Kine was announced to be coming to Stadia at the latest Stadia Connect. We had the opportunity to speak with Gwen Frey the maker of Kine. We asked her about Kine, Stadia, and Hotdogs.
Gwen, you have had a varied career can you give us a little rundown of what games and studios you have worked at?
I got my first gig working as a tech artist on an unannounced MMO. After that studio closed I joined a new startup out in San Francisco. I had a blast helping to grow that startup studio into Secret Identity Studios and doing the early development for Marvel Heroes Online. After two years there I left to join Irrational Games. I worked at Irrational for years developing BioShock Infinite and various DLCs until they eventually shut down. Post-Irrational I co-founded The Molasses Flood where I was the CFO and one of 6 developers. I helped launch our flagship title The Flame in The Flood as the sole animator, tech artist, and generalist. Finally, I left The Molasses Flood to found my own solo studio so that I could develop Kine.
How did the work on Kine come about?
In the beginning, I was experimenting with an animation idea where a character would somersault around in the world and move by kicking off of walls. In order to prototype this system, I was using a cube on a grid. However, I just absolutely fell in love with how the cube moved! We were pitching different game ideas at The Molasses Flood for our next project, so I made a small prototype where you were this cube with limbs that pushed off of walls and rolled through obstacles like some kind of weird 3D Tetris. That was the first prototype that eventually became Kine.
Kine is a puzzle game that features 3 characters. As the puzzles get more complex do you use all 3 characters to solve puzzles and how difficult do the puzzles get?
Yes, you definitely need all 3 characters for some of the puzzles in the game. Also, Kine does get very difficult in certain places. However, I never gate the player with a harder puzzle. You can choose not to do side areas and you can win the game by only completing 1/3 of the puzzles in the game. It is important to me that players feel they can walk away from any part of the game that is stumping them and come back to it later. It is also important to me that most players can win the game, even if they cannot 100% complete it.
The game is a solo project how have you been finding developing it?
It can be frustrating not having people to motivate you, and not having people to celebrate with. There were times when I wish I could talk through ideas that are very specific to the game I am making, but there was no one I could talk to that really understood what I was trying to do. That can be difficult at times. On the other hand, it is a rush knowing that I can control every part of the game. I’d also like to add that the game started as a solo project, but I did get funding from Epic and I did hire some contract houses to help out with development. Mitchel Wong composed the music, Surface Digital worked with me to redo the environment and UI art and Disbelief ported the game to Stadia and other platforms. I treasure my close relationship with the wonderful people that worked on Kine with me and I feel like it is rude to call this a solo project when you consider how much love and sweat they put into the project.
Music plays a big part in the game. Was there any inspiration for the music?
The game is heavily inspired by La La Land. I was infatuated with that film when I began Kine, and I think that shows. When giving direction to Mitchel I always asked for something jazzy that would sound like it could belong in La La Land. I gave him other constraints as well. For instance, the entire world is built on a constant basis, so the bass line had to remain consistent throughout the entire game and in every song.
Did you enjoy streaming the development of the game?
Yes, that was very motivating! Especially when I was working solo. I’ve even had some developer chiming in to point out mistakes or help me with bugs. I really appreciated the community effort.
Was porting the game to Stadia easy and have Stadia been supportive?
I’m leaning heavily on Epic to make sure the engine runs on Stadia. Kine was crafted in a scripting language that works on top of their engine, so I am relying very heavily on them to make sure the low-level engine code runs on their platform. On my side, the hardest thing is crafting a UI that is very scalable. Someone has to be able to read the dialogue while sitting on a couch looking at a TV, or while looking at a phone screen. There are a lot of UI considerations to take into account when you are working with such a range of viewing options. The Stadia team has been very quick to respond and is eager to make sure we are all successful though. I enjoyed working with them.
What do you think of Stadia?
I am SO EXCITED to see what happens. Personally I think Stadia is a sleeper hit that will grow into something unique and interesting. I can’t even guess how this service will be received when it is rolled out globally. I think this service could bring AAA games to regions that we don’t expect right now. It is possible that this replaces the internet cafes in Brazil, for instance. Honestly, as an American that hasn’t traveled that much, it is difficult for me to grasp what this technology might mean to different people around the world, so I’m eager to wait, watch, and observe as gamers around the world slowly get their hands on it.
Kine launches on October 17th on Epic Games Store, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch. While there is no date for Stadia’s launch does Kine launch with Stadia? If not or is there a rough timescale you can tell us?
When Stadia launches Kine will be a launch title on their platform!
Lastly this is a question we ask everyone. Is a hot dog a sandwich?
No. A sandwich requires 2 slices of bread.