The game needs to be incredibly simple to keep a toddler engaged and happy as "kids are chaotic," said Schafer, and the games they had "couldn't handle the chaos". 'No point' to the game.
The developers had to keep themselves incredibly disciplined to not add too many features, as kids at the age of two simply wouldn't understand or care.
"Kids are chaotic," declared Tim Schafer.
"I was really frustrated that the games we had couldn’t handle the chaos of her running out of the room and running back in, or getting too close to the screen, or laying down on the floor and grabbing my legs. If you have a little kid you know they want to hold your hand and grab your leg and get behind you and go on your shoulders and do all this crazy stuff when you’re playing together."
"And the goal was to make a game that wouldn’t be bothered; it would not break when chaos came, but actually would thrive on chaos, so that the game is actually at its best when it’s chaotic, with a room full of anarchic children playing."
Happy Action Theater has games many of the developers remember playing when they were young, but only the kids could show them what really could be fun to them.
"We made them so they were fun for us, in the office, for the developers, and then kids showed us new ways to make the activities fun. The lava’s a great example of something that I thought would be fun," explained Schafer.
"What I remember from being a kid is playing Hot Lava in the kitchen, where you had to climb onto the kitchen counter and not step on the floor, get across the living room on the surface of the couch without touching."
"That’s how I thought it would be fun. When the kids played it, they immediately flopped into the lava, swam in it, splashed in it, kicked their feet up in the air. We didn’t anticipate this way being fun."
"So we added gameplay there; we added the ability to get into the lava and get back up again, and now you have fire hands! Now you can throw the fire hands around. We went out of our way to make sure the game never had a point, because that would ruin it," he continued.
"I mean that in the best possible way. It’s meant to be the best possible waste of time. It’s not a waste of time in that it’s really, I think, inspiring to kids’ imaginations. Kids have great big imaginations but they sometimes need a suggestion or a background or a reminder to what the fantasy is."
"That lava helps them. Then they can pretend they’re hot lava monsters, or they can do hot touch, they can do whatever they want in front of the lava and make up their own game. It is more of a toy."
"It’s really hard when you talk to a core game player, and they ask about how many hours of gameplay there is. How many hours is Play-Doh? It’s a difficult question to answer."
Check out thebetween Tim Schafer and VG247. Happy Action Theater releases on Xbox 360 with Kinect tomorrow, February 1st, for 800 Microsoft Points.
Schafer: Happy Action Theater 'thrives on chaos'
31 January 2012 | By Simon Priest