Video Game Developers

Liam Raum

August 5, 2014

Released in 2008 by Tales of Game’s Studios, Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden was a freeware role-playing game that thrust the player into a post-apocalyptic world in which — thanks to former NBA superstar Charles Barkley and his deadly Chaos Dunk — the game of basketball is outlawed, and those who play are hunted down and killed by the B-Ball Removal Department, helmed by a ruthless Michael Jordan. When another devastating Chaos Dunk is unleashed on humanity, Barkley is immediately blamed and is forced to embark on an epic adventure with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Built initially in RPG Maker and later ported to Game Maker 6.1 due to its increased power and flexibility, Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden was developed by Brian Raum, Eric Shumaker and Jesse Ceranowicz, members of an amateur game development forum, with assistance provided by other various members of the forum. Liam Raum later joined the team as the head of Tales of Game’s.

In November of 2012, Tales of Game’s announced the game’s sequel, 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, with a Kickstarter campaign to help fund it. Having raised $120,335, the campaign ended in December of 2012 and, according to Liam Raum, the game is scheduled to be released, “When it is ready; dear God how much longer can those ToGboys take?!”

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What are your respective backgrounds, and how did you get involved with game development?

The one common thread to all members of Tales of Game’s is that we coincidentally, all grew up and fatefully met in the Sewers. We’re also about as amateur in backgrounds as they come. Pretty much all of Tales of Game’s came from the fortuitous meetings of early 2000s internet youths on a forum called Gaming World. All of us started as more games-talkers, games-respecters, and sometimes, games-nay-sayers. It was only much later that we realized that, through amateur projects like Barkley: Gaiden, that we actually got good enough to make them properly. Some of us were or still are students and some dabbled in other jobs and careers before being lured back by the siren song of Vidcons.

What made you decide to port the original Barkley game from RPG Maker to Game Maker? What did the latter offer that RPG Maker didn’t?

That was all Jesse’s idea. The game was indeed originally made in RPG Maker, but was pretty much just a fake demo for a game that was never really intended to be what it ended up being. Jesse approached us with, “Hey, I can make this not suck.” From there, he added the legendary B.A.B.B.Y. combat system, which we all know changed the landscape of independent gaming forever. In fact, a lot of areas, like Liberty Island and the mines, were really only fully-featured in the Game Maker version. RPG Maker, which in its own right is a fantastic little engine and one we are very fond of, served more as an unintentional prototyping tool for Jesse and Game Maker. Once again, anything that makes it easier for the amateurs we are.

What are your respective roles when it comes to the development of the Barkley games?

Everyone shares a bit of everything throughout ToG. Eric handles the majority of the music, Liam, the production aspects. Brian is the father of Barkley’s more in depth systems design. Other than that, the writing and design duties are mostly shared by everyone. That includes our two artists, four programmers, sound designer, and additional writer. (Artists Frankie Coulombe, David Nyari, coders Tobias Svensson, Taneli Virtanen, Kyle Riley, and Johnathan Dixon, sound by Eric Wycoff and additional quests and words by Justin Traub, in case you were wondering). It’s messy for sure, but keeps the direction fresh and varied.

How have you evolved creatively since you first started out in game development?

Well this is gonna push us will over that ten minute mark, Candace! In some ways, a great deal, and that goes with just getting better at the tools we are are using. In others, stubbornly, we haven’t evolved in the slightest. Barkley 2 is a direct sequel, so we are channeling the same theme and marrying it with the fact that the humor needs to shift to the realm of legal sensitivity or else we’ll get sued to oblivion.

What challenges have you faced in designing Barkley 2 as more of an action-RPG than it’s predecessor?

The decision to go Action-RPG to start was based on the fact that you are mainly just controlling one character. Turn-based RPGs with only one action to change each battle are… most often crappy. The challenges we’ve been facing have come from us attempting to keep some of the battle mechanics that are a lot more pervasive in turn-based games into our shooter. Things like resistances and statistics of enemies changing up and down, and then framing combat around the ability of a player to actually see those changes and then have enough time to exploit them (something that comes easily when you have a defined turn) is difficult to pull off in real time. We’ve been working on that a lot. The visual feedback to the player is really important to the design of the game. Now that actual usefulness of the information is something we can’t promise. We have too many good ideas to be bothered with them actually making sense.

What does your work environment look like?

First of all, like anyone out there, if you want an invite into ToGcentral, aka Terminal Dogma, you merely need to ask. The invitation is open. What you’ll see once the blindfold is removed is, however, is more to chance. Maybe you’ll see the drum set, or the various guitars and amps first. Or maybe the high-end Casio keyboard or the three high-powered ToGcorp. workstations. Per chance, the gong suspended from the ceiling above a room fan shaped like a robot will catch your eye immediately. You may think you are in the Ultimate High School Boy’s Dream Room, but then once you ascertain that you are indeed in the ToG offices in our Dad’s Basement, you would then know you are at the beginning and end of the known Universe.

What’s the best or most memorable RPG you’ve ever played?

In unison we all agreed that Metal Dungeon is the answer. (Placed firmly in the memorable side of that spectrum.)

In your opinion, who is the most underrated NBA player of your lifetime?

Dan Majerle.

Rank the following pizza toppings in order of best to worst: Pepperoni, Sausage, Mushrooms, Black Olives, Onions, Pineapple, Bacon, Green Peppers.

Pepperoni, Sausage, Mushrooms, Black Olives, Onions, Pineapple, Bacon, Green Peppers.

If offered the opportunity to live forever — never aging another day in your life, but being forced to watch everyone you know and love gradually grow old and die — would you take it?

Yes, fortune favors the bold.

Once Barkley 2 is in the books, what’s next for you guys?

Televised, communal Seppuku within Stonehenge.


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