A few weeks ago, Game Rant visited with the Ubisoft Montpellier development team to preview the new campaign and game modes of Rayman Legends, the anticipated follow-up to Rayman Origins. At the event, we had a chance to talk firsthand with a few members of the studio, including series creator and Legends creative director Michel Ancel.
Drawing specific attention to the melding of music and gameplay being added to the old-school platformer, we discuss the team’s enthusiasm, and what doors Rayman Legends could open for the series.
It’s tempting to call Legends a sequel of sorts to Origins, expanding ideas conceived during the previous game’s development. But if that’s where the enthusiasm started, is Legends still a case of finishing what was left on the cutting room floor?
“Not really. I think the team just wanted to do more Rayman, continue doing ‘Rayman’s game,’ you know? Rayman Origins was really an homage to Rayman 1; references, all these things. But Rayman Legends is working on its own. It has its own stories, it’s more independent somehow. I think people were happy to create new worlds, they had that energy for making this.”
Mixing music and gameplay was an inventive aspect of Origins’ platforming, but the evolution of that idea is a clear example of what makes Legends a whole new animal. Was the relationship between sound and gameplay something you’ve been looking to explore for some time?
“Yeah. In fact, for a long time we’ve wanted to mix gameplay and music – be able to synchronize all of these things. The funny thing is, we did a first presentation to the Ubisoft CEO (Yves Guillemot) and we wanted to make that presentation as fun as possible, so we added known music onto the gameplay just to say ‘hey, look, this is fun!’ And we always said we should do levels with the music, we should play with the music.”
One of the most promising additions (and crowdpleasing for all in attendance) to the game is the inclusion of standalone ‘song stages.’ The first was shown at E3 2012, depicting a speed-run through a level as the surrounding characters – and the player themselves – move and act in time to a licensed song. From a medieval-themed cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” to a Mariachi-infused “Eye of the Tiger,” it’s a blend of side-scroller and rhythm game that we’ve never quite experienced.
So the idea of mixing recognizable music and gameplay was something that the team was looking into from early on?
“This was more video at that time, and we said ‘okay, lets turn this into a real gameplay experience.’ So we did a lot of iterations because it’s not so easy to synchronize. You need to have the feeling of controlling what’s happening, it’s not just pressing A, B… you can really fail: you have the feeling that you are still playing a normal game.”
Has cracking that relationship given you even more ideas for farther down the road? Do you see more potential than what’s been realized here?
“Yeah, of course. I imagine that music could be modified with the gameplay, as if you are a kind of DJ, modifying the game while you play. So depending on what you’re doing, you could imagine the level and the music is going to be different. These kind of things could all be explored.”
Across the industry, or with Rayman in particular?
“With Rayman, maybe other franchises. The good thing with Rayman is you don’t care about the real ‘logical’ things, you just do it, it’s just fun, don’t think too much about complex storytelling. So to experience this kind of thing is nice.”
You mentioned that the five worlds aren’t simply levels or stages, but designed as “complete games” in terms of gameplay and overall direction. Ranging from tropical to stealth, how did you limit the team’s ideas to those included in the final game?
“It’s just a question of time. Because it’s a lot of work. For example, the musical levels are really hard work just to synchronize all these things. Everything is really hand-made, so you have to work with the artists, synchronize all these things. It’s fun to do but it really takes a lot of time.”
Are there any ideas that you’re particularly focused on expanding in the future? Not just in terms of level design, but the direction of the newly-rejuvenated Rayman series as a whole?
“We just finished the game one week ago, so now we are in the approval phase. So… I think we are going to take holidays to think about that. We think about that, but didn’t have so much time to decide on precise things for the next step. I think, right now, we have the feeling that we achieved something; this is a milestone in the Rayman series.
“From this step we want to improve things. Yes, why not add more online content, because we have some things to do in this direction. We have a Kung Fu kind of game, and we see that this online fighting/cooperating thing is really interesting too. Not only in classical levels, but in these kind of online arenas. So I think there are still interesting things to do.”
For more details from our visit with the Rayman Legends team, be sure to check out our full hands-on preview.
Rayman Legends releases September 3 for Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3 and Vita.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.