Interview with MOTHER FLOCKING Producer of FLOCK – Robby Zinchak

Interviews Capcom

MasterAbbott from Capsule Computers.  Had the complete pleasure to sit down and ask the Mother Flocker himself Robby Zinchak Producer of the 2009 Scotish BAFTA “GAME OF THE YEAR”  :  Capcom’s FLOCK !!

Robby Zinchak (on the right) was very kind enough to answer the hard questions about FLOCK and also shed a little light into what’s the real truth with Sheep Abduction these days. 

Sit back, and put your reading glasses one and enjoy the interview.

Capsule Computers Question 1 : Tell everyone out there who Robby Zinchak is,  Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How long you have been at Capcom, where were you before Capcom, and what you have done and worked on in the past before FLOCK.

Robby Zinchak : I have been at Capcom for around a year and a half, working on a wide range of things – everything from Flock to the MotoGP series to Age of Booty.  Previously I was at Midway working on Blacksite and an unannounced title. 

Capsule Computers Question 2 : How many dedicated men and women were involved in creating FLOCK.

Robby Zinchak : Lots!  Not only did we have at least a dozen people on the core internal dev team at Proper Games, but we also had people across the world working on music, level design, QA, localization, marketing, public relations, min spec pc, map sharing, server operations, and many many others who helped create the game.  Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we were able to create an amazing, award-winning game.

Capsule Computers Question 3 : What’s were the biggest challenges encountered by the development team in creating FLOCK.

Robby Zinchak : One of our biggest hurdles was creating a game that was accessible to everyone right away.  To that end, we did a lot of tuning with the level progression to ensure users wouldn’t get overwhelmed early on, but we had to make sure that a lot of new interesting things unlock to keep the player engaged.  We also spent a lot of time tuning the controls to make them as intuitive as possible.  We wanted to ensure the game was technically accessible to as many players as possible so we had an entire team devoted to making the game run on lower speced PCs.  From all that effort, I believe we achieved our goal of making the game easy to pick up and enjoy.

Capsule Computers Question 4 : Who’s idea/inspiration was it to create a game such a cute and cuddly game like FLOCK ?

Robby Zinchak : Geoff Gunning (on the left photo above), the creative director over at Proper, came up with the original concept.  The game draws a lot of inspiration from the Scottish countryside, where nearly all the elements of the game can be seen (except the UFOs… I think!)

Capsule Computers Question 5 : What was the development process like in creating FLOCK ? What sort of research, storyboard design, concept art and testing were involved.

Robby Zinchak : The team at Proper Games produced quite a bit of research & documentation to prepare them for the production process – GDD, TDD, concept art, schedules, etc.  From there, it was a matter of creating a prototype, a vertical slice, continuing building out the game through production, reaching alpha and performing lots of game polish, then closing out the bugs for beta and submission.

Capsule Computers Question 6 : How long did it take to develop FLOCK ? Were there any strict deadlines/Timeframe that needed to be taken to get FLOCK out to the WORLD !

Robby Zinchak : Very much so — but every project faces deadlines.  It’s actually a good thing, that helps you keep focused on your core game and ensures you put all your attention on what’s important.

Capsule Computers Question 7 : For anyone that has no idea.  What type of game is FLOCK ? What can players expect when playing this game.

Robby Zinchak : FLOCK is a action-puzzle game – basically players control a UFO (‘the Flocker’) which is trying to abduct animals.  In order to win, you have to herd the animals into your mothership (‘the Motherflocker’).  Along the way, you’ll have to learn the best ways to herd the animals (each one moves differently) and also figure out how to navigate the hazardous world.

Capsule Computers Question 8 : How complicated is FLOCK to play ?  Can anyone enjoy it, or is it for the more veteran gamer ?

Robby Zinchak : It’s designed to be very accessible – anyone can pick it up and enjoy it, including those new to gaming, and veterans as well.

Capsule Computers Question 9 : There is there multiplayer in FLOCK ? Was it considered and what benefits does  FLOCK have without it.

Robby Zinchak : There is multiplayer actually – it has local co-op multiplayer.  We could have developed online co-op multiplayer, but we needed to spend that time making the core game great.

Capsule Computers Question 10 : How many kind of game modes are there in FLOCK.  And how many levels are associated to each mode

Robby Zinchak : Several, there’s the massive single player campaign (50+ levels!), the co-op campaign, a level editor to make your own levels, and level sharing to check out and share the best user created levels.

Capsule Computers Question 11 : What other games inspired you to make a game like FLOCK ?

Robby Zinchak : Obviously we played our predecessors in the herding genre (ie ‘Sheep’ and many others) to get a good idea of what had been done before and where we could innovate, but we also checked out many other games to see what worked well and what didn’t.  For instance, Little Big Planet was a great example of level sharing working very well in a game.  Ultimately, while we drew inspiration from these games, I think we created something new and very different.

Capsule Computers Question 12: What kind of tips can you suggest to players to bear in mind when playing FLOCK that can help them become superstars in UFO Sheep abduction 😉

Robby Zinchak : One of the key things to learn early is to not always herd at full-throttle.  Great example are the cows – you can get them to stampede if you start pushing them slowly and ramp up speed.  You can also change directions easier at lower speeds.  If you learn when to go slow, and when to go fast, you’ll be able to herd like a pro!

Capsule Computers Question 13: On what platforms is FLOCK available on ?  How can consumers get FLOCK as quickly and easily as possible ?

Robby Zinchak : XBLA, PSN, and PC.  All three platforms provide great experiences and are easy to get from their respective online stores (Xbox Live, Playstation Network, and your favorite PC digital retailers respectively).  Flock on over to MotherFlocker.com for more information!

Capsule Computers Question 14: Talking Xbox 360 Achievements for FLOCK,  how hard are they to obtain.  Can players get an easy 200/200 or will there be a lot of work involved.

Robby Zinchak : There’s a pretty good balance I think – about one third are easy to get, another third will require a little work, and the last third will require some hunting.  That way they’re pretty well spread out.  Very few players have gotten all the achievements, so if you get 100% you’ll be among a handful of the best players in the world!

Capsule Computers Question 15: What design/physics engine did you use in developing FLOCK ?

Robby Zinchak : We leveraged some off the shelf solutions for some things (for example, Gamespy powered our map sharing under the hood on PS3 & PC), but for the most part the code was written by the team.

Capsule Computers Question 16: What can fans expect in the future for FLOCK ? Are there any plans for any new Downloadable Content ?  And if you are able to advise what It could be.

Robby Zinchak : At this point the team has moved onto the next big project (keep your eyes tuned at the end of the month…! ;)) but we were very happy to be able to release three updates for Flock on PC with new features and improvements.

Capsule Computers Question 17: What do you think makes FLOCK such a great game and why should consumers go out there and purchase a copy of the game ?

Robby Zinchak : FLOCK! is an original and creative game with a lot of personality.  It includes a ton of content and fun gameplay for less than the price of a pizza.  That’s hard to beat!

Capsule Computers Question 18 : Have you ever been adducted by aliens yourself 😉

Robby Zinchak : That was pretty much my experience of getting into the industry 😛

Capsule Computers Question 19 : If the poor little farm animals in the game could talk, what do you think they would tell us about these pesky UFO’s and the Mother FLOCKER ??

Robby Zinchak : An interesting question – I think they like the UFO, as long as it doesn’t get too up close and personal.  But I think the more interesting question is what the UFO is thinking – why exactly is it abducting all these animals?  Early on we planned to answer this question via some cutscenes… but we came to the realization the game is more interesting when the player is left to answer the question for themselves.

Capsule Computers Question 20 : Finally .. what do you love most about working at Capcom ?

Robby Zinchak : Capcom is a fantastic company to work for because of all the great, highly talented people who work there, and the many high quality projects that are produced!

There ya have it,  FLOCK out of the FLOCKING WAY.  Capsule Computers would like to thank Robby once again for spending the time to answer all these questions.  If you don’t already have FLOCK.  WHAT ARE YOU FLOCKING DOING !!!  Get out there and grab yourself a copy !! As Robby said its available on nearly every platform, XBOX, PS3 and PC.   Head on over to http://www.motherflocker.com/ for everything you need to get up and FLOCKING in no time.

Let us know what you thought of this interview here or in the forums.

MasterAbbott
Capsule Computers
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