Exclusive Interview: Joe Danger’s Sean Murray
Joe Danger is the game on everyone’s lips at the moment, you can't go anywhere PlayStation related without hearing the words. So we caught up with Sean Murray from HelloGames to find out the influences behind the game and how it came to be on the PlayStation Network.
Sean and the other three members of the team certainly have an impressive background, their combined experience stems from working on titles such as Burnout 3, Geometry Wars, Black and Virtua Tennis.
These days they work in one of the smallest studios in the world, however despite its size HelloGames has created a mammoth title in Joe Danger and its once that puts many others to shame.
Here is what Sean had to say about the game.
Joe Danger Interview
Hello, so can you tell us all about Joe Danger and why you feel people should buy it?
I guess we’re trying to make the kind of game we like to play, and for us, that’s a mix of a whole bunch of things that have been individual influences on each of us. Joe Danger is a racing game, but it’s secretly a platformer, and also one where you are holding a combo and constantly thinking about your score as well as exploring.
Something we said is we wanted to recreate that childish joy of the first time you took a toy motorbike, doused it in lighter fluid, lit it, and launched it at high speed over your carefully constructed ramp out a second story window. You can take on your friends too and build your own levels to share with them.
So you play as Joe Danger, who was once the World's greatest Stuntman, but since then he's had some nasty crashes and eaten a few too many hamburgers. It’s basically the player's job to take him back to the top of his game. Cue Montage! He needs to thrill the crowd by pulling death-defying stunts to reclaim his title of Master of Disaster and teach his rivals a lesson, the reckless "Team Nasty". He's basically a cute, hapless little dude who's never walked away from a Stunt... literally.
The game looks wonderful to be honest, being such a small studio though how do you balance all the elements of the game, such as graphics, game play etc? Which is most important to you?
We’re all way to close to this to really be able to get perspective on it. One of our big things is if we’re still having fun making it, then hopefully it’s going to be fun to play. That’s probably the answer to your question, for us the most important thing by far has always been gameplay and just generally fun. Those awesome games we grew up with had it by the bucket load, and at every stage in making Joe Danger we tried to make sure it was always fun to play. Even when all we had was a blue background, a couple of untextured blocks and a single bike wheel driving through the levels, we still just worked and worked on making that a joyous experience. I think everything then just builds on that foundation – it flows from there! I’ve definitely worked on games that never had the time to find those foundations, and it wasn’t a very nice experience to work on.
What about the multiplayer aspects of the game? Can you explain the offline and online modes to those who haven’t yet played?
Multiplayer is a really key feature for us. Racing against your friends is a fast, intense and silly experience. We’ve put a road rash style punch in there for those awesome moments where you are running neck and neck. We’ve also built some pretty insane levels for multiplayer. For Joe Danger, we’re concentrating on same screen two player. When you play it, it makes sense, it’s one of those games that you need to play within punching distance of your friends. It thrives on that late night gaming atmosphere and competition. For online we’re 100% focused on battling friends for Highscores and swapping levels back and forth, building intricate and elaborate challenges and laying down the gauntlet. That’s something that isn’t always obvious to people initially, Joe Danger is actually all about Highscores, if you’re still playing it in a year’s time, it’ll be for that.
What are the main inspirations behind the game? Eddie the Eagle? Paperboy? Or do you just enjoy dodging traffic lights on a regular basis?
Joe Danger actually started life when we first got together as Hello Games and Grant our artist brought round a bunch of toys. There was this Evel Knievel stunt toy that he had as a kid and we just spent all day playing about with it. Instantly we started talking about this hapless little stuntman character and remembering the kind of world you pictured while you were playing with toys as a kid.
When we were designing Joe Danger, we actually talked about toys and cartoons as much as we did other games. Having said that we come from that generation that grew up with the SNES and Sega Genesis, so those games are our cornerstones. For people like us bright and vibrant means fun, but still really deep. I’m totally not ashamed to have huge nostalgia for those types of titles.
If we could do one thing with Hello Games it would be to create something that could sit alongside those classic titles. Something bright and charming, but with a hidden depth beneath.
How does your game fit into Sony’s Play, Share, and Create philosophy?
Joe Danger is a pretty big game on its own, but level creation brings a whole other side to it. To be honest, we didn’t approach it with any kind of “Sony philosophy” or anything that clever. The track editor is something that just came about from us playing about with that little Evel Knievel stunt cycle. We were building ramps and firing it down corridors and out of the windows. Actually setting up ramps and loops was part of the fun. I’m someone who in real life loves to make things and build things, and I really enjoy playing games, but if I’m totally honest I never really get drawn in by editors in games. User generated content is becoming a buzz word, but in general I never actually find making a level as fun as actually playing the game it’s for.
How do you feel your game compares to its rivals; Titles such as Trials HD for example have proved very popular, what makes Joe Danger better?
We’re totally cool with that comparison, by the way and I find it really hard to say one game is better than another. Once people actually play Joe Danger, they tend to be reminded of other games though. Not necessarily Trials, more often people mention games like Excitebike, Paperboy, Crazy Taxi, Sonic. Those are certainly the kind of titles we’re inspired by, old school classics.
I love Trials, but I play it with an intense grimace on my face, I guess you could say we have an abusive relationship. When I watch people play Joe Danger they are normally grinning, and that’s what we’re all about. The games I grew up with always had that effect. Like Sega used to make some of the world’s most hardcore games, but still with that distinctive, happy-blue-sky style. You can’t stay mad at Super Monkey Ball.
Why PlayStation? Will the game eventually be released on Xbox 360?
We spent a long time searching for a home for Joe Danger, talking to publishers, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. It was actually really difficult, and at times we thought Joe Danger might never get released. Throughout it all Sony was always very supportive and cooperative. When you’re small like we are, that helpful attitude means a lot. It’s what attracts so many indie developers to PSN.
That PSN route was always the best fit for us. We left our previous jobs at bigger developers so we could have the freedom to make the games we wanted. Sony understand that freedom and are happy to give it. For instance, we’re the publisher on Joe Danger, probably the world’s smallest, so we do everything from marketing and testing to getting the game localised. PSN is the only platform that would allow us to do that.
Are you planning to release any additional DLC for Joe Danger?
If people want more Joe Danger then that would be amazing. I have to say we put everything we possibly could into this game, but ultimately you run out of time. When you make a game, you always dream of just how far you could push the concept before it breaks. We want to be really adventurous and surprise people with where we go next. We don’t really have a business plan or anything as grown-up as that.
Will Joe Danger Support PlayStation Move at all, now or in the future?
Yeah, I honestly can't wait to get my hands on Move and spend some quality time with the launch titles. I'd really like to see what's possible. From everything I've seen it's very accurate, and that's really exciting. For me games are all about skill, and if it's not accurate then there's no skill. If you can have that skill and accuracy, then I think there’s some interesting things we would like to do with Move.
Finally are there any secrets that you can tell us about the game?
There are lots of visual jokes scattered throughout the levels, most of which are probably things most people won’t notice. We had a lot of fun picking level names and level descriptions, I’ll put it that way. I like to picture one single person in the world enjoying those, and probably no one else.
Thanks for your time!
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