Interview With Alex De Nittis of 3DClouds, Developers Behind Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart
Here at WayTooManyGames we like to cherish the resurgence of licensed gaming, especially when it comes to those games aimed at a younger audience. The one publisher usually leading the movement is Outright Games, known for basically only dealing with titles based on cartoons and other franchises which appeal to kids. Their latest title is Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart, the kart racer spinoff to the somewhat impressive Gigantosaurus game released a few years ago, which itself was already based on a TV show aimed at the youngest of audiences.
I’ve always been fascinated by the hurdles caused by having to design a game aimed at such a young and inexperienced gaming audience. I was happy to talk to the Game Designer behind Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart, Alex De Nittis from 3DClouds, about the game’s design process, in a small interview.
WayTooManyGames: We’ve played a few licensed racers by 3DClouds in the past, and most of them were already based on franchises centered around cars (The Fast & Furious, Blaze and the Monster Machines). Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart is an exception to the rule. I’d like to know more about the designing process behind the game, and what led you to come up with a racing game based on this cartoon in particular?
Alex De Nittis: As a company, our background is very closely linked to arcade racing games and we have a lot of experience adapting brands and IPs to this genre, even ones like PAW Patrol or Ryan’s World, which aren’t exclusively associated with vehicles, but did lend themselves well to the genre.
Gigantosaurus was no exception, as the brand’s fun colourful characters and locations lent itself very well to being reworked to this. For example, we took some inspiration from episode 14 of season 1 segment “Racing Giganto”, where the baby dinos try to beat Giganto in their new karts, but expanded on the concept and added gameplay elements like power-ups and obstacles, to give an element of unpredictability to the tracks and a more fun playing experience.
What were the main sources of influence behind the development of Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart? Sure, we all know about the big obvious elephant in the room, Mario Kart, but we’ve seen 3DClouds take inspiration from other racing games in the past (Fast & Furious: Spy Racers Rise of SH1FT3R reminded me a lot of Blur, and that’s big praise).
We always look for reference and inspiration from games like Mario Kart, which represents a cornerstone of the genre. However, the biggest challenge of the project has always been to be able to adapt certain gameplay mechanics to make them accessible to a specific target audience, so while taking inspiration from other games on a very general level, Gigantosaurus was almost entirely the result of playtesting with kids and an internal iterative process.
Did Wild Sphere (developers behind the previous Gigantosaurus game) help you out in any way, be it with assets or other documentation?
We were able to work directly with Cyber Group Studios, the creators of the show, to provide the raw assets for the game. They had a lot of involvement throughout the whole development, from giving us feedback on the initial concepts, valuable assets to animate the characters and vehicles and even gave us samples of the soundtrack for the final game. Additionally, this is our fifth game with Outright Games and our visions for the games have increasingly become more aligned and more ambitious, in terms of dimension and product quality.
Developing a family-friendly kart racer always brings up massively unfair comparisons to the one big franchise that basically dominates the genre. What are you doing in order to make this particular game carve a niche of its own?
The advantage we do have is, by nature of Gigantosaurus as a franchise, it is created for a very young preschool demographic, so our game is designed for those players in mind. Though we have also ensured it is a family game through and through, so everyone will have the opportunity to test their skills thanks to three different levels of difficulty, giving parents and older children the opportunity to enjoy playing with some dinos in karts too!
Gigantosaurus is a franchise aimed at a very, very young demographic, one that would consider even the simplest of kart racers to be as complex as playing Assetto Corsa. What is the thought process behind designing and developing a game for such a young audience?
As mentioned before, when we begin to develop new games, we start by conducting rigorous playtests with children in the target age range of the game. This allowed us to see how various game functions – from how they hold controllers, to picking up in-game racing tips – need to be adapted for them. We’ve included a number of features that will allow children to play the game independently, including the autopilot, instant race mode and on screen/read aloud driving tips, to account for different reading ages.
One feature we especially feel adds a lot of value is the inclusion of the autopilot, designed to further simplify the driving phase and allow even the youngest children to get to know the game at their own pace without missing out on the fun of the race.
It is rare to see games with splitscreen multiplayer options these days. Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart is one of said games. How important do you consider the inclusion of this feature on this game, and most of your racing games in general?
From our perspective, split-screen multiplayer is a great addition for family games as it allows everyone to see what other players are doing and for younger players, still getting to grips with the functions and gameplay of kart racers, learn more effectively.