DANGEROUS HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS IN TROUBLE
Dangerous High School...
SMTG:Firstly, you never know what you get with indie devs, is mousechief a team of a dozen highly paid Californian industry veterans in a glass skyscraper, or a twelve year old kid in a basement in El Savador?
KN: Personally, I'm a 12 year-old veteran of the game industry. Eight years since, I've worked for my own company, Mousechief.I hire many people My strengths are programming, game design, and writing. My weaknesses are editing, marketing and sales, schmoozing, and my wife.
SMTG:Pretend I haven't heard of 'Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble' and assume it's maybe a dodgy teen movie. What kind of a game is it?
KN:DHSGiT is a lite RPG. You recruit a gang of girls, explore, encounter enemies, combat them, gain experience points, level up... Your gang of girls are all strong-willed, clever, and resourceful. They're out to save their home town, by turning it upside down. Their enemies are conservative townsfolk who make Sarah Palin look like Phil Donahue. Their allies are stout-hearted boyfriends willing to take a fall for them. Combat presents various gameplay. In every conflict the player chooses a mini-game: Taunt, Flirt, Fib, against their opponent. The larger game is the RPG narrative. It's long, about 15-20 hours. The humor is light and quick, until the end sequence. Your girls are hunting after something bad in town, something that should scare women worse than dragons. It's utterly despicable.
SMTG:DHSGIT is an appalling acronym. Did you not consider titles with better acronyms?
KN:I didn't once question the title or stray from it. We fell deeply in love, and it has never forsaken me. For my next game, I was changing names every three weeks, for all of 2009 and early this year. I guess good lingerie only wears once.
SMTG:DHSGIT won a bunch of awards and praise for it's writing, would you say that's one of the strengths of mousechief's games? Given that most video game writing these days is an embarrassment...
KN:I'd say that for the history of computer games, the writing or the story or both were embarrassing. Wonderful exceptions, of course: Steve Meretsky' Infocom games, the Lucasarts adventures, Black Isle's Bioware games. But those are green M&Ms in Candyland. Where's our Jonathan Swift, our Robert Stevenson, our Mary Shelly, our Sinclair Lewis, our Umberto Eco, or even our Mary Renault? Mousechief games are well written, but they're considered better because the competition, especially games with great gameplay, are written terribly.
SMTG:What was the critical reaction to DHSGIT? I can imagine a bunch of reviewers would really have no idea what box to put a game like that in. Did they 'get' the game?
KN:Nobody knows what box to put the game in. It's like a hat made of fresh fruit, with peacock feathers and porcupine quills sticking out. The reaction was largely positive. Those who played the game gave it good marks. Those who played the game to the end gave it really strong marks. Completing the story made all the difference. Reaction to the music was mixed but never bad. It's taken from wax records from the early 1900s, scratches and all. Most critics 'got' the game, but not the mini-games. These were intended to light, quick, mental fare to keep the story moving.
SMTG:You seem to be working on a new game now called arcada mia, please tantalise us with an explanation.
KN:'arcada mia' will be a casual, strategy narrative. The core mechanic is brand new But basically, you play the lives of a family and their generations against the tides of western civilization. Every player will experience history differently. Their choices decide less about success and more about flavor. What will your family be like? Will they become a dynasty of kings, or should they be content with the simple pleasures of laborers, as the ages change. The inspiration was to give the experience of living in an Edward Rutherfurd epic. It'll be an abstract experience, but the narrative will be concrete. The working title was 'Mecha-Edward Rutherfurd.' The game should appeal to sophisticated casual gamers and core gamers. I hope it will sell as well as a top tower defense game. 'arcada mia' is humble. It's fun. I can imagine Gomez Addams kissing Morticia's arm and singing it to her passionately.
SMTG:The art for your games is very distinctive, and your website proclaims that "To date, casual games have been wrapped in fairy tales and comic books, because few understood that games can be fine art", is mousechief the secret weapon in the 'games can be art' debate?
KN:Mousechief is very much about making games with artistic aspiration. Must have been a shock to poor Warhol, when someone saw his soup can and declared it art. His art is art but are my games? There's more debate about 'games as art' than there are examples. I hope Mousechief games will at least be in the running, when critics sort it all out. Most of the style and fun of previous Mousechief games came from the daunting talent of Aneurin Wright. He's terrific at visualizing characters! That said, David Cherry picked up the daunting task of re-designing DHSGiT, after the original art director fell terribly ill. David really brought it out of the fire. arcada mia's art director, Bill Stoneham, has a history of fine art paintings and game credentials from the early days at LucasArts. Our first imaging of the game, as seen on arcadamia.com is a testament to his vision. We'll release a video of the working game in January, if all goes as planned.
You can find out more about the wonders of mousechief and the adventures of dangerous high school girls here