With PlayStation VR there is always a “What if” type of question about the ideas that eventually will make the final game or experience. When that game or experience is made, I start to think about the original ideas that must have been passed around and discussed. So when The American Dream was announced, I was intrigued. I had to know more. So I went right to the source and Winston from Samurai Punk was more than happy to help out with some of the ideas behind the game, the subject matter and of course Virtual Reality.
So tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Samurai Punk?
“I’m Winston, one of the directors at Samurai Punk. For The American Dream, I worked on writing, game design and programming; we’re a small team so everybody juggles a few roles. Oh, I’m also in charge of buying snacks for the office, very important.”
For some of those who might just be getting into gaming and might not be familiar with Samurai Punk, what have been some of the previous titles you have released?
“Our previous titles include a mobile game called Hazumino, a hybrid block-stacking puzzle game and endless runner and Screencheat, a multiplayer split screen shooter where all players are invisible so you have to Screencheat. And we’re also working on Feather, a serene exploration game where you fly around an island as a bird. Our portfolio has no real consistency to it, we just like working on different things.”
So The American Dream has just released not too long ago for PlayStation VR, where how did the idea come about?
“While working on Screencheat, I was teaching a game design class where I noticed that in most of the games that we studied, players’ primary method of interaction with the game world would be through a gun. It made me think what it would be like to live a regular life if all you could do was shoot things. That then leads to the question, “How does the guy from Call of Duty wipe his ass?” The rest is history.”
So were there any other directions the team at Samurai Punk thought about going with The American Dream originally but decided to go with the final product we have now?
“Originally we had planned for the plot to go in a much darker direction, but ultimately it felt disingenuous and against the satirical nature of the game. At the end of the day, it’s a game that we want players to enjoy as much as it makes them think. So we threw out a lot of ideas that would’ve made the game incredibly bleak and focused more on creating funny and bizarre scenarios to put players into instead. The challenge was finding tongue-in-cheek ways to address aspects of the gun debate and pair that with engaging gameplay and narrative.
This is tangentially related, but one of my favorite bits of content that was cut was a segment where you needed to fix your car in a dank garage whilst spiders jumped at your face. It was hilarious but goddamn terrifying, so much so that it made me scream and tear the headset off. Maybe we’ll hang onto that for a The Australian Dream spin-off.”
I really enjoyed the art style that was chosen and the cardboard cutouts just seemed to add that special coating that the game needed. Was there something that stuck out about using the cardboard cutouts?
“Funnily enough, the cardboard cutout people concept came from budget limitations. We wanted to have humanoid characters in the game, but we lacked the resources to fully model and animate realistic characters. This restriction helped us come up with the idea to set the game entire game in this incredibly artificial, world-of-tomorrow style theme park ride that would naturally have these obviously fake and robotic characters. It saved us having to make realistic character models, plus it was an excuse to get away with writing one-dimensional characters. *badum-tish*”
The team nailed it with the comedy and narration, who is the voice behind Buddy Washington?
“Thank you! The man that brought Buddy to life is Michael Dobson, he’s an absolute legend. You might know him as Nappa from Dragon Ball Z! He knocked it out of the park with his performance and even added in a few of hilarious improvised lines during recording too. Not sure if you noticed, but he also voiced large chunk of the side characters, including Dad, Earl, Rex George and Steven the Waiter. The dude has range!”
Now with such a controversial subject such as guns at a controversial time, what was the deciding factor to have a game that uses guns for everything?
“We started work on the game in 2016 and our reasons for making it haven’t changed. We wanted to make a game that reflected our own conflicted attitudes towards guns, and in turn hopefully, trigger a reasonable discussion about our industry’s relationship with guns. The game is as much a commentary on gun culture in the United States as it is about gun culture in video games, and we felt it was an area worth exploring.”
When you approached Sony with the idea, what was their initial reaction and were they receptive to the idea?
“It was received quite well for the concept and narrative potential but some people thought it might be too similar to Job Simulator. Trust me when I say it’s nothing like Job Simulator. Our game has way more guns.”
When dealing with Virtual Reality, what have you learned is the number one rule that you go by?
“Rule 1: Don’t make people sick. Bonus rule: it’s funny to hit people in the face with things in VR”
With the PlayStation VR catalog growing, what would you say to someone who was looking for that one game or experience on why they should select The American Dream?
“The American Dream is without a doubt the greatest satirical virtual reality game about guns narrated by a talking dog. If you’ve ever been a fan of guns or the shooter genre, then this game was made for you. I like to think that our game has a lot of world-firsts when it comes to VR as well. No other VR game lets you live out experiences like dancing at the prom (with guns), getting married (with guns) or cut peoples’ hair at a barber shop (with guns). So basically if you like playing with guns and you want to have a laugh, pick up The American Dream or else you’re un-American.”
So are there any future PlayStation VR projects that Samurai Punk is working on that can be talked about or at least have everyone looking forward to?
“I’m glad you asked! We’ve actually been co-developing a VR project with Tin Man Games, called Table of Tales (more info here: https://blog.eu.playstation.com/2018/03/21/introducing-table-of-tales-the-rpg-adventure-that-brings-tabletop-gaming-to-life-in-ps-vr/). Think of it as a single-player tabletop RPG come to life ala Jumanji, it’ll be out later this year. As for what else is going on, we’re still toying around with what the next big Samurai Punk game will be, so I can’t say much. But I can confidently promise that whatever it is, it’s gonna be weird. ”
To learn more about Michael Dobson, please visit his site and make sure you follow him on Twitter. To learn more about Sumari Punk, please visit their site and make sure you like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.