Naughty Bear Interview
by Mark R
There aren’t many games around where you can take an axe to someone’s face, repeatedly and with great gusto… I might add, until their insides are scattered across the floor like some form of twisted confetti without once thinking that you’re performing some heinous act. Neither are there many games where you can use your maniacal charms to scare your enemies to the point where death comes in the form of insanity-driven suicide, where you’re instrumental in their demise without ever having laid a finger on them. Some games have, as you’d expect, taken violence to extremes but have also come under heavy fire for doing so and are cited as being one of the main reasons for murder and violence in the world.
Why then, were were allowed to huddle around the television as kids and watch as Wile E Coyote dropped his own anvil on his head, causing the stereotypical concertina-like “skulk away” scene? Or laugh like idiots when tiny Jerry would smack Tom in the face with a frying pan, sending him flying in to a floor laden with fifty or so conveniently placed mouse traps? The answer is simple, while still highly hypocritical… they weren’t people, they were animal personifications which, somehow, made it more acceptable.
With a world that is slowly becoming more saccharine and nannied, with the powers that be assuming the position of overseer and dictating what we can and can’t see, the team over at Artificial Mind And Movement (also responsible for WET, and ports such as Dante’s Inferno and Iron Man) have gone out on a limb by producing a game where violence IS the aim of the game. The more violent you are, the quicker you’ll progress through the game. This is a breath of fresh air, and a very welcome sidestep from the usual calls to tone down the violence in gaming… but I wonder how long it’ll be before the Overseer decides that it’s also unacceptable to show violence towards stuffed toys?
We asked Lead Designer at A2M, Ashley Pannell a few naughty questions…
Naughty Bear puts me in mind of comic mischief in games like ‘Conker’s Bad Fur Day’ and even ‘Jack the Nipper’ way back on the Spectrum; what was the inspiration behind the concept? Were there any strong influences in creating the game? Any traumatic teddy bear incidents from childhood?
Much of the inspiration for Naughty Bear came from Saturday morning cartoons, and the idea of juxtaposing that innocence with dark humour and over-the-top violence. We think the blend of syrupy cuteness and cartoon violence works because of the foundation of an innovative AI in the game, making Naughty Bear a unique, fun experience every time you pick up the controller.
Some early thoughts are that Naughty Bear is veering towards resembling an interactive slasher movie’ game, almost Friday the 13th with fuzzies – would this be a fair comparison?
Not a million miles off the mark. We are all gamers here and we wanted to make something a little bit different from everything we are playing at the moment. We wanted to make gamers smile while exploring a new concept in a fresh way. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not reinventing the wheel just smashing together some of our favourite flavours of game into a delicious game pie. There are of course many familiar mechanics inspired by popular games in there from Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto to Project Gotham Racing and Trials HD. Lots of games have elements of what we are doing but nothing that puts it together quite like Naughty Bear.
We’re told that there will be a large and ingenious variety of weapons, so what sort of ‘carnage creators’ can we expect? Any personal or team favourites that we can keep an eye out for?
There are over 250 different ways to be naughty in the game. I have to admit that pushing them over the edge is the most rewarding execution for me. When the bears witness too much of your naughtiness they can’t take it anymore and become insane! At this point, if you corner them and scream at them one last time, they will use whatever they have in their hand to execute themselves. Good times.
With violence and actions which are ‘cartoony’, did this allow you total freedom to indulge in all things depraved and wicked without the risk of a media backlash (as would likely be the case for more traditional violent games), or did you still have to bear this in mind?
I wouldn’t say ‘total freedom’ but obviously we could let our imaginations go. We had a very simple filter – if it made us laugh it went into the game. As a result of that, pretty much everything made it in. But there’s no doubt that a cartoon like world made it easier for us. As you may have noticed the whole game is definitely tongue–in-cheek. Although the parodies (from the marketing) are not included in the game there is plenty of the same type of humour to discover. We weren’t forced to cut anything. We self-edited some stuff at the concept level but most of it got in.
With a game that so neatly subverts something ‘wholesome’ such as teddies, was it quite satisfying to pull these traditionally sweet things apart and insert a wholly more deviant mechanic?
It’s as much fun as it seems! The world is crazy and filled with all sorts of characters. It’s always fun to work within a world where pretty much anything can happen and you can let your imagination run riot.
We have heard that obstacles and gameplay objectives vary depending on the weather and time of day, can you tell us a little more about this?
Each episode is set at a different time and weather and different bears appear at different times of the day which just helps keep things fresh. You’re not likely to see a lumbering Zombear in broad daylight.
There are unlockable costumes as the game progresses, such as the doctor and Police officer, so can we assume that there are some delicious death possibilities associated with these outfits?
There are 30 costumes to unlock in the game that the player can wear in single or multiplayer. These costumes not only look awesome and hilarious, they give you enhanced statistics and special powers like running without a sound or walking amongst the other bears unnoticed. For example, Naughty Bear can put on a police bear costume and cause harm to other bears, which then confuse all police bears on the island for enemies! Discovering which costume is best suited for you in a specific level is key to making THE big score, there is no such thing as the “best” costume. Like the pre-order DLCs, other costumes will appear in future downloadable content.
Will the game live up to the hype, or have the stuffing knocked out of it? That remains to be seen but, along with Fairytale Fights, the level of cartoon violence in Naughty Bear will hopefully leave the doors wide open for other developers who want to take violence to Manhunt extremes without necessarily placing themselves in the firing line. For those of you who haven’t yet picked up the game, it was released on June 25th on XBox 360 and Playstation 3 and will be reviewed here in the next few days. In the meantime, you can find out more on the Naughty Bear website here.
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