UPDATE: Exclusive interview with “SATURDAY MORNING RPG” creator Josh Fairhurst
Featured a couple of weeks back here on the Tru:Teknology Files, upcoming iOS/Android game Saturday Morning RPG holds one of the most alluring premises we’ve ever heard; an episodic role playing game steeped in 80’s nostalgia, drawing from cult cartoons, pop culture, and classic video games- perfectly wrapped up in modern gaming sensibilities, and with the first instalment free!
Keen to find out more about this amazing project, we contacted Mighty Rabbit Studios who were more than happy to talk about the game’s imminent January release. President (and brainchild of SM RPG) Josh Fairhurst spared us some time from his busy schedule to give us the lowdown on the game, his influences, and future plans for the IP-
Saturday Morning RPG is an amazing concept, and one that we can’t believe hasn’t been realised before. Where did the idea originate from?
I was playing “Transformers: War for Cybertron” thinking about how (if given the chance) I’d do a Transformers game differently. The idea hit me that an episodic structure would fit the franchise so much better than the big, overarching storylines that had been core to Transformers video games thus far. Imagine that instead of playing a single ten-hour story – you got ten hour-long stories, each with their own beginning, middle, and end. In one episode you’d thwart Megatron’s plans to destroy Cybertron – in the next you’d be battling Megatron on Earth for control of some natural resources. It just seemed like the right way to do a Transformers game.
Obviously we don’t have the Transformers license so I couldn’t make that game – but I’d always wanted to make an RPG, so I thought it would be cool to take that episodic idea, slather it with references to 80s nostalgia, and turn it into an RPG. The RPG genre just seemed like a perfect fit for an episodic game since it would allow character progression to carry through the episodes.
As well as the many t.v, film and pop culture references, your recent trailer hints at homages to 80’s video games as well. Which ones are you including, and how are they being incorporated?
In Saturday Morning RPG, Marty attacks enemies using objects that he collects in the game’s overworld. These objects each have a unique power in battle – some of them have several. In the case of the trailer, we showed off our reference to the Atari VCS controller. That particular item will cause one of five powers to occur, each one modeled after a classic Atari game. In the trailer you can see references to Breakout and Adventure. The three you didn’t see are Asteroids, Missile Command, and Pong. The cool thing about these attacks is in order to use them effectively, you actually have to play a very small impromptu version of the games they are based on (well, for everything but the Adventure reference).
We did change the look of the Adventure “duck” (it’s a dragon, but I love calling it a duck) post-trailer. We want it to be absolutely clear that these items are being used as parodies or satires of the real things.
We’re planning to include several other video game references as future objects in the game. We’ve got one for Tetris on the books that should be pretty awesome.
The series is set across several episodes, do you plan to make each one themed around a different 80’s show/cartoon? The screens so far suggest a GI Joe and MOTU inspired episode, can you tell us what others you plan to emulate? (please say Thundercats, Turtles and MASK!)
The game world of Saturday Morning RPG is primarily based around Marty’s home town of Shadow Valley. The core concept of the world is kind of Venture Brothers-esque in that everything from 80s cartoons actually exists in real life. Saturday morning cartoons aren’t cartoons to Marty – they’re reality TV. It’s kind of a complicated concept to explain, but what this means is that in each episode you’ll run across elements and references to several 80s cartoons since they all inhabit the same space.
The trailer shows footage of our first episode in which Marty gains his powers and fights his arch-nemesis for the first time. The episode takes place in a semi-real dream that has Marty crossing an environment inspired by He-Man before transitioning to his enemy’s hideout in the arctic (whose architecture is clearly inspired by the Shredder’s Technodrome).
In general most episodes will be a clear parody of one cartoon, but you’ll still see plenty of references to other cartoons. One of the episodes I’m most excited to start work on is our Turtles parody. Marty finds out that Shadow Valley is being terrorized by a man named “The Sweater”, who lives in the town’s sewer system. In order to track down The Sweater and stop his crime spree, Marty has to go into the sewers, where he encounters the “Ninja” turtles – which are just actual turtles with ninja weapons duct taped or glued on to them.
I’m also excited to work on our Care Bears inspired episode – the bears in Saturday Morning RPG are all realistic looking rainbow colored grizzly bears who live in the clouds above Shadow Valley. You’ll start seeing these guys in the second episode of the game during a quest called “Save Bearris”. I won’t go into details because I’m already ranting way too much here.
When can we expect the first episode, and how often will future installments drop? Is there an overall story arch with a set number of episodes, or do you plan to just continue the IP based on popularity?
We want to have the first episode out by the end of January – I’m crossing my fingers that we don’t miss that date. The first episode of the game will launch simultaneously with the second episode. The first episode is free, while the second one (and all future episodes) will be a paid in-app purchase. Each episode will add new enemies, areas, stories, and (most importantly) objects to the core game.
Since we want this to function like an actual 80s cartoon, you’ll be able to play any episode, at any time, in any order (as long as we’ve released those episodes). This means there will only be loose continuity between episodes; important things will carryover but in general, most episodes will be self-contained (the Transformers cartoon did this with Spike and Carly’s relationship and *25 year old spoiler* Optimus Prime’s death).
In addition to being able to play episodes in completely random order, you’ll be able to replay episodes infinitely. We’re going to have small things change in episodes depending on which other episodes you’ve previously beaten, so there will be a little incentive to replay older episodes.
Have any of you guys had experience working with RPGs before?
My co-founder Nic has probably worked on some RPG ports for old Java based phones, but none of us have ever built an RPG from the ground up. It’s been quite the learning experience. We’d all played a ton of RPGs (we have a game library in the office with pretty much any RPG of note), so we knew exactly how we wanted the game to play – we just had to learn how to actually get it there; so far, I’d say we’ve done a pretty killer job.
The biggest thing we learned was that no matter how small the project seems, RPGs are always going to be one of the toughest genres to work with.
(Saturday Morning RPG Teaser Trailer, update to follow soon)
Obvious one, but what are all of your favourite Saturday morning cartoons?
My personal favorite is The Transformers, I’m a huge Transformers nerd and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have a huge collection of the toys, I’ve read as many of the comics as I could, and I still watch the G1 cartoon whenever I get the chance.
Other favorites around the office include TMNT, Garfield and Friends, MASK, and obscurely enough Turbo Teen.
We’d like to give a big thanks to Josh and Ben over at Mighty Rabbit for giving up their precious time to talk about the project. We should have a preview build of the game in the coming weeks, so look forward to an in-depth review of what could become one of 2012’s most interesting titles!