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Offline Gui

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1up interviews bully's producer
« on: October 16, 2006, 10:16:11 AM »
1up recently interviewed bully's producer Jeronimo Barrera:

Bully has been in the works for quite some time -- four years, from what we understand -- but we've only just recently begun to really see and understand it. Now, right before its release, we got a chance to sit down with producer Jeronimo Barrera to really talk about the game -- where it started, how it's come along, and how the team has dealt with the controversy surrounding it.

1UP: Where did the Bully game concept originally come from? What were your inspirations?

JB: From talking about games and the kind of things that hadn't been effectively made into games, then trying to figure out how to make it into a game we would enjoy playing. It took a while to develop because there were so many aspects to the game we had not considered before. Nobody had ever played an action game in a school world.

Our inspirations were every piece of entertainment we'd ever consumed that was set in schools, or those that highlighted the more realistic emotional aspects of being a teenager irrelevant of the medium. But more importantly our own childhoods and anything that captured that part of our lives was inspiration for us.

We remembered the ridiculous characters from our schools and our childhoods -- nasty pupils, bizarre teachers and the overall assortment of creepy adults -- and because we felt that too many people try to turn childhood and being a teenager into some kind of golden age, when the reality, at least for most of us, was that it was frightening, scary and funny, but never simple or easy and tried to put this into the game.

It's only by trying to do things that seem very difficult that you make new genres and new kinds of game experiences, and I think Bully is definitely something new.

1UP: How did you decide on the main character of Jimmy? Where did he come from?

JB: We didn't really "decide" on the character of Jimmy -- he evolved out from talking about the game, and thinking about the game world and trying to write missions and dialogue from the perspective of a 15 year old boy -- we wanted someone who was a bit of a hot head and a bit of a wise cracking smart ass, because these were the dominant emotions we remembered from being teenage boys -- and we wanted a character who knew that the world of high school with all of its annoying rules and officious and power crazed pupils was inherently stupid, but who still had a sense of what was right and wrong. Then we tried to make him pretty realistic and not too much like a hero, and more like an ordinary kid, prone to making mistakes and errors of judgment. And the sum of these goals was Jimmy. He fits the game world, but stands slightly apart from it. And while he was evolving a character and a way of speaking the artists kept drawing new versions of him, and none was quite right, until one day, one of them drew Jimmy and we all knew he was our man, or boy, as he physically embodied the spirit of the game so well. Above all, we tried to make him a character we could relate to.

1UP: Bully is the first game from Rockstar Vancouver. Can you give us some background on the studio? How was it decided that Rockstar Vancouver would work on this game?

JB: Yes, this is Rockstar Vancouver's first title. We hooked up with these guys about four years ago. Rockstar Vancouver was actually a PC developer [Barking Dog] before we signed them on. The team showed lots of interest and passion towards Bully so it was only natural that they would develop it.

1UP: You first talked about Bully at E3 2005, and it got a lot of negative feedback from watchdog groups based on misinformation and speculation on their part. After that, you didn't show the game again until just a few months ago. Do you feel like you might have initially jumped the gun?

JB: No, not at all. The game was shown as a taster of what we had coming up though was nowhere near completion. The depth of the game in terms of the gameplay, interactivity, audio, and sheer beauty of the environments has taken a vast amount of work, which has only just been completed! We do not tend to show games throughout their development, but with brand new franchises, you want to raise some early awareness, so we had to show something then -- we then kept it under wraps until we were ready to show the final masterpiece! Obviously some people got the wrong idea about Bully, but that is their business, not ours.

1UP: Was it tough to just sit back while all these groups were attacking you for reasons that didn't even exist?

JB: A problem you see with detractors of anything is that they shout rather loudly. Thus it doesn't take many people to cause a large amount of noise, especially with the internet. We were confident that once we started to show the game to people the negativity would be flattened by the much wider positive response and we were proved correct.

1UP: Even though the game makes use of the Grand Theft Auto engine, things look far more detailed here. Can you explain how you're using it differently or what else you're doing visually for Bully?

JB: We never re-hash technology! Even though it's built on the GTA engine foundation, we had to modify it in order for us to get our vision of the game design across to the players. We never sat around and said "it's Grand Theft Auto in a school." We approached it as the unique piece of software. Essentially, it was how we handled memory and streaming in the assets. It's always a balance and we had very smart people always pushing and pushing the tech to get the incredible results we attained. Lots of hard work and it shows. We wanted it to have a closer and more intimate feel than GTA, to capture the intimacy of life in school, and because of all the work we wanted to do with social systems and dialogue.

1UP: Unlike a lot of other Rockstar games, Bully doesn't make use of licensed music. Can you explain the artistic motivation for this?

JB: This direction was decided upon very early in the development of Bully. Music is one of the most important aspects of this game. Rather than simply setting a mood or a tone as most music in film/TV/games does, the music in Bully actually plays an (inter)active and informative role. It really creates a unique tone which completely reinforces the game play and captures the angst, humor, and experiences of youth, along with the creepy and unpleasant quality we wanted the school and the town to have, while still being a proper soundtrack -- we knew we could only get this if we worked with one composer, and somebody who was into games. We worked with a very talented musician called Shawn Lee, who wrote 74 original tracks specifically for Bully, which was, obviously, a mammoth task. He caught the atmosphere we were looking for extremely well.

1UP: Can you tell us about the voice acting in the game? Is this the most amount of voice you've ever done?

JB: We definitely pushed the boundaries with the amount of VO we have in Bully. Approximately 37,000 individual lines were recorded, for over 100 different characters. In order to create a realistic experience each character had to have its own voice, personality, and place in the world. The world of Bully is so heavily based on unique personalities and believable social interactions and in order to make it all believable this was a major focus from the beginning. The speech actually made developing Bully really enjoyable, since you encounter such a wide variety of humorous banter throughout the game.

1UP: The combat in the game shares some similarities with your previous game The Warriors. Were there elements from that game that you learned from that you applied to Bully?

JB: We have been extremely fortunate to have a team of people that have worked on so many other Rockstar titles, so naturally many of the best elements and learning's have come together for Bully. We are a passionate and close-knit family with expert leadership, and it's this passion and leadership that ensures that all the Rockstar titles are of the highest quality and that they all share the Rockstar vibe.

1UP: You've mentioned that in terms of character/world interaction, Bully is actually pulling off on the PS2 what you consider to be next-generation gaming. Can you elaborate on that a bit? What takes Bully to that next level that even titles like Grand Theft Auto haven't?

JB: The gaming experience in Bully is very different than the Grand Theft Auto experience. Bully is more focused on character interaction, while still having plenty of action elements. This means that we have a heavy emphasis on behavior and A.I.

As we move into developing for next-gen systems, more focus is going to have to be placed on making worlds not just look real but feel and act real. With Bully we're exploring new gameplay mechanics based entirely on character interaction on a social level, and combining that with an action game. It's very exciting and we feel that we have accomplished something so unique and special that you won't even find it on the current round of next-gen titles.

1UP: You've also mentioned that you think Bully is an important game for the industry -- that it's perhaps one of the most mainstream games yet. Can you explain this?

JB: Everyone over the age of 13 has been to school and the majority of those people have experienced the terrifying teenaged years! I am not sure there is another game out there that so many people can relate to in one way or another. It is not the fact that you play as Jimmy Hopkins, a 15 year old boy, but the setting, the interactions, the different groups of students, the humor and the music. All of these elements completely immerse you into the world and evoke emotion of your own experience. We feel this is an important game for the industry and a story that needs to be told. For the industry to keep evolving, we have to keep broadening the kind of things we tell stories about, and where we set narrative driven games, in particular, an a school is perhaps the most accessible setting of all. While the industry keeps sticking to existing formulas, it cannot evolve or grow.

1UP: Are you thinking of the world of Bully as something you might continue in the future (like Rockstar has done with many of its other games), or is this game a self-contained experience? Obviously, game sales and team availability dictate most of that, but from your vantage point right now, how do you look at Bully?

JB: All I can say is watch this space.

1UP: Finally, we did a feature listing some of our own personal favorite memories of getting into trouble back when we were in school so we'd like to hear one of yours.

JB: The memory that sticks out is actually not of me getting in trouble but standing up to a bully. My buddy Rob had his D&D books stolen by this big oaf of a kid. I remember weeks of plotting to get Rob's books back to him. Rob is in a wheelchair so he wasn't going to be much help. For the next couple of weeks I remember this drawn-out drama of near fist fights and crank calls. I'm not certain that we ever got the books back but it started a life long friendship with my pal Rob.

Offline redturtle18

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1up interviews bully's producer
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2006, 10:21:13 AM »
Jeronimo? odd name.


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1up interviews bully's producer
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2006, 11:46:12 AM »
He covered most of this stuff and more on the last 1UP Yours podcast which I just finished listening to. Theres about a 25 min segment talking to Jeronimo Barrera.