Learning How To Stand Out and Be Funny

By January 14, 2012Uncategorized

Have you played No Time: Season 2 yet?

Good news everyone! Last week I stitched Season 1 and 2 together, cleaned em up, fixed everything, made em fullscreen, and applied for sale on Steam!

but this post is about setting up what comes after No Time To Explain. We COULD roll into a new game right now, today, but there’s still some stuff on our To-Do list first.

WHAT WILL OUR NEXT GAME BE? We’ve not got any badass concept art, but here’s how I want to improve on No Time To Explain, and some games that’ve had me dieing to start something new:

A strong, memorable identity

The first 5 levels of No Time set up a great premise. Time travel, monsters and spaceships are all good; but there’s a big middle chunk in Season 1 where nothing really happens. You stay in the same environment for about half an hour with nothing but solid levels and platforming.
Season 2 improves on this fantastically with a new intro, boss fight, and new artwork every 10 levels. The characters are definately chasing evil-you through alternate worlds, and everyone knows what’s going on.
Like I said though– the first half of Season 1 is still boring. It comes from the fact that No Time To Explain started life as a 5-minute time-waster, and didn’t find a good direction to grow out until about 20 levels in.

This year I played Bastion; which is one of the best, most unique, thickest, interesting game worlds that came out this year, made by about 5 people, with limited animations and one voice actor. It’s cowboy, samurai… bluegrass mystery vibe stands out a mile from any other game. It could’ve easily been about mages and warriors in dungeons, but the world they invented with it’s own new set of rules, instead came out as something fresh, unpredictable and memorable.
Another one of my favourite games is Bionic Commando ReArmed– which doesn’t have the complex backstory- but both games are 100% confident to stride right down the path they chose. Characters’ outfits, voices, music, menus.. all sorts of stuff help form the game’s attitude. Unlike No Time To Explain, which starts making levels out of concrete after a while for pretty much no stylistic reason.

There is no “Comedy Game of the Year” award

Comedy just isn’t a genre in games. I can think of a couple in 2011, but there was a long stretch there where they just didn’t happen. There’s a hundred reasons why people think that is, but the important thing is that I think people are really branching out right now with games like Portal, Team Fortress, all those Twisted Pixel games, Saints Row etc. and it’s really exciting to see a tonne of different attempts to crack into the genre that time forgot.

At some point, being a comedy nerd and a videogames nerd, I decided I wanna be along for the ride when we bridge the gap. So here’s a couple things I’ve picked up when trying to make videogames funny:

  • Writing humour into cutscenes is fine, but the problem with that is that you have to stop playing the game and say “Ok, controller down, get ready, it is joke-time now.” which can sometimes ruin the whole thing. It doesn’t come up enough that in games, you can give people the opportunity to BE the funny guy. There’s so many videos on the internet of people making mods and glitches and crazy nutty shit that making a system that encourages people to be funny is a brand new thing. I just figured this out once I found this in Saints Row 3.
    They’re TOTALLY cultivating what people liked about the Red Dead donkey lady, and that’s amazing to me.
    Shout out to QWOP right here.
  • When someone’s playing a game, they’re focusing on playing it. They will not get down with your amazing jokes while being shot at.  That’s why a little slapstick idiocy might work really well in a game,where it wouldn’t work in a movie-.. because you’re already half pre-occupied. So stuff like this, stuff like this and the screaming guy in No Time To Explain can catch people off-guard in a sucker-punch kind of way  that can really hit. Just make sure you don’t stand around and rub a one-liner in everyone’s face for too long.
  • You can have your cake AND EAT IT if you’re smart about that. I saw an interview with the guy who makes all these cartoons, asking whether he was actually into ponies or not. He said “I made it so that people would have things to like whether they were a fan of the show or not”, which just floored me. What that means is that you can have a string of slapstick surface-jokes, AND  a funny over-arching consistent theme, and it can appeal to completely separate people. I did this by accident a few years ago when I made Robot Dinosaurs, where I was trying to make a parody of 90s Xtreme kids shows, but accidentally made something that was funny whenever you pulled the trigger. So in future I wanna have both those things on purpose oh my god look how long this post is!!

There’s LOADS more to think about before we start a new game, but I know you don’t like reading, so maybe I’ll talk about other things we’re thinking about later.
Oh by the way Steam said no.


About Tom

Tom Brien is the co-founder and creative director at tinyBuild. He does all the art and art direction, alongside with game prototyping and design.