From the mind that brought us Psychonauts and Fandango comes the latest in heavy-metal stylized action. We speak to Tim Schafer about the world of Brutal Legend which features scantily clad ladies, heroic fights over barbaric overlords and… guitars.
Can you please describe the gameplay and how strategy plays a role in Brütal Legend?
It’s an action game but the player battles through a very non-traditional, heavy metal world. You have a double-sided broad axe for close-range, melee combat, but also a very special guitar that serves as a ranged weapon. Plus, friendly characters around you can be used as weapons in what we call “Double Team” attacks that you use to strike down enemies.
When you get to the point in the story where you are commanding a massive, heavy-metal army, you have some pretty interesting choices to make. You can choose which warriors to bring with you into battle, and which to leave backstage. Then you can control where they go to fight. But when the battle is on, it’s on, and you’re right there in the middle of the action.
So, who is Eddie?
Eddie is the greatest roadie in the world, but he’s working for the worst band ever. He feels like he was meant for something more important, and that he should have been born earlier, when the music was more real. Even though he often saves the day, he does so from the shadows—he doesn’t like to take the spotlight.
How does the multi-player game work?
In the single player campaign, you play as Eddie Riggs as he uses his roadie skills to put together an army of head bangers to liberate humanity from the demons. In multiplayer, you can play as Eddie, Ophelia, or Emperor Doviculus and you lead one of three different warring factions in head-to-head battle with another player or team of players.
What made you choose the open-world environment?
We really wanted to create a living, breathing world for Brütal Legend. We wanted the sun to rise and set, and for animals and characters to be going about their business whether you were watching them or not. And we wanted the player to feel like they were free to discover all of the little hidden spots on the map on their own. That’s something that I always strive for in games—a real sense of place. It’s great to create a world that the player can get lost in, and have it be so immersive that when they’re not playing the game they’re thinking about that world in kind of a homesick way, wanting to return.
We’ve heard that you started developing the character of Eddie Riggs with the idea of having someone “like Jack Black” voice him. Once Jack Black agreed to voice the part, did that open up some new personality traits or affectations for Eddie?
Jack definitely takes the character of Eddie Riggs to a whole new level. He plays him both as a tough guy, but with a subtle, vulnerable side, and he makes the whole thing hilarious. He takes the role very seriously, doing many, many takes of every line you hear in the game. And sometimes, after 15 different takes, we’ll say that’s good enough, print it—and then he’ll throw in just one more as a joke, and that turns out to be the crazy one that I never would have thought of writing but turns out to be brilliant and we’ll use that one. He’s awesome. He should star as every character in every game ever made, because then all games would be better.
Eddie Riggs is an ordinary roadie who is thrown into an extraordinary situation. Why do you think the stories of the underdog who gets a chance to become a hero are the ones that stick with us?
I think a lot of people go about their everyday lives with the thought in the back of their head that if they ever had to, they could step up and be a hero. We like to imagine that we would know what to do if an emergency presented itself—say, if we walked by a burning house with a baby crying inside, or if we were transported back in time to a barbaric age where humanity is enslaved by demons. And a roadie is such a great representation of that because they aren’t the ones who step on stage to take the bows and get the applause, they’re just the dudes who know what to do and get the job done. Humble, but capable.
How important is the soundtrack to Brütal Legend?
The soundtrack is what inspired the game. Everything you see in Brütal Legend came from Heavy Metal, so we didn’t have to work hard to integrate them—they were forged from the same fire.
We spent years finding the perfect songs and acquiring all the rights. It wasn’t easy but we wanted to have songs that were more than just personal favorites, but great songs that perfectly complimented the moment in the game in which they were used.
If I sat down and made a list of everyone I wanted to meet back when I was 15 years old it would be pretty much the same people I’ve been able to meet through Brütal Legend. It has been amazing. And they’ve all been such good sports about it. I think they like the fact that this game treats them the way they deserve to be treated—as Metal Gods.
Since you’re a huge heavy metal fan, can we expect to learn something from that with Brutal Legend?
Yeah, even if you aren’t into metal, Brütal Legend is a great action game with a lot of humor and beautiful art to pull you in. But once we have you we play one awesome metal song after another. Eventually, even metal haters will get to a song where they think, “Hey… this song is kind of… awesome.” And then they’ll press the START button to see the name of the song and the band (we always show the name of the song and the band) and at that moment, we’ve got them.
Brütal Legend is an action game that’s a lot of fun for anyone who loves games. The gameplay is incredibly satisfying, and every moment is loaded with humor, beautiful art, crazy characters, and crazy action. And even if you’re not a metal fan when you start playing, I predict you will be by the time you’re done!