Getting humor in video video games proper is hard. While video games share so much with the medium of movie when it comes to visible storytelling, the presence of a participant introduces an unpredictable variable that may completely blow a joke. You by no means know if they’ll miss the gag, look the flawed method at a vital second, or ignore a punchline as a result of they’re too busy working, taking pictures, leaping, or searching for their subsequent problem.
Humor is a giant a part of Journey to the Savage Planet, the first-person “explore-’em-up” and freshman providing from Typhoon Studios. Savage Planet puts you in the role of a space explorer employed by the fourth-best area firm within the universe, Kindred Aerospace, and dumps you on a wierd world the place it is your job to discover and catalog the natural world. The creatures are all a bit goofy, like orb-shaped Dodo-like birds that eat slop and poop priceless sources. Interacting with them elicits one-liners delivered by your AI–which is keen that can assist you discover, however extra desirous to warn you about limits to Kindred’s authorized legal responsibility do you have to meet a horrific demise.
The writing is a part of the humor of Journey to the Savage Planet, however it’s not Typhoon’s primary focus in getting you to chuckle. The sport primarily leverages what artistic director Alex Hutchinson calls “interactive slapstick,” the place Savage Planet’s techniques allow you to create moments that end up humorous, whether or not on objective or accidentally.
“I think the problem with humor in video games traditionally is people have tried not to embrace the player,” Hutchinson informed GameSpot in an interview throughout E3 2019. “You know, they basically see it as a movie. So all the humor is in the dialogue. And we have what we hope our witty one-liners happening there as well. But I think the true humor in the game is in the actions the player performs, and it’s kind of an interactive slapstick where the player can launch a joke that ends up paying off on themselves. If we get these systemic collisions, then I think it’s a new form of humor, because it’s based on decisions you made as a player and the wacky consequences that float out of it.”
Hutchinson was beforehand artistic director for Far Cry 4, a sport identified for its in-game techniques generally interacting in sudden and hilarious methods. Moments like these served as inspiration for what Typhoon is attempting to do in Savage Planet.
“In Far Cry 4, there was nothing funnier than seeing a bear on fire rush into the camp and kill your friend after you’d thrown a molotov cocktail 30 seconds earlier, and it was a joke you created,” he stated whereas showing on GameSpot’s E3 stage. “So we’re trying to get that sense of interactive comedy into the game, because one-liners and things are funny, but they’re funny once.”
Making A Bet On Laughs
While these moments really feel random or sudden for the individual taking part in, they are not utterly emergent from the design aspect. Hutchinson stated the method of making interactive slapstick is partially about iterating sudden moments, and partially about working techniques into the sport that the workforce is aware of will result in humorous moments.
Hutchinson described filling an encounter with explosive pods, for example, understanding that one stray shot may flip a battle with a harmful creature right into a lethal fireworks show that might kill the participant, or set off different interactions they may not see coming. But the participant’s choices are finite, as are the behaviors of creatures and different components within the game–so from a design standpoint, the workforce is aware of how issues are going to work, and subsequently, is commonly trying to arrange ridiculous conditions.
“I think there are some [mechanics and level designs] where you make a bet,” Hutchinson defined. “…You bet this is what can happen, and then we have to work on it and iterate to make sure it sort of happens. And then other [funny moments] just start to emerge and when they emerge, you can reinforce them, you know? Then you can make them happen elsewhere in the game, or encourage the player to do them.”
Mechanical jokes may be the main target of its humor, however there is also loads in the way in which of comedic writing in Savage Planet as properly. Kindred’s place because the fourth-best aerospace firm implies that it is perpetually strapped for money, so regardless of the actual fact you’re employed for the company, you are additionally bombarded with its adverts.
Those commercials are largely gags–they seem like these previous TV infomercials wherein some hapless actor catastrophically tears open a bag of chips or slams a hammer by a wall, then mugs for the digicam to indicate us how annoyed they’re with their very own foibles. But the adverts proven in Savage Planet’s E3 preview, for issues like gross area meals Grob or a mall for sea monkeys, double as world-building. They arrange a satirical universe the place even on a distant planet, you possibly can’t escape the ever-present drive of somebody attempting to promote you one thing.
The Gravitational Pull Of The Gun
Several of Savage Planet’s in-game adverts give attention to the gadgets you wield in your left hand as you discover. Those gadgets are supposed to yield intelligent methods to resolve issues and cope with the hazardous life you encounter–as against the gun in your proper hand, which supplies a extra easy answer.
Hutchinson stated he had hoped to maintain that gun out of your hand in favor of goofier, nonviolent options to issues, like utilizing bait to attract creatures towards different issues which may eat them, or planting springy pads of their paths which may ship them over cliffs.
“The biggest challenge is always to rise above the noise and to offer something compelling and unique that will hopefully resonate with people,” Hutchinson stated. “So, you know, we chose to be optimistic and upbeat and colorful and humorous, and also to try and get you to use different tools, you know, than just the gun. Because we’re never going to be the best shooter on the planet.”
Despite Hutchinson’s finest efforts, although, Typhoon could not handle to maintain a gun out of Journey to the Savage Planet, he stated. But the studio continues to be engaged on making it doable to keep away from firing it should you do not wish to when the sport releases in 2020.
“We tried really hard to emphasize that stuff, but this sort of gravitational pull of a gun was too much to bear,” he stated. “A player, after playing, was like, ‘I love these tools, but sometimes I just want to shoot him in the face.’ … So the goal for the game is to say that you don’t have to use the gun, but obviously you can–we’ll see how it pans out. At the moment, we haven’t figured out a way to make it so you can beat the bosses without the gun. But that would be the goal.”
“I have a very soft spot for nonviolent approaches in video games,” Hutchinson additionally stated on the GameSpot stage. “There’s a joke at the start of Far Cry 4, which is, essentially, if you just listen to [Pagan Min] and wait, he lets you do the thing you came for without having to murder anybody. So these things, I’ll sneak it in as much as I can–I wanted to do it again on this game. It’s very tricky but we’re getting closer and closer. I can’t promise that there will be a purely nonviolent way through the game, but there’s often a way to avoid [using a gun] if you want.”