Dev Day – Interview with DannySeven

We’re starting up a new feature here, that of interviews with game developers. Our first one is with DannySeven, creator of “We Are Legend: Arockalypse” and the more recent “Drunken Masters”. These won’t be replacing the game reviews but we’ll post these as we get them so you’ll be getting more material per week 🙂

I’m thinking the question on everyone’s mind is have you ever worked at a bar before?
As soon as I turned 21, I really had my heart set on being a bartender. I live in a small college town, so that’s a pretty tough job to land. I went back down to San Diego, my hometown, for the summer, and my dad’s got a lot of restaurant contacts down there. He got me an “internship” type spot at a busy country-club style bar down there- it was like three days of work for no pay, and in return, the bartender there would teach me everything I needed to know and write me a letter of recommendation. That was about the extent of my bartending experience, but I’ll never forget just how insanely fast I had to move to just keep up with everything. It’s kind of a glory job, but it’s a lot of work, too.

Ah yes, the internship. Truth be told I worked at my father’s liquor store during the summers so I immediately recognized a majority of the bottles on the counter. I figured you had to have some sort of background in the business. Now what was the inspiration for Drunken Masters? The characters?

Around the beginning of last year, I dug up this old bargain bin PC game called /Last Call/. It was a bartending game, but it was really slow-paced- you’d click on a glass, click on a bottle, click on the glass to start pouring, click on another bottle, that kind of thing. It was pretty neat, and originally I wanted to make something really similar, but have satirical versions of video game characters as the customers- a washed up, overweight Mario, or an sexually confused Sonic the Hedgehog, etc. I started programming the actual bar stuff first, and I just kept making the bottle physics more and more interactive. After about a week, I realized that I was having more fun throwing the bottles around than I was making the actual drinks. At that point, I decided to stop focusing so much on the customers’ stories and the bartending simulation, and started to focus more on making it an action-heavy game. That really opened up a lot of fun possibilities with the game, and from there I took a lot of inspiration from games like the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series and the Capcom fighting games.
With the fighting game style in mind, I had to have several characters to choose from. I had roughly sketched out the four main attributes: Dexterity, Charisma, Strength and Special, so from there it was really just a matter of finding a character to fit every possible combination of starting stats (Strength + Charisma, Dexterity + Special, etc). Some characters, like April Showers, I made up specifically to fill those stat combinations. Johnny Valentine was the sidekick character in my last game, We Are Legend, so he got a spot in there. Rey Conquista is the lead character in a game that I never got around to developing. Judge made it in there because I wanted to see how easy it would be to do a shooting game, and I kind of built him around his special move.

The announcer voice reminded me of the announcer from World Heroes for the NeoGeo. So was it just my imagination or does Frank look an awful lot like Bush Jr?

You know, I never even saw the resemblance until after the game was released and someone mentioned it in a review. They’ve both got beady eyes and the same ridiculous ears, but I like to think that Frank could drink George under the table.

I have no doubt about it, man 🙂 How many other people did you end up working with for DM?
The voice actors were really great. I think there were seven different VA’s, and their voice work really added a lot of character to the game. There were four musicians that were nice enough to let me use their tracks in the game. My girlfriend and a couple of my fraternity brothers did some late-stage play testing. As for the art, programming, and all that good stuff, I handled all of that.

Yeah, the voice acting definitely added a lot of character to the game. About how long did DM take to make?

I started in late July 2007, and worked 4-12 hours a day until January. Around the beginning of January, things started to get really tight for me financially, so I stepped it up to about 12-14 hours a day for the month, and finished it the first week of February.

And how long have you been developing flash for?
I’ve been working with Flash since 2003, but I didn’t start using it really heavily until March of last year.

What do you do for a living?
I’ve been doing freelance flash ads and websites for the last year, and at the beginning of this month I was fortunate enough to get a job as creative director for an online advertising agency, so now I’m making a lot of flash banner ads.

Ah, those are so much fun. Okay, what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I’ve got so many different games I want to do, it’s hard to say which idea I’ll run with. No matter what it is, I’m really interested in bringing something different to the table. Whenever I get downtime, like if I’m having trouble sleeping or I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, I entertain myself by thinking about new game ideas- that’s how Drunken Masters ended up with so many different play elements and characters in there. So whatever’s next, I can guarantee that I’ll get carried away with it. I really had fun working with the voice actors, too, so you can count on a lot of great voice work in my future games.

What advice would you have to offer aspiring game developers?
If you’re really passionate about it and you love designing games, the sky’s the limit in Flash game design, but I think you have to really enjoy designing games to make it happen. Personally, when I’m not working on games, I’m reading articles about game design, reading through game design forums, dicking around with Flash, that sort of stuff is just fun for me. Most importantly, you’ve got to play other games- and I’m not talking about spending 20 hours a week on Halo 3. The mainstream console games are great, but mastering those games as a player isn’t important at all. You’ve got to expose yourself to as many different games as possible, and really see how the designer is communicating with the player through the game. If you’ve never played /Cave Story/, that’s a good place to start- there are so many amazing game design concepts out there, and if you’re just sticking to the multi-million dollar, cookie-cutter console hits, you’re missing a lot of them.

Yeah, I played Cave Story a few years back. That game rocked my socks off. All right, what’s your favorite drink?
I’m a big fan of Newcastle, and I was really stoked that I could put that beer in the game. Sadly, my favorite mixed drink is the Irish Car Bomb, and I couldn’t figure out a way to work that into Drunken Masters. Maybe in the sequel…

Now that brings up an interesting question; did you run into any kind of copyright or licensing issues when making this game? How much research did you have to do?
Actually, the reasons I couldn’t get Irish Car Bombs in there didn’t have anything to do with trademark infringements, it’s just that it would have required irish cream, Guinness, and irish whiskey, and there were already too many bottles behind the bar. It would have been kind of a shame to mix all three in one glass, too- to make a car bomb, you drop a shotglass full of irish cream and whiskey into a 3/4-full pint of Guinness and drink it all as fast as you can, and there was no easy way to make drinks that required two glasses in the game.
When it came to licensing and trademark issues, I was a little concerned, because I didn’t want to run into any legal problems after release, but I didn’t do too much real research- Wikipedia was pretty much my legal reference for this one, as bad as that sounds. Most of the liquor bottles were modeled on a real brand, both because I wanted the bottles to be recognizable to the player (to make things a little easier for them), and because it made my life a little easier, from a graphic design standpoint. In some cases, like the licorice liqueur bottle (Jagermeister), the resemblance is really obvious. As far as I could tell, all of that qualified as fair use or nominative use under US trademark law. At the same time, though, I made a point not to explicitly identify any of the brands- the Redstar brand, for example, was something I put together because I didn’t want to name-drop Red Bull or Rockstar, and just calling it “Energy Drink” seemed a little too generic.
That was pretty much my standard, as far as trademarks were concerned- if a drink’s name specifically included a trademark, I’d change it up, but if there was any ambiguity in the name, I’d leave it untouched. In the game, customers will order a “RedStar Blaster”, when in a real bar, you’d order a “Jager Blaster”. On the other hand, the “7 & 7” drink is named after the ingredients, Seagram’s Seven Crown and 7-up, but it just worked a lot better than calling the drink “Whiskey and Lemon-Lime Soda”, and it was vague enough that I wasn’t worried about stepping on anyone’s toes.
I still haven’t received any complaints- I’ve actually been contacted by a couple liquor brands about producing versions that do include their branding in the game. In the end, I think that game developers will be safe as long as they exercise a bit of common sense when it comes to using trademarks in their game.

Well that’s pretty cool. Glad to hear this game is panning out for you so well. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and I’m looking forward to more games from you.

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4 Comments on “Dev Day – Interview with DannySeven”

  1. doctormarmalade Says:

    Dev day? is that what were calling it now?

  2. thalarion Says:

    I’m fond of alliteration.

  3. Gus Hoo Says:

    You guys need to use the E-mail to communicate more between yourselves

  4. thalarion Says:

    I think doc just likes to comment, quite frankly 😛


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