September 1, 2009 - Veteran game designer Tim Schafer may currently be well-known for his work on The Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, and Psychonauts, but he's about to go down in the annals of history for giving the gaming industry a much-needed heavy metal kick to the junk with his most brutal endeavor yet. Cheat Code Central caught up with Schafer during a recent roundtable interview to chat about the awesomeness that is Brutal Legend.
Hell Bent For Leather
Bloody axe dismemberment, half-naked temptresses sporting skimpy fur bikinis, giant mechanical-demons, dudes in leather bondage gear, and rock stadium-size brawls are not the kinds of elements you'd find in a typical Tim Schafer game. But when seeking to craft an epic fantasy world that embodies the excessive, over-the-top spirit of heavy metal, you have to go big or go home. Brutal Legend's roadie protagonist Eddie Riggs finds himself thrust into a dark and twisted magical world where an epic war is brewing and the power of rock - nay, the power of metal - is alive and well. For anyone who grew up banging their heads along to the thunderously demonic sounds of Judas Priest, Slayer, and Iron Maiden, it's a dream world come true.
"I've always wanted to do a proper visualization of the fantasy described by heavy metal," says Schafer, who feels the low-budget metal videos of the '80s - featuring stuff like a single guy walking through an old church with a big sword - never fully captured the true energy and visual aesthetic of the genre's intense sound and edgy artwork. In making Brutal Legend, he wanted to create an elaborate and authentic fantasy world, as it's described in the music and album art, that players could roam around and adventure in.
Though heavy metal doesn't have many rules, it does have one aesthetic code: it must look awesome on the album cover. It's an unspoken rule Schafer followed religiously in designing the game. "Every time we did a piece of concept art or looked at screenshots of the game we thought 'could this be a cover of a heavy metal album?' and if it could, then it could be in the game," he says. "There's this crazy aesthetic that only makes sense in the world of heavy metal album covers. What I like about it is just that: it's really unrestrained creativity. It's not someone worrying about whether something is going too far, being too offensive, weird, or gross. It's about: 'It just looks f*cking awesome, let's do it.'"
Brutal Legend isn't just a game for head-bangers at heart, says Schafer, though it's undeniably a game metal fans will flock to and truly appreciate. Still, there's a lot in the game players who don't like metal will enjoy. He likens the game to a heavy metal Trojan horse; players may pick it up just for the gameplay and inadvertently find themselves turning into metal converts. Glancing at the blistering 107 song soundtrack, we heartily concur.
Feel the Noise
Schafer's personal tastes in metal lean more heavily towards the classic sound of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, but the ear-shredding sounds featured in the game (a mix of classic metal, thrash metal, new wave, British metal, black metal, power metal, doom metal, death metal, hair metal, goth metal, and industrial metal) even go far beyond his choice of extreme listening. The Brutal Legend team consulted individuals - among them, a wise metal-head named Al who owns their local independent record store - schooled in a broader array of metal subgenres to ensure the massive track list for the game touches on all the requisite bases.
"That really kind of helped make sure there was something representing almost every subgenre of metal, almost every country, and all these different areas to show the breadth of what metal has to offer," said Schafer. "I think it turned out really good." The final song list includes everything from Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and King Diamond, to Motorhead, Megadeath, and Lita Ford.