Paul Conway, Dave McCabe – The Darkside Detective interview - page 2

Ivo: I played the demo case, the first one and later the updated version. What really stood out to me was the humour I felt shined through in many areas. One of the key moments for me was when I was standing in the closet with McQueen and Dooley joined me there; that was absolutely hilarious. Was this distinct sense of humour a deliberate choice or did it naturally evolve?

Paul: I’d say it was always there from day one; it obviously got better with better jokes. For instance, I would have chosen the two characters for the [closet] scene just because I thought it was funny, then Dave would add the actual dialog which were these really organic moments where I was putting some art in a scene and Dave reacting to it. There is one really funny bit in the police station case where you can see a rat in a cell, with a hilarious joke of it being an informant. Which literally made me laugh out loud; it’s hilarious. There’s just so many great jokes in there, written by Dave.

Dave: I think it’s that we’ve all grown up with certain influences from TV and films and so on, and from other games of that type. We didn’t sit there and go, 'this is the type of jokes we’re going for' or anything. That was just the kind of jokes I tended to write and the type of jokes the guys liked, so it sort of just became the style we ran with.

Ivo: Can you dive a bit into that, the inspiration you might have taken from adventure games in the golden era (e.g. Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle, others)? Have those kinds of games been an inspiration to you?

Dave: In a loose way; they weren’t the games I grew up playing per se. I grew up playing more Sierra games like Leisure Suit Larry or Space Quest, plus the Discworld games. It was later in life that I played Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island, as I didn’t have access to them as a kid. So they were less important early on in my life.

The inspiration more comes from TV: Blackadder, X-Files and the Twin Peaks humor that influenced me more than traditional adventure games. Paul probably has some different influences there.

Paul: No, I agree, I think... I grew up with old horror movies. I spoke briefly in a local radio station interview, where I said that I think the humor and also the deep influences come from pop culture we grew up with. How we learned to deliver humor is partially through the old games, the Monkey Island games and the Sierra games. We learned the delivery methods through the old games; we learned the jokes from television.

Ivo: Playing through the current finalised game, not having entirely finished yet, and thinking about other parts of the game that stand out, the music comes to mind. I know it was composed by Ben Puntry, who people probably know from FTL (Faster Than Light). Can you talk about the music of the game, how that came to be?

Paul: At the start when I had the original four-screen demo and starting getting attention, I started to think maybe there is something to this and I should get the best minds on this. We were using some terrible stock music and Ben had been working with another Irish studio; we knew he would be willing to work remotely with someone in Ireland. So I just shot him an email and asked him, 'would you like to come on board and work on the music for us?' We kind of got this 'hell yeah' email back from him; he was getting a bit pigeonholed as the space music guy, so he wanted to work on something that wasn’t set in a space setting.

In terms of direction, I wanted really serious music on top of the humor. In a way I wanted to sell how serious the world presents itself although it’s really not at all. I sent him a few references, like some John Carpenter soundtracks, particularly the Prince of Darkness soundtrack. Saying 'this is the starting place' and from there he just went off on his own. He initially sent us this very ‘80s-heavy piece which worked perfectly with the demo case and the soundtrack simply grew from there. The default music on each case is composed to suit the theme and setting. Some cases are a little more harps and choirs while others are a bit lighter; it’s all very fitting.

Dave: We would send him an outline for each case, then a playable copy to get a feel of how it works and where the big reveals are. He was able to play and get the feel for this case, what the characters were like, understand the setting, so he could write a tune that played to its strengths.

66-6 St – The Darkside Detective OST (Ben Prunty)

Ivo: I really believe this is noticeable; there seems to be a good harmony between the music and the art of a scene. Before we dive into the art, I want to get a feel from you guys on how you work together as a team. I believe there are about five people on the team, more distributed globally. How do you ensure that you create this cohesive whole if you're that distributed?

Paul: There are four core members of the team and then Ben in the US focused on the music.

There were times when it was difficult, because we are all working remotely. You have to translate these ideas to text/message, where sometimes it would have been a lot quicker if you’re just there.

Overall I don’t think it bothered us too much process-wise. We come up with ideas which we talk about some and Dave would kind of work out the structure. Then Tracey would quickly put together a prototype of that case with some stock art from the internet, and there would be a playable demo at the end of the day. We could get to play through and kind of see the structure and see if the idea wasn’t hitting the moments we should be getting. There are six cases in the game, but we probably designed nine. There were just a few cases that weren’t getting the quality level we wanted. It’s better now that we have more experience with The Darkside Detective’s world.

Dave: We also changed it some, because we had planned to do a themed first season initially. It would all have one cohesive theme and all cases would have a bearing on that. We changed that along the way to wanting to do a season one Supernatural-type thing, where we have a monster of the week sort of thing.

Paul: Maybe if we could do a second season, we would do it that way and could probably make it work, but I don’t think it would have helped get to the Darkside it is now.

Ivo: Thinking about how you collaborate, everyone obviously has their expertise, but how much is the rest of the team involved? For instance, for yourself, Dave, you’re very focused on the writing obviously, but do you really strongly involve the rest of the team in that process or does it come naturally together?

Dave: It’s fairly a group process. We tend to discuss the case at a very high level, first of all. We’ll pitch an idea for a case: it’s going to be like, for instance, it’s a laundromat but all the washing machines come to life to eat socks. (laughs) Let’s say that’s the idea.

We’d go, 'OK, if that’s the idea of the case, what’s the beginning and the end?' and we break it down to a list of locations and a list of characters. We’d spitball really high level. Then I’d go away and draw a map of all locations and how they connect, and break down the puzzles and do the forming. The puzzle could be, for instance, figuring out where all the socks are going. That would be broken down to, 'you’ve got to get this item from this person, find your way into this room using this item from up here,' and then we’d come back and discuss it again. We’d tear it apart and rebuild it.

At that stage, we’re already planning the overall design collaboratively. For instance, Tracey and I would take that overview and build it into a playable thing, usually with just the golden path dialogs. Stuff to get from A to Z. The rest would just be saying 'words words words.' We’d play the game, tweak that and use some placeholder art and dialog. As we play through it, at one point we all gather around Skype and review a playthrough. We make notes, like 'I don’t get this joke' or 'it would be funny if this person did that or this happens.' For instance, when we were playing it more publicly, someone in the police station combined the knife with one of the cars, thinking it would puncture the tires. So we then put in a gag for that; we’d see how people react to things and then respond to that. Over time, seeing what jokes work and didn’t work for people. It was really more we collaborate on the high level and I go away to write, then rewrite it later based on people’s suggestions. If there are any ideas we tend to try them out and work it into the story.

Paul: I think we learned, as well, in the beginning we’d discuss everything in detail. As we went on we got better at making the cases. We learned that when we hit a certain point in design that it worked best from a direction/structure point if we just let Dave go off on his own to design and flesh it out as much as possible.

If you have one mind on the product at that point, we’d get a better product, instead of us all trying to steer too much.

Continued on the next page...

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