The goal: create the world’s biggest and best Katamari controller ever, and show it off at the London Fringe Festival’s Nuit Blanche.
Katamari Damacy was released by Namco in 2004. It has since gone on to be a bit of a sleeper hit, spawning 7 sequels and a small but devoted following. I’m one of those devoted. Why do I love it? The quirky but catchy music, simple controls, great character design and oddball humour all combine to make a truly joyful game that I never tire of. Sometimes described as a snowball simulator, the game involves rolling around a magical ball called a Katamari, collecting bigger and bigger objects.
I knew I wanted to do something related to the game for Nuit Blanche, and after discovering videos by Eric Gradman and Kellbot, I was convinced I could make it happen. I needed help, though, and luckily I found two great guys who had the technical know-ho to make the vision a reality. Ron LeBlanc is might be somewhat familiar to friends of the store as the guy who built the awesome Ubercade. Tom was a friend of a friend, and his willingness to jump into a crazy project at the last minute really saved the day.
So I dusted off my woodworking skills and built a frame for the giant Katamari, while Ron began hacking the Playstation controller to accept input the two optical mice in place of the PS2 thumbsticks. Tom’s electronics and coding know-how finished it off and we were (almost) ready to roll. (Technical details from Ron available here)
But to make this an exceptional party we needed some decorations and costumes, too. Walter Sayers created a bunch of Katamari characters to dress up the site, while Jen and I worked on costumes.
A huge thanks to Lisa Bondy who volunteered to coordinate an art project that would let even more people get involved. She built a giant papier mache Katamari ball for people to glue things to, and as Tom & Ron worked out the technical details for running the game, people had fun making our Katamari more and more outlandish.
Finally, after a couple of tense hours, we had a working Katamari controller! Just as it was getting dark enough, we fired up the projector and put the game up on the wall outside the store. Watching the big smiles on people’s faces as they played the game was incredible. It was a tremendous payoff for a ton of hard work.
My thanks to everyone who pitched in to make this fantastic project work.