Costume Quest

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Double Fine
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2010

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'Costume Quest' (ALL) Developer Interview with Tim Schafer and Tasha Harris

by Adam Pavlacka on Oct. 20, 2010 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Costume Quest is a rollicking Adventure/Role-Playing game that unfolds on Halloween night across seemingly peaceful suburban neighborhoods, a mysterious village carnival, and a monster-infested shopping mall.

WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!

I'm Tasha Harris, project lead.

I'm Tim Schafer, creative director.

WP: Why Halloween? Lots of RPGs are based on fantasy or sci-fi. What made you guys decide to go with Halloween as a focus for a role-playing game?

TH: As a kid, it was always my favorite holiday. My mom used to always make homemade costumes for me and my sister. It was always just really fun pretending to be somebody else for a day and just the imagination of the holiday. I also loved RPGs while growing up, so it was just kind of a natural fit for me.

TS: That really fits in with one of the core things about this company, doing fantasy worlds that people haven't done before. They seem natural and everyone's familiar with or knows something about, but it just hasn't been one of the settings that games are typically found in.

WP: What about the costumes? Obviously, you've got a number of costumes in the game that you can dress up in, but how did you whittle those down from the original ideas? The first costume that you can play as is the super-cool, Voltron- and Transformers-inspired robot, but I'm sure there were a lot of ideas that got nixed. What were some of your favorite ideas that didn't make it into the game?

TS: Well, I don't know if we want to say because we might still use them. I was kind of at a disadvantage when we were brainstorming about costumes because I was a ghost for so many years. My mom had a really fancy technique for eyes that made them really look good. They're not just run-of-the-mill ghost costumes, but that was just always my idea: ghost.

TH: One thing I really kept in mind was something that could be gender-neutral. It was something that a boy or a girl could dress up as — maybe not a princess. (laughs) A lot of them were just, "What would have a cool ability?" or "What would be an awesome thing to be in battle?

TS: Or just roaming around the neighborhood.

WP: Aside from the evil monsters that have stolen your sister, what are some of the other obstacles that you have to face in the world? In the demo, we saw a few boys and other kids, but without spoiling anything, can you give us a high-level overview of some of the different creatures that are going to pop up?

TH: I can't really describe them in too much detail, but the monsters are all from Repugia, which is kind of the monster world. There are several different types of monsters, and each level has a boss at the end. Each one requires a different strategy to defeat.

WP: What are some of the different quest types that we'll be facing? Will you be retrieving items for people? Is there puzzle-solving? What types of gameplay should players expect?

TS: There's a variety of quests, all of them themed around Halloween. Some might be a hunt for items. Others might be just helping someone who has a problem, fighting a particularly nasty enemy or gathering pieces for a special costume.

TH: Also using your costume abilities, we tried to work that into the quests.

WP: For example, the robot costume has roller skates. Can you expand a bit on how those abilities are used?

TH: There could be an area that you can't access unless you have the specific costume that has the ability.

TS: One of the things that you saw in the demo was the robot's ability to go up ramps, and get access to people's backyards — part of that theme of childhood and Halloween, sneaking through people's backyards looking for candy — and outrun bullies. There's a mission where you try to clean up Halloween of the little bully thugs who are stealing everyone's candy. You use your speed ability to get in a race with one of the town bullies and defeat him.

WP: Costume Quest uses a very stylized but simple look. How difficult is it to make something simple yet still look good in this day of high-def everything?

TS: I'm really interested in games that have a non-photorealistic look to them. As a studio, we've always done something with a specific style. It's not the same style — Psychonauts is very different than Brutal Legend, and this game is the first time we've ever done a cel-shader. We wanted to have a look that matched Tasha's art style and would be in some ways a tribute to the older games that inspired it, like EarthBound and some of the older RPGs. That's always a challenge to get the spirit of the older retro games but not look old-fashioned and still push the hardware. We have that engine that we made for Brutal, so putting that into doing something more stylistic helped us get it done in a year or so.

WP: You mentioned Brutal Legend. Is this using the same core engine as Brutal Legend?

TS: The same core tech, not every single piece of it, but we have the same core tech as Brutal Legend.

WP: This is a little off-topic, but we notice that you have a Wii here, and you had mentioned EarthBound earlier.  Is there any disappointment that Nintendo still has yet to release EarthBound on the Virtual Console?

TH: (laughs) Yes.

TS: In fact, we should start a petition!

TH: EarthBound is either my favorite or one of my favorite games of all time, so yeah.

TS: Maybe this game will bring it back.

WP: What other classic RPGs served as an inspiration for Costume Quest?

TH: They're not all RPGs. I really enjoyed the Zelda series, so the aspect of using your abilities to access new areas of the neighborhood is sort of what Zelda does in the overworld. The Mario RPGs, with the Quick Time Events in combat, really keep the player feeling involved in the combat and not just watching it. I'd say EarthBound or the Dragon Quest series and the old, cartoony Final Fantasies.

WP: Are we going to see any costumes and/or cameos from past Double Fine characters?

TS: That could happen, but I can't promise that at the current time.

WP: Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?

TS: Tasha likes candy.

TH: Yes, send me candy!

TS: I would say that my favorite candy at Halloween is the caramels. Kind of understated because they don't really have a big brand, but they've always been special ones to find. Everyone would always reach in and grab the candy bars, and when you thought Halloween was over, you could still find caramel in there mixed in with all the healthy snacks that the hippies gave. (laughs)

TH: I would like to give a shout-out to Skittles.

TH and TS: (laughs)


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