Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Interview
The Wii Remote seems like the perfect control input for classic point-and-click adventures. Over a year and half later, however, the genre still has not found a home on Nintendo Wii. Telltale Games is looking to fill this void with the WiiWare release of Strong Badís Cool Game for Attractive People. We got the chance to discuss the upcoming game with Lead Designer Mark Darin.
What was the initial appeal in creating a Homestar Runner game? How did this idea/concept become a realization?
Mark Darin: We felt that the hilarious characters from Homestarrunner.com and the situations they find themselves in on a weekly basis would be a perfect fit for the episodic storytelling that Telltale does best. We contacted the Mike and Matt Chapman (a.k.a The Brothers Chaps, creators of Homestarrunner.com) and told them we were interested in making a game based on their characters. This was not the first time they had been asked about licensing Strong Bad and the gang for a video game, but they were really excited by the type of game we wanted to make. Telltale promised to build the game around the characters and storytelling that fans have come to love instead of just making a generic shooter or action game and dropping in the characters in hopes of profiting off of the Chapmansí success.
Why are you focusing on Strong Bad instead of Homestar Runner?
MD: Strong Bad is usually the guy getting into trouble, starting trouble, stirring up trouble and doing a variety of other things that end with the word "trouble." As Strong Bad himself puts it, ďMe and my big brother and our The Cheat pretty much run the show around here, as well as serve as a sort of multi-purpose criminal element." Sometimes itís just more fun to be the "bad" guy. Also, Homestar has no arms... sooooo, thereís that.
How have the Chapman Brothers helped with the game? Did they pen the different episodes and plots or are Telltale Gamesí writers doing that job?
MD: Each episode has its own lead writer. That role is filled by Telltale people: Mike Stemmle, Chuck Jordan and myself. Before writing the scripts, we spend a lot of time brainstorming with the Chapmans to come up with various plots, events, puzzles and character moments that really fit the Homestar Runner universe. As the scriptwriting progresses, we check in regularly with the Chapmans to ensure they like the direction of the story. Once the script is written, the Chapmans then go over all of the dialog, just to make sure everything is perfect, and they usually end up rewriting several lines in the process to make them sound more "Strong Bad-y."
For people unfamiliar with the Homestar Runner universe, what is it about this game that will capture their attention?
MD: The humor. Even if youíve never seen an episode of the cartoon, the delightfully absurd humor of Homestar Runner will suck you into the game. The characters are all pretty accessible (despite their sometimes strange appearances), and they engage in activities that we can all relate to, whether itís picking on your younger brother when you were a kid, or dealing with local tax issues. And the outcome always leaves you saying, "Man, I wish I could have done that."
What made you decide to choose WiiWare instead of a retail release?
MD: Because Telltale specializes in episodic gaming, WiiWareís digital distribution is a perfect fit for us. We are aiming to release five episodes altogether, about one month apart. That kind of release schedule doesnít make much sense for retailers who need to maximize their shelf space, and it can get confusing or frustrating for shoppers who need to make a special trip to the store each month in order to find the right episode in stock. People are becoming more comfortable with On Demand programming for their TVs, and itís that model we want to follow for our game releases. After a long day, just sit down in front of your TV, download the latest episode of SBCG4AP and prepare for instant gratification!
Of course, after we release the individual episodes on to WiiWare, we can then collect them into a retail box set at the end of the season, just like with a TV show. This is what weíre doing with Sam & Max, which is coming to retail for Wii this fall. So we really donít have to choose one type of release over the other; weíve found ways to use both of them with the episodic model.
How does a downloadable title differ in development time compared to a retail release?
MD: A downloadable title doesnít really have much difference as far as development time, except of course, you donít have to spend time manufacturing discs and printing box art and shipping the game to stores. But episodic games...now thatís different! Because we release five games in about as many months, the production process has a tight schedule and the development cycles overlap. In the course of a season, itís not unusual to find the designers working on the fourth episode, the artists working on the third episode, the programmers working on the second episode, and everyone working on the first episode, all at the same time!
How is this point-and-click adventure being tailored differently for Wii? A lot of developers aim to hit a more casual note -- Is this the case with SBCG4AP?
MD: I feel that our games are accessible to casual gamers and more hardcore gamers. Our point-and-click interface translates well to Wii, but we are definitely approaching this game, which weíre developing for PC and WiiWare simultaneously, a bit differently that we would if this were a PC-only release. We are adding in more console friendly activities like collectibles, achievement-type goals, side quests, mini-games and so on. I think console gamers will really appreciate these elements.
How are you using the Wii remote to take advantage of the adventure genre? Will the nunchuk also be required for playing? Could a gamer use a GameCube controller to play?
MD: Donít bother digging out your nunchuks and GameCube controllers, kids. Youíll only need the Wii remote for this one. The remote primarily acts as your pointer and will let you select where you want Strong Bad to move or what items to interact with. Itís a very intuitive device that allows players to pick up and play without having to learn a bunch of button presses. Throughout the series, weíll occasionally require you to use the controller in different ways to add some variety, but we are not going crazy in that direction.
How long will each episode take most gamers and how many Wii points will we be spending? I know the initial plan is for 5 episodes. Are more seasons in the works if sales meet expectations?
MD: We think it will take the average player about three hours to play straight through the story part of an episode, but we made a conscious effort to make sure that the game doesnít end just because you have completed the story. Weíve included an "awesomeness ranking" that changes as the player progresses and finds all the secrets, collectables, achievements and so on. To max that out, youíll probably end up having to play a lot longer.
We havenít announced pricing yet, but the price will be similar to our Sam & Max episodes. And as much as we love to look forward, itís a little too soon to start speculating about future seasons! For now, weíre all focused on making the first five episodes as awesome as possible.
How many mini-games will be included with the title? How will gamers be able to make their own Teen Girl Squad cartoons?
MD: We havenít limited ourselves to a specific number of mini-games for each episode...whatever feels right. As far as Teen Girl Squad is concerned, players donít actually make their OWN comic. (They could just do that on their own with a pen and some notebook paper!) Instead, they help Strong Bad make his comic by choosing ideas, applying these to the girls, and watching the gruesome outcome! Some of these ideas work best on particular girls or in specific situations, so youíll have to experiment to find the best combinations and end up with the most awesome comic possible.
Will there be any Wi-Fi Connection services within the game?
MD: No Wi-Fi. However, Wii owners will be able to take in-game screenshots, then send them to friends attached to an email straight from Strong Badís computer. (Your friends donít have to own the game to get these pictures and emails. You can send them to anyone on your Wii Friends list.)
Most importantly, will players get their fix of Trogdor?
MD: Youíll have to wait and see.
SBCG4AP will be hitting WiiWare in July, with future episodes releasing at the rate of about one a month. Thatís not all; Telltale Games will also be releasing Sam & Max this fall for Nintendo Wii. Stay tuned to Nintendojo for an upcoming interview focusing on the first season of Sam & Max in the coming months.
We would like to thank Mark and Marketing Coordinator Emily Morganti for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions.