South Park Studios Behind The Scenes: How The Geniuses Of The Show Created The Games
What happens when all the South Park writers get into a room together? Apparently and lot of laughter and animated movements according to a reporter who was allowed inside of South Park Studios to speak with Jason Schroeder. Schroeder is the Creative Director of The Fractured But Whole and spends a lot of time collaborating with Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and the team, whether it’s in person or over the phone. Just because the game is already released, does not mean the work it done. With DLC on the way in the future, he must keep the game coordinated with what’s happening on the show, which is airing it’s 21st season with no end in sight.
I guess, in a typical day, I would either have a morning sync with the producers at South Park or Matt and Trey themselves, and then my own directors and project management group to kind of figure out, ‘What are our burning fires? Is anybody waiting on decisions? What’s ready for review?’
I was the liaison between our studios. So between South Park Studios and Ubisoft San Francisco, and the Osaka studio. Sometimes that meant that I felt like this weird prophet. It was like, ‘No I cometh and I sayeth that Trey has speaketh.’ It became very important to not just become this person that is delivering messages from someone else. I had to agree with it and believe in it. If someone’s going to look me in the eyes and ask, ‘Is this okay? You tell me, because I’m going to work my ass off for this. Is this shitting mini-game really important to you?’ I couldn’t just say, ‘Well, Trey said so.'”
When it comes to fart jokes and other inappropriate humor, South Park Studios has it down to a science. When speaking of the process, Schroeder says it’s just like a normal business meeting, “except that everyone’s laughing – a lot.”
I’d say the impression that you get from working with Trey is that he figures stuff out and then sees whether or not people laugh when he describes something. When the whole room starts laughing and then he can keep that laugh going, you start to feel like, ‘Okay, this is going to stick.’ Working with them is just having that same sort of an observer ability; ‘Okay, that little off the cuff remark just caused a whole avalanche of ideas, and we should take note.'”
According to South Park‘s Executive Producer Frank Agnone, they explained to Ubisoft beforehand that they would “totally fuck up your entire workflow”, which makes sense with how hectic the making of the show has always been. The team at South Park Studios usually work round-the-clock till the very last second that an episode will air, and they took that same process over to The Fractured But Whole, but in a more realistic way. According to Agnone and Producer and Art Director Adrien Beard, Trey Parker wouldn’t even take a real break following surgery.
He convinced his doctor to let him leave the hospital to come to the office to record some dialogue, and then he would turn around and go back to the hospital. He’s deathly walking out the door, and I’m like, ‘Dude, you should totally be in a hospital. Dude, what are you doing? You’re gonna die.’ And he’s like, ‘I just want the game to be sweet.'”
That wasn’t a normal occurrence during game production though. The South Park Studios team tried to be more realistic with their time and energy during their work on The Fractured But Whole. Schroeder says:
We have to be balanced because you make a lot of bad decisions when you get too tired. They are talking about 10 episodes over the course of a few months and so they do it in a very burst sort of way. When we first started to analyze their process and tried to figure out, ‘How do we take that magic in the bottle or whatever it is that makes Trey’s idea to a screen within a week? How do we capture that and put that into the game?’
It wasn’t so much about the hours that they spend or anything like that, it’s actually about their pipelines, their processes, their culture of letting his creativity drive things, letting their investment in tools for the show be as efficient as they can be so that the team can work fast and without a lot of errors even when they’re tired.”
They actually adjusted the game’s engine so the South Park Studios team would be able to put together and script scenes directly into the game. According to Beard there was even more to handle than that, mainly being able to reflect the show’s way of bringing current events into the South Park world.
There’s this contemporary part that comes with South Park. Something happens in the news and it works its way into our show. That happened in the game, because we had this constant back and forth and this constant iteration building, I don’t think many games are gonna be able to comment on stuff that happened two, three months before the game came out. And some of that stuff’s in the game.”
Ubisoft’s Jolie Menzel, the main narrative designer for The Fractured But Whole, says that the key to the game process was to let Matt Stone and Trey Parker “play hands on as much as possible”.
If you watch any GDC talk about Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry, you have this very beautiful, professional game design that’s crafted by these designers and they’re very sacred about their process. Matt and Trey challenged us to have that agility to even look at our own methodology and change it. To ask, ‘How do we serve the story and how do we serve the jokes?'”
As one would expect, things started getting silly as Beard and Schroeder start describing “making a better, interactive fart”, using crude hand movements to describe how they use the joysticks to “prime a sphincter”. Beard says that the South Park Studios team really wanted to have more comically absurd ways to interact with the game. For example, the smell-o-vision device that was used at preview events and literally simulated the smell of farts. Apparently he wants it to go so far that, they could make someone “suck their controller”.
At the end of the day all Schroeder wants is for the fans to see The Fractured But Whole for the serious issues it contains behind the jokes:
It’s hard to say it in a single sentence, but I hope that people don’t like feel like they wish it had just been about anal probes. We’re telling a more advanced story in a lot of ways. It’s more the structure of the story, I feel like it’s more mature. Not in the mature content, obviously there’s mature content, but it’s a story about substance abuse and all this other stuff too. I hope that the only takeaway isn’t, ‘I really liked when I walked up Mr. Slave’s ass.’ Yeah, that stuff is funny as well, but I hope people appreciate it for the kind of story we told.”
What do you think about the team at South Park Studios? Let us know in the comment section below and then make sure to follow DFTG on Twitter to stay updated on all the hottest gaming and entertainment news 24/7! You can read the full interview here! Have you seen what awaits cheaters in The Fractured But Whole? Check it out right here!
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