You were able to enlist the great Peter Chan to conceptualize Cap’n Aquabear’s Funtime Park, where Sam and Max train the player in the ways of self-appointed law enforcement. How did he come aboard?
Great is the proper word for Peter. Peter and I have always been friends since we first met. He is an incredible person and has always been inspiring to me as an artist, but as a person also. Back in the Lucas days, we were the two who got in very early to the art department, and as a result we always were hanging out and talking. As it turned out, we both moved out to the middle of nowhere to rural settings, on different sides of the country, but have always stayed in touch. We have a lot in common loving nature, gardening, etc - but again, we have always been friends. He had helped us with Insecticide and some other projects. And like Mike Stemmle, the timing worked out. I am speaking for him but I think he was pretty excited to work on Sam & Max again after such a long time. When we did that first call with Steve, him, Mike and myself ... honestly I could literally "feel" the old LucasArts magic happening. Like an old engine spinning up (and puttering a lot of toxic clouds, sure). And honestly, that my hope and dream with this game ... to get as many of those guys involved ... as that is where a lot of the magic came from. And oh, Peter did a lot more than just the park! Most of the ending of the game he also did, and it's amazing ... again we have been keeping that all close to the vest.
You’ve done a good job of keeping a lid on the game’s broader storyline, with it being said that the media released so far has been from early sections of the game. Since the only speaking characters we’ve seen so far have been the titular heroes, can you tease any ancillary characters that turn up in the plot of the game? Any voice actors we might recognize?
I will just say there are several other speaking characters in the game and leave it at that. There is one surprise actor we will be revealing closer to launch we think fans will be very excited about.
You’ve released some footage revealing that we will at last get to participate in a game of Fizzball. Are there any other elements from the comics that might appear in this game for the first time? We never have seen the Rubber Pants Commandos in a [published] game, for example.
Well I have kind of answered this above. So yes, the comics and past games definitely influenced us. I wanted to also get back to them being a tad raunchier like the comics. The RPC's show up in this game, but only as a 2D drawing. Again, something we definitely contemplated and would do in the future.
Can we expect any driving sequences?
Yes and no. We were very cautious about not wanting to make people sick in VR, and driving is really tricky in VR. If you are doing driving in VR, it really needs to be the entire games’ focus so you can make it awesome. If we couldn't make it fully awesome, we didn't want to do it. But again ... there are some driving sequences and the Desoto is often present in the game.
Sam’s trademark weapon is an enormous revolver, but his banjo playing is arguably more feared. Will he be inflicting it upon anyone in this game?
Both make appearances and the player gets to use Sam's gun, as well as Max’s luger and laser pistol. We had to make some compromises on the size of Sam’s to let a player pick it up and be able to fire it. But it's still pretty fricking huge!
I was excited to hear that Bay Area Sound is participating, as they’re always a huge credit to the production values of any game they’ve involved with. Is Jared Emerson-Johnson handling the soundtrack?
Yes - both Julian and Jared have been very involved! Jared has done a bunch of new music for this which people are gonna love. They have added a ton to this game both from the music, and Julian running the whole VO sessions. I just teased a track on Twitter recently.
How long has Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual been in development? How large of a team does it have?
This is a big game, especially for VR. This has taken us about a year. The total team size hovers around 20, but that includes everyone, even if only on for a short period. The "core" team was closer to about 10.
You’ve recently indicated on Twitter that the game is nearing completion, though as far as I know the release platforms have not been announced yet. Can we expect those details soon?
What has surprised you the most about Sam and Max after sharing a reality with them?
I had to think about this question. Because now, all I do is see them in VR every day! But if I think back to the beginning of this, and really even now, there is just this sort of wow magic to it. It's like some weird evolution to have seen them go from still comics, to 8bit, to a cartoon show, to 3D, and now into VR ... it's kind of like "the cycle is complete"! The completion of a fantasy in a way. (sidenote I mentioned this to Stemmle and he said “their next form will come in a pill”). Before we were watching, and albeit playing, as them. But this was always from afar if you know what I mean. In VR, you are RIGHT THERE WITH THEM. It's hard to really put into words tbh. This is one of the struggles with VR in general for those who have not tried it, or recently. No flat screen video can really show off how cool a full 360 immersive VR experience is. But any fan who has tried it, has some back saying “wow”. And I will just throw this out there too .... sometimes we talk about bringing other Lucas IP into VR. If Sam & Max is successful, this is something we are really interested in. We have a list.
Has anything especially amusing been discovered in the playtesting? I’m particularly curious to know how people who perhaps have more background with VR than Sam & Max have been observed to react to the characters.
"They sure talk a lot" was heard a few times (: Everyone liked them. I think with so much going on, it takes time to get into their “vibe”.
What’s developing a game during a pandemic like at HappyGiant?
HappyGiant has been working remotely for over 15 years. So more than most, we were ready for this. We did not skip a beat really. I will say it was an incredible escape during the last year to be able to put on the headset, and “leave” this reality to enter Sam & Max’s. And we hope when the game comes out, others will have the same reaction. For a fan especially, to actually be in their world, with them, is hard to describe. If you are a Sam & Max fan, you really really need to try this in VR and not just watch videos of it.
I know this game is being built from the ground-up as a VR experience, but I’m obligated to ask on behalf of a certain percentage of the readership: is there going to be a way for those without a headset to support you guys?
In terms of us making a "flat" version of this game, that is very much up in the air. It was designed as a VR-first experience and we wanted to first make sure that is awesome. We've seen others compromising their VR experiences to take their games to flat, non-VR platforms, and we just did not want to hold back on what this game could be, and what VR can be. We are toying with other ideas of way people can support this game as well.
Limited Run Games is putting out a big anthology box set of all five Monkey Island games this year, complete with a number of preposterous knickknacks, such as a Murray the Skull candleholder. Should the Sam & Max franchise get such a package some day, what trinket would you pitch to represent This Time It’s Virtual?
Well ... we have a few things we are contemplating.
In terms of what it might be from this game, there are a few fun possibilities. Hint - it's something in their office.
Do you think this Sam & Max renaissance has legs? Would you care to guess what the future holds for the characters after they’ve made their indelible stamp on virtual reality? It’s great that Sam & Max has never been run into the ground, but a decade between outings is rough!
Well if we have anything to say about it, this ain't the end! And this is why we hope the longtime fans will support this game, even if they do not own a VR headset (though the #1 online comment we have seen is "I am buying a VR headset just for this game!"). If you don’t have access to one, we understand that, but we still think it’s important to support this game, as it being successful is one of the keys keeping this Sam & Max resurgence alive. We easily left enough ideas on the cutting room floor for DLC and another game. So … let’s see what happens!
We are extremely grateful and acutely aware of how big an opportunity this game is for HappyGiant, and for Sam & Max. We do not take this lightly. For ourselves, or for the fans. While VR is a new platform, we feel we have captured their essence, and that Sam & Max fans will love it, and we hope they support it. If this game is a success, it will open up many new possibilities for them. Thanks for taking the time to read this and for all the great questions!
Thank you, Mike, for coming back with such in-depth answers to a frankly hostile volume of questions. Fans can look forward to playing Sam & Max: This Time It's Virtual for Oculus Quest this June, and for additional platforms in the following months.