Creating humor through experiences

During my time at Paladin I worked on a game for Blind Ferret Entertainment based on their hit webcomic Looking For Group.  It’s been the biggest game I’ve worked on and it was a lot of fun, even though we eventually ran into problems that stopped it from going into full production. I wrote a few blogposts about the proces of turning this comic about a game into a game about a comic.

Humor is an important part of the LFG universe. But it’s not all in the words the characters say. Their actions and their surroundings are just as important. So especially in a game, where the story goes hand-in-hand with (or more often is overshadowed by) the gameplay, it’s important to have different ways in which to construct a joke. In this article I’ll talk about some of the game mechanics I used for this purpose.

The LFG group are real buddies. They might bicker and shove eachother around occasionally (well ok all the time), but they still work together to defeat whatever monster is chasing them. So we wanted to emphasize that with the gameplay, not only letting you play with your buddies, but actually giving you benefits if you work together. For instance, If Richard sets Cale on fire, his arrows will be on fire too and deal double damage. Then Benny can heal whatever health Cale lost. Ice spells and swords go very well together too, as do group stuns and area-of-effect attacks like Krunch’s stomp.

But even though these guys are heroes, they can be kind of clumsy sometimes. So we tried to include a way in which each ability at their disposal has some sort of risky side-effect. Summoning Cale’s pet panther has a 50% chance of inflicting friendly fire for instance, Richard’s fireballs might sometimes decide to fly off in a completely random direction, and if Benny heals you in the midst of battle you might sprout and extra arm or leg. Or a beetle head. Combined with friendly fire this makes for some hilarious battles. Even when it was all buggy and crap in the alpha we were having fun with it.

Once you’ve looted all the cold, dead corpses you’ll want to sell some of that stuff. Usually that means backtracking all the way to a village merchant. But surely our heroes can think of a better way right? I mean why not just summon a merchant into the dungeon? And once you’re done you can fwoosh him and you’ll be on your merry way.

Knowing the exact value, damage, protection and/or weight stats of an item that you pick up off the ground is a silly thing… that is why every item in LFG has EVEN more weird stats, so you can see if that new sword goes well with your purple outfit, how sweaty the previous owner was and whether his angry soul may still reside inside the weapon.


Stealing items from one another was also a feature we considered in several forms. If loot was not instanced it would be possible for someone to scoop everything up (I’m looking at you Jerry Holkins), which could lead to some animosity, so if you were close enough to the other player you could tap into their inventory and claim what is rightfully yours. This also works in reverse, where dumping a lot of heavy items into a low-level player’s inventory would root them firmly in the ground under the weight penalty.

And ofcourse there is also the item storage bear.

All these things work together to create humor and narrative that emerges from the stories the players create by playing the game, not just by way of the main story that we designed, so players can actually feel like they’re on an adventure in the LFG world even when they’re not out questing or interacting with other characters.

Week Zero

Last week I decided to return to being a freelancer.
Or rather, to try and become an auteur. In dutch that makes it sound like I want to write books, but what it means is getting to make the games and the comics that I want to make. And in a sense that does involve writing, or narrative design as they call it, since that is something that I am very interested in.

I like stories and what they can do to/for people. Interactive stories make that experience even stronger for me. But I realize now that maybe that means that I don’t want to make what is traditionally considered a ‘videogame’. I like those just fine (my Steam library has 230 of ’em) but I don’t think I want to make something that has scores or in-app purchases etc. I want to tell stories. And games like Kentucky Route Zero, Papo & Yo and Gone Home prove this is as good a time as any to try.

So to track my progress I’ve decided to steal copy a blogging idea from colleague Niels ‘t Hooft, who has been doing weekly recaps of his independent adventures for 757 weeks. Woof.

Week zero has mostly been about slowing down to a pace where I can think at again. I was in an office for the last 1,5 years and had to travel quite a distance to get there, so everything was very… timeboxed. Things had to get done. I certainly had a great time there and learned a lot while doing some really cool stuff like work on the LFG game with the Blind Ferret guys, but it left little room to wander and contemplate. I noticed my well of story ideas evaporated. So I’ve been nurturing it back to health by spending time outside, catching up with friends and family and absorbing media. There are about 6 uncompleted games on my desktop and double that amount in my movies to watch folder, so finally working through that has been nice. I’m starting to feel some ideas well up again. And I also completely lost track of time, holy shit. I think it’s monday today, right?

Anyway, tune in again next week to follow me along on this adventure and see if I’ve lost my mind yet!

~Tim