LOIC GOUNON : BRAND MANAGER
As International Brand Manager, Loic Gounon follows the project in terms of production and the Rabbids brand and liaises with the Ubisoft Production and Marketing departments. His job means he works closely with the Creative Director and the Producer, focusing on maintaining consistency of the game as part of the Rabbids franchise. This is Loic’s fourth Rabbids-related game and we got together with him for a chat on all things Rabbid…
In Rabbids Go Home, you’re featuring the Rabbids rather than Rayman. What made the team decide to go in that direction?
Rabbids instead of Rayman? I think one of the key things we saw in 2006, when we first created the Rabbids, well, first, they were created by chance – Rabbids were just one enemy for Rayman among the 20 or so enemies in the platform adventure. Everyone loved them on the team, everyone loved them at Ubisoft, and then when we showed the first video everyone loved them across the world. So we really thought there was potential for both characters [Rayman and the Rabbids] and both brands - that’s why we decided to split the brand. But we didn’t want to do it too early as we thought that when we started with the Rabbids alone, we’d need a stronger concept than just a party game.
How did you come up with the shopping kart concept?
Before, we had many other ideas and moves for the Rabbids, and actually we thought one Rabbid wouldn’t be as fun. We really wanted to have two Rabbids playing together and mocking each other. For the cinematics and all, it’s always better to have two characters. The shopping kart was really the means to move and collect and we had different tests in terms of control - at first we were tilting the Wii Remote, which wasn’t that convenient, so we then went for something similar to Mario or Zelda and many other Nintendo games. We went for the Nunchuk Control Stick for moving and the Wii Remote for attacking and it works well. Basically, the Rabbid pushing the shopping kart is the one controlled with the Nunchuk and the Rabbid in the shopping kart attacks. We like this mix of the two Rabbids and the shopping kart - we call it the Rabbid Team.
Are there any other controls still to be added?
Actually, we will use the Z button. A new feature, which hasn’t been shown yet, is what we call the Cannon Ball; so as well as the two Rabbids you have on screen, you’ll be able to play a third Rabbid. If you’re aiming at the screen, you shoot out this third Rabbid that’s going to stick on the head of a character or enemy and by shaking your Wii Remote you can slow down the enemy. He also helps to make more mess, so if you shake him on something you can destroy more stuff. There are sometimes pieces of items you can’t reach, so you have to aim him and “Pah! Shoot!” and then you have little pieces of the item you can collect with your shopping kart.
The music is very distinctive, and the sounds too - could you talk a little bit about them?
I think in terms of design we have three key elements; one of the elements we had to keep because of the brand is the voice of the Rabbid. One of our programmers in Montpellier is actually the one doing the voice of the Rabbid, so we never changed…we tried to find other actors, more professional ones, but they never managed to get the tone of the voice, so it’s always the same Ubisoft guy doing the voice.
In terms of music design we wanted something new though - the Rabbids have always been partying at the disco and we thought okay, it’s not a party game anymore, let’s bring a new audio style. We have two key things, one theme is the humans, in their little world doing their little things; they clean, they buy stuff, they go to work, just human routine, it’s a kind of parody of every day life. For this, as it’s all about consumerism, we chose the 30s age group and for the period, the sounds of the 60s and 70s. So, when you take the elevator when you go through the levels, you can hear the speakers playing this music, so that’s the basic environment music.
But then once you get in with your Rabbid, it totally changes the audio style and that’s the Romanian Fanfare band called Vagabontu - these 10 guys, they play crazy instruments, so it’s much more loud and crazy, really energetic, and actually it was an idea from our audio designer. We did a first test, we went to Romania and recorded some music, we tried to stick it on the gameplay and it worked really well. It’s really a great story, we started working with them last year and they were working in the middle of nowhere – they didn’t know what a videogame was, and then we had this collaboration and now they’re really in the game, it’s very funny – it works well I guess.
There are two different types of missions; there’s the longer-style mission where you’re going for big target items and then the shorter ones where it’s more timed gameplay. What sorts of target items can we expect? Are they items which will transfer into different movements?
Yes, we have the bubble bed, and another one we didn’t show is a giant tyre which will be around the shopping kart and when you shake the Wii Remote you’ll bounce off walls and enemies and around the environment; kind of a truck tyre. And the Rabbids attach it on their shopping kart to move around – it’s cool to slide and bounce.
This is actually going to be used in Arizona. Don’t ask me why, but we have an Arizona location where you have snow, and there’s never snow in Arizona! But there is actually a part where you’ll bounce on snow, you can glide on snow, it’s pretty fun. We wanted to start with basic controls and to have a learning curve and a challenge where the player learns skills. So, he learns to Bah! first, he learns to collect stuff, and then he learns how to attack, say, how can I beat a dog or a Verminator? And then there’s an evolution of the dog and the Verminator. And he learns how to fly and how to go on water, and then we mix all these elements. So you can imagine at the end of the game; you will have enemies everywhere, a bomb attached to your shopping kart, you will have to fly and maybe while you fly, you’ll go on the water, and the cool thing is we always keep the basic controls of drifting and boosting and add new skills on top of that.
What’s fun is that the game is really built so that all players can play, even though not all players may be able to finish it. I would say a big reference is Super Mario Galaxy where most players can easily play 20 or 30 levels but to get 60 Power Stars you need to be a pretty good player, and that’s what we want to achieve. We’re aiming at around 15 hours of gameplay - we want to make sure that maybe the first 5 hours can be played by anyone, it might take longer for an average player, but you have to be quite skilled to pass the first time.
You have all the missions set within 3D hub worlds in the game. Do you have to complete all the missions on one hub before you move onto the next?
No, and what we’re going to try to do, is first you’ll have access to one hub, but when you finish a few levels in the first hub, you’ll have two new hubs to choose from, plus a new mission in the first hub. So you can choose either to stay in the first hub or go visit a new one and in terms of progression in the missions we want it to be non-linear. So basically it’s all linked to the Pile. Once the Pile reaches a certain level, you have one Rabbid at the top of the Pile, he’s like, looking around “Hmmm?” and maybe he sees Miami in the distance and then thinks “Okay! Let’s go there!” This opens the new Miami hub and then in Miami first you have to go to the supermarket, and then the beach and once you complete a couple of missions in Miami your pile again gets bigger and you can open another new area.
So to complete the game, you need to get a certain amount of ‘stuff’ in your Pile.
Exactly, yes. So not necessarily finishing all the missions. You could finish the game without finishing all the missions. But we will of course have many unlockables and we’ll push the player to finish the game. We also want to push replay value and so in the map you have a brief recap that tells you how many smaller items you collected, in what time, and actually the amount of stuff you collect is going to play an important role in the game. So we’ll expect the player to be willing to collect everything to buy new stuff.
There’s going to be a multiplayer mode, and I know you can’t say too much about that, but is there anything you can tell us about it?
Actually, in terms of multiplayer, there are really two things that interest us. One of them is the co-op mode; we have a concept for the co-op mode, we have a good idea, so you’ll be able to play with a second player and its going to help you in your progression. He’s going to be more of a support player but he’s going to be pretty fun to play.
We’re also looking at online as a separate subject for us, because this year we’re going to release the Rabbids Community. In the previous games you always had the customisation and all - a major part of this game is going to be a new mode where you can pretty much do anything with your Rabbid. I’m not going to say more, but it’s going to be a big part of the game and it’s going to be our entrance into the community aspect. I think for a non-Nintendo game it’s one of the most ambitious titles in terms of online; exchanging Rabbids and seeing what’s online….the idea is really to exchange your stupid, silly experience with other players online…
Can you say anything more about the unlockables?
I’m just going to say they’re going to make the Rabbids look really, really silly (laughs). Even more silly. We want the player to really associate himself with the Rabbid. At the end of the game, we want the player to have a Rabbid that looks like him. That’s all I can tell you. Customisation has always played a big part in Rabbid games, but they were more like pieces you put the on the head or whatever – I can tell you that what we’re going to have is much more ambitious.
Are there new missions to unlock as well? Or…
Yes. I don’t think we’ll have many, but there are at least five missions that are going to be extra missions that will be unlocked in the game when you reach a certain level with your Pile.