We've known for a couple of weeks now that Barkley, Shut Up And Jam: Gaiden, one of my favourite role-playing games and one of the best indie RPGs out there, is getting a sequel. Today, the creators have launched a ridiculous Kickstarter for the upcoming RPG. They want $US35,000 to make it a reality.
(Some highlights of the Kickstarter: $US100 gets you a full-sized body pillow based on Cyberdwarf, one of the game's characters. $US10,000 gets you lunch with pictures of the developers.)
So what exactly is The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 - Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie - Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa? I hopped on the phone a few weeks ago with creator Eric Shumaker to talk about what he has planned for the sequel to his beloved role-playing game.
"I think we've probably made as good a basketball RPG as you can probably make," he said when I asked if Barkley 2 would feel like the first game. "We don't want to run that into the ground. There's definitely basketball in it... I think it's a lot funnier than the original Barkley. I think everything about it is better than the original: the humour, the gameplay, everything. It's still like really weird, and I dunno. If you're familiar with the stupid YouTube videos or any of the other stupid games I've made, I feel like it's consistent along those lines."
Just don't expect any random basketball players or pop culture references. The folks behind Barkley 2 are selling it this time — for $US10 or so at first, Shumaker says — and they don't want to get sued for mentioning the likes of Wilford Brimley or LeBron James.
"It's the same attitude as the original Barkley, but it's different structurally," Shumaker said. "I don't think you could call it a JRPG, but you also couldn't call it a Western RPG. It takes my favourite ideas from both genres and puts them together, so it's not knocking down one genre a few pegs. The original Barkley made fun of JRPGs but didn't offer any solutions. I think this one does, offers some solutions to problems in the genre."
Shumaker says he wants to blend the narrative strengths of a JRPG with the choices of a WRPG. Your main character, for example, an amnesiac (who may or may not be Hoopz Barkley, son of Charles, whose fate was left up in the air (or up in space) after the first game), can be customised in a number of ways: history, personality, class, gender. Then, when you get to a certain point in Barkley 2 where your main character's real identity is revealed, you can decide whether to accept that new personality or reject it, and keep the identity you created.
"It's really weird," Shumaker said. "It's a really weird game.
But he's proud of it. He's proud of the graphics — "I can't believe how good they are," Shumaker said — which he compares to Suikoden II. And he's particularly proud of the humour, even without all the random pop culture references.
"If you thought that Barkley 1 was funny because it included all these basketball players as opposed to the juxtaposition of how stupid it was with how serious we took it, then maybe you should re-evaluate that," he said. "I think what made it funny was just how ridiculous it was. And the story of Space Jam and everything, that's all there, that's not changing at all. That's all really important. It's just not like 'Here's Kevin Garnett, here's Shaquille O'Neal or whatever.'
"It's an extremely funny game because we're maintaining the same attitude, we're maintaining the same talent and consistency. We're not relying on those — I think in Barkley we sort of relied on those references to be funny. This time we're generally just a lot funnier, a lot smarter now. We just have a better perspective."
Unlike the first Barkley, which was at its core a turn-based JRPG, this will be a top-down, actionier experience. You'll use your mouse to steer the direction of your gun as you shoot down monsters and enemies in Necron 7 (a "mysterious dwarf space ziggurat" on which you're held captive).
They've got a gun generation system that Shumaker compares to Diablo or Borderlands, and a gun fusion system that he says is sort of like Persona. There are rocket launchers that shoot sludge. Machine guns that shoot gravity bombs. That sort of thing.
"We basically want to give the player as much control over abilities and tactical options as possible," Shumaker said.
There are six or seven members on the team behind Barkley 2, and they've been thinking about this game for quite some time now. Shumaker, 24, is studying computer science at Montgomery College. He took the year off from school just to make this game. If the Kickstarter doesn't get funded, they'll still make it, but they might scale back a little bit, Shumaker says.
You can see gameplay footage from Barkley 2 in the video above. And if you still haven't played Barkley, Shut Up And Jam: Gaiden — which now has a Mac port — well, seriously, what are you waiting for? It's totally free. [Kickstarter]