Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Little Concept That Could

I've worked on over ninety thousand games with my friend Ron Gilbert. Or nine. I forget. One of our better known collaborations concludes this week with the release of DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. Yes, that lovable dumbass with the stentorian voice appears once more in the downloadable game cosmos. The epic story, first conceived in the seedy back alley of a rant-filled blog, draws to its momentous end.

Ron and I started thinking of DeathSpank as a character back in 2004. We schlepped the original concept all over the world, starting with a trip to Europe in 2005. Even after years of "no," we kept adding details to the character and his world. It just kept growing. We couldn't stop it. One vivid memory is the sight of the proto-story and puzzle tree document spread out on Ron's kitchen table as we explored the nooks and crannies of the initial design in 2006. It was a tough decision when I finally made the call to get a "real job," mostly because my family seems to require "food" and "shelter." It turns out you can't live on the sweet, sweet taste of justice alone.

Sidebar illustrations from the original pitch document for DeathSpank, circa 2005.

That DeathSpank was made at all is still astounding. People who create characters are used to having them knock around inside their heads. It's always kind of surprising when they escape and actually appear in the real world where everyone else can see them. But ideas are easy. The endless hours of detailed, hard work is the tricky part. DeathSpank's existence is a tribute to all the awesome, smart, funny talented people involved in its creation and development. Those who weren't awesome, smart, funny or talented were only minimally inconvenient, so that's pretty great too in an odd sort of way.

Head shape work 2008

I'm proud of my work on DeathSpank. I named him. I took a chunk of sculpting stuff and molded the basic shape of his heroic noggin with my own hands. I iterated on his visual design, taking him from a glorified stick figure to a fleshed out hero who could walk and talk and kill lots of things. Hothead does that nutty "we don't believe in regular credits that describe what everybody actually did" thing, so I guess my character designs, juvenile jokes, puzzles and story contributions will just have to remain our little secret. Due credit or not, my time with DeathSpank is certainly over and done with at this point.

Getting closer! Almost there...

It's the end of a six year saga where I've gone from co-conspirator, to frustrated outsider, to a distant observer who feels pride in what the concept ultimately accomplished -- and regret for what it could have been. Still, when it's all said and done, the world is better off with DeathSpank in it.

And now, randomly selected reviews!



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