Originally published on Pixelitis.net on January 15, 2014.
One can slam at the freeplay arcades.
One can also jam at the MAGFest concerts.
But rare is the time when you can slam and jam along with the developer Tales of Game’s (sic), the team behind the 2008 indie title Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden. The ToG devs were out in full force showing off Barkley 2 — their kickstarted sequel.
Funded back in Dec. 2012, Barkley 2 still has a ways to go before it sees release on PC, Linux and Mac. Even so, the team had a pre-alpha build of the game running on two laptops at their MAGFest booth… and then some. There was the cyberdwarf body pillow, which was hanging off a curtain like laundry being aired out to dry.
And there was a mysterious curtained-off area where a fellow only known as “The Wizard” was guiding attendees through the character creation process.
So needless to say, it was typical Tales of Game’s.
After trying my hand at it and getting repeatedly swarmed by mutated sewer creatures, I got to chat a bit with Barkley Gaiden creator Eric “cboyardee” Shumaker about the game and how the post-apocalyptic cyberpunk basketball RPG came about.
Eric, thanks for taking the time out to talk about Barkley 2. Let me just get this right, the full title is The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa?
That’s right, and you can just call it Barkley 2 for short. Or you can call it the whole name.
I think it’d be more fun to memorize the whole name. Barkley 1 came out back in 2008 I believe. Was a sequel always in the cards?
Yeah, we’ve had this specific game planned since 2006. Actually, it’s really weird, we came up with this idea simultaneously with the original Barkley. It’s had a couple of years to ferment, but this is what we’ve had in mind the whole time.
Always in the making, since the beginning.
Pretty much. Actually, I feel like Barkley 2 was what we came up with first, and Barkley 1 sort of emerged from it.
How many of you are actually working on Barkley 2?
Oh man…like ten or something? There are three full-time dudes: me, Liam and Brian [Raum]. But there are a bunch of other dudes too. Francis Coulombe and David Nyari in Canada doing art, Tobias Svensson in Sweden doing programming, Taneli Virtanen in Finland doing programming.
How did you get all of these guys together?
Uh, kidnapping! No, they’ve just been dudes we’ve known for a very, very long time, like ten years. Chris Gelon in Seattle doing programming. Justin Traub in Baltimore doing design. I can just go on and on.
When did development on Barkley 2 actually start? Obviously, you had the Kickstarter, but you were already showing [off] screens and gameplay footage, so how far along was it?
A couple of months before the Kickstarter. I can’t remember how many for sure, but we weren’t working on it full-time then.
It wasn’t something you started right after the first one, right?
Why the delay then?
I worked on 20 games in the interval, so we were doing other stuff.
Humorous games are often considered the most difficult kind of games to write. What are the sort of challenges you face when it comes to writing a script for this game?
Mostly, don’t try to make jokes. If something is funny to you, just put it in. But don’t ever try to force yourself to make jokes. Like, if something is just not funny no matter what, it doesn’t have to be funny. Don’t make it funny, it’s fine! Basically, the secret is — just throw shit in, put in whatever you want.
Back when the Kickstarter page was revealed, you mentioned that you consulted with a lawyer, or someone who deals in legal matters, to avoid running into any legal issues. Because naturally, the first one had some sprite rips, some music that wasn’t necessarily licensed…
The title in that was…
The title, yeah. So what was that experience like, in terms of figuring out what to do and what not to do?
Well, Liam is actually the dude who talked to the lawyer, not me. But yeah, as far as I know, everything we’re doing is okay. You know, it’s a bummer, but we’re not stealing all of our assets this time, which slows down development. But you know, whatever!
I’m sure some people are bummed about the lack of Quad City DJs. Do you think you actually could have gotten them if you got that Kickstarter money?
Yeah, we looked it up, it was just pretty expensive. It probably would have cost us more than we would have liked to pay. It sucks, but it’s probably for the best that we didn’t get it.
I’m sure there are other alternatives to it…
I’ve tried making my own Jock Jam, but so far it hasn’t panned out, it’s not something yet.
Will X114JAM9 be solo the entire time, or will there be party members that join him?
Yeah, in the very, very beginning of the game you create your party.
Up to how many people?
You name them and everything? They’re all custom-made?
You make them entirely! And the character creation process is like — you went through it right?
I actually didn’t get to try it out just yet.
It’s pretty extensive. I mean, you can take as long as you want it to take. It can be like, ten minutes, it could be an hour if you want.
Do you control those other characters, or are they AI?
That is a secret…that is a secret.
What are some of the things you’ve learned from making the first game?
Absolutely nothing. I’ve learned nothing. I mean, Barkley 1 was like a product of…youth. We really didn’t know what we liked about games at the time. In the period between Barkley 1 and Barkley 2, we’ve really figured out why we like RPGs and which ones we like, and what we like about them. Just a really deep understanding of games is going into Barkley 2. It’s something we didn’t have completely in the original Barkley. I guess there’s that.
What have we learned from Barkley 1? Just, production stuff — how to actually do stuff. Mostly actual skills.
I recall the game’s switch from RPG Maker to Game Maker. What are you using for Barkley 2?
We’re using Game Maker Studio. It’s the newest version of Game Maker.
So finally, your message to those who can’t wait to play it — all the Kickstarter backers; what do you want to say to them?
Thank you very much. I can’t believe you guys gave us an absurd amount of money to make a stupid fucking game! It’s…a good call! (laughs) No, a bad call, actually.
What’s the target date for Barkley 2?
I have no idea, that’s not my realm.
When it’s done, pretty much.
When it’s done, yeah.