FIFA, football and free drinks.

Our experience of building a Kinect football game for Hyatt

Hyatt Regency wanted to do something that was fun and interactive for the 2014 FIFA world cup. When they approached us, they only had a really vague and formless idea — It needed to engage the customers, needed to have something to do with football, and shouldn’t take up too much space, they said. But most of all, it needs to be fun, they stressed.

So we met up with the F&B Manager who was to be our go-to person for this project. He showed us around the hotel, and pointed out to the north wall of the lobby. “This space is yours. Go nuts.” He smiled. I returned it.

So, what’s fun, interactive and engaging? A game. A game on the Kinect. That seemed like the obvious solution. But we had a problem, we had only six days. Like most clients, Hyatt wanted the heaven and earth, and wanted it immediately. So, Arvind, our developer and I sat down and made a list of what we could build in four days, test in one, fix and release on the last. Needless to say, it was a pretty small list.

The final idea was a rudimentary game of goal-scoring against a virtual goalkeeper. We came up with Carlos, a mean faced goalkeeper who taunts and mocks you if you missed goals. You could say Carlos was bi-polar — he went from sour-faced meanie to slobbering cry-baby if you kept scoring. We pitched it to Hyatt, and they loved it. We started on the development the very same day.

The Rules — The game was simple. You stand in front of the Kinect, select the team you want to play against, and start kicking. Three misses, and you’re out. Get Carlos to cry by scoring six consecutive goals, and you get free drinks at Hyatt’s top notch bar.

We retained Carlos as the goalkeeper, but you could change his jerseys, so that it’d be like you were playing against that particular country. So I sat down and started drawing up the jerseys in Illustrator, a very tedious job. Arvind was busy writing the game logic and mechanics. This took about two days. After we had something working, we showed the prototype to Hyatt, and they suddenly decided that 3D was the way to go. 3D, in three days. A near impossible task, but Hyatt was a valuable client, and we wanted to make it happen.

We got on one of our good friends, Rohith, to do the music for the game. He did the background score, the sounds and the ambient noises for the game, and he delivered like the pro he is.

We came back, buckled down and got into a work-frenzy. We didn't leave the office for the next forty-eight hours. Pizza, ginger-tea (tea is the elixir for us Indians, not coffee.) and thayir-sadham. We did it. But Carlos had to undergo a facelift — we didn't have the time to sculpt his mug in 3D, we simply used a generic face, and he didn't have expressions any more.

Here he is after his makeover, playing for Spain:

This, Hyatt loved. We did too. After playing a couple of rounds, they wanted to make it tougher. They apparently thought giving away too many free drinks was a bad thing.

So, to make the game tougher and more challenging, Arvind quickly cooked up a difficulty rating system. Teams higher up on FIFA’s rating board were tougher to score against, and vice versa. But this was a secret, and obviously worked in Hyatt’s favour. Customers ended up choosing to play against the more popular teams like Brazil, Spain and Germany, and had a really tough time scoring anything at all. Only six free drinks were given away, and Rahul grinned. The game was a success.

Here’s the video of the game during its pre-release:

Unfortunately, we can’t share the final product, due to some red tape.

If any of you want to collaborate or do something similar, feel free to ping me at sujan@extrasugarstudios.com.

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