Designers Eric Shumaker and Brian Raum explain how Charles Barkley, the post-cyberpocalypse, and Space Jam came together into one hilarious RPG.
Unless I'm wildly mistaken, the game appears to use a heavily modified version of one of the RPG Maker engines. Why did you choose to use this toolset, and what was the most difficult feature to program into the game?
Shumaker: You're half right! The demo we released in 2007 was made in RPG Maker, but the final game was built with Game Maker. We actually completed the entire game with RPG Maker and never released it. Brian and I worked on the game in RPG Maker, and our friend, programmer Jesse Ceranowicz, ported it over to Game Maker, which is why the game took so long to complete.
The original RPG Maker version was largely the same, except lower quality, save for one area: Liberty Island. Our original idea for Liberty Island wasn't an adventure game segment, but kind of a Western RPG area where the goal was to somehow break into the Statue of Liberty to see Wilford Brimley. It had the same general premise--there was a diabetes cult at the base of the statue, and they worshipped Yelmirb as their diabetes god--but it worked a little differently. You could get in through one of three ways: by impersonating a diabetes cultist, by fighting your way in, or by sneaking in through a side entrance.
It was pretty cool because it offered real choice in a game that largely did not have very much choice, but it was executed very poorly, and in the end we decided to scrap it. Jesse Ceranowicz wrote the adventure game parody segment, and his work was infinitely better than mine, so it was ultimately for the best.
Originally, our intention to release both versions of the game, but as we neared completion, we realized that the RPG Maker version was not nearly as good in comparison and that there was no reason to release it.
We decided to go with GM because it gave us a lot more flexibility. We could do more with the combat system, movement was now per-pixel instead of per-tile, and we could use more visual effects.
Raum: Eric is right: RPG Maker rules. The sheer amount of available, already-formatted resources (for placeholder use or otherwise) make RPG Maker easily recommendable for anyone interested in making RPGs. Even if you don't ever use it to make a finished product, it's an excellent learning tool and great for mapping, prototyping, and scripting cutscenes.
Why make this a role-playing game and not use some other genre? If given unlimited resources and manpower, would you still make this an RPG?
Raum: Unlimited resources is giving me all kinds of virtual Barkley reality thoughts, so that's kind of a hard thing to answer. The game would be different with different capabilities, sure, and maybe would be closer to real-time instead of turn-based. I don't know. It would require rethinking the game from the ground up. I don't even know if the game would make any sense with non-ripped graphics and an origin outside of RPG Maker.
We love RPGs. There are a million things you can do with them, and a million things that have been done with them that everyone has forgotten about. It's a little bit of a letdown when I think up some revolutionary idea, and then digging around online for a while I realize I was already beaten to the punch in 1975 by Moria for the PLATO computer system. But it's depressing when I realize the idea was out there and nobody has done anything with it for 37 years!
There are lots of definitions for what an RPG is, and lots of games that are hybrids of RPG and something else. But I definitely do want to make games about or involving exploration, introspection, planning, growth, discovery, edutainment of course, identity, strategy, choice, consequence, and the absence/possession of information. Abstract role-playing game trappings, such as numbers, menus, equipment, and abilities, make exploration of these concepts direct and immediate.
What were people's reactions to this game, either from the fan community or from the athletes parodied? Did you have any expectations for how this game would be received? Did you ever receive any Barkley fan art?
Shumaker: As far as I know, there has never been a response from any of the people this game mentions, and I'd kind of like to keep it that way! We tried to portray Charles Barkley in a way that we think is pretty positive, but I can only imagine he'd say it was "turrible." Either that or he'd sue us.
We had no idea the game would be this well received. The demo was originally just intended for our group of friends; we didn't think there would be any appeal outside of that. We were floored when sites began covering it and thousands of people played the game. We were shocked even further when the full game was released and it was picked up by huge websites and magazines. It continues to blow us away that people truly enjoy our stupid RPG about a dystopian future caused by the Space Jam.
We are so grateful for the way people have responded to this game, and we really cannot thank everyone enough.
What went wrong with the development of this game, and what would you have done differently?
Shumaker: Brian and I spent a great deal of time brainstorming and planning. We would generally talk for a couple weeks at a time about what we wanted to do with an area and then complete it in the span of two or three days. In a way it was good because we had every inch of the area and writing planned before we started, but it also took a lot of time and halted production. If we could go back, we'd work much more methodically and evenly. The way we worked wasn't fair to Jesse, who was programming the game as we went along.
Raum: Eric is correct on that, plus we had a few bug issues early on. I think we actually did a great job testing the meat of the game, but it was only after the game made it to a wider audience that we realized some large errors. I think some might have crashed the game, but there was also a problem with the music that required Jesse to do some fixes. He actually fixed it really fast, but our small pool of testers didn't have the variety to pick up on those kinds of odd compatibility issues. It wasn't really a big deal since it was a free game, I guess, and we got it fixed very fast, but it was stressful knowing the game was out and something was broken, even for a short time.
When development began on this game, was it always intended to be a series, or was it ever designed as a stand-alone game?
Shumaker: Yeah, it was always intended to be a series. We've got documents going back all the way to 2006 that are specifically about Barkley 2, and the characters of Cuchulainn and Cyberdwarf were originally concepts from Barkley 2 that we decided to use in the original. It was also always our intention to make the second game mechanically and thematically different from the first, while maintaining the same tone and humor.
We decided on the name The Magical Realms of Tir na Nog--Escape from Necron 7: The Revenge of Cuchulainn--The Official Game of the Movie: Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa before the original game was finished, and it's even in the credits of Barkley 1. I have no idea why we stuck with it.
On November 28, 2012 developer Tales of Game's Studios launched the Kickstarter campaign for Barkley 2--roughly four years since the original's release. The game is a departure for the young developer, both in design and in the abuse of licensed properties. Until the game's release, Shumaker recommends some of his favorites from the RPG Maker community: Space Funeral, Wilfred the Hero, Sunset Over Imdahl, and Yume Nikki.
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This could possibly be one of the funniest games ever. I'm a huge sports fan as well as a huge RPG fan. I'm sure a lot of people just think it's just ridiculous though, and they wouldn't be wrong.
lol loved the shout out to Chaos in the Windy City. That game was so raw, haha, so many good times! For some reason, it never occurred to me how conceptually odd that game was until I got older and started hearing everyone else clown on it.
When I saw the title I immediately thought of the 1994 SNES/Genesis classic and thought it was a remake which made me laugh. Upon further reading I discover a great 16bit JRPG with a funny story. Definitely give this a try.
I dislike JRPGs, I have no interest in basketball and am increasingly bored of retro-gaming fetishism, but I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable games I've played this year. I was so entertained from the outset I played it through to completion in one sitting. Hilarious and surprisingly quite moving... I wholeheartedly gave it a 10 out of 10, as, apart from its sheer mash-up entertainment value, it's actually a great game!
Also also, I checked out the Kickstarter page, and found myself weeping with laughter and joyful expectation. I just wish I could spare them $1000 as the reward is b-ballingly brilliant...
Also, what a great interview - one of the best articles I've read on Gamespot in a long time. I love that there are people like this making games like this, and that lots of other people love it too...
THIS IS SO AWESOME! LoL! It looks like a pretty good RPG too! I dig the silly azz dialogue!! HaH!
I played this a few years back because, of course, the premise really drew me in.
What surprised me was that, regardless of premise, it was actually just a very good JRPG, period.
Favorite part: when you run into the gambling game that you're guaranteed to lose. If you then try to re-load your game, the gambler jumps to the middle of the screen and tells you how cheap it is to reload your game when you lose at gambling, and then zeroes out all your money. I just about died laughing.
Been a long time since I messed around with RPG Tsukuru. I even tried my hand at Sphere and Game Maker as well, but the ease of use of RM2k3 made it my platform of choice.
Maybe I should return to that Megaman Zero project I started on back before my old Presario died in 2006...
haha watched a streamer play this so i had to play it as well...one of the funniest story lines in any game i have played..if your a fan of basketball rpgs and diabetes then this game is for you
Ahh... good old times when I made games in RPG maker 2003, I still remember I made a megaman RPG using the sprites of megaman X to make the main character and Zero, the other team members where Bass, Roll and Protoman. I took a decent amount of time to get every sprite of X's buster and special attacks, as well as Zero's and Bass' and each of the monsters from Megaman 1 to X-3. too bad my pc got infected and destroyed the files :(
@Valdomer0 One thing I learned about attempting to make an RPG on RPG Maker is that you have to actually have a plan. You can't wing it (which I initially did). You gotta have some ideas with some story in place before even attempting to make a game. That part can be fun or tedious, depending on what your strengths are. Which is why making one with a friend or two or 10 helps makes the process easier. I wish they had an updated RPG maker out. I'd love to be part of a team and put together something worthy of playing.
@CMakaCreative Right, I had a weird story about an evil robot who sent megaman and his friends to the past and he had to beat all the bosses of previous megaman games to get the parts of a time machine to get back in time xD. My brother helped me out into the making of that game, getting the sprites I missed, the sounds, music, skills, attacks, some story spinoffs, even quality assurance! :D
@Valdomer0 I can understand that. I had a similar idea myself, but the sprites I used were mainly from Megaman Zero and Battle Network. That old Compaq has long since been gone, and I lost a lot more than just my RM2k3 stuff when it died. Hell, I had to do a factory reset on that old junker twice before a got a new PC in 2006. Gotta love Windows ME, that piece of $#&%...
@Valdomer0 I feel the pain of losing a game you've worked on. :( I had some good times with RPG Maker!
This has to be one of the most entertaining interviews I have read in a while. My brain reset for an instant when I read that part about Space Jam not being canon.