It's over two years since Ty the Tasmanian Tiger first appeared on consoles and proved once and for all that boomerangs are not only fun, but also make great weapons. Ty's second adventure, subtitled Bush Rescue, is currently scheduled for release on all current-generation consoles later this month, and promises to offer more characters, more exploration and, crucially, more weapons to play with than its predecessor. In this exclusive designer diary, John Passfield, designer and script writer, and Steve Stamatiadis, designer and art director, discuss a number of the game's key features, which include blowing stuff up, time travel, blowing stuff up, a flying monkey from Sweden, and blowing stuff up.
Action, Adventure, and Marsupials
By John Passfield and Steve Stamatiadis
Designer and script writer/designer and art director
When the team at Krome Studios began designing Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue, everyone involved in the project wanted to further build on the original Ty game while exploring new themes. Both John Passfield and Steve Stamatiadis agree that it sounds cliché, but "bigger, better, and more entertaining" was the vision that Krome had in creating Ty 2: Bush Rescue and needless to say, both John and Steve felt that was accomplished.
John explains, "The first Ty game was really about technology and how it could be misused. Boss Cass had the biggest, baddest machines and was happy to use them to get what he wanted, even if it meant destroying the environment. With Ty 2: Bush Rescue we wanted the theme to be about using technology for good."
Of course, it wasn't so straightforward in the beginning. After the release of the first Ty game there was a shift toward darker-themed games, especially within the character action genre. Steve says, "We had a lot of discussion about whether we should go that way. In the end we all agreed that we should stay true to the spirit of Ty, which was bold, colorful, whimsical, and wholesome fun. Without a doubt, we all felt that we had created a special character in Ty, with an interesting storyline and lush world that could stand on its own (original) merits. But what we did do was up the action, adventure, and exploration elements players could engage in. When Ty saves his friends, he does it in a big, spectacular way, blowing up stuff as he goes."
And so Ty 2: Bush Rescue was born. This high-tech rescue team is part coast guard, part international rescue and it became the lynchpin of the story. One thing Krome took great pains to avoid was to shoehorn the gameplay into the story, or the story into the gameplay. Steve explains, "We have an overall story that runs through the game, but we don't force the game to fit that. We have two things that run separately and we merge them together to create an entertaining experience."
Originally, the game was designed as a time travel adventure, but Krome found that it was drifting too far from what Ty was. John explains, "We decided to do a major overhaul of the game around halfway into the development, which wasn't easy, but we were confident we could do it given the fact we had a seasoned team and strong technology to work from. For these reasons, coupled with Electronic Arts' backing, we really pushed the game, so that instead of just new levels, we totally reinvented the gameplay. The result is a much better game." Some of the time travel elements survived, though, and players can still find dinosaurs and a few time traveling insects from the far, far future in the "lost world" of the outback Never Never.
Anime in the Outback
For the visual style, Steve had a clear vision of what he wanted to see in the latest installment. "We didn't want Ty to be stigmatized as being just a cute, outback adventure-y game, so we added the cool anime-influenced mechs, which are really great fun, but at the same time keeping them based on the Bunyip power-ups from the first game." The mechs, or Power Bunyips as they are called in the game, are a brand-new addition to Ty 2: Bush Rescue. In designing the visual look of the mechs, Steve combined native Australian marsupial animals with anime-influenced robots. Ty can now use these giant robots to battle bigger enemies, brave extreme elements, and use battle mortars.
When it came to character design, it was much easier to write the script and evolve the visual look of returning characters. It was important to Krome to show the characters' evolution since the last game, and Steve made sure that their look and feel matched the rescue theme. Ty sports new shorts with pockets (not to mention the numerous new boomerangs), and Shazza has practical clothes befitting a mechanical whiz. Dennis the Green Tree Frog was a surprise hit and was given a major role as the benefactor of Bush Rescue. Likewise, Lenny the Lyrebird and Ty's love/hate interest, Fluffy, were given more screen time due to the feedback from fans. And fan feedback is definitely something Krome stresses is a key factor to them. Krome prides itself on investing a lot of time and energy focus-testing as well as keeping in touch with those who contact them about Ty.
In the first Ty game, team members at Krome Studios inspired a number of characters. Rex the Platypus and Ranger Ken are based on CEO Robert Walsh and Ty 2 producer Lindsay Parmenter, respectively. Continuing this tradition, Steve based the characters more directly on the victims, er, targets. For example, Bruno Ram is based on lead artist Bruno Rime, Johnno is based on game designer John Passfield, and Gooboo Steve is based on a certain artist who will remain nameless. This character, according to Steve, is "the most groundbreaking character ever. He's popular around work, probably because he's big, fat, and stupid." John was quick to tell Steve, "But Gooboo Steve looks like you." To which Steve replied, "It's just part of a grand cosmic coincidence."
Finding a voice for the new characters was a bit trickier, but as soon as Steve presented John with the character designs, the backstory and character details fell into place. Steve says, "It's good working on Ty because we have enough control so we can do what we want to do within reason. I was sitting at the drawing board thinking about how much stuff we can get away with. I was testing the waters with how far we can go, so I turned to John and asked, 'Can we have a flying monkey in the game?' expecting him to shoot it down straight away, which would be the logical thing to do. But he paused and replied, 'OK, sure.'" John picks up the story, "As soon as Steve showed me the sketch of the flying monkey, I knew it was a Swedish exchange student and wrote the dialogue to suit."
Now that Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue is done, it will be interesting to see what Krome is planning in the way of future adventures for our Down Under hero and his mates.
"I really think we need more whales for the next Ty game," chimes Steve. John pauses and throws Steve a playful smile then replies, "OK, sure."