In the world of pop-culture there are many things I enjoy, but two certain interests developed around the same time. My love point n’ click adventure games and my almost addictive enjoyment of sports entertainment/professional wrestling. Both these interests have evolved over the years even if the actual subjects haven’t. The best of point n click games are still interesting, but not heavy intensive art work with quirky dialogue, cool characters, a wacky plot and interesting puzzles. Wrestling has generally been the same since my childhood, quick paced action with some slow down, colorful larger than life characters, story lines that are a mix of reality and the completely unrealistic.
In the recently released game “Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass”, programmer, artist and designer Chris Burton has found a way to merge the two. Although one would say it’s much more Hulk Hogan’s Rock n Wrestling cartoon as classic adventure game, it still makes for a funny, ridiculous and crazy game.
That isn’t to say it’s without flaws. The art isn’t completely polished (but definitely has charm and is a big advance from the 8bit graphics of the first non-commercial gae), some of the later puzzles fall into the trap of being mini-games, but all together it is worth your time along with the original game which is available for free.
I had the pleasure/privilige to shoot Chris Burton a few questions via e-mail before the game officially came out and I’ve been sitting on his excellent answers for awhile. I can only hope that if my short review didn’t make you have interest, the following with links and various screenshots will.
1.) What was the deal with the bear head in the arena in Da New Guys?
That goofy-looking bear is based on my baby brother’s old teddy, who we used to make all kinds of dumb stories about when we were kids. It’s kind of an in-joke that nobody but us would get, which is why it’s not very prominent, but good old Bear’s present and correct in Day of the Jackass too!
2.) What was the original inspiration for Da New Guys? Was it always wrestling based or did the characters come first?
The characters always come first. Wrestling obviously plays a big part, but I think the heart of any Da New Guys story always has to be about the characters – I don’t think it would work if the story was ever just “they have to win the match so they can become champions”.
That said, the trio came about through playing a “true” wrestling game – Smackdown 2 on the good old PSOne. It had a really great create-a-wrestler mode, and then play with them through auto-generated storylines. I made the three heroes, then the game would make up rivalries for them to get involved in. Brain had a stick-on goofy smile, Simon was always grumpy, and so the characters just grew from there.
3.) Defender looks a lot like Cobra Commander, what’s the story there?
Google tells me that’s from G.I. Joe, so it isn’t intentional – though the comic-book influence definitely is. He’s a bit of a comic-book geek, and has a bit of a “hero complex”, so his costume tries to reflect that. His first appearance had more of a “samurai warrior” vibe, but it got refined and smoothed out over time to make it more original. Also, for as-yet unexplained reasons he wears a helmet to stay anonymous!
4.)I believe I noticed Kurt Angle in the first game in the Gym, is that correct?
It is! All thanks to a lack of texturing ability and easy-access to online images. I loved that Kurt was so over-the-top and in love with himself, but unlike Brain he’s actually a decent wrestler.
5.)Who are some of your favorite wrestlers? Also what are some of your favorite wrestling stories/angles?
I’ve been out of tune with wrestling lately – most of my memories are from the late 90s. Macho Man’s up there at the top – who can’t laugh every time he shouts? I loved any moment William Regal would try to “educate” the fans by showing them proper table manners – wrestling’s known for its stereotyping but I think that’s all part of the fun. The family issues between Vince and Shane McMahon were also great – I think that was the main dramatic angle I was genuinely swept up in. Also: Doink the Clown!
6.)Who/What inspires your brand of comedy? Films/TV/Comedians
I like humour that’s got the right mix of being wacky but also based in reality. In the same way that the game’s art style has caricatured people in a perspective-correct world, I try to push things over-the-top but still have clear “rules” that ground it all (the characters can get hurt, for example). I used to watch a lot of British sitcoms like Only Fools and Horses, which was very character-based and had a simple but charming humour to it. Unfortunately though, my cynicism’s growing and these days I’m more into comedians like Doug Stanhope.
Wallace & Gromit‘s more of a direct influence, I’d say, because of how well they manage to blend action and comedy together. The chase scene in A Close Shave is a perfect example of that: it’s wholly entertaining, and it’s got a very good mix of genuine jokes with geniune thrills.
7.)What are your full aspirations for Da New Guys? You’ve developed an animation and now finally have the second game, is there a next step or did the process of over 9 years betwen games drain that dream?
My ambitions grow with each project, and each one takes more and more effort, so I think any potential “next step” for Da New Guys would really be huge. I’ll never say no to anything else DNG-related, but I think another game would be so ambitious I’d have to really think hard about how to go about it properly. If people respond well to their first sequel, I’d certainly be very enthused to do another one!
8.)In terms of construction, how much of the game is all you(not counting the music) and what did Wadjeteye bring to the table?
Wadjet Eye got involved very late in development, so up until the middle of last year it was all me. That said, I think having Wadjet Eye on board massively improved the game. The story and pacing was final, but in an adventure game it’s the small moments and details that matter, and I got a ton of feedback. Not just from the excellent testers, but Dave and Emily were both very open about what they liked and didn’t like, which really helped me bash the game into shape. There were a couple of moments in the game where, looking back, the puzzles really weren’t so intuitive, and they were great to bounce new ides off of.
Wadjet Eye also gave me a whole bunch of voice actors! The first Da New Guys game was all voiced by myself, and it’s pretty obvious. While there are a lot of new characters in the sequel, there are some returning as well, but Dave was able to get some great replacements who I really wish I was able to get at the time I made the first one.
9.)I noticed in the art gallery that the characters started out as 3D models which you then drew over for Day of The Jackass, what was the thinking process for this decision?
The main reason the game took so long to make was because for a long time it really lacked the polish I wanted it to have, and the low-budget was painfully obvious when it came to animation. I can’t animate 2D at all, so when – after having learnt 3D animation – I discovered a way to animate in 3D space and rotoscope the frames into the game, the answer was obvious. It was a very elaborate and time-consuming job to convert the 3D to 2D, but I think it paid off really well, and let me come up with new puzzles that took advantage of it. Whereas before it was difficult enough to make a character hold their hand out, now I could make them kick, climb ladders, and do whatever I wanted. That freedom really meant I didn’t have to cut a puzzle or be less ambitious in a cutscene, just because I wouldn’t be able to portray it.
I’m really glad you’re enjoying it so far, and thanks for the interest!
I finally finished the game various times since that interview and slowly but surely getting this article up for print since the game became officially available at the end of February/almost beginning of March. It is currently on sale from Wadgeteye Games and for $10 is worth it for anyone who enjoys funny point n click adventures with full stories and enjoyable characters. There are arguments that can be made that NO ONE would want to help The Brain and that’s true, but I can think of many popular comedies full of annoying, stupid characters that we enjoy following… Mr. Bean, Peter Griffin, etc. and luckily for most of the game one plays the more enjoyable courageous, interesting guy that you wonder why he even hangs with these guys and the tough, grumpy, gruff guy that makes you wonder why he hangs with these guys. It’s that awesome triumverite we’ve seen before and done well in an animated indie cartoon adventure.
To travel around the world without leaving home there are only three ways. The first is to jump around the internet which really doesn’t count, the next is to visit Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida which has a pavilion of buildings representing many countries except unless you live in Orlando that would count as leave home, so the real way is through the power of film and exotic restaurants. The added addition of films is you get to time travel as well.
On the last week/first week of February/March 2012 I got to visit New Zealand, India, The United Kingdom and Monaco and each adventure was quite amazing.
It started out with getting to see Taika Waititi’s latest feature BOY at a special screening at Knitting Factory Brooklyn. Taika is an Oscar nominated film maker who is best known for his very popular Eagle vs. Shark and his work with Flight of the Conchords. BOY takes place in the early 80s and tells a truly funny, smart and compelling film about a young man in rural New Zealand. He lives in a very small town full of lush landscapes and beauty in a very poor but sustainable lifestyle. The bulk of the film is about his father’s return to town after a stay in prison and the changes that come to Boy’s life in that time. The film has some awesome fantasy sequences including animation, music video recreations and uproarious photo montages. The film has so much heart, but its also full of kinetic energy. The landscape scenes of New Zealand’s lush green are an amazing stark contrast to the poverty of the houses and town, creating a vibe in the film of hope full with hopeless that so much of life contains. When so much changes, it also always feels the same, as people come in and out of your life, relationships change, emotions evolve, personalities develop further and BOY finds a way to express all that through a simple story with complex situations.
After the film I had the pleasure to meet Taika himself and he was very down to Earth and open. That feels like it’s changed a bit in his very humorist updates on his Kickstarter, but I’m pretty sure it’s still humble despite the films instant smash success in America. I had asked him some simple questions about the film, in both its making and its message and he expressed himself with an honest and passionate discussion. If you have the chance to see BOY while its on its US tour, do so… but hopefully this will all lead to a North American DVD/Bluray available at a reasonable price and not imported from New Zealand for multi-zone players.
Before seeing BOY I had dinner at Bay Leaf, an excellent Indian place off of Bedford. It’s actually from what I can tell the only Indian cusine in that area of Williamsburg. Traditionally I have Thai when out there, but since I was alone for the evening I got to try out this place and it was excellent. Actually some of the best tasting Indian I’ve ever had. I ended up having Indian again on Thursday at one of the places on 1 and 6th and they paled in comparison at least flavor style, in my opinion. Both meals were amazing and filling, but Bay Leaf was a tantamount experience followed by an amazing movie I had really desired and meeting its star.
I had gone to Sunshine Cinema on Thursday evening to see a Village Voice screening of SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt with Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas. It was directed by Lasse Hallström from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, two masters of adapting complicated novels into exceptional films. The novel in question here is by the same name and was written by Paul Torday, while never having not read the book, I ascertain from what I can find online that it was very comedic in nature, a great satire filled with a poignant story. The film strips a a bit of that comedy down to just the barest essentials I feel, but still delivers a poignant story with a completely non-allegorical political message alongside an a subtly allegorical life message. Amr Waked is the best thing in this entire film outside of the travelouge. His performance is so strong it is unfortunate when this film has debuted in America, as if it wasn’t directly after The Oscars he would be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor nomination if not a win and as there’s no Acting Nods for foreign films, well… He is just that good though. As said, next comes the visuals. The film travels throughout the UK and Monaco and truly shows them off with a flair. A much higher flair than New Zealand is shown in BOY, but here LOCATION was a character where in BOY it was just a setting. Every space becomes as important to the events and the story as the people themselves. Traditionally one would credit the Director of Photography for this, but Terry Stacey’s previous work was never at a scale like this, so I’ve gotta think that Beaufoy’s script and Lasse’s directing propels this magnificence. Look at Simon’s 127 Hours or Slumdog Millionaire or Hallström’s many films to see their hands in the work no matter who the cinematographer is. SALMON is parable in many ways, just as the concept of salmon fishing in the yemen is a metaphor for life itself.
Through these two films and two wonderful meals I got to see and feel life, love and imagination and for just a moment feel like I’d left New York City and traveled the world.
(It must be stated that unfortunately BOY is currently only scheduled for the following cities: New York, Throughout California (LA, SF, etc.), Boston, Seattle, Washington DC, Atlanta, GA and Santa Fe in Texas with various different opening dates at specific theaters which you can see here.
and SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN opened March 9th in Limited Theaters in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Info can be found here.
As stated above on BOY, hopefully both films will recieve North American DVD/Blu-Ray releases, they are both worthy.)
In February 2012 I took an afternoon walk to the zoo near my house, Queens Zoo in the Flushing Meadows Corona Park and decided to spontaneously record it with my iPhone. It would be my last video I would film having long hair. I’ve gotten some personal praise from friends on it and felt it was time to share beyond Facebook and my Youtube page.
Quick clarification… as the Tom Morello concert was over before 8 PM I ducked into Jim Hanley’s and got to get an awesome drawing from Eddy Barrows as part of a signing and say hello to long time friend Ian Brill who just happened to be in the store.
The morning consisted of walking more of the very large convention floor. The show this year took over the entire building, so it was a lot to explore, especially in between panels and meetings and press sessions. I got some good snaps in my first two hours on Friday, but before long it was time to head down to my press session for the new adult animation show Good Vibes which will be premiering on MTV October 27, 2011 after the new Beavis & Butthead.
In this press room were Adam Brody, Josh Gad, Olivia Thirlby, the show’s writers/producers and one of my long time crushes, Debi Mazar. The panel was done round table with 4 different press folks to a table and the actors coming in separate sections. This is what I’ve been used to do for these press rooms, but would get different experiences this year during the con. I had a lot of fun talking to everyone but talking to Debi was the highlight. I was amazed that neither Adam or David Gordon Green knew anything about the O.C. Cartoon, The Atomic County though. That was interesting to discover they made it without their knowledge or if maybe Adam forgot it? Who knows…
The press room ran long so I only ended up having time to make my way through the show discovering more of the floor to go to the HUSBANDS autograph signing with Sean Hemeon, Brad “Cheeks” Bell and Jane Espenson. Alessandra was supposed to be there too, but by the time I was there she was running late and wasn’t there by the time I was done. Before the show I tweeted to Brad that I wanted to have a photo taken where Brad and Sean were giving me a double kiss on the cheek. They obliged me and even did it in character instead of their actual personalities, which is awesome! I actually showed HUSBANDS to my mom for the first time recently and she was laughing and wanted to know what channel it was on. So there we go, the show must go on TV!
From there it was back to a quick floor walk and desperately trying to reach my friend Alesha. She really wanted to meet Doc Hammer and being the kind of friend I am, I had to indulge her and I know Doc and Jackson would have no objection to meeting an absolutely amazingly gorgeous mentally, facially and physically woman like Alesha. After finally giving her instructions I got over to the press room and set up my camera as Doc and Jackson did a press room like they usually do press conferences on TV, the people sitting at a table in the front and pointing to journalists for their questions.
Alesha popped into the room looking like a goddess dressed up as Lana Kane from Archer and took a seat next to me. She even got to ask a couple questions and like I promised she got to some one and one with Jackson and Doc after wards. Even though I’ve known Chris McCulloch (Jackson Publick) for years I had never met Doc Hammer either so it was a pleasure.
Based on the time I decided I would just walk around with Alesha for awhile till my 6 PM session for Pizza Man press. We just explored the show and had a good time talking and walking. She got a ton of “Lana, Lana” “WHAT?” “Danger Zone” cat calls, a major change from last year when only one person recognized her. She still got one dude confusing her for Tomb Raider though. Only one though, she actually got like 20-30 cat calls as we walked around which was awesome.
I rushed over to my Pizza Man and this was run really differently than anything I’ve ever been to. It was a free for all and no one was moderating, so you grabbed who you could and when you exhausted what you could talk about or felt you had enough, you moved on to the next person. DDP ended up being super late, but I really did enjoy talking to Frankie Muniz and Corbin Bernsen before he showed up. Great interviews and soon on Youtube.
This panel featured four very talented comics creator with various pedigrees and creators of very different types of comics all that would fall under humor in the format of sequential storytelling. Keith Knight, a syndicated strip cartoonist he is famous for his The K Chronicles a (th)INK strips. Jennifer Hayden, creator of the strip Underwire which appeared on Act-I-Vate and the upcoming graphic novel The Story of My Tits. Kate Beaton, the creator of the obscenely popular strip and now collected edition “Hark, A Vagrant” and Michael Kupperman, writer/artist of Tales Designed to Thrizzle and the upcoming graphic novel “Mark Twain’s Autobiography: 1900-2010”. It was moderated by The Beat‘s Heidi McDonald.
The panel started out with each panelist talking about their past and why they use comedy in the majority of their work.
Jennifer told about a panel in Underwire which showed the aftermath of her accidentally hitting a deer. It displayed her thoughts on the deers defecation upon death. She received polar opposite reactions to this one panel, some found if it sad & poignant, others laughed out loud non-stop. She loves how one can use humor in comics to hide or explore tragedy easier and also allow one to say the things on the page one wouldn’t/couldn’t say in person.
Kate Beaton detailed how Hark, A Vagrant came out as started out being comics editor on her college paper and having to fill the page. She originally planned to become a professor, but the comics just spiraled. She loves how even though her strips use lots of comedy and jokes people still explore the real history afterward.
Michael Kupperman made the announcement of his and Kate’s soon to regular comedy show at Luca Lounge in Manhattan. This should be definitely something to check out if you can.
Keith talked about his history as a cartoonist and the development of the strip, but the best was his statement that “if it doesn’t make you laugh, at least it makes you think, and it doesn’t make you think, at least it makes you laugh, but when both…”
Heidi’s first official question was if they were the class clown/how did you find out you were funny? Which of course all the panelists found awkward but found good answers to.
Keith kind of dodged the questions, but dropped some pontification. On the other Jennifer stated she was the class clown and the family clown. As a kid she would stuff her dad’s tie in a drink or in his mouth. She grew up around very stuffy people and hated it, so she used humor in way of rebellion.
Kate also said she was the class clown out of necessity. She said she was a pudgy little kid, so the best defense was to be the funny kid. Being the one people looked to for funny gave her power and control unlike anything else she could ever feel and that if someone is meant for comedy they figure it out early on.
Michael just said “What they said”…
Heidi asked Kate specifically (but open to all) that because she handles obscure history if there was anyone/thing that can’t be funny. Kate stated people are always asking for Hitler, she doesn’t know why. She said some people from history are so tragic that you want to try and tackle the story, but it just doesn’t work out. She gave the example of Angelique, the famous Canadian slave accused of arson, who was hanged and burned for her crimes in the 1700′s. She felt that the story could not be approached from a humor standpoint and abandoned trying to make a comic strip version.
I personally would love to see Beaton try to tackle this one again, she could make fun of the fact that in 1700′s Canada was like 1600′s America and so on.
Heidi asked Jennifer abut how her family felt about using them in her strip. Jennifer stated she has to tread carefully and only recently found out her husband didn’t want to be in them and then was flabbergasted when he finally started reading and was “Wait, I’m barely in this anyways! Where am I?”
A story she decided to skip was the the experience of birth control and condoms discussion when her kids went off to college. Find it funny she has no problem telling us in a panel, but not in a strip.
Heidi then asked Keith about the experience of being a very controversial strip cartoonist who has had his strip pulled and banned in many markets.
Keith then went into a very intense and detailed story about a strip he did which made fun about current race relations. This particular strip made an uproar at a university and the university requested he come and talk about the strip. In reaction to the strip a small segment of black students were actually walking around campus with nooses around their necks. He needed to state that at this same university prior to this someone called in a prank terrorist threat on black students, so it wasn’t his strip that caused the problem, there already was one and the politics of that university were prone to that particular strip meant for the whole world. He also finds it funny how in black communities when a situation like this arises the media makes an effort to talk to the craziest person they can find and that’s how you get viral Youtube sensations.
The last question to get any real answers was on Influences.
Kate had stated a few, but she didn’t talk into the mike so it was hard to hear her, but I did catch her state Stephen Leacock, who I previously was not familiar with. He was a Canadian writer and scientist and Kate loves her home town Canada a lot obviously with wanting to write about Angelique and mentioning Leacock. Yup, she’s from Nova Scotia, dontyaknow?
Kupperman cited Monty Python, SCTV and the Smithsonian Book of Comics.
Hayden mentioned growing up on Archie and MAD, but really grew on Doonesbury and also Asterix and as she got older Charles Dickens. She also cited Maurice Sendak.
Knight cited Peanuts, Bill Watterson, Parliament Funkadelic and The Young Ones.
The Q & A and final questions provided nothing further, but it was a satisfying and enjoyable panel with colorful insights.
Jane Espenson, one of Joss Whedon’s right hands and also the creator of WAREHOUSE 13 has developed and is debuting a sitcom web series called HUSBANDS on September 13. I can only assume that part of her interaction at the con will be a panel about it or some kind of marketing. At least I’m hoping so as the show is right up my alley being an LGBT themed comedy. I also hope Cheeks will be there too. Not the artist/designer Sean “Cheeks” Galloway (who I’m also a fan of), but the writer/actor/musician Brad Bell.
Chad Michael Murray, former teen heartthrob, famous for roles on Gilmore Girls and Dawson’s Creek before his six season stint on One Tree Hill and scheduled to return for the final season will be debuting a graphic novel he states is 8 years in the making. It’s called EVERLAST and features artwork from popular illustrator and painter J.K. Woodward.
The role-playing/LARP/I don’t know exactly but it looks awesome indie film UNICORN CITY will be screening at NYCC. I wish I had more details, but that’s what I can confirm.