In his keynote address at Develop In Brighton today, development legend David Braben insisted that Disneyland Adventures, his Kinect-powered Xbox 360 game unveiled at E3 last month, is no kid-friendly cash-in based on an enormously popular licence. Instead, he said, it's a "top-notch game for a broad audience."
"Disneyland personifies what a broad audience cares about," he explained. "One of the things we need to think about as an industry is what people on the outside look at. For us, a lot of the time, that's Call Of Duty. When games step outside of that they tend to do very well.
"This is a rare opportunity to produce a top-notch game for a broad audience. This is a triple-A game. This is something we can be proud of as an industry."
Despite cementing his place in history with 1984's Elite, and with his studio Frontier already well-versed in use of the Xbox 360 motion sensor thanks to last year's Kinectimals, Braben acknowledged that developing a game set in an accurate recreation of the most iconic theme park in the world is posing challenges he has never seen before.
Some 16 million people visit California's Disneyland every year, and to appeal to all Braben has to cater not just to gamers, but also to the die-hard fans who will accept nothing less than a pixel-perfect recreation of the park's 86 acres. "They all know the intricate detail and will be irritated if anything's wrong," he said. "It can't be a horrible hybrid of the game and real life. People want to feel like they're actually meeting Mickey Mouse."
Braben has had a taste of this already: "One of the criticisms we got at E3 was that one of the churro carts was in the wrong place."
The entire park is unlocked from the start, and Braben pointed out that some elements of the park's design present headaches to game developers used to pulling tricks with occluders. "At Disneyland, we can't do that," he explained. "The designers of the park have included sight lines where you can see right across the park…they [didn't] have to worry about rendering. We have to have huge draw distances."
With Disney's all-ages appeal, and Kinect's removal of the biggest barrier to entry for non-gamers, Braben's intent to make a triple-A game for all is built on solid foundations. One thing of which he remains highly conscious is the danger that Disneyland Adventures will be dismissed as a mere marketing tool.
"If it's just an advertisement for Disneyland, we've failed," he admitted. "It's the setting for a game. Our intent is to create the experience of going to Disneyland in a game. Anything beyond that – if people love it – that's great."