Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude Q&A

High Voltage producer Josh VanVeld and VU Games brand manager Alex Rodberg explain what you can expect to see in the next Leisure Suit Larry game.

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Graphical adventure games, which let you solve mysteries and complete puzzles by speaking with key characters and using specific items in your character's inventory, have included such epic and sweeping series as the Miller brothers' picturesque Myst series and Sierra's high-fantasy-themed King's Quest games. But they've also included the Leisure Suit Larry games--a series of adventure games that let you play as a lascivious and lonely loser named Larry Laffer.

The new game will feature a new college-student Larry, seen here chatting with a co-ed.
The new game will feature a new college-student Larry, seen here chatting with a co-ed.

Now, developer High Voltage Software (whose previous credits include the Hunter: The Reckoning games for consoles) and publisher VU Games are bringing the series back with the upcoming PC and console update Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. But the new game will make a number of changes to the series; for instance, instead of playing as the original Larry Laffer, you'll play as Laffer's young nephew, Larry Lovage. It will also be a fully 3D game; and surprisingly, the game is currently being developed without the involvement of Al Lowe, the designer and humorist who helped create the series and worked on each of the previous games. For more details on this upcoming game, we checked in with High Voltage producer Josh VanVeld and VU Games brand manager Alex Rodberg.

GameSpot: We've seen from the initial movie trailer that the game will have a third-person, behind-the-back perspective that will let Larry explore his environments, but we assume he won't be jumping over many platforms or collecting 100 coins to complete different levels. Give us an overview of Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude's gameplay.

Josh VanVeld: That's actually a tough question to answer because we have so much different gameplay scattered throughout [the game]. At the core of the game, you can wander around the world--exploring the environments, interacting with all sorts of different characters, and getting Larry into trouble. We've created many of the locations you might expect to find on a college campus or in a college town, and each of those locations is full of funny stuff to check out.

Once you find a girl, a whole new set of gameplay is found. Rather than follow traditional adventure-game tactics of making the player search for a specific item and bring it to a specific character in order to advance, we've developed lots of action-oriented minigames that you need to win in order to get better acquainted. Some examples include competitive trampoline bouncing, playing quarters in a seedy bar, and dancing in a nightclub. All of these games are fairly simple, but they're also fun and challenging.

Finally, a big part of our game is the conversation system, in which Larry talks with a girl, and the player controls what Larry says in real time. Rather than using the sort of branching dialogue trees you'd find in old adventure games, the player steers a little icon at the bottom of the screen. If you steer it properly, Larry will say some dumb stuff, but the girl will like him enough to keep their relationship going. If you steer wrong, Larry is likely to say some really idiotic things, and the girl will blow him off. The end result is that the player gets to participate in lots of funny interactions. It's a lot of fun and far better than watching dull cutscenes to get the story. I'd definitely say that the humor really sets it apart from what people have seen before in video games.

GS: The Leisure Suit Larry series has its roots in traditional graphical adventure games for the PC. What adventure game elements can we expect to see in the new game? Can we expect to see many references to previous games--possibly returning characters or a cameo from the original Larry?

Young Larry engages in that newfangled
Young Larry engages in that newfangled "streaking" fad, but he doesn't always get away with it.

JV: I think this game captures a lot of the ideas and themes found in the old adventure games without necessarily presenting them in the same fashion. Much of that is due to the technological advancements that have been made since the heyday of graphical adventures. In a 3D world, there's a lot more potential for exploration and discovery, and we've tried to make that a key part of the experience. In this case, the adventure revolves around trying to get onto a ridiculous reality dating show, with lots of funny subplots thrown in along the way to spice things up. That necessarily requires us to have characters and environments that are much deeper than you would expect to find in any other genre. It also requires us to really put our money where our mouth is as far as humor and story are concerned. If this game isn't funny, we haven't done our jobs. Which is why we're making the game funny. I promise.

As far as references to the previous games and characters, it just wouldn't be a true Larry game if we didn't pay homage to the roots of the series. Astute Larry scholars will notice all sorts of references to the old games scattered throughout. As for the original Larry, you can definitely expect him to make an appearance.

Larry Makes a Comeback

GS: We have to ask--why is Leisure Suit Larry's original creator, Al Lowe, who has worked on every single previous Larry game, not involved with the game's development? Any chance that Al could join the project at a later date?

Alex Rodberg: We'd love to have Al involved. We are currently in discussions with him regarding this project and cannot comment further.

Even though Larry's creator, Al Lowe, isn't currently involved with the game's development, the game will keep the series' sense of humor.
Even though Larry's creator, Al Lowe, isn't currently involved with the game's development, the game will keep the series' sense of humor.

GS: We were surprised to hear that the new game will appear on both PCs and consoles. What will be the difference between them, and are the different versions being developed simultaneously?

JV: In terms of content, all versions of the game should be virtually identical, assuming we don't run into censorship issues. The real difference will be in the controls. With the consoles, we have the luxury of dual analog control sticks and buttons that allow us to set control schemes that we're sure players will be happy with. The PC offers a mouse and keys that can be mapped any way the user wants them. Each has benefits and drawbacks. The challenge for us is to make sure that the game is fun and the controls are tight across all platforms.

From a graphical standpoint, you can expect to see the usual differences from one platform to another, but we're absolutely committed to making the game look beautiful, no matter which version you buy. Larry's first journey into the world of next-generation hardware will not be disappointing.

We're developing all versions of the game side by side. This is made possible by our proprietary Atlas game engine, which allows us to have our builds up and running on each platform as soon as the code and content are put in place.

GS: Since the game is planned for the PC and for online-enabled consoles, are there any plans to make use of any kind of online elements, like downloadable content, or will the new game focus exclusively on single-player play?

JV: We decided to invest all of our time into making the single-player experience all that you could hope for. I think the single-player focus is what allowed us to make a game that really draws the player into Larry's world.

On the other hand, don't be surprised if people want to sit next to you on the couch to watch you play--it's definitely the kind of game that will draw a crowd.

GS: On a related note, the Leisure Suit Larry series has also traditionally not been for small children. Will the game likely end up being M-rated, or are you shooting for a different rating from the ESRB?

AR: The game is designed for players age 17 and older. It's rife with adult humor and situations. You can reasonably compare it to movies like Animal House and American Pie.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude?

Young Larry clearly appreciates the value of studying.
Young Larry clearly appreciates the value of studying.

JV: On behalf of the Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude development team, I would like to take the opportunity to reassure Larry fans everywhere that we're working very hard to meet the high expectations that have been set for this game. We appreciate all of the comments and feedback we've heard so far, so please keep it coming. Our goal is to do justice to Larry and make a game that will set a new bar for humor in video games. Based on what I know about our team and the game, I think we're on the right track. Thanks very much!

GS: And thanks to both of you.

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