We take an early look at the Family Guy MMO and talk to the game’s creators about putting you inside the world of Quahog.
Family Guy might not be the first franchise you’d expect an MMO to spring from, but the creators of Family Guy Online — which launches its open beta on Tuesday, April 17th — said it actually came about pretty organically to them.
As Gary Rosenfeld (SVP of Interactive Games, Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Producers) explained, the aim with Family Guy Online was to make it, “Accessible for casual gamers but deep enough for core gamers.” He added, “The decision to make a browser-based game was influenced by that,” as they realized that something like a Facebook game wouldn’t be enough. “We wanted to create a richer environment.” He noted that they’ve described the game as mid-core.
Family Guy Online is not a licensed game. 20th developed it themselves, partnering with Roadhouse Interactive. Roadhouse’s CCO and Founder, Ian Verchere, noted the challenge of making an MMO out of Family Guy, and how they began to come up with correlations for the characters. “If you see Stewie as a ranged DPS, if you see Peter as a tank and Lois as a healer, you begin to see some of the beginning characters structures and some of those classes emerge.”
You don’t play as the Griffin family (or the other Family Guy regulars) in the game, but rather create your own character, using the Griffin clan as templates/types. As Verchere noted, “All the characters from the show are basically the quest givers. So you’re going to talk to Quagmire, you’re going to talk to these people and they’re all voiced by the [cast] from the show.” Notably, in the version of the game IGN demoed, we couldn’t create a Brian-style dog (or other animal) based character, though the creators were coy on if/when they would change.
There will be additional outfits and items available through the game’s store and Verchere said their plan was to eventually have things be very in sync with the TV series. The idea being that they’ll get to a place where, “If you see a Halloween episode and Stewie was wearing this duck costume, by the end of that episode, that costume is available in the store. So we’re working through that stuff now and looking through the show bibles and what’s coming up in the season.”
As we watched Verchere walk through the game inside the Griffin house, interacting with objects, we saw the Victorian Girl Ghost suddenly fly out, exclaiming, “My governess drowned me in a well!” Verchere explained that was “a non-sequitur or Interactive Set Dec (ISDs)” and was one way Family Guy Online is attempting to incorporate the show’s famous out of nowhere joke style. As Verchere explained, when it came to these moments, officially called “Quick Pops,” “Just click on them and weird stuff happens.”
Writers from the Family Guy TV series have been involved in the game, making sure it fits the tone and style fans are familiar with and creating what the team calls an “MMLOL.” As writer Andrew Goldberg noted, “We tried to create quests that are based on things that seem to be favorite bits of our fans.”
When I played a bit of the game, I was given a quest to destroy all copies of The Trashmen’s album, Surfin Bird – a song which Family Guy fans know well. This led to me actually fighting Peter inside the record store, as he tried to save his beloved “Surfin Bird.”
Said Goldberg, “I think the Trashmen bit [among fan favorite moments]… If it’s not number one, it’s very, very close. So it’s fun to be able to revisit that, because it’s something you can’t really do with the show. If you do it on the show, it feels kind of tired, like you’re going back to an old bit. But the game allows things like that to live on. It’s a lot of fun.”
Verchere recalled looking over episodes of the show with Goldberg and Family Guy writer Alex Carter for what would make a good quest scene, stopping whenever they decided, “This is a gamable moment from the show.” We also saw another quest where you attempted to catch Greased Up Deaf Guy – and while you never can quite grab the sucker, you do gain points the longer you keep up with him.
While you can purchase some heavy duty abilities in the store, Verchere noted that many of them are activated by your level, so that someone can’t just purchase items and abilities that would make them overly powerful right off the bat. He noted that Family Guy Online had some very unique skills as well, including “shoebox diarrhea,” “groin kick” and “lick toad.”
On the technical side of things, Murrary McCarron (Studio Art Director, A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games, Inc.) revealed, “One of the biggest challenges for us was to translate the show from 2D to 3D.” As McCarron explained, because all the animation models for the TV series were created in 2D, if you just try to put it into 3D, “It starts breaking the model of the show.”
The Family Guy Online team were given the show’s style guide and character sheets, in order to exactly replicate the look of the show, while recreating all the characters and environments for 3D. Said McCarron, “This is an extension of the show. We wanted it to look and feel like the show. It’s more than what it looks like, it’s how it feels. It’s the animation.” He pointed out that included making sure the characters walked in the distinct (and individual) manner they do on the show.
McCarron laughed about the fact that several of the Family Guy characters have no describable chins and how that added to the complexity of putting them into 3D. “Peter was quite difficult. Herbert, Quagmire, Peter, they were the most challenging. Quagmire is still challenging! Peter was one of the most difficult, because he’s so iconic and he has such volume and different shapes and forms throughout the space of this one character silhouette. He was a huge challenge.”
The writers noted the varying game knowledge of the Family Guy cast, and how that would affect how hard it was to explain to a cast member how the game would work when they came in to record their voice work. But everyone agreed the easiest person in this regard is Family Guy’s biggest gamer, Mila Kunis.
As Goldberg recalled, “She was throwing jargon at Alex… She clearly knew more about gaming than we did.” Carter agreed, adding, “She was great. She required no direction at all. She totally got it.” Kunis is a big World of Warcraft fan, and Goldberg remarked, “With everyone else, we kind of had to explain the set-up of the game and how the game functioned, but to her, she said, ‘Oh, it’s an MMO. Cool!’”
By Eric Goldman