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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Annie Award's 2014 Video Game Nominee: Diggs Nightcrawler Interview

Adam Volker

Kevin Bradley
Lead Animator, Kevin Bradley and Interactive Team Creative Director Adam Volker were nice enoughh to fill me in on their rap about their game Diggs Nightcrawler, one of the three nominated games for Best Animated Video Game at this year's Annie Awards coming up Feb 1st.
Jonathan B: Diggs Nightcrawler came out for the PlayStation Wonderbook last year starring a film noir bug having to figure out the murder of Humpty Dumpty, I love this game just from that idea. Sadly, haven't gotten to play on the Wonderbook once, I think it's a missed opportunity by many developers.
Where did this idea come from?
Adam: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe approached us because of previous apps we had made such as The Numberlys and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  We knew we wanted to tell a fable-related detective story.  Sony’s augmented reality technology Wonderbook is actually a physical book. This technology, combined with our passion for storytelling, gave birth to the hero that is noir bookworm detective Diggs Nightcrawler. 

What's that world like and how was it creating not only a story, but a new type of interactive game?
Adam: Wonderbook brings the world of Diggs Nightcrawler into your living room through the Playstation Eye camera. Players actually see themselves on-screen holding the book. That allowed us to put the player directly into the game’s world, Library City. We thought it was really important to create an environment that is influenced by both the characters and the player.

What did you learn while making the game, I reiterate that field of interaction of such a way through the Wonderbook must have been somewhat challenging.
Adam: When we first started thinking about the mechanics of the game, we wanted to do something completely different than what was in other Wonderbook games. Because you're playing with a book, we thought about a traditional chase scene mechanic, but have users tilt the book to move Diggs through obstacles. You also navigate through a maze by rotating the book, which was a new take on how to use the Wonderbook.

Kevin: Later on in the process, through play testing with kids, we found that some of our efforts in creating an original cinematic experience was lacking because it wasn’t as interactive as it could have been. Kids have a short attention span and we tried hard to make sure the game was engaging at all times. It's something we're always trying to be better at.

Did either of you work in any other fields of animation prior to this game?
Kevin: I’ve had experience in creating video games in the past, specifically strategy games.  I previously worked as a lead animator on a project at my old studio. Going into Diggs Nightcrawler, it was a completely different experience. We approached it more like a film with interactive elements, rather than a traditional video game. We focused more on the character-driven scenes and the performance animation.

Adam: Most of the work I’ve done in animation outside of games has been storyboarding with animated short films.

Are the Annie's new to you or have you heard of them before? What it's like hearing you were nominated?
Kevin: I found out about the video game category through our animation supervisor, Kevin Koch. I think it’s fantastic that video game animation is being recognized and we get to be a part of it. 

Do you keep up with the other fields that are nominated? Watch and of the shows or films?
Adam: Yeah, we love keeping up with the other fields. The studio does a number of other things including animated short films. We were even nominated in two other categories, Best Animated Special Production for our work with Chipotle Mexican Grill on a short film called "Chipotle Scarecrow" and Best Animated Short Film for "The Numberlys" which is based on an app that we released a few years ago that won a Webby Award.

If you do win, could Diggs Nightcrawler accept via Skype or pre-recorded message?
Kevin: Since the game came out, Diggs's private eye business has been booked up. He's been really busy sleuthing in library city, so we'll have to see if he's got the time.