How to do com­edy in a videogame

A vet­eran of the Saints Row se­ries talks us through the fine art of in­ter­ac­tive hi­lar­ity

XBox: The Official Magazine - - TEN PRO TIPS -

1 Teach Kinect swear­words

It was just one of the fun­ni­est things, to record some­one do­ing those voice com­mands for the rat­ings board. “So here’s one of our as­so­ciate pro­duc­ers swear­ing vi­o­lently at the TV while the player demon­strates moves.” It’s pretty great to think that this is all com­pletely le­git­i­mate work.

2 Stay plau­si­ble – just

We try to make sure that ev­ery­thing stays ‘log­i­cal’ – you know, with an as­ter­isk. We wanted to have su­per­pow­ers in Saints Row IV, so we put you in a Ma­trix where you are hacked and have th­ese pow­ers given to you. And in the case of the most re­cent one – you’re in hell, so of course you have su­per­nat­u­ral abil­i­ties.

3 Em­brace spon­tane­ity

Whether it’s Steve Jaros com­ing up with the back­ground, or a designer com­ing up with any given mission, in­vari­ably what we’ll do is we keep it wide open in terms of what kinds of jokes we want to in­clude, or what broad type of hu­mour we want to do. We tend not to be very re­stric­tive up­front.

4

Mod the guns

We have a pis­tol you can charge up, through killing, for a ton of pun­ish­ment – so, a fun weapon in and of it­self, but what re­ally makes [the gun] cool is that it’s con­stantly talk­ing to you. It’s al­most like your mini com­pan­ion when you get this weapon out, and he’s just yelling at ev­ery­one.

5 Be po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive…

Quite hon­estly, early on in the fran­chise, cer­tainly with Saints Row 1, it just wasn’t some­thing we gave a lot of thought to, but as time has gone on… As ir­rev­er­ent, silly and over­the-top as this game is, the team takes a lot of pride in the fact that it’s darn near the most in­clu­sive game around.

6 …but not po-faced

We think [be­ing in­clu­sive] is the right thing to do, but we try to do it in a way that’s still funny and en­ter­tain­ing. For the de­trac­tors who might say we’re just bow­ing to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure with our char­ac­ters, it’s al­ways our goal to try and do it in an amus­ing way.

7 Spoof other games

Gat out of Hell’s ro­mance op­tions started off with: “Hey, this would be a fun gag about the Mass Ef­fect sys­tem where it’s so in­tri­cate, it takes so long be­fore you can se­duce a mem­ber of your crew. Wouldn’t it be funny, more Saints Row if you walked up, pressed the but­ton and sud­denly you’re with them?”

8 Avoid to­tal za­ni­ness

A lot of times when peo­ple look at our games they think, ‘Clearly any­thing goes!’ But it’s ac­tu­ally taken a long time for us to hit this very spe­cific sense of hu­mour. We want the char­ac­ters to be larger than life, but we want you to take them se­ri­ously. Our hu­mour is a se­ri­ous, con­trolled sense of hu­mour.

9 Mix up gen­res

We laughed a lot about Gat out of Hell’s mu­si­cal scene, you know? “It’d be funny if we did the whole game this way!” But we fig­ured that it was prob­a­bly bet­ter placed as this amaz­ing mo­ment, rather than the whole game. And also be­cause – as we learned – it’s an in­cred­i­ble amount of work to write mu­si­cals!

10 End with a dance

We do this ‘Soul Train’ dance for the Saints Row IV cred­its with the char­ac­ters in the game. Orig­i­nally, we talked about that be­ing a Bol­ly­wood dance – that was our grand vi­sion. But we just ran out of time and bud­get. We wanted to do it right, but that would have meant we had to chore­o­graph it all. OXM

If you've not played Saints Row, know that this is pretty pedes­trian by se­ries stan­dards.

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