Archive for the ‘7 Studios’ Category

President Obama, Space Camp, & Six Flags Fun Park? How they are oddly connected.

August 20, 2012


Coffee Beans
     Bankruptcy, Six Flags Fun Park, President Obama, and Space Camp?

     Just about 2 weeks ago, I put together the story, “Curiosity Inspired – Space Camp Hours Report“. After I posted the story, a former developer who worked on the game saw the story and sent me an email. While the developer will remain anonymous, they were glad to see coverage on the game and wanted to share information on the “…background on the development process, and also why the game dropped with zero marketing…”.

     How are Space Camp, Six Flags Fun Park, and President Obama connected? What decision by President Obama is given as a reason to have possibly “killed all the synergy” around the Wii game Space Camp? What about bankruptcy? Brew yourself a fresh pot of coffee, and read the email below to find out!

The Brew
     The former 7 Studios developer said, “OK, so back in mid to late 2008, 7 Studios was finishing work on Six Flags Fun Park for DS and Wii, published by Brash Entertainment. Brash had a lot of problems and ended up going out of business right when SFFP was supposed to release. The DS version made it to store shelves — with zero marketing — but the Wii title didn’t. It had been approved by Nintendo for North American release and the discs, manuals and boxes were all printed and ready to go, but Brash went under before they could actually ship the game to distributors.

So we were all pretty bummed that this Wii game that we’d worked on for a year and half or so, and were pretty happy with, would never see the light of day. At the time our main LA office had only one other project, Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, published by Genius, so we were looking for other games.

We ended up signing the deal with Activision to make Space Camp. It was a very short development cycle, something like 4-5 months, with a small DS team and a small Wii team. How were we able to get a console title done that quickly? We re-used as much of Six Flags Fun Park as we could.

If you check videos on YouTube of Space Camp and SFFP you can see that the interface, engine, even many (maybe even a majority) of the minigames are identical. At the time we weren’t too concerned as the DS version of SFFP got no marketing, and the Wii version was never released, so we were still shipping what was effectively a brand-new game for consumers.

When the Space Camp game was signed, if I remember correctly there was an expectation that President Obama was going to work with NASA and announce a new push for another US moon landing. The plan was that Space Camp would ride the wave of publicity around that and we’d be part of the marketing push for both NASA and the real Space Camp — Activision had licensed their logo and possible new mascot.

Unfortunately due to the economy the President backed off on these plans, which killed all the synergy around the project. My understanding was that Activision had never planned to spend a ton of marketing money on the game, mostly seeking a cheap tie-in to the existing hype which never panned out. So it shipped and disappeared. The office responsible for publishing the game was Activision Minneapolis, which at the time was tasked with publishing the company’s low-budget ‘value’ titles.

The really funny thing is that as we were working on Space Camp, Ubisoft bought the Six Flags Fun Park project from Brash as part of Brash’s bankruptcy proceedings. They shipped the existing boxes, which were released to stores in March 2009, just two months before Space Camp! Ubisoft also had us make a version of SFFP for Europe, Fun Park Party. Apparently SFFP did well enough to justify another print run, but 7 Studios wasn’t able to work on that directly as we were purchased by Activision.

So that’s the story of Space Camp, and the related story of Six Flags Fun Park. Overall the team was proud of what we were able to accomplish on both games, in terms of what we could do with the time and resources we had, and it’s always been disappointing that factors out of our control (Brash’s bankruptcy, the backtracking of the new moon project) led to both titles underperforming.

Unfortunately 7 Studios didn’t ship another title. The Scratch lawsuit happened shortly after we were purchased by Activision. After that we did prototyping and development work on console and iPhone, and we helped out with some tools and the downloadable demo for DJ Hero 2. Then in Spring 2010 Activision shut down their music/rhythm game division and that was the end of the studio.”

Caffeinated Thoughts
     I was glad a developer was willing to share feedback and an inside story on the development for Space Camp, and Six Flags Fun Park, giving us a small inside look of why certain decisions were made. They did say that, “…there may be a few minor errors…” in the story, but that they had fact checked dates to backup things from memory, and I did look at release dates and other information as well to make sure we were providing accurate information.
     I personally found it interesting that Activision gambled on a new Moon mission being promoted by President Obama, even going as far as possibly getting licenses from NASA and the real Space Camp, but then not being able to move forward with their use because of President Obama’s decision to not move forward with a new Moon mission; funding instead went to the Mars mission I believe. I can already see a political attack ad being formed, “Obama destroyed the video game industry, and your children’s entertainment by cutting NASA’s Moon funding!”.
     As for Brash Entertainment, the original publisher of Six Flags Fun Park, and how it came and went so quickly in the video game industry, here is a great piece on the company and its failure: “Brash fallout a cautionary tale“.

     Now, let’s say you are in a store and you stumble upon Six Flags Fun Park and Space Camp, both at a great bargain price. How do you decide which one to try?
     Well, I asked the developer and this is what they said, “I can’t recommend one over the other, it really depends on the player. If someone is really into NASA, they should go for Space Camp. If they like carnival games, they should go for SFFP. I think SFFP has more content overall than Space Camp does. In terms of the single-player story, Space Camp starts better but gets grindy near the end, while SFFP starts slow but has some really cool moments near the end.”

Questions
     Have any of you played Six Flags Fun Park and/or Space Camp? If so, what did you think about the games?
     Also, what did you think of the story behind the games, and how they both came about? Did you find any details perhaps odd, hilarious, or just outrageous?

You can see links to Six Flags Fun Park and Space Camp below:

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Curiosity Inspired – Space Camp Hours Report

August 8, 2012


Coffee Beans
     Sunday night as I was working on the computer, I was debating on whether or not to open an extra tab to NASA’s site for coverage on their latest rover mission to Mars. I ended up opening an extra tab and switching back and forth on the coverage of the Curiosity’s landing on the Red Planet. After watching the Curiosity coverage, it made me wonder how many “space” type games there might be on the Wii that I had missed. So, that’s how this post was inspired.

     Space Camp was released for the Wii on May 26, 2009 and I believe it released with a MSRP of just $29.99. The game was developed by 7 Studios (now closed) and published by Activision, and it received an ESRB rating of “Everyone” with “Mild Fantasy Violence” listed as content for gamers and parents to be aware of.

     The Curiosity Mars rover took 253 days (about 6,072 hours) to reach Mars. How many hours have U.S. Wii owners reported training for lunar journeys with Space Camp? Brew yourself some coffee, and let’s take a look!

The Brew
     Space Camp has approximately 12,860 Wii owners that have reported game-play data through the Nintendo Channel, with 1,168 days possibly reported. The game’s average play-time per day/session is 1 Hour 22 Minutes, and as the image above shows the game has averaged just over 6 Hours “Per person” that has reported data.

     Space Camp’s “professional” critic review score average is 62.00%, based on just one review score on GameRankings.com. The game has a customer review score average of 65.00%, based on 4 customer reviews from Amazon.com.

Caffeinated Thoughts
     If you had recently written an article with a title like, “Top Ten Wii Games You May Not Have Heard About”, and you had included Space Camp in that list, I would have been surprised by it. When I was searching for games Sunday night and Monday afternoon, Space Camp was the only one I saw in my search that I had never heard of before.
     If you have never seen any footage of Space Camp, below is a trailer for the game:
 

     With the game only having one “professional” critic review for its GameRankings.com review score average, I can see how the game released and flew past my games radar unnoticed; there just wasn’t a lot of coverage for the game from what I can tell.
     While I don’t recall ever seeing a copy of the game in a store, this game surprised me simply because I could not remember hearing about it and it had game-play data reported through the Nintendo Channel; which is better than many games I know about and have tracked for a few years now on the Nintendo Channel, that don’t have data reported yet.

Questions
     Have any of you perhaps played the Wii, or DS, version of Space Camp? If so, is it a game you would recommend to other Wii and DS owners?
     As for the Curiosity’s landing on Mars, did any of you stay up and watch the coverage of it live Sunday night as well?

If you are interested in Space Camp, you can see a link to it on Amazon.com below: