If one upcoming game qualifies for the ‘better than expected’ award, it has to be South Park: The Stick of Truth. After what seemed like years of the show’s immense popularity and satirical humor being reduced to downright pitiful video games, the team at Obsidian Entertainment looked to be making every fan of the show’s dream come true: bring the humor and world of South Park to the game space.
The promise of The Stick of Truth is due in large part to series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone providing the writing themselves. In a recently published interview, Parker and Stone explain why they felt the time was right to take total ownership over a South Park game, and where their gaming passion comes from.
In hindsight, fans went through a wide range of reactions following the announcement of yet another South Park video game; beginning with disappointment given the series’ track record on consoles, and curiosity once Parker and Stone began putting their full weight behind its development. But when the title of the game was changed to The Stick of Truth, and gameplay was described as a sprawling, turn-based role-playing game, most preconceived notions went out the door.
The decision to use the South Park fiction as the backdrop for a classic RPG wasn’t made purely to distinguish this title from previous ones, but according to Parker and Stone, because those are the kinds of games they’ve always respected. Speaking with Game Informer, the creators admit that the series’ forays into gaming haven’t been successful, but by keeping true to the RPG values, they’re intent to “keep it in the awesome category”:
Trey: I really loved RPGs growing up, and even now I really love them. We started kicking around the idea of a South Park RPG even a long time ago when we did an episode about Lord of the Rings. I think since then we’ve talked about how cool a big, real RPG with the kids playing a game within the game could be. We had been kicking around the idea since then.
Matt: We’ve been thinking about this RPG the whole time we’ve seriously thought about a game. I don’t think we’ve ever really considered anything else. It’s the best way to tell the story, we can get some real writing in there.
Trey: The other games, we just kind of found a company and were like, “Go ahead and make a game.” Whatever it was, we just weren’t super involved. The best way for us to be involved and have actual writing in it is to do an RPG.
South Park fans with a taste for gaming don’t need a refresher course in just how many truly terrible games have sullied the series’ name. Despite that, Parker and Stone won over plenty of fans when they announced that The Stick of Truth would be entrusted to the veteran team at Obsidian Entertainment – the studio responsible for the likes of Fallout: New Vegas and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.
It’s hard to say if the children of South Park, Colorado are bound for the same accolades, but it proved the show’s creators were done slumming it when it came to games.
While the series may have first been viewed as crass and juvenile, years of biting commentary and topical plots – Parker and Stone write each episode a week before it airs – the pair’s writing skills have been more than proven. It’s no surprise then that one of the most pleasant surprises with The Stick of Truth is the story being used to shape the experience.
With the player set as the ‘new kid’ in town, they’re immediately thrown into a massive live-action role-playing game spread out across some of the show’s most well-known locations, with kids imagining themselves as wizards, elves, or warriors. It’s as logical a premise for an RPG as any, but writing a three-act structure for every episode isn’t the same as writing an extensive role-playing experience. But being serious gamers themselves, that’s a challenge Parker and Stone are willing to tackle:
Matt: We’re used to telling stories like, “this happens, and then this happens.” Not, “this happens, and then a person can go do this or this.” That’s a whole different thing, you know. So far, it’s pretty cool.
Trey: It has that same thing, just like with the musical where you can say, “Okay, we’re gonna do a Broadway show for the first time!” You can go, “Okay, here’s what I love about Broadway shows.” And when we make a movie, it’s like “Okay, here’s what we know we love about movies.” That’s always what we try to stick to. With this game, we’re really trying to stick to that and go, “Okay, here’s what we really love about games, and here’s what really drives us nuts about games. Let’s really try to focus on one and not the other.”
With a lifetime of gaming experience, fans have always hoped that when it came to a South Park video game, Parker and Stone would be allowed to make the exact experience they wished to. Some feared that might not be the case when THQ went bankrupt and publishing rights went to Ubisoft. However, having seen the game ourselves at E3 2013, it still seems to be as crude and clever as the source material (if they’re being reined in, it doesn’t show).
The most surprising part of the demo we saw was the surprising-yet-obvious decision by Obsidian to shape their RPG not around a 3D open world (morphing the environments and characters of the show into a third dimension), but move players through the show’s environments, screen by screen. The overall effect is that players are watching a normal episode of the show, with the ability to move and interact with it as they please. That choice results in what Parker and Stone feel the fans are most hungry for: letting players step into the same South Park world they already know and love.
Still, the creators’ foray into actual game design can’t help but be influenced by the video games and RPGs that they’ve most admired. So what games most stand out to Parker and Stone as their personal favorites?
Trey: I just remember playing Oblivion and being like, “This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for my entire life.” There was no online thing, it was just the greatest RPG ever. That’s probably the best time I’ve ever had playing a game.
Matt: …I sound like a broken record, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say FIFA. Since FIFA 06 maybe, every time it comes out in October, I get it. I get the off-year World Cup versions and all that.
Trey: Rest assured, the South Park game will be a brilliant cross between Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and FIFA.
Trey: You gotta go kill a bunch of monsters and **** but you can only use your feet.
We’re confident that if anyone could make it work, it’s them. What are your hopes or concerns for South Park: The Stick of Truth? Does this really seem like the South Park game you’ve always dreamed might one day be made? Sound off in the comments.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is still scheduled for a 2013 release on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: Game Informer