Interview: Hello Games’ Sean Murray

I’m a dickhead, a professional dickhead. That’s basically my job title.”

Officially Sean Murray’s job title is Managing Director of Hello Games but that’s far too corporate and dour a combination of words to do the man any justice, so maybe dickhead is fair.

On the other hand, probably not. Here at the Eurogamer Expo Mr. Managing Director is sporting a Joe Danger t-shirt and telling us the game he’s here to hawk isn’t good enough yet (despite the fact that everyone that plays it seems to wear a smile throughout the demo). He’s bracingly honest, equally witty and about as far removed from any preconception of managing director as is possible.

Here, belatedly, is what we spoke about.

 

Are there going to be monkeys in The Movie?

Yes. We genuinely have to do that, don’t we? That’s the lesson we’ve learned. Every game we do from now on has to have monkeys in it. People are right. I would like to make a game with monkeys, pirates, zombies, just get them all in and people can just get it out of their system once and for all. They can see what that’s like and see that it’s a terrible idea.

 

What’s new this time round?

There are so many things. When people are playing it I wish I could stand beside every single one and grab them and show them certain bits and tell them to stay away from other bits. I wish I could grab you as you’re playing and go “don’t look at that, pretend that didn’t happen, this level is awful!” you know, that kind of thing. You’ll see me doing that with as many people as I can. It’s because the game is really early in development and we want it to be a lot more different than what it is now but this is just a starter.

It’s kind of almost depressing because some people come round and they’re totally happy with it the way it is and I’m like, “No! We’ve got to work on it. We’re about halfway through, we’ve got so much work left to do!” And you’re basically saying it’s fine now, release it.

 

That’s got to be a compliment?

Yeah, I guess so. Or else we’re just wasting our time with the rest of it. We want every level to just feel different in some way. In the first one you had a bike and you were in a desert and that was it. And I don’t mean that to be dismissive of the game, we’re proud of it and all that but really we were just constrained with what we could do with such a small team. It was like, what will the next level be? It’ll be Joe on his bike in the desert. So the only thing we could do was just make it harder and harder and it was like, congratulations you’ve completed that hard level, you’ve unlocked a harder level. Obviously that is the way of games so we’ll still do that but we want to also entertain you a bit more as you go through and for it to feel fresh and we want the different vehicles to not just be some reskin of the bike or something like that. They will still have the same controls but we want them to handle really differently. We want them to be as different as a jetpack and a minecart are and we want game modes that make sense for those vehicles and that don’t have to be explained to you. So that’s kind of what the movie theme is about.

In the last game we would say collect the coins and that kind of thing, do things that didn’t necessarily make any sense. With this we wanted it to be more chase down those bad guys, escape from this boulder, this robot’s after you, for it to just feel like a more cohesive, interesting, entertaining experience. Selfishly we want to have fun making the game. So, we want to take what we had in the original and say that was a whole lot of work that we can just build on now while exploring some new ideas. A lot of sequels will add one new thing. We want to add lots of things and hopefully break a few of the things we had previously.

 

There seems to be more of a story bubbling away beneath The Movie, what’s happening there? 

Yeah, it’s weird, people ask about that. There is a story and I’ve been saying back at work the story is important and everybody else has been saying nobody cares about the story. I think we’re both right. People come along and it’s important that it starts to fit together and it does.

We have it all thought out. It’s a totally nonsensical story but it fits together. Every action film has a nonsensical story, so that’s fine. It’s that kind of action film silly story and you start to, as you play through the game, get a sense of it. It starts to make sense that there are different characters in this film you’re making and that they’re in a minecart one minute and on a jetpack the next. You know why and what the beginning of that film would have been and what the end would have been.

 

It’s running on 360s here so which platforms is The Movie headed for? 

We don’t know. Some of those are PCs, some of those are 360s. We’ve actually only got one PS3 dev kit which is crazy. The whole of Joe Danger was made on one PS3 shared between all of us. It’s the stupidest thing. We don’t have enough to show it on PS3 so we’ve got PCs and 360s, which is a bizarre situation that we’ve got more of those but it’s just all our stuff from the office basically.

 

Where did Joe Danger the character come from?

He came from a weird place actually. This is a slightly weird behind the scenes. When we first made him he looked similar but had certain differences and looked, as most people said, like a paedophile. He had a tache and his collar was open just a bit more and he had some hair underneath, so he had this hairy chest and he looked slightly sweaty. We didn’t realise and we thought it was this cute character and we were showing it to people and generally, unanimously, the feedback was he looked a bit like… Paedo Danger. We had to tone it back a little bit.

 

He looks more like a Dad now.

Yeah, he is a bit. The whole idea is that he’s a stuntman but he’s kind of a slightly hapless, rubbish stuntman. Because ultimately when you’re playing you are a rubbish stuntman, you’re crashing all the time but you just get straight back up and try it again. So that’s the idea. That’s what he looks like. But it’s good now, it’s good, it was bad there, it was treading a dangerous line. Especially in a game that a lot of kids play.

 

Thanks to Sean for talking to us and letting us write freely about Paedo Danger. You can follow the exploits of Hello Games here (and I suggest doing so, they’re funny guys) or stay up to date with them on Twitter here. Alternatively give them some money so they can buy another PS3 dev kit by buying Joe Danger on the Playstation Network. If you haven’t played it yet you are very silly.

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