How did the idea of Da New Guys come about?
My little brother used to be a big fan of the American wrestling shows, and it was him who got me into them. You know it's fake, but that's all part of the fun. I always loved it when the wrestlers would ham it up and try to act in between the matches. Some of the acting was so gloriously camp you couldn't help but get into the storylines, and I always thought there was comic potential for the "private lives" of wrestlers.
We had a wrestling game on the Playstation which had a "Create A Wrestler" mode, where you could invent characters and have them slug it out in your own storylines, so one day I sat down and just tried to invent some characters off that would be fun to play as. Cartoons are all about extremes, so I made the first character uber-weak: the most unlikely type of person you'd expect to see in the ring. But characters need a gimmick, so I made him think he was tough and cool and all that. Lo and behold, Brain was born.
Then I tried the other end of the scale: someone who was so big, so immensely powerful that he's a natural-born brawler. I didn't want him to be slow and stupid, though, because that position was now already taken, so I gave him a bit of an edge. I decided that he should have a cockney accent, too - I think he just had that look about him, I guess. I named him Simon.
Finally, I went for someone who was an unlikely character not because of his physique, but because of his mentality. Someone who tried to avoid confrontation and have a fair view of everything - so why is this guy a wrestler? Maybe he's a little ashamed or embarrassed about his job, so I gave him a helmet to hide behind, and a super-cool costume to boot. I thought Defender was a suitable name considering his character, and that he should have a traditional British accent.
Wrestling as a concept isn't used much in freeware games nowadays,
why did you chose to use AGS as a sort of engine to convey your idea,
and are you a big wrestling fan in real life? Just curious
To be honest, I always imagined Da New Guys as a cartoon show. But, I thought I was aiming a little too high, so for a little while my ideas just stayed in my head somewhere. Then I discovered AGS, and it just clicked that I should make an adventure game about them. Doing the project really helped me flesh out the settings and characters, so I think if I ever went back to the cartoon show idea, I'd make a better job of it. And, of course, I still love wrestling - although I don't get much time to watch it these days!
Which adventure games that you have played either commercially or from the freeware community have made a lasting impression on you?
Commercially, Monkey Island 2 has always been my far-and-away favourite. I also enjoyed Chris Ushko's hilarious "re-imagining" of it immensely! It's not a very well-known game, but go to www.boxofmystery.com and check it out! As far as AGS games go, I'd say Pleurghburg: Dark Ages was the one that made me sit up and realise just how much one man could do. I'm also a huge fan of AGDI's remake of King's Quest 2 - its storytelling is awesome!
What were some of the challenges when it came time to put your idea down?
The biggest by far was putting the story together. I had a ton of ideas, but I needed to scrap most of them for coherence's sake. To stop myself from getting bored with the project, I didn't finalise the plot before working on it: this made the development a lot more creative, but I was effectively making the story up as I went along! I'm pretty amazed that everything fitted together in the end. Having three main characters, too, isn't easy when writing a game story. Puzzle design was also pretty challenging - I wanted to have them kind of embedded in the story a little more than most freeware adventures. Designing Part 3 - where you keep switching between the three team members - took more time than anything. Dialogue was also trouble - at one point each of the main cutscenes were about twice as long because of the excess talking. Trimming them down really helped.
I really liked the type of characters you used in the game from The Brain,
to even such bad characters as Ice Cold, were there any inspirations you drew from?
The three main guys were just extremeties of simple characters, eg. Brain being super-weak, Simon being super-strong, etc. I wanted Ice Cold to be a bit more of a stereotypical "dim brawler", because I wanted a rival for Simon but also a comic relief. Smiley Joe is based on the type of kids who watch wrestling on TV and think they can do it all themselves - it's not really mentioned but that's what he's about. The Camp Crusader is based on one of my old school-friends! I don't think he knows, though, so hush!
One of the most interesting things about Da New Guys is that it incorporated a voice pack, which is rare to see in freeware titles now a days, why did you choose to go this route with this game?
The moment I came up with the three main characters, I had their voices in my head. I think with Brain, especially, it added to his character, and I wanted people to know exactly what he was like. The other characters' voices just fell into place. I was pretty happy with Smiley Joe's voice, and Ice Cold's - they were both fun to do. Simon and Steve both had very deep voices though, and I got a pretty sore throat voicing them! Defender's was the easiest, because his voice is the most like mine .
The graphics style you chose for the game was very interesting and unique, were there any particular challenges you encountered with the development of them?
Mostly just to do with consistency. Da New Guys was a real learning curve, and my art skills got much better as development went on - it really is possible to tell which rooms were drawn first, and which were drawn last! In terms of style, I tried to go in-between cartoony and realistic - I guess the same can be said for the game's tone itself. Shading's flat and everything is outlined in black, but at the same time the perspective's correct. I know Ice Cold looks out of place, but there's a story behind that. I wasn't sure if he should be in the game, so I just threw together a placeholder sprite in about a minute so I could test it, and basically just didn't bother to update it. After a while, I got used to him looking like that - I think his personality somehow shone through the crude graphics, and I didn't want to lose that by improving them.
If you could change anything about Da New Guys now, what would it be and why?
I'm my worst critic, and I think a bit of everything. For one I'd make the graphics consistent - there are some huge variations in quality there! I'd have liked to do some more animation, too. A couple of the puzzles could have been refined as well, but you can't tweak stuff forever!
Why did you decide to use midi music from old lucasarts titles instead of original music?
Because I couldn't compose if my life depended on it! Some of the music actually wrote the scenes - the cutscene at the end of Part 3, for example, was written with the music used in mind. Just searching the net and gathering a huge range of styles helped me find the right tone and feel of the game as a whole.
What sort of game would you like to develop in the future, in terms of type and genre?
I'd love to do a horror! But I'd really like to explore the merging of traditional adventure games with, say, first-person shooters. I'm thinking of a kind of genre-less first-person game where interactions are just as you'd expect in real life. It wouldn't be a traditional adventure, but you could have proper conversations and interact with people and objects realistically. It wouldn't be a shooter either, but if you found a loaded gun you could pick it up and shoot it. Heck, it wouldn't be a driving game, but if you found a car you could drive it!
You are currently working on the sequel to the Da New Guys, day of the jacka** person what can we expect from this game compared to the original?
It's going to be a fair bit darker than the original, but there'll still be some fun for fans of Brain! The graphics are being completely overhauled, and it'll have an original soundtrack courtesy of Mark Lovegrove and Chris Moorson. Better story, better puzzles, more action, more characters, more locations, you get the idea. It'll be much longer than the first game - it should have around 40 locations, but a lot of them will be revisited throughout. In terms of story, I'm being pretty tight-lipped because there are a lot of twists in it - I will say, however, that - with the exception of Steve, so far - all the original's characters will return, and a there'll be a whole lot more. I'm also making a real effort on making the characters and conversations more believable - people will react to you differently (in terms of both speech and body-language) depending on how you talk to them. All in all, it'll be great!
Any advice you wish to impart on up and coming developers, based from your own experiences of developing?
Graphics come last! Although they add to a game's feel, story and gameplay are way more important. I heard that the first Monkey Island game was put together using placeholder graphics in about three months. Also, leave some design issues until later in development - designing the most fun part of making games, so don't do it all right at the start only to find you've then nothing but slog ahead of you.