He's rude, he's crude, he's nasty, noisy, and often half-naked... he's Dean Burke from Straandlooper! Wait, no, he's Detective Inspector Hector, the slovenly "fat arse of the law" and star of his own adventure series, Hector: Badge of Carnage! Dean is not like that at all. He's one of the masterminds behind the raunchy comic crime trilogy, and with the third and final episode just released, we finally caught up with the game's (big breath) Creator-Director-Writer-Designer-Lead Artist-Animator-Composer to scrape off the grungy layer of filth and depravity for an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at Clappers Wreake and all-things-Hector.
Adventure Gamers: So, Dean, tell us how the *%^$*@& you came up with a %&^#$ing character like Hector and decided he deserved to star in his own %*#$&ing adventure? (Whoops, sorry, got carried away in the spirit of things there.)
Dean Burke: The original idea for Hector sat in a drawer for almost a decade until I got a chance to pitch it to anyone that was interested, and luckily Straandlooper were. I’d created a handful of characters, a lot of story ideas and a fictitious British town called Clappers Wreake, wrapped up in a 2D art style.
I wanted Hector to be a farcical nod (or head butt to the face?) to the countless tv crime dramas, following on with the tradition of the misanthropic curmudgeonly police detective and the comic convention of his haplessly dim partner.
Initially I thought it had potential as a tv series or dvd feature, and in fact when we went into development early on, the studio was thinking along those lines. I think this ended up a real advantage to us when the idea to create a game came about, as we had already developed well rounded characters to work with, solid storylines and a clear idea of the setting and style as a firm foundation to build the game on.
AG: You’ve pretty much quadrupled the genre’s raunch quotient in one fell swoop. Why the decision to make the series so blatantly crude?
Dean Burke: When you come up with a sleazy fictional town that has the slogan of the ‘Crime Capital of Britain’ then there’s really only one foreseeable way to go. It’s inevitable you’re going to have to tap into the some of the more unsavoury parts of your brain to come up with ideas to fulfill that motto Clappers Wreake wears so proudly!
If it’s just plain crude then there’s a problem, but if that crudeness makes you laugh at the same time, that’s really what our intention is. The games are there purely to entertain and as I’m sure you’re aware, not everyone laughs at the same things.
No denying it does have its moments of base humour, but that’s not the only type of humour we put in there. It’s got elements of parody, jabs of satire, cop show farce, black humour, faux drama, some screwball slapstick, plenty of creative insults and maybe even some genuine wit in there too. Not to forget, the cleverly crafted and at times bewildering puzzles, where the-most-ludicrous-answer-is-usually-the-right-one kind of gameplay also makes up half the experience!
It’s important to shoot for a balance of a broad base of gags and situations, to at least aim for that wider audience. People do tend to fixate on the unsophisticated lowbrow humour, and if that’s what they’re looking for, we’ve got that covered! But it’s all in the name of entertainment.
AG: What kinds of comic influences have inspired you over the years?
Dean Burke: Some British comedies I used to get a kick out of were shows like Blackadder, League of Gentlemen, Red Dwarf; they might throw in a scatological gag right next to a genuinely witty remark about society or something and the characterizations were excellent. I also think Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge is a great comedy character and I remember watching a British show called Bottom, which was full of gross-out slapstick fun.
Mustn’t forget American shows like South Park or Family Guy; they’re good for a laugh and similarly, they like to shove the edges of restraint wherever possible.
AG: What would you say to people who call your comedy childish or immature?
Dean Burke: Well I know what Hector would say, but I can’t repeat it here without having this otherwise polite interview spiral into a tongue-lashingly dizzy crossfire of unrefined abusive taunts, or he may even call you names, and nobody wants that. But seriously, when coming up with material we do try not to fully cross the line. We like to think the games just about balance on the right side of offensive, ending up with a humour that’s more often suggestive, rather than totally inappropriate.
AG: We often refer to “British humour” being different than American. (As a Canadian, I get to enjoy the best of both worlds!) What is it that makes comedy distinctly British?
Dean Burke: People might say British humour is more liberal with sarcasm, self-deprecation or irony, but I see it all as essentially the same humour, delivered with different accents!
Comedy is an absolute thing, if you laugh it works and if you don’t, then it doesn’t work. When writing the games, we have Canadian (Kevin Beimers) and British/Irish (me) writers throwing out ideas to each other, seeing how far we can push it. The ones we snicker at most we put in the game. During script time, Kevin and I would often meet up in nearby coffee shops to chat about situations Hector could find himself in – the weird side-glances from some of the other customers told us we were on the right track. Most of the time we’re trying to find stuff that makes us laugh first, and hope/pray that others will be at least half as amused as we were coming up with the stuff.
We occasionally flatten out a joke or two or cut it entirely if we think it’s a little too obtuse for an international or American audience, but at the same time, it’s hard to say no to a really funny gag even if it means only a handful of people will get it, as long as the majority of material works.
AG: Would you say that Hector’s comedy is fairly British, or do its themes have a pretty universal appeal? (At least, among people who aren’t grossed out by it, that is.)
Dean Burke: American sales of the original game actually overtook sales in Britain. Yes, the U.S. is a bigger place as a market, but the bulk of U.S. reviews and commenters proved as a whole they ‘got’ the humour. As long as it makes you laugh I guess it doesn’t matter where it comes from. If comedy is thought of as an international language then in the end drawing an imaginary divide between the two is probably unnecessary; laughter hopefully settles any arguments.
There are certain universal fundamentals of comedy that work often. A character trying to get what he wants when everyone is against him is one, and that partly defines Hector’s plight. Watching his reaction and commentary to those same situations is also part of the fun. Finding himself in odd circumstances where he or you, as a player, have to dig him out. Drop a well-defined character into any situation and essentially you can always find a way to make that scenario funny, since you already know the character so well. The gags come easier when the comic structure calls for them.Continued on the next page...