Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard Interview (Xbox360)
Strategy Informer: How did the idea come about to create this character within a videogame who has this fictional back catalogue? Where did that idea originate?
Brian Etheridge: It’s pretty convoluted. I think what we did at first, was – we were kind of tinkering around with an idea of the kind of story we wanted to tell. And one of the things we looked at a lot were old action games, 80’s action games, but also a lot of 80’s action movies too. Anything with Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren. And those kinds of things served as inspiration for what kind of character we wanted Matt to be and then of course we looked at some of the more popular games and some of the things we wanted to parody, in a sense. We then decided what elements we wanted to take from these popular games, and what characters too.
Strategy Informer: So which would you label as the main offenders? Which games are guilty of perpetuating these stereotypes that you’re parodying?
Brian Etheridge: Not offenders. I mean one thing that we’re trying to be clear about is that even though we’re poking fun and doing a parody of these games, we’re homaging them. We love these games, you know? So, if you say that Captain Carpenter looks like a certain mushroom-eating character from the 80’s, that’s fine. It’s not to say that we don’t love that character, we do love him, we’ve played all his games. And if the cover system is similar to some other third person action games out there, it’s because we love those games. It’s not like us trying to take a shot at anyone, we’re really just saying - hey man, this is what videogames are and we’re going to have a little fun with it. And there are nods to some Japanese RPG games and other things along those lines.
Strategy Informer: As a fan of Arrested Development, I have to say that I did immediately recognise the voice of Matt Hazard and I thought he’s the perfect choice. With the gravel voice and comedy background, was Will Arnett your first choice to voice Matt? Did you know exactly who you wanted from the beginning?
Brian Etheridge: We had a list that was huge, and we started out and got it down to a very short list. I kept on running .txt files of everyone who we wanted for Matt and for some of the main characters. And I think I thought of Will and put him in (the list) because of his voice. I was just going through IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and I said he would be great because of that voice of his. One of the things we wanted was someone with the tough voice and we all said we wanted someone like Chuck Norris. But we’ve got to get someone who can deliver one of these funny lines with complete seriousness and he was a good choice because of - like you said – Arrested Development, some of the stuff he had done on that. He said some of the most ridiculous stuff with a completely serious face and he takes himself seriously – or at least Gob (Arnett’s character on the show) does - and so he really was at the top of our list and we eventually decided that he really is the best for us. And he’s got some cred amongst gamers I think. Gamers like Arrested Development, they like films like Blades Of Glory...
Strategy Informer: Was he enthusiastic to come onboard? Did he understand and fully invest in the idea behind Matt Hazard?
Brian Etheridge: Oh yeah, I think he really got it and I should mention, one of the other people that we don’t have in this demo is Neil Patrick Harris who’s our other star.
Strategy Informer: Doogie Howser?
Brian Etheridge: (Laughs) Yeah! He plays Wally, the bad guy. Both of them were great to work with, a lot of fun, both very funny guys, but what we found was they either got the humour or they got the videogame references. I think Will was telling stories about how he loves to play Call Of Duty 4, so he was like, “Yeah! Oh man! I’m totally into this. I totally get it!” And Neil Patrick Harris, I think is less of a gamer but had this history, so he’d sometimes ask, “ What’s this one game, I used to play, where you were inside a book and you would solve all of these puzzles?” and we’d all be like, “Myst?” and he’d say, “ Yeah! That’s awesome!” So they both get it, they both get the sense of humour and they were both able to deliver the lines.
Strategy Informer: What do you think of the response you’ve had towards the game so far? Has it been mostly positive?
Brian Etheridge: I’m very happy with the response we’ve had. I think a lot of people have really latched on to our marketing, which revolves around bringing Matt’s old videogames back to the forefront (laughs) – or fictitiously doing that – that’s been great. A lot of people have been asking if you’ll be able to play Matt’s old games within the game, and we’re talking about things like that, but there’s nothing official yet. Another question we seem to have a lot is whether people are going to get the humour and is it going to be too deep for some people? I don’t think it is, and even if some people don’t get the jokes, you still have this great videogame. It’s still a great third person action shooter with very solid gameplay and a really robust cover system. Personally, I think that kids are a lot smarter than we think they are and they’re going to get almost all of the stuff. They’re going to understand the references, they’re going to get the jargon and the humour and even if they don’t, there’s still solid gameplay right there.
Strategy Informer: What are your future plans for Matt Hazard? Do you have any ideas for downloadable content? It’s a bit early, but do you foresee sequels?
Brian Etheridge: One of the questions we’ve been asked a lot is about the possibility of a franchise. I think all those things are things we can do. We’re not necessarily talking about anything yet, but I definitely think that in terms of franchising and extending the game that we come out with are all viable options and all things that we want to do to bring Matt into other games. If the game latches on and people take to it, then I don’t see any reason why it can’t go further.
Strategy Informer: There’s obviously massive potential. You must have known the idea had legs from the beginning?
Brian Etheridge: (Laughs) Yeah. I mean the idea was we needed something to draw from and we just picked the best well possible.
Strategy Informer: (Time’s up, and we have to leave). Thank-you for your time.
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