||InterviewTron3K: I am
here with Paul Harrington AKA Surlaw, known as creator of Walthros,
maintainer of HamsterSpeak and recently made demo for the Village
People RPG. Hello Paul.
||Paul Harrington: Hello
Interviewtron. How fares your hardware and software?
||InterviewTron3K: It is
working nominally. I think the fair question to ask right out would be,
why The Village People?
||Paul Harrington: The
idea for Village
People: The Videogame came in two parts. First, the
release of Gato
Sucio: Special Edition. I took what was an old
game with awful sound and bad jokes, rewrote some of the dialogue, and
replaced all of the music with something better and funnier. I ended up
choosing The Village People to provide the GS: Special Edition
soundtrack for no real reason other than the fact that they're silly.
Second, when Fenrir announced that he was hosting a contest based on
the theme of love, I decided I wanted in, but I didn't want to do
anything romantic or anything crude, so I decided to go with brotherly
love, and there's no better representatives than the Village People.
strange that you mention bad jokes. It felt to me when playing Village People RPG
that it could have gone down the path of being rather crude humor. But
the game seems to take itself a bit seriously and instead takes on a
humorous and light tone. Is this your style or was it a conscious
||Paul Harrington: I've
made some games in the past (Gato
Sucio being a big one) that have had some jokes that
always had a tendency to leave me feeling embarrassed years later. With
I went out of my way to avoid anything I'd regret later, and went with
the corny, pun-filled humor it ended up with rather than shock humor,
which really only works once. People have made enough crude jokes about
the Village People over the years that there's nothing funny left
there, and there's no point in rehashing stuff that wasn't very funny
to begin with. So, instead, you get a semi-serious story covered in
puns and confusing pop-culture references.
Village People, while seeming simple and innocent from well known songs
such as YMCA,
are actually quite a complex group with a strange history. Did you do
any research into the group when you decided to make this game, and did
any of this effect your decisions about the game or its presentation?
||Paul Harrington: My
research was mostly just my experience with their songs. They have some
really upbeat songs like YMCA
or Can't Stop the Music,
but they also have ridiculous, fairly dirty ones like Sex Over the Phone
The massive contrast between the two types has always been funny to me,
and the characters the guys in the band plays are also funny. I've
always thought they would make a great superhero squad, and this is
sort of my way of realizing that.
interesting thing is that the Village People replaced their members
several times, and their official website encourages fans to dress up
as the ensemble. In ways many people can make up the group, sort of
like the Power Rangers.
||Paul Harrington: Yeah,
that's why I went with the generic job names, instead of allowing
people to name the characters or using the real men's names.
Anyway, onto the game itself, why the setting of San Francisco? I think
the "Village" refers to Greenwich New York, it has a pretty great song
too. Or maybe New York is also in the books?
||Paul Harrington: If
there is a second city in the game, it will be New York City. I debated
between NYC and San Francisco at first, but chose SF because it has a
happier song. Of course, the San Francisco in the game really has
nothing in common with the real city, aside from being on the coast.
noticed the graphic style of the game resembled NES RPGs such as Final Fantasy
in some ways. The layout and some gameplay has some resemblances of River City Ransom
and even Grand Theft
Auto. Were these any of your influences into the game, or
if not what was there?
Originally, the game was going to use an entirely 8-bit palette, and
look a lot more like a Dragon
Warrior game than it does now. I kept the simple, NES
style for the maps and walkabouts for the most part, but I had fun with
colors and ended up using a lot more than I'd intended, and just went
with what felt right instead of limiting myself. River City Ransom
was definitely an influence on the battle sprites and on the ridiculous
things the characters say during battle. As for the theft of cars,
Police Chief would never REALLY steal them. He just borrows.
enemies in the game are quite enigmatic. So far we've seen Gray Man and
Dr. Mu. Some screen shot previews also suggested an enemy "Red Menace"
and some others will be present. Is there a particular rhyme or reason
to these kidnappers, do they represent something opposing to the
||Paul Harrington: All
of the kidnappers (and their secret leader) are characters from other
games I've made. Most of them don't have an overall thematic value, but
their BIG BOSS definitely does. I won't be saying who he is.
are also a lot of extra elements or easter eggs in this game. I don't
know how many of them I've found so far, but there was a rather
detailed encounter with the Ninja Turtles. Why is this element so
important to the game?
||Paul Harrington: My
favorite part of almost any RPG is exploration, and my least
favorite is generally random battles. The rather large (for a game at
this stage of development) quantity of optional areas/sidequests in
this game reflects this. The player is rewarded, whether it be with
items, funny dialogue, or (eventually) extra characters, for speaking
with everyone and exploring everything. This isn't a game for people
who just like battling. I want the city to feel like a huge, living
space, so I'm going to try including as many of these side areas as
interesting thing is how you're able to accomplish such a different
feel from a standard RPG without the use of extensive plotscripting.
There are some interesting scripts such as the disco-ball though. Are
you planning any other plotscript functions like this, such as
||Paul Harrington: I
actually started designing an arcade in the city where the player could
play several different mini-games based on classic arcade games, but I
didn't get very far into scripting them yet. I wanted to try to get
other people to help out/contribute games for the San Francisco Arcade,
but I haven't been very active in pursuing this yet. Other than that,
there may be mini-games involved in the main story at some point, but I
don't have any designed yet.
far you've relied on community input for "which Village Person will be
rescued next." How much do things like the OHR community affect your
decision making process? Do you think it's important for a developer to
use this, necessarily?
||Paul Harrington: This
is the first game I've worked on where I've tried to get the community
involved in shaping where it goes, at least a little bit. I have all of
the scenarios for each Village Person planned out in my head, but it's
hard to decide which I really want to work on at any given time, so
getting community input and setting a goal for myself based on that it
pretty helpful to getting things organized. I wouldn't say it's
important for all games, but it can certainly be helpful for something
that doesn't have a tight structure.
want to get more into the specifics on this game. For one thing there
are a lot of robots present. What's going on with that?
Originally, I wanted the game to be set in a pseudo-future, with helper
robots and flying cars and lots of useless, futuristic gadgets. I kept
the robots and a few other elements (The YMCA has a Star Trek
transporter operated by Robot Butler) but I toned it down a bit. Part
of the reason the robots are there is to add some more visual variety
to the town, since every NPC is a unique character. I thought about
including other types of alien creatures, but ultimately decided to
keep 99% of the life forms in the game humanoid, partly to challenge
myself since I'm used to making games with casts composed of alien
monsters. Also, there was a side plot about Dr. Mu inventing all of
these robots and being an honored member of society who turned bad, but
I ended up dropping this.
challenge level of the game is quite crisp. It is easy enough to lose
but it's easy enough to win as well with some effort. How do you create
such a balance, and do you intend to make the game more difficult as it
Balancing the game has been kind of tough, since any given dungeon's
battles have to change based on how many characters you have. The way
it is now, there's a plotscript in place that changes which formations
and enemies you'll encounter dependent on your party size. The enemies
you encounter with two or three guys may look the same as the ones you
encounter with just one, but their stats are radically different. I
spent a very long time making sure everything balanced properly, and I
think it works. You never have to level grind, and I actually forced
myself through the demo with all characters at level 1 (since bosses
give no XP and you can run from normal encounters). It was a difficult
but fun challenge.
the game is intended to be open ended for now, doing things in
whichever order you please? One thing that springs to mind is sometimes
loose structures can make a game challenging for a developer to
complete. Will you know when you've hit the end point and the game is
||Paul Harrington: Well,
the current plan is to have one mission to rescue each Village Person,
and then a sequence of two "final dungeons." Once this is all
functional, the game will be technically "complete," but there will
probably always be something I want to add to the town. I've thought of
several hidden characters and optional dungeons (one of which is almost
fully planned but hasn't been drawn at all), but it's really hard to
say how much I'll end up including. Getting too sidetracked by
non-essential content can be bad for a developer, but at the same time,
it's extremely fun to work on. I'll probably push my way through the
story, and then add side content until it stops being fun to work on.
to work on and fun to play, that's a good combination. Well, I can't
think of any more questions; so is there anything you'd like to share
with us about Village
People RPG we have not covered?
||Paul Harrington: If
all goes according to plan, the whole game may be finished this year,
which would make this the shortest amount of time I've spent on any
real RPG I've worked on. I want to implement a trophy system that
rewards players for doing ridiculous things (such as surviving X number
of battles in a Clownsuit, "donating" a certain amount of money to the
hospital, etc). I'd also like to see who the first person to defeat the
secret boss in the sewer is. As it stands now, he may actually be
unbeatable, but I took a good chunk out of him when I planned ahead and
fought him during testing. Good luck!
||InterviewTron3K: Thanks Paul. I look forward to the games subsequent releases and/or eventual completion.
||Paul Harrington: Good night Interviewtron. Perhaps one day you will live in San Francisco as well.