Justin Roiland almost never sounded the main gun in life
High on Life, a game in which talking guns are used to prevent humans from being sold as drugs, is the latest title from Squanch Games, a development studio founded by Rick and Morty Justin Roiland, Co-Creator When I played their latest game, Trover Saves the Universe, a few years ago, I was surprised at how naturally Roiland’s impromptu dialogue translated into video game form. Characters will wander around for as long as I’m stuck listening, and I’ll find myself standing in certain spots for upwards of five or six minutes, just listening to Roiland (who has voiced several characters, including Trover) utter one joke over and over again. While High on Life and Trover are two very different games, Roiland’s style of comedy is on full display in both. When I got a chance to talk to Roiland (and design director Eric Meyer), I was surprised to learn that he originally wanted this game to have a different direction.
“I didn’t really want to make the main gun,” says Roiland. “I was trying to get out of it. But the team said, ‘No, you have to do it.'”
Meyer interjects and echoes the team, “It’s kind of our signature at this point.”
Roiland eventually agreed to it because the team worked so hard. He continues, “I must be wrong if everyone is saying that.” “So I was like, OK, I’m going to do it. And I knew it would be beneficial for me to do that from a production standpoint.”
The player shoots Kenny, the gun voiced by Justin Roiland.
They explained that Roiland did a lot of the voice in Trover Saves the Universe because it was originally temporary dialogue meant to be replaced later in the development cycle. The team eventually decided to keep it, because it wasn’t worth the work of re-recording it all and because they thought it was funny enough already.
“Trover was like 70% optimization, 30% script, maybe something,” said Roiland, unsure of the exact ratio. “This game is definitely the opposite. But still a fun improvement.”
“Especially with guns,” says Meyer. “A lot of guns are getting better.”
The guns in question are Life’s main narrative gimmick. As you explore the world, you come across a series of talking guns with different characters, each voiced by a different comedian. I asked Roiland about the process for casting such an odd set of roles, and he said they mostly know who they want before they start.
“JB Smoove was definitely someone I wanted from the start,” says Roiland. Tim Robinson was another… Our head writer Alec Robbins is a friend of his. So he said, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And [Robinson] He’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that’ without really realizing what he was getting himself into.”
Jas, pictured here, is voiced by JB Smoove.
Meanwhile, Betsy Sodaro got the role through an audition, putting together a cast that Roiland says is about as good as a good animated sitcom. However, the narrative design in a game like High on Life is much more complex than the linear dialogue in an episode of Rick and Morty.
For example, the mechanic this game shares with Trover is the “Subscribe” dialog. It’s what Squanch calls a scene where players can leave at any time, even when other characters are still talking: the player is responsible for how much dialogue they want to experience, and NPCs respond to their behavior appropriately. Squanch Games’ work on Trover gave them an idea of the structure of those types of scenes and made the writing process much smoother.
“You can stand close to them, and they know you’re there, and when you leave, they know you’re leaving,” Roiland says. “Writing all these things is just thinking about how the player can interrupt or re-engage. If they do something, how will the NPC respond?”
An example of this in High on Life is in a section where the player meets a group of aliens called the Mac and Cheese Brothers. Usually, the player approaches and meets the brothers and decides how to act. However, Meer says, “When we were playtesting, we had someone fire a special ability from a distance and blew them all up before we even met them. And we’re like, ‘Okay, well, that’s something someone would do, right? Let’s write a line for that.'” “.
As much work as they do predicting player behavior, Roiland says he could have seen them go another year adding more detail. The project was so ambitious that they tripled the studio staff from about 20 to 60 to get it done, and they’re still cutting a lot of content.
“There are a lot of things,” Roiland said when I ask what didn’t work. “But what’s interesting about this stuff, is that sometimes you’ll come back to it… Definitely on Rick and Morty There are episodes in almost every season that he dreamed up like the first or second season we’re back in [to] With fresh eyes…then it suddenly clicks.”
Justin Roiland, Founder, Squanch Games.
“It’s really surprising how much we got in,” says Meyer. “A lot of the ideas are kind of crazy.” He doesn’t mention it here, but one of the most amazing things that worked for it were four full-length movies licensed to appear in the game and play on TVs in the background. The two developers didn’t want to list specific trailer content in case it ever returns, but I can’t help but wonder — if four full-length movies worked, what didn’t?
Today, the game is finally finished and available to the general public. For Mir, this is an exciting time.
“It’s so cool to see it so complete, you know,” says Meyer. “Because there are so many cycles to focus on what’s broken…and then in the last month you have to take off your little development glasses and be like, ‘Oh that’s the game, right?'” “
Meyer says his favorite thing to do after launching one of his games is watching the operators play it. Before Twitch, they’d have to wait for the reviews and then maybe hear some people mention it online, but watching someone handle it on launch day “is very satisfying right away, and it’s really nice.”
After hearing about Meer’s passionate love for viewers of the live broadcast, Roiland pauses for a moment, then says, “Yeah, I don’t.” When I ask why, he says, “I’ve lived through it and seen it so much that I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m excited that people are playing it… I just need some distance.” He’s not an exclusive gaming opinion, either — he feels that way in all of his creative projects. He and Mir also agree that it takes a few years after launch before they can properly enjoy the game they worked on.
But this does not mean that they are not satisfied with this project. “I’m really proud of where we’ve come with this,” Roiland says. “All crazy ideas, just crazy. The team has been working insanely hard. It’s cool because we’ve all been living with this thing and believing in it for years and years.”
High on Life is now available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC, and is available on Game Pass on those platforms. For more information on the game, check out our rooftop interview earlier this year.
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