Right before E3 kicked off I had a chance to sit in on a roundtable for Naughty Bear, developed by Artificial Minds Movements and published by 505 Games. Needless to say, I was surprised by the potential nuance in an outwardly straightforward killathon, and the intricate, unscripted AI that turns the game into something much more than a fluff-stuffing bloodbath.
Can you introduce yourself, talk about your role on the project?
I’m David Osborne, creative director.
I’m Ash Pannell, lead game designer.
How did the idea for Naughty Bear come about? Could you talk about some of the back story a bit? What are the influences behind the game? Is it safe to say that one of the designers had a negative experience with the Care Bears at some point?
David Osborne: We wanted to make a game that was actually funny. A lot of developers set out to do that, but we wanted to focus on contrast in the juxtaposition of the cuteness of the bears and the things you do to exact your vengeance upon them. In terms of the actual style and presentation, a lot of that is based on the BBC programs we watched as kids back in the 70s and 80s.
What's the back story of the main character in the game? He seems to live in a fairy idyllic place yet turned into a bit of a rough, bitter character...how did that happen? How annoyingly happy are the rest of the characters going to be?
David: Well the thing you come to understand about the character and all the other bears that live on the island, is that Naughty Bear really, genuinely wants to live a life of peace and happiness. It really is the other bears that consistently provoke him into his extreme reactions.
So far all we've seen is vignette videos, can you talk about the gameplay a bit? What exactly will gamers be doing in Naughty Bear and how will they be doing it?
David: It’s very easy to interact with the items in the world, in fact it’s key to the core gameplay. There’s a lot of complexity to every single interactive item, and it really comes down to how you want to play the game and what state the bears are in. Every which way you move to interact with an item in the game, let’s say the cake mixer, and how the other bears react to that, depends so much on what you’ve done in the game. You could run up and break it and run away, and then it depends on the type of bear that witnesses it.
For example, some bears are more prone to fix things than others, so specific bears like robots would feel a need to approach to fix it. But other bears like zombies wouldn’t care at all, so getting the right bear in the right situation at the right time is really important. Then it depends on what you do when they get there. You could just kill them, or you could scare them and this is dependent on their state, whether they get scared or not or go insane. It all depends on the circumstances. A bear that wants to hunt you down will organize his friends and won’t be very interested in fixing anything, but a frightened bear that wants to call for help is extremely likely to repair a payphone. It’s a big balance of circumstances, nothing in this game is scripted.
Can you talk about the various implements of terror we'll have at our disposal? Are we looking at the usual bat, chainsaw, and bladed weapons or will there be a few other more choice implements of death and destruction? Do you have a personal favorite?
David: Well the way we’ve set it up is that the more you use an item, the less points you earn until eventually you get nothing for using an item, so it’s to your advantage to change your tactics. There are over 70 different ways to interact with the environment, 250 different ways of being naughty, all over the island. They range from very obvious ones like a barbecue or vehicle you can sabotage, to much more complex like the various traps you can set anywhere. And every time you do something you get this duality, of being able to sabotage or destroy something that has its own payoff. But if you destroy something it’s gone forever, giving you a set amount of naughty points. However setting traps lets you predict how the AI will react.
Ash Pannell: Trapping a bear lets you scare or chill him too, or I could leave him there suffering for the other bears to experience, and then another one might try to free him from the trap and I could do the whole thing again on that new bear. The game’s not just about killing, it’s about getting a big score, so scaring bears has a kind of viral effect where the panic spreads throughout the rest of the bears. The most obvious approach isn’t always the one with the biggest payoff.
What kind of multiplayer action will we see in Naughty Bear? How many players and will it be online or local splitscreen? What was the hardest part of designing the multiplayer part of the game?
Ash: There’s going to be an announcement about the multiplayer coming up, but we are planning one. The multi modes were developed all along with the main game so they aren’t an add-on, but suffice it to say the multiplayer will bring a lot of the humor and madness from the single player straight into your multiplayer living room action.
We would like to thank David and Ash for taking the time to answer our questions