"...Together we set out to make a story machine where game mechanics and story would blend together through play."In advance of GDC Next, which runs in Los Angeles next week, GDC director of online community Patrick Miller asked The Odd Gentlemen's Matt Korba about their collaboration with Neil Gaiman for Wayward Manor.
Korba (The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom) will be speaking about his company's latest project in his GDC Next 10 talk in LA on Thursday, Nov. 7th titled "An Odd Collaboration: How Neil Gaiman and The Odd Gentlemen Decided to Make Wayward Manor Together".
Patrick Miller: What is it like working with Neil Gaiman? How'd you have to change up your dev process to work him in?
Matt Korba: Working with Neil is great! He really respects the mediums he works in, which you can see in his comics, novels, and short stories. He is able to look at the game design and solve problems with elegant and simple solutions, making his wisdom invaluable. The Odd Gentlemen is based in LA, so through the years we have had some opportunities to work with creatives from Hollywood.
Oftentimes people from other mediums don't really understand what makes games special, and think the answer to story in games is longer cutscenes and more realistic lighting. Neil, on the other hand, had a lot of respect for the potential of games, so together we set out to make a story machine where game mechanics and story would blend together through play.
PM: I'm really interested in your Lego play prototype session; what'd it look like and how did you turn it into something you could work with?
MK: The prototype for Wayward Manor looked like a cross section of a doll house made of Lego. Every item that could be possessed was color-coded and built with a Lego brick that conveyed the level of the object. So a level one candle is built with a white one-square Lego brick, and a level four suit of armor is built with a four-square gray Lego brick.
Players were asked what they would like to interact with, and then we would move the little Lego figures around and act out the results. We always paper prototype our games first to see if they are any fun before translating them to digital. In the past we have used Lego, paper dolls, and even clay and string to get a game idea across.
PM: How much of what you learned working on Wayward Manor do you think will be applicable to future titles? Was there anything in specific that made you think, "We really should have started doing this a long time ago"?
MK: The approach of taking a complex video game mechanic and presenting it as a board game is something we will always continue to do. Tracy Fullerton and Chris Swain first taught us the technique back when we were students at USC, and we are getting better and faster at coming up with clever ways of using analogue materials to prototype what will eventually become digital.
It is not always easy to think about how to present video game mechanics in a board game fashion (especially if the game is not turn-based) but we are always are impressed with the results. Jamie Antonisse worked with us to create the prototype, and he is really great at packaging the gameplay demo. He does great voices too!
PM: Who else out there (in games or other media) do you see shaking things up as far as creative partnerships and development processes?
MK: I am still waiting for Pixar to tackle games; I would love to see them do an intimate project with a smaller dev studio. As far as dev methods, I'm really impressed with the Spelunky team, how they thought about, prototyped and created their game. Die Gute Fabrik always creates fun cool stuff too.
PM: If you could collaborate with any creator in another medium on your next game, who would your dream partner be?
MK: I would love to make a game with the Jim Henson Company. If everybody who reads this article drops a penny in a fountain and wishes for that, it could happen.
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