While in San Diego for Comic-Con, Jeffrey Harris caught up with the producer and art director for the video game update of the Splatterhouse series. The classic franchise returns in bloody victorious fashion to consoles later this Fall.
During the San Diego Comic-Con I got to visit the Bandai-Namco booth and talk to the production team for the new Splatterhouse game due out later this Fall. The new Splatterhouse game was originally being developed by BottleRocket before the company was cut from the project and Bandai-Namco had an internal development team pick up and finish the game and some of the members of the BottleRocket development team were also brought over. Dan Tovar and Dave Wilkins are the respective producer and art director for the new game which 411mania.com previewed at E3. Here is what went down:
Interview with Dan Tovar, Producer
Jeffrey Harris: What can you tell us about this reboot of a gaming classic in Splatterhouse?
Dan Tovar: It kicks ass. Splatterhouse reboot like you said long dormant franchise from the '80's and '90's. It was in the arcades and the Turbo Graphics and the Sega Genesis. So we're bringing it back bigger, badder, bloodier, you play as Rick Taylor who is wearing the Terror Mask and that's the source of his power. So you are basically feeding him blood so that it upgrades all your powers and abilities so it makes you stronger all the way through. So you're basically spilling blood to earn blood to spend blood to make more blood. That's kind of the combat circle. As you can see we got blood visually everywhere. It lands on the environment, it lands on the characters, it drips down. The sound effects got a whole very special coat of paint so to speak as well because it's not splat without splat, right?
Jeffrey Harris: I played the demo at E3 and this is quite possibly the bloodiest, goriest game ever. Do you think you can honestly say that?
Dan Tovar: Thank you. We are working towards that end. We've heard that a number of different times. Kotaku actually voted us for bloodiest game at E3 as well, so I think we're on our way, yes.
Jeffrey Harris: I really like the 2D style side-scrolling levels I played in the demo. Will there be more levels like that in the game?
Dan Tovar: Yeah, absolutely. There's about 5-6 of those. It's about 10-15% of the overall gameplay experience. So yeah, we wanted to pay homage to the original games that way. We all grew up playing side-scrollers and loving them, that's why we got into this business. So yeah, it was exciting for us to be able to do that. And it's a new take on it, kind of like some of the other games that are doing it these days. Its 3D art, but you lock the camera into a 2D position and then you limit the player’s movement.
Jeffrey Harris: Who voices Rick and the Terror Mask in this version?
Dan Tovar: The Mask is a guy named Jim Cummings . . . he's amazing to watch work. I had the pleasure of going into the voice-over studio to watch him do what he does, and it's amazing to watch him turn it on. And Rick is an actor named Josh Keaton.
Jeffrey Harris: Is the Terror Mask in this game an ambivalent, benevolent, or malevolent being in this game? What does the Terror Mask want?
Dan Tovar: Well you actually need to play the game to find that out. Right now, the only thing you really know about the mask is that it's very powerful. It's not from this Earth and it has a lot of inherent powers that it can impart on to Rick. So his motives, you have to play through the game to really understand what's going on.
Jeffrey Harris: How do you come up with things like in the game, you can get your arm ripped off and then you can just pick up your own severed arm and use it as a weapon?
Dan Tovar: We have a lot of brainstorming sessions. And we just talk about what would be badass, what would be really cool, what would be really interesting. Blood was obviously central, so we start talking about dismemberment, you start talking about weapons and systems, and they just merge themselves together kind of fluidly when you get to that. And then it becomes a question the art and the technology to make it happen. And we've got an amazing who has been able to throw all this stuff together for us, so we're really lucky and proud with the team that we have and what we've been able to accomplish.
Jeffrey Harris: If the game does well would you like to do more Splatterhouse games?
Dan Tovar: Absolutely. I would love to roll on to a sequel. It's really up to you guys to support it out in the marketplace and make sure it does well as a viable product. And absolutely, we want to reinvigorate the franchise.
Jeffrey Harris: Do you have a favorite monster or creature in the game?
Dan Tovar: Yeah, I mean Biggie-Man is probably the most notable. This is the guy with the two chainsaws, his head is in a burlap sack, with a vest made out of human flesh. He's just like an amazing, iconic character from the original series, and bringing him back into the modern era in 3D, he's awesome. He's super-gnarly.
Jeffrey Harris: Any bonuses or unlockables for the game at all?
Dan Tovar: You can unlock the three original games as you play through the story mode, so Splatterhouse 1, 2, and 3 are available. That is the original Japanese arcade version of Splatterhouse. And then we have achievements and collectibles and different game modes. More survival arenas.
Jeffrey Harris: How did the transition work when there was originally a different developer on the game?
Dan Tovar: We actually pulled about 25 guys from that team so a lot of the original staff is still working on the game which is how we are managing to keep it moving forward. And then we filled in some of the gaps with our own internal studio.
Interview with Dave Wilkins, Art Director
Jeffrey Harris: Were you a big fan of the Splatterhouse games before working on the new one?
Dave Wilkins: Oh absolutely. It was the first game that pushed the envelope. And I was just so happy to bring it back.
Jeffrey Harris: When the game changed developers some of the art, character, and level design changed. Did you have any influences on the changes when the game changed developers?
Dave Wilkins: Absolutely. I was actually a part of it the entire time, and then when we decided to go in a different direction . . . of where we should move where we are now.
Jeffrey Harris: How closely do you as the art director work with the development team and the writing team for this game? How collaborative is the process?
Dave Wilkins: We work everyday. We're on the phone. We're on Skype. I'm up and down in the studio, back and forth. So it's really from the designs and art super-collaborative.
Jeffrey Harris: The monsters and beasts in this game are really creepy and messed up. So where do you get inspiration for that?
Dave Wilkins: Tons of '80's horror movies. Tons of '80's comics. All the old school Bernie Wrightson. And obviously heavily influenced by Simon Bisley with all the energy and all the mayhem . . . but yeah, that's where we're coming from. And most importantly, poster art.
Jeffrey Harris: Who is your favorite creature or monster you got to design for the game?
Dave Wilkins: I got to say the Aggressor is one of my favorites. Biggie, I love Biggie. He's the original icon. I don't think I really redesigned that guy or really came up with anything from scratch, but definitely the Aggressor.
Jeffrey Harris: You did concept art for the new feature Gatchaman movie. Recently a new trailer came online for the movie. Have you seen this new trailer yet?
Dave Wilkins: I've seen the trailer.
Jeffrey Harris: So . . . is this movie actually going to come out? What is going on?
Dave Wilkins: It's been up and down. I'm not really sure. I really hope it does because a lot of super talented guys worked on it . . . great, great guys put a lot of great work in there and just being a Gatchaman fan I hope it does.
Jeffrey Harris: When you were conceptualizing those characters, was your vision of Berg Katse the [original] Berg Katse?
Dave Wilkins: Yeah and that's exactly what we called him. It wasn't Galactor. It was the original.
Jeffrey Harris: So was it going to be the transsexual, gender-bending Katse? In the original animation he was both a man and a woman.
Dave Wilkins: Right. He was pretty hardcore. In my version, he's more monstrous and alien than anything. But I don't know how he ended up.
Jeffrey Harris: What is your next project?
Dave Wilkins: Right now I'm working with Marvel on a Blade vs. Wolverine oneshot that will be out next year. Writer Marc Guggenheim wrote the script. So that and Splatterhouse.
Jeffrey Harris: What's the basic gist of that story?
Dave Wilkins: It's literally Blade vs. Wolverine and tons and tons of vampires.
Thank you to Bandai-Namco Games for speaking with us. Splatterhouse will be released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 some time in the Fall from Bandai-Namco Games.