Developer Interview: DeathSpank
Last month we had the chance to ask the good fellows over a HotHead Games some questions about their most recent release, DeathSpank. Sadly this was before we even knew about next installment in the DeathSpank series, Thongs of Virtue. I hope you enjoy it anyway!
PSNStores: How did you decide on the art style for the game? It has a pop-up book feel that is very interesting to look at.
Art We, Art Director: We experimented with a very wide breadth of art styles encompassing both 2D and 3D. There was initially talk about using animated clay figures and villages made of popsicle sticks and cardboard. We even played around with fully articulated 3D buildings which reminded us too much of every other standard RPG. As we played more and more with different ideas and styles we fell in love with the charm of some of the 2D concept imagery. Given that DeathSpank plays out like a folklore or ancient legend we decided that the world he lived in should be seen as an open book. This worked perfectly with the illustrative style of the world and all the supporting props. It feels like these storybook characters and monsters are walking around on a pop-up book that was left open, which is exactly what we were striving for.
PSNS: Voice acting in a Ron Gilbert game is always one of the most important things. How did you go about casting the various characters in the game?
Adam Gejdos: While Ron is very serious about the quality of voice acting, the process was really fun and organic. In total, we spent about 6 weeks in the studio averaging about 6-8 hours a day.
For DeathSpank himself, I had known Michael Richard Dobson for many years and had worked with him on various projects over the years. We originally brought him in to voice the character of DeathSpank for a very early test playable of the game. We had planned on auditioning the character of DeathSpank a bit later in production but when he came in to do the temp work, we spent an hour or so trying out different voices and attitudes and Michael just nailed it. We felt Michael understood the nuances of the character. It didn’t hurt that he is extremely easy to work with and has great comedic timing. Once we put it in the early playable, we kind of just looked at each other and said “I guess we don’t need to do any auditions!”
For the many, many secondary characters, we did a call out to actors based on the various personalities and ages of the characters. Vancouver has a long and rich history of animation and videogame voice over with a wide breadth of actors to choose from so finding actors was very easy.
Then we put them all in a cage and let them fight it out, no holds barred. From the surviving actors, we divided the characters up and booked the recording dates.
Then the police got involved so we had to go back to the drawing board and hold real auditions. Those went well although the pay-per-view numbers weren’t as high as the cage match.
We spent a few weeks auditioning and then went through the recordings and we chose our favorites. We then brought those actors in to record the official lines.
Often we got really creative in the studio and the actors had a blast just riffing and trying out alternate lines. I have a library of unused takes that are screamingly funny and many are quite…”blue” as they say.
PSNS: Mechanically, the game is very similar to action RPG’s such as diablo. Where did this idea come from?
Darren Evenson, Lead Designer: Diablo definitely played a large part in the feel we wanted to create (tons of enemies, plenty of loot, lots of action), and the game is often referred to as “Diablo meets Monkey Island”. But creating a game like this for the console hadn’t been done, so we had to come up with some clever ways to help the transition feel natural. In fact, this is why you can map any weapon and item to any of the buttons on the controller.
If you haven’t tried DeathSpank yet there is a demo on the PSN store. But if you have get ready for the next installment coming out September 21st.