GBR had a chance to speak with Dan Kraus, Co-Founder of React Entertainment and the makers of The Act. The Act is an animated comedy that showcases the game’s unique interactive storytelling for iPhone and iPad. If you appreciate beautiful animation, this is a great little app.
1) “The Act” certainly looks like a classic Disney movie, can you tell us a bit more about how this was created?
“The Act” was originally drawn – on paper – by an incredibly talented team of animators, under the direction of Omar Khudari, who also wrote the screenplay. It was produced using a traditional West Coast animation pipeline – scanned, inked, and so on – and then converted for digital use.
While “The Act” never launched in video arcades, we saw a tremendous opportunity to bring the game to iOS (although, when we began work, the iPad didn’t exist yet!). Omar’s original vision of this game was as an interactive comedy, that would delight consumers, and we thought that the Apple platform would provide a terrific delivery method for that.
2) What is the history of the group/team members? (that is important to the overall story)
We’re fortunate to have a tremendous team. Alain, our CTO, has worked in CG and game development for over 20 years – including extensive work with Japanese games companies – and is the original inventor of texture pre-rendering. Jean, our VP of production, has a deep background in imaging and graphics, including years of experience in game development and animation production. Omar – who is a true entrepreneur – works closely with us in an advisory role. My own background is largely in 3D and 2D graphics tools and technologies.
3) This is a different kind of game, what genre would you call it?
We like to call “The Act” an “Interactive Comedy,” since it highlights two of the game’s greatest attributes – interactivity and comedy.
4) You already have it localized into 8 languages, how do you see it doing internationally?
We really believe “The Act” will have global appeal. Classic 2D animation is itself truly a universal language.
5) How did you come to partner with Electronic Arts/Chillingo to market release of “The Act”?
We approached Chillingo with the game a bit over a year ago, looking to build a relationship with a partner that would have deep insight into both the business and technology aspects of publishing in the mobile game space. I think from our first meeting, we had a sense that we’d found a team that understood what we sought to do with “The Act.” Since then, the Chillingo team has proven to be a tremendous partner, and their insight has been critical in making the game the best it can be.
6) What makes “The Act” different from other mobile games on the market?
“The Act” is really about interactions and discovery. To win the game, you must build relationships with other characters, by understanding them, relating to them, and ultimately getting them to help you. Since the controls are so simple, people tend to get “absorbed” in the game very quickly. Thanks to this, the game has appeal from 6-65+.
The game also doesn’t look like anything else out there. The animation style may look classic, but it has never been applied to a mobile medium before, or in a way that makes you feel like you are controlling it. At the end of the day, though, “The Act” biggest asset is that it is a story people respond to; and that makes it stand out wherever we take it.
7) Do you think scene interactivity is the next step for mobile games?
I think people relate to good characters, and so being able to come closer to the character is an interesting way of discovering a “new world.” In “The Act,” the challenge (and adventure) is to use that interactivity to help guide you to your goals – saving your brother, wooing Sylvia (the lead female character) and so on – so this sort of interactivity is critical. It’s hard to say whether other game developers will see this as a next step – but from our perspective, there are some great opportunities for animated 2D games of this genre.
8) What effect do emotion-based controls have on gameplay?
When you control a character’s emotions – not just their physical movements – you learn to relate to them much better. This is actually closer, in a sense, to the way you relate to characters in a movie. One of the magical aspects of “The Act” is that you very quickly “become” Edgar – his challenges become your challenges, his successes become your successes. The digital walls fall quickly – and you suddenly find yourself in Brooklyn, sprinting down the hallway, away from a gaggle of aggravated doctors…
9) Dan, what about the engine you mentioned? Can you discuss that for us?
The magic that happens between the characters in this game is principally due to two things: first, the amazing animations that the original animation team drew, and secondly, the subtle animation interactions that were designed in the authoring tool, and then delivered in the game engine. To the user, this is all invisible – but it allows you to feel as though you’re playing a classically animated 2D movie.
10) What are the biggest opportunities you see right now as an independent developer?
I’d say the greatest opportunity now is to provide something completely new. “The Act” looks and plays like nothing else out there – it’s completely unique. I think there’s a market for that right now.
11) What are the hurdles?
More than anything, the sheer volume of available games. It’s very hard to become known, and find your users. That’s where having a good publisher – as we do with Chillingo – is critical.
12) What kind of response has the game been receiving?
So far it’s been extremely positive.
13) Where do you see your company going in the future? Will you produce more animated titles like “The Act 2?”
We’re still looking at options. It’s fair to say that the story of Edgar and Sylvia goes well beyond what you see in the game right now– but we also have some great opportunities with the technology. Our current focus is to get the current game out into people’s hands however, and introduce Edgar and Sylvia to the world. We like to think they’re excited about it too.