How to get the message across about the switchover from analog to digital TV? Sony asked Kempt to develop an online game that was fun, addictive, and kept to their brand values. So it made a shoot-’em-up.

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“It wasn’t until the evening before the presentation that the final concept came to me.” Chris Kemp-Salt, MD of Kempt, is describing the creative thinking behind his company’s latest creation, an online shooting game developed for Sony.
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“I was coming back on the train from London and mulling over the project when I started to think about what might happen to all the excess TVs that will be left-over following the switchover. <BR>
“Suddenly it seemed that the obvious thing to do was to use them for some kind of clay pigeon type activity. So I called the office, luckily Alex was still there, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
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“Once the transition to colour had been made, influences came in thick and fast, from the Warner Bros styling of the laser cannon, the Beano-influenced blunderbuss through to Ghostbusters for the wonderful proton accelerator!”

Frequent pop-culture references ensure that the user can relate to the game and encourages them to read the content. Vivid kids’-TV colours, silly sound-effects and intentionally unreal weaponry all lift the game into the absurd while leaving the core message intact.

These and other stylistic additions lift what might otherwise have been a fairly banal and destructive effort into a cheeky but enjoyable experience. There are plenty of viral games out there, so the challenge was how to make this one stand out. “Well, firstly we all work really hard, during the production of a game all nighters are not uncommon and the game is under almost continuous development to ensure that it works as a complete unit.

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Perhaps some of its character can be attributed to the culture within our team; we’d probably still be talking about how cool it would be to own a proton accelerator if we were digging ditches for a living. So I guess that we just tried to make the game as individual as we are.
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“Another thing that always helps is having a good relationship with your client. We are extremely lucky that, in particular, Matt Hazle from Sony has helped us so much with these projects, both by entertaining our wacky ideas and being involved in the creative process.”
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A benefit of having a good relationship with a client like Sony is that high-score prizes are not hard to come by. To win, users not only have to score high, but must also answer a question and enter their details.
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“The information is stored in the database of a copy of our in-house content management system which includes a fully featured permission-based marketing management system,” says Kemp-Salt. “This helps to ensure that data is managed in an appropriate and legal manner.”
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Art director Lee initially hand-drew each of the game’s characters and sprites. His initial drawings were then digitized and converted into vector artwork in Flash. “Just how you undertake this conversion depends on the result that you

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“Colouration was then added by filling the finished sprites with a variety of gradients and standard fills.” He adds: “The game engine was initially developed by using a simple block-based mock-up. By producing this prototype it quickly became apparent that to just have the targets flying across the screen was not going to be a satisfying experience. So I set about re-learning how to plot 3D trajectories and added perspective. 
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“Next came the behaviours of the guns and their respective targets. Each combination of gun and target behaves differently. The blunderbuss for example covers a very wide area, making it possible to hit a number of targets at once, but takes an age to reload, whilst the proton accelerator emits a continuous stream of particles if desired but gets more and more difficult to control the longer you shoot. Each of these behaviours had to be accounted for in the code.”
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“All of the environmental factors – gravity, the regularity of the targets – are set in a series of variables in the game engine, this meant that once the initial prototype had been completed we were able to rigorously play-test the game.
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“The biggest challenge in creating the gameplay was to create something that is satisfying for old pros and yet not too daunting for the comparative novice. Much of this play-testing was undertaken by the rest of the team, making me briefly the most popular boss in history.”
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The game was produced over four weeks on Windows using Flash MX 2004, FreeHand, and Fireworks MX 2004. Distribution has been through email marketing, online gaming promotions and other media tie-ins. 
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It’s been a success: “One of the users simply wrote, ‘Thank you for this game’. That was nice,” says Kemp-Salt.
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