GGUK joined Mike Inglehart, Hothead Games producer, for a spot of lunch. Oh, and we got to talk about ‘The Baconing‘ as well.
Before sitting down for lunch, we had a chance to see ‘The Baconing‘ in action and then quiz Mike about the game.
The first thing that we wanted to know was why the DeathSpank name was not in the title of this latest adventure for the hero of the downtrodden. As it turns out, the first two games, DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue, began life as one game. But the game was so massive that it later got split into two titles. This left a lot of people confused as to whether the game was episodic and if they had to play the first game to understand the second. So they decided to take the DeathSpank name off.
Whilst on the subject of names, we asked where the name “The Baconing” had come from. Mike explained that the name came from the community -
“We held a naming contest as we were banging our heads against the wall. What do we call this game? We had 27 pages with all the titles, with some of them not suitable for human consumption [laughs], but The Baconing was the one that really stuck to the storyline.”
The story of The Baconing is that DeathSpank is sitting on his throne one day, completely bored, and decides to put on all six Thongs of Virtue all at the same time, not knowing there is a myth connected to doing that, which can result in the summoning of an evil carnation of yourself to the world. The Anti-Spank, which is the evil version of DeathSpank, is coming to the world with his army of cyborgs. So what DeathSpank finds out is that the only way to bring this evil creature to its demise is to locate the fires of bacon and burn five of the thongs, thus weakening the Anti-Spank and bringing peace back to the world.
It seems that the community had a hand in more than just the naming of the game. During early pre-production, the community was asked for feedback and the overwhelming theme was that they wanted to see the gameplay improved.
“People said it was like a button tapping experience and people wanted to see more for an eight hour game.” explained Mike.
He then went on to explain how the newly added “Shield Bash” action works.
“When you hold down the block button, you’ll see a starburst. Once that is triggered and you release, the shield will bash the enemies a distance from DeathSpank and it will create a window of opportunity. The ranged enemies that are firing arrows or fireballs, if you release the ‘bash’ at the right time, you’ll be able to deflect projectiles back at those targets, picking out ranged enemies with their own weapons.”
The Crossbow too has been looked at within the game. There are seven different Crossbows in the game, each with different firing mechanics, meaning that the player can choose a Crossbow to compliment their playing style or the situation they are in. And then there are the Weapons of Justice…
“In the middle of the screen is your justice meter,” Mike told us, “you fill that by doing attacks and blocking. When it’s filled you’ll be able to perform some devastating blows. There are seven Weapons of Justice and we have made sure that each of the three levels of the Weapons of Justice have substantial gameplay to make DeathSpank feel more powerful over time. The Laser Designator essentially allows you to mark targets and in the level one version, DeathSpank has befriended a dragon somewhere along the way, he’s marked the targets, the dragon comes over like a bomber in war and will launch down and fire fireballs on the enemies below, helping his buddy on the way when he needs it.”
The AI has also been improved this time around, creating a more substantial challenge for the player. There are various levels of difficulty and the health system has been tuned so that DeathSpank cannot take as many hits as before. The sidekick has also been made a bit smarter and will actively come and help DeathSpank if he is being overwhelmed.
Mike then discussed the “covered objects” in the game -
“We’ve improved the environment in every combat arena. In previous games it’s been very barren and nothing to move behind. Before you would run away, heal or go eat something, which isn’t a good and compelling gameplay. So we’ve erected different covered objects in the world and what that does is to allow DeathSpank to seek refuge when his been in a fight. If you’ve been attacked by ranged enemies, it will buy you some time. Also if you can find a covered object, you can sneak up on a band of enemies and land the first attack, therefore giving you a sizeable advantage.”
The manual targeting system has been tuned to be more reactive and an auto-targeting system has now been included, although it is up to the player whether they want to use it. There are also four different types of barrels to be found in the environment now; explosive, magic, poison and ice. These barrels can be used strategically by the player for tactical advantage, such as slowing down the enemy, freezing them or blowing them up. However, the player should be aware that if they do not use the barrels, ranged enemies can use them against DeathSpank.
Mike described how the player will be using the Weapons of Justice a lot more -
“There’s a lot more rhythm and pace to the fighting. We’ve also created more meaning behind the hero cards. The choices have more meaning to the gameplay. We’ve changed more of the mechanics, different challenges and it’s more engaging. Firm, but fair and it’s not overwhelming. There are four difficulty levels, and when you’ve beat the game you can unlock insane mode. The game offers more experience between conversations and allows users to get into the game quicker. There are puzzles and challenges, but no real right or wrong way to play it. We wanted to break up the experience and let the comedy shine.”
There are twenty sets of armour in the store and the player is able to bring old sets of armour into the game, with rewards available for full sets. Many of the suits of armour are inspired by sci-fi, such as Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.
The Baconing has seven different themed environments, one of which is the Forest of Tomorrow, about which Mike elaborated -
“The Forest of Tomorrow is a 50’s scifi world, the Jetsons crossed with a bit of Disneyland. The Nuclear family are the creators of the Forest of Tomorrow. They are scientists and they all work on scientific experiments that really don’t serve any purpose for humanity. The family is made up of Dick Nuclear, who is the husband, and Betty Nuclear, his wife. Dick works for the Pleasuretorium and they have a son called Elroy and a daughter called Chastity. Dick kind of works in a brothel where he is trying to perfect the pleasurebot, which is a robot hooker. The wife Betty stays at home and works at the foodnarium, where she experiments on different types of food. Elroy works at the clonetarium where he is trying to create the perfect two headed dog. Chastity, the sister is in her teenage years and has a lot of frustrations in love. She has had enough of boys and has gone off to create the perfect artificial boyfriend. And they all work together on the character mutoe – he’s the Mickey Mouse ambassador of the park.”
Mutoe is an “edible abomination” whose organs are made of liquorice. He is a blend of 11 herbs and spices and 14 different animals.
In the Forest of Tomorrow, DeathSpank must help Betty to gather the family up to come home for dinner. To accomplish this, he will have to help each member of the family with their science experiments. Once they all get home, they get into a massive fight which blows a hole in the wall, allowing DeathSpank to progress to the next area.
The other environments include The Forbidden Zone, a Mad Max inspired, post-apocalyptic world filled with half cactus creatures and lizards with one eye, Rainbows End, a Vegas style world run by a Leprechaun called McMafia, Barnacle Lake and Valhalla Heights, a retirement home for the Gods.
Once again, the community had it’s say when deciding on a new sidekick. Bob from Marketing is a Hammerhead Shark in a business suit. He wields a Swordfish for melee, fires lasers from his eyes (inspired by the Austin Powers movies) and cries out clichéd business terms.
When asked if DeathSpank will ever make his way onto iOS, Mike said -
“It’s possible. We own DeathSpank as a company, we have the legal rights to DeathSpank, so part of the goal of HotHead is to generate and create ips we can then use on different platforms. We are busy releasing five iOS games as a company, so it’s definitely in the realms of possibility that DeathSpank will make its way. Right now, we don’t have any official plans but it’s very possible.”
The Baconing is being offered as part of Sony’s PSN summer promotion, PSN PLAY, when it launches for PS3, Xbox360 and PC/Mac on August 31st, at 1200 MSPoints/ €12.99.