J. Kenworthy Entertainment Interview

Hi folks, we’ve got a treat for you! We did an interview with John Nielson of J. Kenworthy Entertainment, who was a huge part in the development of the recently released, Ancients of Ooga on Xbox LIVE Arcade. We’ll have our review posted soon, but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy this great discussion!

1. Can you tell us what Ancients of Ooga is all about?

I’d love to!  Ancients of Ooga is an adventure where, as a great spirit, you are summoned to help a primeval race of creatures called Ooganis. The Oogani tribes ignored their chiefs and ate too many narcotic slugs and were enslaved by the big bad Boolis.  As the great spirit, you will possess the bodies of any Ooganis that are willing to join in a revolt to earn back their freedom. Along the way, you will befriend seven unique Oogani tribes, each with unique powers to unlock.  In turn you will convince each tribe in turn to join the revolt and revive their murdered chiefs who have powers even beyond their tribe. A variety of game mechanics keep things interesting as you eat, chant, dance, and even puke your way through the adventure!

2. We’ve read that the game will support co-op. Does the co-op take place on the same levels as the single player, or does it have a separate campaign?

The coop takes place in the same levels as the campaign, but by playing coop, you can double team or split up to achieve many of the objectives.

3. Approximately how many hours of gameplay should we expect with Ancients of Ooga?

On average the game takes about 12 hours to complete, but some people have completed it in as little as eight hours.  Some have taken as many as 15 hours or more.

4. Every game inspires another. What titles have helped to inspire Ancients of Ooga?

Cloning Clyde was the biggest inspiration on Ooga.  Ooga directly inherits switching between characters and some of the basic game mechanics such as picking up and throwing items, pulling levers etc.  Some other games that influenced both Cloning Clyde and Ooga are Abe’s Oddessy, Lemmings, Lost Vikings as well as some other favorite platformers including Jak and Daxter and Psychonauts.

5. Did you encounter any obstacles during development, and how did you overcome them?

There were a lot of obstacles along the way but the biggest was the lengthy production time. Ooga was first conceived in late 2006 just after Cloning Clyde was released.We figured we’d probably be able to ship in October of the next year if we kept it pretty similar to Clyde.  We took a prototype to Microsoft and at first they were said they would approve anything we pitched because Clyde had been such an awesome success. So we moved ahead on development and then a few months later got news that the game had been red lit (or that it WASN’T approved.)  We were in a huge panic.  By then, we had sunk all of our returns on Clyde so far back into this new game and quitting to start on something else wasn’t even an option. So, instead of giving up, we pushed forward.  It took about another year to get the game far enough along that we felt like it would be worth re-pitching to Microsoft and crossed our fingers that we’d get a different answer this time, and we did!  (whew)

Even with approval though, they had concerns that the game was too similar to Clyde.  So we went to work, starting over on a lot of pieces of the game to further evolve it from its predecessor, Clyde.  We redesigned the levels, integrating a story throughout.  We also made sure that every aspect inherited from Clyde was in some way evolved. We never rushed enough to sacrifice quality, and in the end, we are really happy with what we ended up with, but the project we had planned on taking less than one year ended up taking about four years to complete.

6. Assuming you had to leave some content out of the game for various reasons, are you hoping to add it in through DLC?

Most of the content we left out was for a good reason and we wouldn’t want to bring it back.  We do have a great plan with some fantastic upcoming DLC though.

7. What are some of the cool abilities we’ll get to use in Ancients of Ooga?

I don’t want to give away too many of the powers.  But there are a few of the standards like flying, super swimming and super jump, as well as walking on lava, breathing fire and an electric shock.  Although my favorite is the animal chief, Ali-Mali, who is able to cast a spell turning enemies into cute little critters that will then explode on impact when thrown.

8. Is there any upgrade system in place for skills in the game, or are all skills standardized?

The skills or abilities throughout the game are given to you along the way in specific locations where the level is built around using them.  We chose to do it this way so that we could direct the experience the player was having.

9. Looking back, which of your titles would you consider as your biggest success?

As far as units sold, a Kingdom for Keflings has been the biggest success for Ninjabee.   Cloning Clyde also exceeded expectations for both NinjaBee and J. Kenworthy Entertainment.  Really though, we’re proud of ALL of our games, and feel that we do our best to make sure the quality of each is as good as possible.

10. Besides the much anticipated title, “A World of Keflings”, have you got other titles already in development?

It’s pretty early on and there’s nothing official, but the next game J. Kenworthy Entertainment is pursuing is a game based on Killer Kenn, not as an action figure as he appeared in Clyde but as the actual alien/monster exterminator.

-John Nielson, J. Kenworthy Entertainment


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