Taking on the challenge of creating a laugh out loud funny game was a serious business. What we produced hit the target with Mike Rose of games review site Gamezebo writing “Full English may be a simple point-and-clicker, but it’s good fun and the parodies are often delicious.“
We caught up with Senior Producer Rob Sloan and asked him to share the process and challenges of creating the game that was the TV property’s ‘episode zero’.
How did the Full English come about?
Channel 4 came to us with a brief for a game to introduce a new animated TV show. All we knew at the time that it was called Full English and that Alex Scarfe, son of the renowned political caricaturist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe, was involved. That piqued our interest straight away.
What was involved from there?
We had some provisional scripts from the TV show along with animatics (rough animations) which gave us a sense of the show. From there we took it through our creative process and over the course of several days we refined our ideas down to something we knew was strong. We wrote sample scripts and puzzles and our art team mocked up backgrounds and characters to bring our concept to life and show we could do a good job of the artwork.
Full English game script, signed off and ready for production.
But it was very much the case that the story came first. We knew we had a solid funny story, and we worked with the TV show writers to refine that.
So what was the idea?
The TV show is a parody of modern British culture, we wanted to align with that but make something that online audiences could relate to and feel was made especially for them.
Full English is littered with game and popular culture references
We processed a lot of ideas before settling on a parody of modern gaming culture. We were thinking about games like Farmville, Call of Duty and Mario and how we could send those up in a way that would sit nicely with the TV show, yet work as a game. It all had to fit together like a bit of a jigsaw.
What game format did you go for?
We went for a point and click adventure format because it’s maybe the best way to tell a comedic story through a game, and so many of us here are big fans of the old LucasArts games like Sam and Max and Monkey Island. Plus Tim Schafer at Double Fine had just brought the point and click genre back into the limelight through his Kickstarter campaign. So we knew we were suggesting a genre that would carry some favour.
Once the idea was commissioned what were the biggest challenges?
Initially it was getting into the mindset of the creators and the characters they had invented. We collaborated with Two Brothers (the TV show creators) on our game scripts and that was hugely rewarding.
How does scripting a game differ from TV?
Writing something that’s both entertaining as a story and works within a game structure is a really big challenge. For us, story elements were the same as puzzle elements, and that’s really different from writing for TV. Things have to happen for a reason. For example, if we lock a character in a room, why are they there? What’s stopping them leaving? How does the player solve that puzzle and evolve the story? Everything has to make sense from the player’s point of view and there’s a lot of depth to build into the story.
How did you make the game?
A lot of work went into getting the scripts, game design and concept art signed off. The TV show is contentious and much of what we had proposed for the game fed off of that. Channel4’s compliance lawyers were brilliant and helped us keep most of what we needed to make the game work and feel meaningful.
Dr Christian’s progression from sketch to inked character ready for animation.
We created a bespoke editor so that our developers and designers could drop assets into the game, structure the puzzles and test them pretty much in realtime. With point and click adventures the bulk of the development goes into the game’s engine, along with artwork and animation, of which there was loads.
Full English: The Game features a large cast of characters based on popular celebrities and British cultural references.
Audio is often overlooked with games, and we didn’t want to make that mistake with Full English. We were really lucky to have access to the TV show’s voice talent, that’s a rarity, and it was great to hear such class actors bring our scripts to life, they really got the humour.
We used music from the TV show as well as stock tracks and original songs written especially for our game.
The game got praised for being genuinely funny. How did you go about achieving that?
Games and funny don’t usually go hand in hand. Comedy is all about timing and that’s challenging to get right when much of the game’s pace is set by the player’s interaction. It was tempting to just treat this like any game comprised of a set of puzzles, but we knew characterisation was the key to making it funny. For example, everyone loves our potty-mouthed Scrumpy Jane character. She’s part of a Farmville parody that almost got cut because the puzzle’s really simple. We had to push hard for it to stay in because we had a game mechanic that was simply a vehicle for some genuinely laugh out loud moments.
It’s hard to sell that in without actually making it first. What we did was pretty unique and worth fighting for because we knew it would be funny. It’s great that Channel 4 trusted us and gave us creative freedom there. We worked really hard to build their trust and confidence in us.
How did the game act as an ‘episode zero’ and what benefits did this bring Channel 4?
Through our game we introduced the main characters and the actors voicing them (Richard Ayoade, Kayvan Novak, Daisy Haggard to name but a few). Although we created characters that are unique to the game, they bridged environments and characters that were in the TV show. For example the first episode of our game features Alan Sugar and he also features in the first episode of the TV show too, although the storylines are different. We generated a lot of interest in the TV show and that helped people migrate from being players to part of the TV audience.