DreamWorks Animation are the creators of Madagascar, Shrek, Over the Hedge, Monsters vs. Aliens, and of course the all new How to Train Your Dragon 3D. All their movies are great if you ask me, but that’s not why we’re here. Were here to discus the website so I will get to it.
I had no idea what to expect of the afternoon or of the site. I had to say I was pretty amazed.
Their studio is located in an industrial area, which is expected. What you don’t expect is to see a building covered in vines with an old world feel to it. Their "campus" has winding paths, water features, an outdoor amphitheater, and it’s own Starbucks.
We were treated to yummy food, a tour of the grounds, and a sneak peek at the new game.
I know most of you are thinking oh great, another game where I have to monitor this, download that, approve this other thing, and then a week later do it all over again. Well, you’d be wrong. That is the wonderful thing about this game.
It is completely hosted on their server with nothing to download. This means no Flash player, no Quicktime, no crap to clutter up your hard drive that you don’t know what it is.
Rapunzel has been playing the game every chance she gets over the last few weeks. She LOVES it. The graphics are awesome, just like the movie. Everything flows, no walking in a grid like You-take-up-way-to-much-of-my-time-and-energy-ville, which consequently I do play.
It’s easy to navigate once in the game. Over Spring Break Rapunzel wanted to play on the Club Penguin site with her friend Maggie (not her real name). Well they both started their computers, got to the site, logged in, picked the same server (one that was pretty empty), and then promptly were kicked out of the game. They were so frustrated. KFPW doesn’t have that problem because it is self-contained. There are no servers to choose from. This means your kid logs in, types in his/her friends name, and if they are online, they can meet up. It’s that easy.
Right now there are four characters to choose from, there will be eight more added over time, for a total of twelve. These characters are also how you choose your "style" of Kung Fu. The eight additional styles/characters are to be chosen by user votes.
Here’s where the really cool stuff us parents like start. They monitor for cyber-bullying and inappropriate language. There are different levels of open chat. So lets say you allow full-chat, and your 13yo tries to type in Sh1t, it will be blocked and they will be told that word isn’t allowed. So instead they get smart and type in poop. It means the same thing, but it’s not blocked, so they think. While it may show up on their screen it won’t show up on anyone else’s. That right there is the beauty of their "soft block"
Now, about cyber-bullying, we all know it happens. They have a way to protect the kids that are being picked on. They used this as an example:
Four kids get together and decide to send one kid a whole bunch of sad faces in canned chat.
Those four kids are suddenly transported to another portion of the game. No warning, they’re just moved. A notice is sent to the parents alerting them to the behavior, so you can choose how to deal with it.
Another great thing is that the free version of the game is the exact same as the paid version. All kids start out as white belts. They choose how they want to level up to their next belt by completing quests or playing the games. Either way will get you to the next level, there is nothing that has to be completed in order for you to level up. The whole point is to do Kung Fu your way, because one way is not better than another.
The game is PC and MAC friendly. This was asked by a 11 yo boy at the event, which I thought was awesome.
The free version allows you to level up to a Green Belt. They said it was the equivalent of about three months of game play. If it was me, I’d play for free then see if your kid really likes the game before paying for it. the free version shows them one child appropriate commercial. We saw a Cartoon Network ad. It runs for about 30 seconds and then they enter the World ad free. There are no ads inside the game. The game is $5.95 month, unlimited playing time. Well unlimited unless you limit them. Which brings me to my next point.
The Parent Panel. The Parent Panel allows you to control how many hours of game play your child can have, per day (paid accounts only). This is also where you can set email preferences, chat preferences, and so forth. The really cool thing that I liked is tha they gives the Parents games to play without playing with our kids actual game. This means I can play without moving Rapunzel’s character. She even gets credit for whatever points I earn. Cool, right?
One last point then I promise I’ll quit talking about the stuff the parents want to know. In order for your child’s friend to "see" if they are online or not you have to friend them first. There are no emails or any information shared between players. They click on the friend’s character they want to add. They ask to be friends, the friend accepts or denies. That’s it.
Now on to the stuff the kids want to know about.
Which one of the Furious Five are you most like? Your character is chosen based on questions they ask you, but if you don’t like who they tell you you are most like you can choose another.
There are 52 screens, all the places you saw in the movie, and then some. But, you are not playing the movie. This means you are not Po trying to master Kung Fu or battling Tai Lung. You are you, mastering Kung Fu your way. Does that make sense? I hope so.
Anyways, the graphics play out just like the movie. Rick Rekedal is the head of Animation at DreamWorks. He worked with Executive Producer Melissa Cobb to make sure that the game looked, sounded, and acted like the movie. There’s nothing worse than playing a game where it’s nothing like the movie at all. If you sit on a bench to talk to someone the game zooms in, just like it would in a movie. Cool, right? I think so.
All these people have been working on KFP and KFPW from the beginning. They know these characters as well as they know their own chiuldren. We also heard that there will be a "sequel" in June 2011, or somewhere near that date, and a television series coming out sometime around the Holiday season, aka Christmas Time.
So, go forth, play the game, and let me know what you think!