Kirby and the Forgotten Land was a big big title in the storied franchise, offering Kirby’s first full-fledged 3D adventure after 30 years. The road to making it was a long one, as HAL Laboratory Executive Director Shinya Kumazaki and series director Tatsuya Kamiyama revealed in a lengthy GDC presentation, wherein they discussed the new challenges they took on to celebrate Kirby’s 30th anniversary.
The essence of Kirby is being approachable for beginners, so the team at HAL had to make a 3D action game that anyone could play. While they built up quite a bit of 3D experience slowly over the years, making the leap would be difficult – Kirby doesn’t have a good character design for 3D (it’s hard to tell which way he’s facing from the back) and angling ranged attacks is hard. To assist with this, the developers crafted finely tuned homing to find the sweet spot between smoothening things for the player without erasing the challenge completely, and also added a unique way of hit detection that extends hitboxes in the depth direction.
The camera was another pain point, as managing them in 3D games is often difficult, especially for beginners. The developers bypassed this with a set camera angle, which not only freed player control but also allowed the team to focus on relevant terrain objects, make it clear where Kirby couldn’t just fly over parts of the level, and allow for greater expression and focus in the backdrops.
The team also got to add some whole new dimensions to Kirby with Mouthful Mode, which they developed after thinking about Kirby’s properties of malleability – when they wanted to use real world objects with the mode, they developed the setting of a ruined civilization (Kirby’s flexibility is noted as a good point). Overall, the presentation is a great, concise look at the difficulties of 3D development and the consideration you need to work with it.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is out now.
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