SEGA Studios Australia – Olympics Game Debut

“We tried to get as many mechanics – through the control pad and across motion control – to map to what you’re actually doing. Whether that’s archery, where you’re pulling back the bow and aiming with your left arm, or the shooting events. Swimming is a perfect example, where you’re actually stroking with each of the athlete’s arms as they swim.”

Importantly, while the game does support Kinect and Move, the team were quick to assure us that they weren’t included for the sake of catering to the flavour of the month. Each technology has its own set of events, and the game’s foundation is very much controller-driven gameplay. Motion controls are an added bonus for those that are interested in them.


“We did a whole heap of prototyping early on,” says Franklin. “We wanted to test out what each of the different motion controls could do, and see what really worked and what didn’t work. Things that really worked for the Move were the shooting events – obviously you can aim with precision and you can pull the trigger. Works perfectly. That doesn’t work so well for Kinect, so we didn’t use those. We wanted to play up the strengths of each of the systems. You can use Kinect for the track events, which makes more sense when the controls are mapped to your body and you’re doing the actions. It was all about striking a balance between what worked and didn’t, without hindering the underpinning game, which you play with a pad.”

We’ve had limited time with the Kinect and Move events so far, and some work better than others. Archery is rock solid with Kinect; aiming is steady and flicking your right hand up to fire works well. Table tennis on Move, on the other hand, is a bit unreliable, and nowhere near as fun as it is with a controller. Traditionally controlled events are a mixed bag too. Kayak is really solid, as is javelin and hurdles, and swimming definitely has potential, whereas the cycling/keirin mechanics feels a little too obtuse and trampolining is just too easy. With the June release looming, here’s hoping the team can still make some final tweaks.

The look of London 2012 is suitably professional. The team shot for a broadcast quality feel, but also embraced the advantages that the medium has over a traditional Olympics broadcast. “They have limitations,” says associate art director Dean Ferguson. “You can’t really put cameras in certain places because then another camera is going to see that camera. There can’t be a guy sitting over the top of a pool, but we can do a lot of that. We can get in really close, we can put things underwater and we don’t have to be on a rail, like thee games cameras that they have. They have some pretty amazing equipment, but we can push it one step further, because it’s all digital and it’s not really there. So we start with that broadcast sort of mentality – it fits and it makes a lot of sense, and then we push it in certain areas and get a bit more personal.”

Showing the strain of physical competition and the emotions of the athletes was also a real focus in delivering on the Olympics as a spectacle. “If you look at weightlifting, for instance,” Ferguson continues, “you can get right in on the face. We played around with that. If you look quite closely when you’ve got a really really heavy weight and you’re straining to get it, your face will go red and you’ll actually have the veins showing up.” There are plenty of subtle touches like these, from sweat maps to bulging muscles, that show that some true care has been put into this title.

Getting the animations right was also a huge undertaking, with the team setting up an enormous motion capture suite to capture a wide variety of athletes doing their thing – including a trampolinist. They even tagged up the players on a volleyball court and did external motion capture.


As you’d expect, for solo players the game is framed around an Olympics mode; working through all the events to try and get your country of choice to the top of the medal tally. There are a variety of other modes, however, including online, which brings us to one of London 2012’s most interesting features. In an attempt to give a little more meaning to online competition, playing online is all about national pride – the fact that each nation is competing to earn the most medals.

SEGA Studios Australia has focused on gameplay for its Olympics game debut.

Olympics games tend to be easy to dismiss. After all, aren’t they invariably just mash-happy mini-game collections that rely on the strength of their license? Well, SEGA Studios Australia has set out to change that impression with its London 2012 game.

“We wanted to remove that brute force kind of approach for this game, and put the control back into people’s hands,” says gameplay designer Cade Franklin, of the past emphasis on button mashing gameplay. “These Olympic athletes are not just physically strong, but there’s an amazing amount of technique that they bring to their sports. We wanted to bring some of that to the game… and make it a bit more dynamic.”

sega1It’s an admirable goal, especially for a title that’s tackling 49 events across 13 different sports – from diving and swimming, to archery, athletics, gymnastics and weightlifting, and on to table tennis, kayak, cycling and volleyball. And let’s not forget implementing Kinect and Move functionality for a host of events, too.

The thinking seems to be paying off, however. Hurdles are more about timing than anything else: tapping the run button steadily to keep the athlete at the optimal speed, while pushing forward at the right moment to vault each hurdle just so. Javelin also riffs on this mechanic: players tap the A/X button to hit the optimal speed during the run-up before timing when they pull back on the left analogue stick, before flicking it forward to let fly. There’s a lot to take into account – throwing at the optimal angle, getting close to the foul line and flicking directly up to ensure the javelin flies dead straight. These are mechanics that require some skill and timing. Same goes for kayak, which demands a deft touch steering downstream and turning hard to power against the current through the upstream gates.

Another criticism levelled at Olympics games-past is a lack of personality. London 2012 is tackling this in a number of ways. There’s dynamic commentary throughout, for one, which makes a huge difference. Smaller touches like the spectacle of the opening ceremony and the saturated colour palette also helsega2p lift the game. Importantly, the team has also been able to get away from a strict adherence to the rules. Small tweaks have been made in many of the events to make them more ‘gamey’, but the title also introduces Party Play events, which have some fun with the rules of existing events for a more arcade-like experience.

“In Archery Blitz,” Franklin tells us, “you’re shooting at a target with a time limit, but you’ve got unlimited arrows that you keep hurtling at the target and there are bonus icons on the targets, so you can go for tens all the time or you can get the +25 points, +50 points, and multipliers. The other cool thing with it is the multiplayer aspect, because if you can hit the other player’s player icon you actually deduct points from them. So it’s still all the same mechanics that you’re used to from the archery, but it’s really making it into more of a ‘game’. It’s less regimented.”

Part and parcel of the game design is putting the player in the Olympics. “We wanted players to really be the athlete rather than a spectator,” Franklin explains. “You are behind them, you’re over their shoulder, you’re participating. You’ll notice, for instance, that the cameras are behind the athletes in the swimming events. Instead of being someone sitting up in the back row looking over the whole thing you’re actually behind the athlete. You feel them launch off the blocks, dive into the water and go under, and the noise is kind of muffled and you can’t hear the crowd, then you erupt out and they’re cheering! And the feeling is – yeah! I did that! You get that feeling coming across through the gameplay.