SModCo sat down with Trevor Ferhman and Justin Woodward, the creative brains behind JAY AND SILENT BOB: CHRONIC BLUNT PUNCH! Justin is the creative director at Interabang Entertainment and founder of the Media Indie Exchange. Trevor you might remember as Elias from CLERKS 2; he's since delved into the world of indie game development.
SModCo: Hey guys, thanks for taking time to talk about Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch with us. Who came up with the idea for JSB:CPB?
Justin: Trevor had the idea of a Jay and Silent Bob game brewing in his head for awhile. As a fan of the View Askewniverse I watched Kevin’s movies quite a bit in college and while developing games I always think of ways to make games out of art I love, especially film and music. I definitely fantasized about working on a game with characters from the JASB world, having an ensemble cast, but it wasn’t until Trevor and I got together that the team started to bubble with ideas.
Trevor: I had the vague idea to make a Jay and Silent Bob game years ago but it wasn’t until I moved to the bay area that I made any connections with the kinds of people who could actually execute it. I brought a shell of a concept to Justin and he and I fleshed it out over several months together.
SModCo: Trevor, for a long time, SMod fans have been pining for more Elias. How did you get into game designing/development and was this a passion of yours before you were cast in CLERKS 2?
Trevor: Elias is very dear to my heart as well. I’ve been pitching Kevin a TV show called The Adventures of Elias and Kinky Kelly in which our hero and his faithful donkey roam the countryside spreading the good word of The Lord by day and writing erotic Transformers fan fiction by night but I think he’s screening his phone calls.
I’ve loved games my whole life but somewhere in my late teens that love started turning into something more mature. Is this starting to sound dirty? Whatever. Get your minds out of the gutter you degenerates. Anyway, I started to think really seriously about their design and over time my philosophy about games took shape. I’m probably more passionate about this subject than anything else.
SModCo: Elias seems to be more of a table-top/role-playing gamer, but what games are you into?
Trevor: Elias can’t play PATHFINDER et. al. because his church considers rolling D-20’s gambling. I however played tabletops when I was a kid and am currently wondering why no one in video games has made use of the excellent Exalted IP.
I make it a point to know a little about every kind of game I can because you never know where you’ll find a good idea and genres cross-pollinate like crazy. Sports games employ deep RPG systems these days, racing games have Starsiege/MechWarrior component min/maxing. Japanese dating sims just help me ignore the awesome indifference of the universe for a while. If you’re asking where my natural preferences lie, though, then it’s RPG’s and adventure games. Story driven games are and have always been most interesting to me. GRIM FANDANGO, PLANSCAPE: TORMENT, KOTOR 2 (best KOTOR), CHRONO TRIGGER -- those are my roots. I’ve been learning DOTA for a year now and find it fascinating but I have also learned that this game turns otherwise normal human beings into angry, hateful pieces of shit. Myself included. But especially everyone else.
I also like tabletop games. Party games like SPYFALL or THE RESISTANCE in which best friends or romantic partners look each other in the eyeballs and say “Darling, I swear on the lives of our children: I am not the spy” right before revealing that they are, in fact, the spy are quite possibly the most fun things there are that don’t involve alcohol or nakedness. Occasionally I can coerce enough people to sit down with me for 5 hours and play REX: FINAL DAYS OF AN EMPIRE in which I select the Turtle diplomats and proceed to sow as much distrust and discord as possible while pretending to only want peace for the galaxy. Hrm...you know, on second thought maybe it wasn’t DOTA that turned me into a piece of shit...
SModCo: Justin, exactly is "gooey in the gumdrops?" [see JSB:CBP campaign video]
Justin: My balls are getting heavy with excitement and I can bust one off at any minute.
SModCo: Justin, you're a long-time View Askewniverse fan. These characters could have only been born in an independent film; could they only then be born into gaming through independent game development?
Justin: The characters, themes and scenarios definitely feel at home in the indie development culture. The sensibilities and irreverence from the movies will cross over nicely. Being independent gives us the freedom to experiment with ideas.
Fans will see characters conceived in our iteration of the world that will interact, intersect and build upon the established characters like those Lego Megablock thingies! Through the Fig platform we can interact with the fans through crowdfunding to see what really tickles their fancy as far as character cameos and what not which makes us happy. We definitely want the audience a part of the action. Voltron baby! Voltron!
Trevor: Justin and I talked really directly about this. Our game is the expansion of these characters into a new medium. We need it to do them credit. It needs to be built from scratch in a garage by a rag tag team of misfits. We’re like The Bellas from PITCH PERFECT, only of video games. And we’re not all women. And we’re not as cool.
SModCo: JSB fans will definitely want to know, "Will JSB:CBP be considered canon in the View Askewniverse?"
Justin: This would be super dope and something I would like to pop off. I can definitely see this being a bridge of some sort that plays a small role in the mythology between movies. Like the CHRONICLES OF RIDICK: ESCAPOE from Butcher Bay...but sillier and no Vin Diesel.
Trevor: Lol, Kevin and Jay might want to wait and see the game before they pull the trigger on that decision.
SModCo: Trevor, in the YouTube video you mention that the game is going to be playable for new gamers with enough depth for seasoned vets. Would you say the game will be easy to learn and yet challenging to master?
Trevor: I would say that if that wasn’t something I’ve heard about a bazillion game designers promise and then totally fail to deliver. Our first priority is to build a really deep and engaging combat system. Too many side scrollers are quite charming to look at but the fighting feels like an afterthought. Building something good that you can get good at is the hard part. Once we build that we can just turn down the dials for the n00bz. Like if you set the Street Fighter AI to easy a dog with no legs could beat it, but you also have the option of getting really, really good at it. Oh man, the mental image of that dog is bumming me out now.
SModCo: While JSB:CBP is a side-scrolling beat 'em up, what elements from other game genres are you working into the game?
Trevor: I’ll let Justin talk about the fighting game mechanics since he’s the expert on that. We’re trying to build a pretty sophisticated conversation system which will introduce RPG-esque choice and consequences into the story. It’s an ambitious idea but I think it’s really exciting.
Justin: We are adding design elements that we loved in the arcade as kids with some more complex fighting game mechanics including tag team combo finishers and team assists. We want this to be a fun cooperative experience that people can have fun experimenting with and mastering. Our introduction of the Conversation Combat System is a fresh addition to action games. In this type of verbal combat, players fight opponents by snapping on them in a battle of wits by linking phrases together to create custom insults with the goal of shaping an enemy's emotions to determine their status during fist to cuffs combat.
SModCo: So what is more important storyline or gameplay?
Justin: I think this depends on the type of game. For a game such as CHRONIC BLUNT PUNCH, nailing the mechanics and themes will be our first concern but not necessarily the most important. One of the differences between movies and games is the experiential interactive element, where gameplay mechanics determine the emotions the player feels based on their inputs and responses to a variety of situations. In order to develop a strong story the gameplay should be constructed harmoniously through traditional storytelling and a game’s tuned mechanics. Tactile feedback through button layout and presses as well as visual feedback through animation frames and background details definitely help. We are able to guide and foreshadow upcoming events through visual cues and audio feedback in order to metaphorically express plot points, revealing plot points that players can latch on to subconsciously. This intertwined with dialog and possible cut scenes will help with the marriage between the two. Since our game is action oriented it is important that we find the right balance of nuanced storytelling and mechanics when determining our design choices.
Trevor: It’s kinda like asking what’s more important to a movie, the script or the cinematography. It doesn’t matter if your dialog is David Mamet if you literally can’t see the characters through a bunch of JJ Abrams lens flares, and it doesn’t matter if you’re Terrence Malick if your script is so boring it makes the audience want to set themselves on fire just to feel something again. Did I just put too fine a point of Terrence Malick movies? Anyway, you see my point.
It goes deeper than that though, for me at least. You want to find ways to tell the story through gameplay as much as possible. That’s the “show-don’t-tell” of video games. One of my favorite examples of this is in SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUSS. The way the hero of that game is animated is brilliant. Go check out some clips on YouTube if you’re not familiar. He’s not this Prince of Persia esque acrobat-cum-ninja (tee-hee, cum ninja), he stumbles a little, he lurches when he jumps, he comes close to losing his balance. He’s human. The game is telling us something about how vulnerable he is, how brave he must be to be risking his life, and how deep his devotion for that mysterious comatose girl has to be to be willing to sacrifice so much. All from just a few animations. Elegant game design doesn’t separate story from gameplay anymore than elegant music separates melody from rhythm. God damn that was beautiful... Am I a god-damned poet or something? Brb, writing some poetry.
Okay I’m back, nevermind that was a fluke, I’m shitty at poetry.
SModCo: What would you all like to say to fans that backed the game?
Justin: Much gratitude for everyone who participated from the lowest to the highest tier. We grinded tough to make this game a manifestation of awesome and couldn’t do it without their support.
Trevor: Sincerest thanks to all who have pledged their hard earned shekels!