Lead designer Sandy Sammarco discusses the challenges of building Evil Genius.
Evil Genius will try to do to strategy games what Austin Powers did to James Bond. It's a humorous, satirical game reminiscent of the classic Dungeon Keeper. In Evil Genius, you'll play the role of an evil genius (oddly enough), who's out to take over the world in the camp-filled 1960s. The game takes place on your island lair. To maintain your cover, you'll operate a tropical resort where tourists from all over the world come to vacation and gamble. But beneath the sandy, white beaches is your underground base, where you'll train henchmen and make your nefarious plans. Governments all over the world will dispatch commandos and superagents to stop you, but you'll build diabolically over-the-top traps to welcome them. In this edition of our designer diaries, lead designer Sandy Sammarco tells us how some of the game's "evil" humor came to be.
Building EvilBy Sandy Sammarco
Well, hello there! The powers that be have decreed that I write a few words about some of the goings-on in the most evil spot in our offices: the sugar-walled, candy-bastion that is the design department for Evil Genius. Brave souls shiver and turn away whenever the place is mentioned, while lesser folk crumble to the floor and mewl for the insanity to stop. Though many a daring coder or artist hazards to tread among the wrappers and fast-food stockpiles of the design dungeons, few return. And those who do are changed--normally by about 20 pounds after all the sweeties we force them to eat. (Believe me, nothing beats chocolate bribery.)
My name's Sandy Sammarco, and they tell me I'm the lead designer on Evil Genius. I'm going to reveal a little bit about how we have approached characters, story, and humor in the game. (The secret is fast food and sweets). But first, I'm going to tell you about the single-most-dramatic discovery I've ever made during my time as a designer: Game ideas defy logic.
It's true! Look out of your nearest window. Go on. Chances are you can see a building. Look at the shape. Imagine the function. Fairly straightforward, isn't it? If you move closer, you can start to make out the details: doors so you can get in, keyholes so the doors can be locked, form following function, the parts making the whole. Beautiful, really.
Now, take a game idea. Put it down on a table. Take a few steps back, and admire it. Looks lovely, doesn't it. Everything works. You can see exactly what mechanisms the player is going to enjoy using and how the challenges are going to stretch--but never frustrate--the players. The gods are happy, and the peasants reap a mighty bounty from the land.
But here's the catch... As you get closer--so that you can try to take in the details--you'll find that they miraculously begin to vanish, unraveling before your eyes! What seemed obvious at a distance suddenly makes no sense and breaks seven other rules to boot. Life becomes an unending struggle to keep hold of the idea's fundamentals and to mold, shape, and stretch (and sometimes--when no one's looking--crush with a big hammer) the rules and game logic to still fit the idea's outline. Basically, a building that used the same logic as game ideas would have 25 doors on the second story, and all of them would make coffee.