Phil enjoyed his time with Hoodwink. Sure the title had it’s problems, but for a new IP launched by a new studio, E-One Studio’s debut title had plenty of positives to make us hopeful for their future efforts. Originally exclusive to EA’s Origin service, the game has recently become available to customers of various digital download clients including Gamersgate, Desura and The Adventure Shop. It’s also been submitted to Valve’s new Steam Greenlight. We recently sat down with Amir Irwan, Executive Producer at E-One Studio to chat about Hoodwink and it’s development cycle.
Hit-Reset – First, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. This must be a tremendously exciting time for the studio with Hoodwink, the first episode of the adventures of Michael Bezzle released. How have you found the last few weeks?
Amir Irwan – Hectic, but it’s nice to finally have a release out there. It’s been quite the learning experience and we hope to take these lessons and make the next release even better.
HR – Episodic point and click adventure games have enjoyed something of a revival in the recent past. We grew up playing the classics from the likes of LucasArts and have enjoyed titles from TellTale recently. What inspired e-One to look at this genre for developing their first game?
AI – We wanted to go for something simple, fun and light-hearted, yet possessing a depth of storytelling. What we noticed in point and click adventure games is when placed in an episodic format, they seem to have no greater overarching story or real sense of continuity. We saw this as a chance to make a difference.
HR – With the steampunk noir aesthetic and cartoon violence, the gameworld is both fresh yet familiar to most. Was this the aim with the design choices?
AI – We wanted a ramshackle look to Hoodwink and the post-apocalypse setting lent itself well to it. A dystopian society based on a medicated and brainwashed populous also allowed us to create social commentary and carry our message of what corporate consumerism and arbitrary ruling can turn people into.
HR – Michael is an interesting primary character.. Is he based on anyone in particular?
AI – Michael is the classic protagonist, based on the cynicism and ideals of a youth growing up and trying to find himself. He represents a stage of growth that we all undoubtedly go through.
HR – The voice work in particular is a highlight in the game, was this a priority during development?
AI – Yes, we felt it was important to have a good voice cast to really bring the game to life. Our design team and writers were very careful in selecting the actors during auditions.
HR – As we know, this is the first full game from E-One. How daunting was the task when you started? Did the fact that you are a new studio present you with any particular issues while building Hoodwink?
AI – Coming from a country where the games industry is still in its infancy, we encountered a lot of challenges for sure. Talent being one of them. However, we believe in nurturing. We knew that if we found raw talent and they had passion and the right attitude then we would pull it off eventually. Communication is key in game development because you have multidisciplinary team members who may not know or use the same terminology. In a multi cultural setting such as our studio, English is everybody’s second language and the fact that our talents are raw posed a much greater challenge. I kid you not, there were times we felt like strangling one other but then we thought let’s keep the violence in the video games. Being a new studio with a new IP presents other significant challenges too compared to an established studio with a stable of licensed IPs. Visibility, market perception of a new IP, and public awareness about the studio and story background are all problems we faced. As an indie developer all this must be considered and well taken care of when we go to the market.
HR – Humor in games can be notoriously difficult to pull off, what was the key to ensuring the jokes in Hoodwink “popped”?
AI – Timing is everything, especially in slapstick. Our main emphasis in Hoodwink’s humor was a style of rapid-fire delivery reminiscent of American sitcoms, which was probably the greatest challenge to Chris, who grew up on a steady diet of BBC comedy. Another thing about humor is, it’s very personal and individual, what can be funny to some may be annoying to others. We tried not to emphasize too much on the humor except in our communication. We’d much rather let the audience decide if Hoodwink is funny or annoying. This is where we’d like to get more feedback from the audience, have them share with us their experiences playing Hoodwink, what worked and what didn’t and we will improve our delivery in future installments and have many more hits than misses.
HR – E-One is a new studio, what kind of pedigree do you bring to the industry? What games have people worked on in the past?
AI – Our engine programmer, Eko, worked on “Serious Sam” before. We have some environment artists who worked on Codemasters’ “Dirt”. The rest of us are fresh talent in the game industry though most come from related industries like performing arts, animation and IT support services. Our greatest offering to the audience I believe is our passion for games and fresh new IPs and hunger in proving ourselves to the audience.
HR – Thank you so much for your time Amir, and we wish you good luck with your future efforts. We look forward to seeing what E-One have to offer up next.
Hoodwink is up on Steam Greenlight right now, and you can help make it available to everyone by voting. We already have!