Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Vince Storybook

"In the darkest corner of the oldest voodoo shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans was a doll made of rags, twine, burlap and strange unspeakable things. He was named Vince."

My experience in the game industry has taught me that most people don't read... even all-wise, benevolent publishers are sometimes too busy to wade through a long wordy document. I decided to make understanding Vince as easy as possible for busy executives with too many concepts to evaluate. I wrote what amounted to a children's book and put it in the first concept/pitch doc for the game. This may be why I still hear from parents who say their kids are crazy about Voodoo Vince.

Vince's appearance didn't change too much from these early concept pieces.

Kosmo and his goons (Jeb and Fingers) are much as they appeared in the game almost three years later.

Curio (above) and the roustabouts (above right) by Doug "Mr. Prolific" Williams.

The biggest changes were made to the Madam Charmaine character. She was originally called Madam Curio. We changed her name once we discovered there was a professional dominatrix using that moniker (gosh... thanks, Google). We also went with a somewhat younger look for her.

This approach was really well received. It opened doors and led to many upbeat meetings with publishers. I found that just about everybody "got" the idea behind the game. Everybody was enthusiastic about the concept too, but that didn't loosen any purse strings. It took a playable demo to accomplish that. But it was still a great way to establish some basic elements for Vince and his world.



Don Diego de la Vega said...

Hi Clayton,

about this playable demo, I am interested to know which level(s) of the game you have used to present a synthesized version, and how this have been perceived by the publishers.

I suppose it is an hard work to present a big project in a short time, wich methods have you used to persuade those time-less peoples ?

Thank you.

PS: I am "the only guy who have buy a Voodoo Vince specimen in France", I am sorry, my english skills are not very good. ^^

Clayton Kauzlaric said...

Votre anglais est meilleur que mon Français! Je parle français comme un âne malade.

For the demo, we created a small room and a courtyard that captured some of the style we hoped to attain in the game. We had a fully controllable version of Vince and one basic monster wandering the area. We created three "voodoo attacks" showing off the game's basic hook.

I only showed the demo in person so I could point out key features and answer questions.

That's it. We made video tapes we could leave with publishers after a meeting, and continued to reinforce all this with concept documents... not to mention endless phone calls and emails.

The key is to never get tired of repeating yourself, and to figure out what sets your game apart in the fewest words possible.

Gosh. This brings back memories. I'll do a post about the demo some time soon.

Devin said...

*Finishes taking notes*

I've always wondered about the process of getting a game accepted, probably because the only thing I do in my spare time is designing games. ^_^

Voodoo Vince does sort of seem like a storybook-story. It sort of defines certain things without going into detail, like the infamous(at least for me) third best voodoo doll description Vince is tagged with. Where are the other dolls? I must know. O.o

What I'm kind of wondering about Voodoo Vince is, how exactly does your pitch for the sequel go? Not actually your pitch, but why is it that they won't accept it? Do they base it on the sales for the last game or have they recently acquired a hatred for voodoo dolls?

The game basically asked for one with the dialogue at the end of the game. I can see it now...

The Obligatory Sequel

Well, anyways, good luck with whatever you're doing now, whether its Vince-related or not, I'm sure it'll be awesome.

Anonymous said...

Hey Clay - I just came across your blog (from Kotaku)and thought to myself "Well; it's Klay, I'll say HI'.

You may or may not remember me - we used to work together at Manley & Associates back in the game dev. mists of time, the name's David McCormack - yes that one, the semi talented Irish hack!

Good to know you're still around man - if you want you could email me on - all the best and keep doing what you do best!

Clayton Kauzlaric said...

Thanks, Devin.

I should qualify everything above with the caution that it's really helpful to know what a publisher is looking for. A great idea can overcome many obstacles, but all the demos and documents in the world won't help if you're shopping a wacky psychedelic toad licking musical platform game at Grisly FPS Central (don't lick toads, kids... stay in school).

Which brings us to Voodoo Vince. The lack of a sequel at this point is mostly about business. The audience has changed, and so has the type of game they buy. That is a huge consideration for publishers who, after all, are in business to make money.

Compared to the numbers they did 10+ years ago, character platformers don't do the kind of numbers that get publishers all hot and bothered. Character-based games are relatively expensive and it can take several iterations before they build up an audience. Thanks to rising costs, the biz is more "home run" oriented these days too, so it's a bigger challenge than ever to get a publisher behind something risky vs. a known quantity.

That sounds pessimistic, but it's not as bleak as all that. Whole categories of games have been pronounced dead (like, RPGs), only to come back stronger than ever with a new twist. I'm still pushing to make something like that happen for nutty character-based games, though titles like Katamari have already started moving things in the right direction.

Clayton Kauzlaric said...

Hi Dave! Great to hear from you - I'll drop you a line.

Carolyn said...

HI there!
I just came across your blog and your art drew me in. Very interesting and very good! I can't draw or paint, but have several friends who do. I have a deep appreciation for those who can. Keep up the good work Clay. Very fitting name for your blog too, ;)