South Park: The Stick of Truth was quite a surprise gem of a game in 2014 for it was a great South Park game, which is not something anyone would expect if they remember the games that were released during the show’s infancy. Because of its popularity, the follow up South Park: The Fractured But Whole has become a highly anticipated title. Director Jason Schroeder took some time to discuss this upcoming title with Hardcore Gamer.
[Hardcore Gamer] In this game the boys get away from the fantasy RPG setting and play as super heroes. The combat is still turn based but instead of being like a traditional JRPG it’s taken on a more tactics, Grand Kingdom like approach. What motivated this shift?
[Jason Schroeder] When we first started the concept of The Fractured But Whole we knew we wanted to stick with turn based combat since it worked really well with the jokes and timing of the last game but one of the things when we were looking at Stick of Truth and what we wanted to do with this one is when we have to cut away from a certain background for the fighting it kind of broke the feeling of I’m fighting where I’m exploring so we thought about what can we do to make the place I’m exploring also the combat space? In doing that we decided since now we’re in the dining room of Raisins it feels weird that now I can’t move when I can move a second ago so we decided to add movement to combat and once you add movement to combat you’re basically making a tactical RPG. Nice name drop with Grand Kingdom by the way, not many people played it and I think it’s a great game.
It is but I don’t think it ever really took off in popularity but I see a lot of influence from its style of combat in The Fractured But Whole.
It’s very free form and I think it shows more of Trey Parker’s board gaming tendencies and Matt Stone’s shooter/sports/action gamer tendencies and kind of combines the two and it becomes The Fractured But Whole. It’s a really interesting blend and I think it makes a really interesting game, if I say so myself.
The Stick of Truth and from what little I’ve played of The Fractured But Whole make these titles kind of a rarity in the game world, where they accurately represent the source material but are also good games on their own, case in point some of the South Park games that were released in the late ’90s left something to be desired.
That is exactly what we were going for. With Stick of Truth South Park set out to make a game that was true to their universe and I loved it, I played the crap out of it. Trey and Matt did an amazing job. With Fractured from day one we were trying to make the most authentic South Park game we could make and that meant really digging into how South Park makes the show and they let us into all of their pipelines on how the make a show and all of their renderings and how they do it in six days and how they take Trey’s last minute iterations when he changes the script on a Tuesday when the show goes live on Wednesday and how they handle so we tried to build our pipelines so we can do the same thing where we try to capture the same spirit and magic. That led to a game that I feel is the most authentic South Park experience you can have.
I noticed a bit of that earlier today. The game has been delayed about a year, but earlier today I got a power up that was a fidget spinner, which had the game been released on the original schedule that wouldn’t have been included.
(laughs) The phenomenon of fidget spinners is very recent.
It captured the element of the show where some very recent topical event is included that wouldn’t be possible in most other shows with their production schedules.
It’s kind of set up where the player can kind of tell how much of this came alive in 2017 and how much was written in 2015. Honestly so much of it feels current with all the superhero stuff and the climate of what it is to be small town Americans. I think it is all super relevant and timeless so even the people who don’t buy it on day one a lot of these jokes are still going to hit.
Trey and Matt are known to be gamers. Aside from granting you access to the pipeline how involved have they been in the process of creating The Fractured But Whole?
Matt and Trey have been involved from conception to finalizing so they’ve been involved from the first meeting with every aspect of the game from how the combat will be involved to what other elements of gameplay are included. They’ve been involved in what types of puzzles and powers it’s going to have and what it’s like to explore South Park. Everything about it they took what they liked about Stick and what they’ve liked about other games as gamers and how the kids of South Park would play a super hero game and started to give notes and direction as we started to execute development and they started reviewing video and reviewing hands on and started sending more notes and story edits. When they’re in the booth recording 20,000 lines between the two of them they have to know what’s going on in the game to be able to read it with the right context so they were never not involved.
Good news for South Park fans.
It’s definitely a Matt Stone and Trey Parker production.
That probably had a lot to do with the quality of Stick of Truth. It was a fun game on its own gameplay merits, but for South Park fans, it captured the essence of the show so well. Stick had about a zillion references to the show, some of them were current but some were more subtle and just hidden in the background, like if you were paying attention you’d be like oh, that’s something from season three hidden in the garage. With Fracture about how current do the references get? Does it have anything from last season like with Clinton vs. Garrison in the race for the presidency?
It’s been in development for a few seasons so PC Principal is in the game but he came along while we were in development, the state of the town and its gentrification came around when we were in development so you’ll see current but you don’t have to be up to date on the latest South Park episodes to understand what is going on. It’s meant to be an experience where you could have stopped watching at season seven so you could still pick up the game and recognize what’s happening even though there would be some new characters but if you’re up to date on the current seasons and into season 21 you’d see some stuff and be like oh that’s how South Park is really like now.
As South Park is on a last minute production schedule, is it even possible for Trey and Matt to give you any hints about what might happen in season 21 to incorporate that into the game?
It’s not really possible to put the latest season in the game since they don’t even know what they’re doing in the latest season. That’s what gives it a ton of energy and you’ll see things that inspires them to do more episodes, but they tend to base episodes on what they’re interested in and don’t really see a need to plan things out. What I like about it as a gamer is I’m not playing a greatest hits or playing a story I’ve played before, this is a totally original story made for the game and all the kids are true to who they are. It’s like three features worth of South Park content that you’re free to just sink your teeth into and enjoy.
It’s new content, but at the same feels like it could be in an episode. The fight with Kyle’s cousin for example is written where I could see that character whine and try to cheat his way through the fight and the ending of the battle seems in character for him. In the build we got to play there were three classes to pick from the Brutalist, the Speedster and the Blaster, who I went with because I liked the idea of setting everyone on fire. Are those going to be the three available heroes or will there be more available in the final version?
There will be ten classes available but you will start with those three available, the idea is those are pretty easy classes and good for introductory super heroes so Cartman gives you easy to understand classes. Later on you get access to classes like Cyborg and Psychic and can start layering in those abilities with Elementalist style powers and you can mix and match so you can be an Elementalist Cyborg that can freeze enemies and inflict shock damage or do something else for your damage over time desires. It’s going to be deep since you can mix and match those ten classes into four powers and have eleven buddies you can unlock and build a party of four so the type of super hero you create and party that you build can lead into a lot of different combat scenarios. This is really mix and match, it’s like if your dungeon master just said fine, you can be a paladin with this and that and that and just mix everything together because I’m fed up with you (laughs).
So we get to be Cartman as Balrog where he gives himself lots of powers on a whim.
(laughs) Cartman is kind of the dungeon master for this super hero game so they all are playing by the same rules and build a powerful superhero so they can build a great franchise but at the same time they are trying to raise money for the franchise so they try to do things like find missing cats but pretty quickly everything gets out of hand as it tends to with those boys.
Kind of sounds like the first game where the kids are doing their own thing, but eventually it takes over the town and the adults end up getting involved.
Once the adults get involved there’s always a second of hesitation where they aren’t really sure what’s going on but eventually going on.
So this doesn’t really deal so much with the upcoming game but more of a personal curiosity/amusement question. About a year ago you unleashed this unholy artifact known as the Nosulus Rift onto the world, which I’m assuming was a gag promotional item never intended for retail purchase.
I did experience first hand the devastation it is capable of last year at PAX West.
When the concept of the Nosulus Rift came around there was a moment internally at Ubisoft when we thought oh that will be funny, we’ll make a fake prop, we’ll pretend it’s real. And then it became no, we’re going to make it actually create fart smells and we’re actually going to make it and it will be real. We kept daring ourselves to actually do it and even when we were making it we were like this is really silly but also like this is really funny that it actually works so let’s just keep going. So yeah sort of on a dare.
I figured it had to be something like that. It did work really well; I don’t know how many empty Febreze cans I saw at the Ubisoft suite in 2016.
(laughs) I feel like that smell never gets out of your nose, it takes days.
I kind of see those things have an application of adding more immersion to VR in the future but that particular implementation seems better suited for chemical warfare than enhancing a game experience.
The technology is amazing in what it can do but that probably never should have been unleashed on the public but it has and we can’t take it back. I think the psychological experiment of if you press this button a fart will go off in your friends face was a terrible thing to do to people’s coworkers.
I can see multiplayer implementations of this and kind of do a recreation of the Milgram experiment.
What are some aspects of the Fractured But Whole you are especially proud of and can’t wait for players to get their hands on?
I’m really excited about people actually playing it and getting to see the funniest game that’s ever been made. I think it’s the most authentic South Park experience anyone can have and personally excited to see what kind of superheroes everyone builds in regards to their look and seeing the boys of South Park in some ridiculous situations so I’m hoping everyone feels like they get to immerse themselves into that South Park world and just be one of the kids in town and see where the story takes them.
There does seem to be a ton more customization than in The Stick of Truth. That had a good, but fairly simplified, JRPG combat system. This combat system seems like it will be more complex and more in line with other tactics games.
Something we saw with Stick is it became a popular game for people to stream online and play on Twitch and we wanted players to be able to create their own superhero brand since that is part of creating the superhero is their look, their costume. So that meant decoupling the stats from the clothing so we had to create a new system which we did with the artifact system where players could equip artifacts to increase their stats. These are invisible so you can customize which powers you want to equip but keeping that independent from how they look, which we think will lead to a lot of unique looking characters in the online feeds.