and gameplay on the 360 and PS3 when compared to the Wii and PS2. But overall the character moves, plus or minus small subtleties, were the same for all the console games.
How long do you have to produce a videogame ?
Typically we need at least 18 months to 2 years to create a game. Now that we are all rolling into the Next Generation of game consoles (360, PS3), these game will require a minimum of 2 years to develop due to the level of detial involve in creating worlds and animating the characters for these titles.
What are the different steps in the making of a VG ?
1. Concept and Game High Concept: At this stage will plan out the general design of the game which define s the character and his core move set, the camera view and camera style, and the over all story of the game.
2. Pre-Production: We then break the game down into its key features and perform tests on how these features will function, how the features will be created and how fun these features will play. After a few months of these tests, we put the game back together knowing what we want to keep in the game and how long it will take to create the game incorporating all these features. Schedules are then made and the game can be designed in detail knowing exactly what will be incorporated into the final product.
3. Production: We now take our Game Design and Schedule and build the game, working towards interim dates were we are constantly reviewing the game content and evaluating the quality and fun-factor of what’s going into the game. This is when we create the “fun”.
4. Post Production: We then put the game into test, which means, have hundred of testers play the game and a variety of ways and for extensive lengths of time to provide us with gameplay and functionality bugs. This allows us to produce a final product that is bug free and tuned.
It is also at this point that we localize the game into all the languages for global distribution. On Ratatouille we released in over 40 countries and in 20 languages.
5. Approvals: For all consoles expect for the PC and Mac, we must submit the game to the hardware companies – Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo – for their final approvals that allow us to release a title on their hardware system. There are extensive and detailed standards that we must adhere to that allow us to manufacture for the hardware systems.
6. Manufacturing: Once approved, we send the game off to be manufactured. This is when the game code gets pressed onto discs, packaging is assembled (boxes and jewel cases), manuals are printed, and labels are applied to the discs and boxes. This also accounts for getting the games boxed into crates and sent to storage until we are ready to send out to the retail stores
7. Ship: The leaves the warehouse and is off to your neighborhood store
8. Street: And this is the day on which the game can be purchased :-)
At what moment of the production of the movie do you begin working on the VG?
This time, the composer of the movie, Michael Giacchino, is also the composer of the game, and with the same themes as the ones of the movie (which is pretty rare). How’s that ? It’s rather rare to have the same composer in both media. What do you think about this connection between cinema and VG ?
Working with Michael and his team was an absolute pleasure for us and you’re correct, not typical in game development. But something extra interesting here is the Michael game from the video game industry and was actually once a game producer before becoming a music composer. He started out as a composer for video games and then “made it big” on TV and then movies/film. Because of this back ground he was quickly and was ease able to understand our needs for the game music.
Do you have some other projects with Disney ? And not with Disney?
THQ has many, many projects we are currently working on at the moment, some with other licensors, some are original IP and some are announced and other yet-to-be announce titles with Disney-Pixar.
Special thanks to Christelle CARTERON - THQ