High on Life, a new comedy-FPS from Rick & Morty co-creator Justin Roiland and his development studio at Squanch Games (makers of Trover Saves the Universe), was announced at the Xbox Showcase yesterday and will be released for Xbox and PC later this year. To celebrate, Roiland created a new animated short that you can watch above. He also discussed the project with IGN.

IGN: What did you learn about the process of writing for and making video games from Trover, and how are those learnings being applied to the new game?

“LOADS of content crammed into this thing. Very much worth a few playthroughs.”

Justin Roiland: I feel like writing a game is like writing a few seasons of TV, but it’s TV that people can reach into and poke around and mess with. We love to have (as much as we possibly can within our dev time) surprising responses to that poking around. But also, just forking narrative paths, conversation/ dialogue trees, a ton of jokes maybe only 2% of players will actually hear, and most importantly quality timing with the dialogue edits, especially when there are a lot of moving parts (dialogue-wise) that are controlled by the player. I guess all of this is to say, we learned A LOT making Trover, but a big stand out for me is how to do all the stuff I mentioned just a little bit ago in this same answer, just a few sentences ago. Go back and check it out. It’s only about 4 or 5 sentences back. Good luck hunting for it! But something else that we played with a bit in Trover but then beefed up A LOT in High on Life as a result is the player choice stuff. So SO much more. Much more meaningful things too. Different things happen depending on so many things the player does/chooses. From foundational choices like what cartel leader to go hunt down and kill first, to talking to your sister and Gene, all the way down to just some super small seemingly inconsequential stuff you can do that ends up being more than you ever would have thought. Just a ton of that. We wanted to aim for a dense cup of player story-type stuff. We’re looking forward to hearing people compare how different things were based on some of these choices. LOADS of content crammed into this thing. Very much worth a few playthroughs.

IGN: The list of first-person comedies — in games or any other medium — is pretty short. It seems like weapons are one way you’re conveying comedy in this game. Are you a first-person shooter fan yourself, and why did you choose FPS for this project?

Roiland: I can think of a few off the top of my head! Stanley Parable jumps to mind, Portal 1 & 2, Maybe some of the far cry weird DLC games? Some stuff in the Borderlands series? Duke Nukem? Maybe that game Postal 2? Was 2 the good or bad one? Matt McMuscles, a little help? No. I mean… I guess it depends on what you consider comedy. The point is, there is a chunk of great comedy in FPS games if you look hard. Flip over those rocks on Steam. A salamander of FPS comedy may skitter out. GRAB IT! FAST! Fuck. It’s dead. You were too slow. I do wish there was more comedy stuff, but the world hasn’t exploded just yet, so there is time. In High On Life, yeah, we use the guns as both companions and upgradable weapons. They each have their own unique personality and dialogue in every single situation, so there’s a lot of player choice (once you’ve acquired more guns) in what gun you want to hear the most or use in a specific NPC encounter, and yeah they are really funny. We really lucked out with the cast just across the board but really the comedy in this game is coming from all over the place. I’m not sure what exactly I’m supposed to hold back on info-wise, but there are A LOT of hilarious/bizarre aliens you’ll meet, some awesome tech you can use to warp in weird random parts of the cosmos and those things are just incredible, tons of sketches and cartoons on the TV at home and out in the world. The guns are massive and extremely important but definitely a far cry (no pun intended, seriously) from the only source of comedy in the game. One of our main pillars for this game was comedy, so it’s in the cellular makeup of High On Life. Aside from some aspects of the story that we definitely want to land with some semblance of weight and just lots of solid level design, I can’t think of a thing the Squanch team created for HoL that wasn’t driven by comedy. And last part, yes. I am a big fan of FPS, but I suck ass at online team-based match stuff. I also suck at Halo and the newer Doom games. Fast twitchy shit, no thanks. I build Lego sets all day when I can. Slow shit down for me, please. A little more Nintendo, a little less QWOP you know? I tend to lean more into games that are single-player that have a nice balance of story and action. Give me RPG elements in a shooter. Give me weird NPC’s… God, the perfect example to sum it up is Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. I could list a ton more but it’s almost 3am and I have to be up at 8:30am. Oof.

IGN: The animated short definitely has an improvised feel to it. Did you just jump in the VO booth and start riffing?

Roiland: We have A LOT of Interdimensional Cable style sketches in this game. A LOT. And not all me. Joel Haver and my head writer Alec Robbins did a bunch too. They’re weird and great and very VERY clearly improvised on the spot with zero discussion or really anything before rolling. Just boom, we’re rolling. “Hi, uh, I’m mister signpost! And welcome to lifestyles of the rich and the signpost people,” or some weird shit would come out. We should actually get that “signpost people” one. I could do something with that. But yeah, we recorded a ton and new ones will pop up on the TV as you progress through the game. Some play only in certain alien cities on the big Blade Runner advertising screens. Also SUPER IMPORTANT NEWS BREAK EXCLUSIVE!! In this game, you can also fly a spaceship and drive any car you see, and we have 100,000 fully built planets all unique from the last filled with their own special unique race of characters who have millions and trillions of lines of dialogue, and you CAN transform into a dinosaur. And a cat, in a robot city. We have an entire game’s worth of this one section where you’re this cat wandering around a cool city of robots. It’s super neat. Never been done before. JK!! I was doing the whole Hello Games thing. No Man’s Sky. Remember? (Google it) I always wanted to do that. Goddamn. I wanted to do it so bad, but everyone said no. It’s not good. So yeah, all the stuff I said the game has (past the comedy sketches) was a lie and I’m sorry.

IGN: Does any of your work tend to end up on the cutting room floor? If so, did you have any funny ideas from Trover that didn’t make it into that game that ended up being a good fit for this one? Or stuff from this that will end up making it into Rick & Morty? I’m curious about this because I’d imagine that you don’t want any funny ideas to go to waste.

“We recorded one level in Trover while I slowly drank the whole time. We went in order of how the level plays out and you can REALLY hear the alcohol coming through by the time you get to the first big boss fight in Fleshworld.”

Roiland: The boring answer is yes but it’s almost always due to scope/budget. Trover had additional levels we had to cut that KILLED me to lose. But they required new systems that would be used maybe once, and a bunch of other nonsense developer talk, so they had to go because we had like $3.5 million to make all of Trover. That’s insane. I know it sounds like a lot but ask some guy with 200 bitcoins if it’s a lot. He’ll tell you, probably, “Yes, it is a lot,” but it’s not a lot to make an entire game, QA, localized in lord knows how many regions, more QA and bug squashing, AND marketing?? It’s definitely not a mystery why most people don’t know about Trover. So back to the question – When it’s not scope/budget we have had a few block-in levels that we realized we just did not do a good job writing. We blew it. And we also had this issue: focus testers didn’t know who was talking. It was a huge bummer because it was totally my fault. We had the brilliant Reggie Watts record for like four damn hours for this level and we had to do a page one rewrite (Fleshworld for anyone wondering) and Reggie got slammed busy and wasn’t available to come back before deadline on that VO so we spit the new level and we just dove in and I did almost all the voices. We recorded it while I slowly drank the whole time. We went in order of how the level plays out and you can REALLY hear the alcohol coming through by the time you get to the first big boss fight in Fleshworld. That’s actually where we called it for the day haha. I actually find that level hilarious. And I hate a lot of my stuff after it’s done. That level makes me laugh every time somehow. All four times. Lastly, on HoL we got a surprising amount of the entire game in. But with a game like this where you are building out an entire universe and backstory for so many different characters and races, there are just SO many good ideas. Too much amazing stuff and sure if we had $50 million to make this game, great. Toss it all in. But we don’t because NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!!! JK. So yeah, we had to set aside some cool ideas. Nothing anyone would ever notice missing though. Just stuff we know about that we love and will definitely get back to at some point. And for the last part, not a lot of cross-pollination between the TV side and the game side actually. Just really different sandboxes. Please spell check and make me look smarter than I actually am. Thanks IGN. [Editor’s Note: You got it, Justin. No problem!]

Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s executive editor of previews and host of both IGN’s weekly Xbox show, Podcast Unlocked, as well as our monthly(-ish) interview show, IGN Unfiltered. He’s a North Jersey guy, so it’s “Taylor ham,” not “pork roll.” Debate it with him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan.


Source: IGN Video Games All
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