Monday, December 12, 2005

REVOLUTION, PARTY OF ONE

So when I first started writing here a couple weeks ago, I honestly didn't believe anyone would ever see it. Stories about forgetting to bring home the milk? May be cute for my mom or for Aunt June in Sacramento, but beyond that...

Then I find out that some half a million people have come to this page, like the poor members of the Peoples Temple Cult who trekked to Guyana in search of divine wisdom and wound up with a bad batch up Kool-Aid. Ohhh, yeaaahhh!

Believe it or not, I'm not entirely shocked by this development. For an "outsider" trying to break into the world of game development, you figure out ways to get people to listen. It began almost eight years ago, a time when my company, *ecko unltd., was a##-deep in debt. Things were so bad I actually told our employees that a Con Ed truck had knocked out the power when in reality I couldn't pay the bill.

So there I was, in the middle of this huge financial hole, trying to figure out how to create an animated film instead of fixing the lights. Yes, I had guys crammed in my 6x8 office sketching characters while I worked on the script in a vacant bathroom stall. DRINK, DAMN IT, DRRRRRINK!!!

Needless to say, that didn't last long. I got my mind back on the clothing game and somehow we were able to turn the company around. Fast forward to 2002 when, after a few swift kicks by my partner Seth, I decided to dust off the project. By then, the sugar high had faded and I ditched the animated film idea for something more immersive; something along the lines of what Metal Gear Solid was doing back then at the end of the PS1 cycle.

Now we're rolling, right? Strong script, good characters, the potential for great narrative gameplay...I felt like Jim Jones and "Getting Up" was my fruit flavored elixir. Problem is, no one else would embrace my "revolution." I did everything I could just to get that first meeting, then was so wracked with stress I forgot to check my fly. I don't care if you're the damn Queen of England, ain't no one gonna pay respect to someone with his or her junk hanging out for the world to see. So I kept banging on doors, building and rebuilding my presentation...pitching...repitching...hoping someone would bite. And zipping my fly. After all, I had 3-D character renderings and a hell of a lot of Kool-Aid to shill.

Long story short, I finally talked my way into a meeting with Bruno Bonnell, then head of Infogrames (now Atari), who didn't give a f*#k that I was best known for making t-shirts and, better yet, was willing to take a sip.

For the next several weeks, Bruno and I traveled to every possible development studio out there, even considering doing it ourselves for half a second. Although we eventually found the perfect partner in the Collective, it wasn't until we brought in our first graf consultant, Alan Ket (KET), that the level design really began to take shape. No more over exaggerated caricatures, Electric Boogaloo moves, or flame shooting shoes. That sh*t don't fly with guys who hang from overpasses and suck paint fumes for a living.

From there, it was a matter of finding the right balance between the reality of graf life and a third person action adventure game. We watched and rewatched "State Your Name" (www.stateyourname.com), took Atari and The Collective deep underground in New York City, and visited the vertical city of Kowloon, Hong Kong for inspiration.

Not that it was all easy. I was still an outsider and did a lot of things simply because I thought that's how it was done. Instead of computer renders, we cast models for each character, and even went as far as to create clay sculptures. Instead of taking a conference call with Talib Kweli, my ideal voice for the game's lead character Trane, I packed up my clay models and drove to his studio. He agreed before I could even unpack.

Then came the constant questions about graf gameplay, navigation, sneak, soundtrack, packaging...All the elements that would make or break this game in the end. But that's enough for now. We still have a few weeks before "Getting Up," and as long as people keep ponying up to the bar, I'll continue pouring.

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