How do you convey humor in a video game? PopCap Games has a formula down for its 2D Plants Vs Zombies titles and is trying to translate that to its third-person multiplayer shooter, Garden Warfare, for the Xbox One and Xbox 360. Producer Brian Lindley talked exclusively with Examiner on the studio’s philosophy on funny and trying to make it as universal as possible.
“It’s hard, especially if you’re trying to do it through dialogue and story,” Lindley said when asked how hard it to convey humor in a game. “That can be really difficult because writing things that seem funny to a broad audience is just a challenge. What we’ve tried to do is not really take that direction. Where we try to inject the humor is in the characters, in the world and in the gameplay as much as possible. When we design a character item, a piece of customization or a new character class, we try to use the barometer that if it makes you smile, laugh or both, then that’s probably good enough.
“People get a kick out of the engineer, he’s got some saggy pants on him, for example,” he continued. “The funny, different variations we can bring to the character classes is really where the majority of our humor comes from. For us, it’s a bit easier because that’s drawing pictures and making those come to life as 3D things, versus trying to write something that feels witty, funny and all that you would get with more dialogue and narrative. I think it can be, it really depends on what tone you’re going for. Are you trying to be a bit more harder edge with your humor or are you trying to be more silly and fun loving about it. “
While plumber's crack is pretty much universal, what’s funny in the United States isn't necessarily funny in France or other countries.
“I think the other thing that messes with that is everyone around the world is playing games, but sensibilities surrounding humor is different wherever you go. Some of those things don’t really translate. One thing may be funny to someone in North America, but it may be unfunny to someone in Europe, which makes that brand of humor harder to translate. I feel like we’re doing a good job because we’re focusing mostly on the characters and presentation, and trying to make all of that as funny and humorous as possible.
“As we’ve designed a lot of our customization, our lead designer, and myself we disagree all the time about what we think is funny. ‘Is a guy wearing a plunger as a hat. Is that funny? I don’t necessarily think so, but he thinks that’s hilarious.’ We have this huge variety of customization items that are really silly and kind of out there, some of them I don’t find funny, but the rest of the team just loves it. So hopefully there’s enough of that stuff out there that everyone finds something that makes him or her smile.”
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is due out Feb. 18 for the Xbox One and Xbox 360.
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