Battle Kitty pushes the boundaries of Netflix interactive technology

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When creating your new show fighting kitten, there was one thing executive producer Matt Lazell knew for sure: ankle boots. “There’s something about little cute characters who shake their asses,” he says. “I think there is some ancient magic in there. But the butts were just the beginning. He and his brother, lead producer Paul Lazell, also wanted something else: to make a TV show that felt like a video game.

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Today, viewers will find out if they succeeded. fighting kittenwhich follows the brash, belligerent Kitty and the shy, wary monster-fighting orc is both a love letter to 1990s video games and the most innovative Netflix interactive offer from the days of Annabelle Jones and Charlie Brooker Black mirror episode “Bandersnatch”“. The show’s futuristic-medieval world, Battle Island, took nearly five years to complete, and its nine-episode boss fight storyline plays out on a map that you can navigate from start to finish straight from the show – without jumping to an episode. list is required. It’s wildly creative. It also nearly broke Netflix’s interactive technology.

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However, this was not the intention. fighting kitten It started out like a completely different show. The initial move the Lazell brothers made for Netflix in the summer of 2017 was for an animated series based on Matt’s novel. Adventures of Kitty and Orc Instagram sketches. At the time, Brooker had just met with Netflix about Bandersnatch and the streamer’s first “Choose Your Own Adventure” experiment. The Cat in the Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale barely got out. “When we joined, Netflix Animation was in its infancy,” says Matt. “As we developed fighting kitten, this animation studio was built around us; it was a DIY startup vibe and everyone could fit in one dining room.”

It was in these fragmentary salad days that the concept of the show was formed. The creative team captured the season’s central plot of monsters and worlds, and the Lazells came up with a concept that they pitched to Dave Schlafman, Head of Design for Netflix’s Interactive Offerings: World Maps. It’s a method of navigation familiar to anyone who’s ever played an RPG, but completely new to television. “We took the branching storytelling technology they used for other shows,” says Matt, “and basically broke it, used it for things it shouldn’t have been used for.” In RPGs, world maps are designed to connect all possible levels or locations in the game. AT fighting kittenthey feature simplified versions of characters and allow the spectator-player to navigate to “quests” (mini-episodes typically between two and 12 minutes long) in what looks like an over-decorated menu screen.

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Bandersnatch and the roughly 20 interactive children’s shows created with Netflix’s Branch Manager typically consist of “segments”, “flashbacks” and “summaries” that viewers select as they progress through the series. In addition to maps and quests, fighting kittenbuilding blocks include “gates” and “states”. In the series, you cannot advance to the next episode (or a group of three episodes) without collecting the correct number of “monster keys” that you get after watching monster battle clips, similar to defeating a boss at the end of a game level. This meant that Shlafman and his product designers not only needed to create a more complex user interface for navigating the map, with buttons that indicate whether or not you’ve watched a mini-episode, but also to keep the logical mechanics of user progress.

“We tried to add discovery levels to maps,” says Paul. “We’ve been watching all the animatics, trying to come up with clever ways to tie them into the story, reveal something about the environment, or just signify changes in the environment to show that you’re progressing.” (Let the timer stop a few times on different cards for a neat joke.) The cards are also meant to fill the time between episodes, keeping you in the show. Interactivity of Brooker’s recent game “cartoon meets quiz” Cat burglar pulls you out of history. fighting kitten‘s approach to the game takes you further.

Teams behind fighting kitten built 31 maps for nine episodes, with a total of 159 states (unlockable map layers) between them. Ultimately, the team spent two and a half years adding extra features to Netflix’s interactive structure to accommodate whatever the Lyzells wanted to do.

In terms of style, animation has always been conceived as a mixture of 3D game aesthetics and classic cartoons such as Dexter’s Laboratory and Cool girls. “We wanted it to be like Nintendo video games in the summer,” says Paul, rattling off the influence Super Mario Odysseus and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening to Animal Crossing and Kingdom Hearts; even fortnite receives a nod of warriors obsessed with equipment and weapons. References to anime touchstones such as Dragon Ball Z Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, and Sailor Moon are also common.

Courtesy of Netflix

Doing it all fighting kitten the team has reached—and expanded—the current limits of Netflix’s ramified narrative technology. It also meant that the Lazell brothers had various ideas for interactivity that had to be abandoned. Like, for example, a counter of the number of keys collected by the viewer, or the concept of a bonus quest that would allow them to choose Kitty’s outfit and watch quests with the character in a variety of outfits. “We quickly discovered that since we have to use this technology, which is not really designed for what we want to do, the number of iterations that we will need to do is just crazy,” explains Matt. “Do you want to watch this video of Kitty in a princess dress? Yes, it will be another 100 hours.”

With so much potential right in front of them, will kids watch this interactive and groan at the more real gameplay? This is an opportunity. If it becomes a hit, Netflix may want to order a few spin-off games, and the team will have “lots of ideas” if they do. They also have potential plans for season 2 if it gets the green light, but whether that will include further expansion of the branching narrative technology remains to be seen.

fighting kitten is coming to a tipping point for Netflix’s interactive offerings. While the streaming service announced more “choose your own adventure” titles such as the romantic comedy. Choose love, they are not guaranteed to hit. From June 2021 Cat burglar Netflix’s only interactive offering ranked in the top 10 on top10netflix.com, in accordance with Diversity. This signal of popularity, in the absence of a full breakdown of the number of views, suggests that, with the exception of ensuring the safety of the creator Black mirror for life, the format must evolve substantially if it is to play a role in expanding how the platform is used day in and day out. Netflix VP of Comedy and Interactive Andy Weil said brink in February such disposable as Cat burglar could “push more people into gaming,” referring to a small library of mobile games launched last year. But even this cannot guarantee the long-term future of interactive offerings such as fighting kitten.

Viable or not, this is a wild experiment that is sure to attract more than a few young fans (and their nostalgic parents). It’s too ambitious to be a template for every new game, but it proves that there are new ways for interactivity and story to complement and enhance each other in a streaming series. The best way to explain fighting kitten is that this is a TV show and a game where you need to watch the show in order to complete the game. Surprisingly, it works.

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