Interview / Sam Guilloud on Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard

A couple months ago we got word that Matt Hazard had returned to gaming. I will admit that even we here at TVGB, where every one of us knows everything ever about gaming, asked around to each other if they had ever heard of this supposedly legendary gaming character — it was only for a second, I swear. Of course after all confirmations were in we came to the conclusion that D3 had simply come up with a clever marketing scheme to get attention for their next game. Little did we know, though some of us guessed, that the game itself would also be a satirical send up of gaming featuring Matt Hazard returning to his fictional prime. Also God is in it.

The game takes on a bit of a metaphysical edge to it when Hazard, who thinks he’s starring in his comeback, finds out that the game is actually being controlled by someone else and he has to survive to find out who. Of course we’re controlling Matt so there’s that level to it also. Plus the game designers (the real ones) are controlling stuff. It might be a bit confusing as meta stuff often is, but luckily we got a chance to talk with Sam Guilloud of D3 and figure out the many layers of Matt Hazard. Not to mention how the game is going to play, making sure it’s funny and how much of a slut Lara Croft is.

Matthew Razak (TVGB): Despite having one of the funniest game trailers ever and the awesome marketing campaign leading up to the announcement of the game, we know very little about it. Tell us something we don’t know that you think is going to make this game stand out from the crowd.

Sam Guilloud (SG): The storyline and supporting characters hands down. It’s a fantastic concept that hasn’t really been treated properly inside or outside a video game before. We’ve created a fantastic cast of characters inspired by video game genres from across the board that everyone will get excited about seeing.

TVGB: How did the surprisingly original idea for Matt Hazard come about? Was it hard to get the ball rolling since it’s clearly not that common of an angle to take towards gaming and also a new IP?

SG: Movie parodies have been around forever, but it’s rarely ever explored in video games. Or at least not as overtly as we’re doing it. Gamers love the idea of new IPs but more of them tend to go the safer route and buy sequels to games and franchises they already know. As we sat down to think about what this new game would look like and how we could sell it to an audience that has a reputation for being loyal to brands that have been around forever, we thought why not create an original “sequel” to a franchise that never existed. That way you’re getting the best of both worlds – An original IP with the safety of a franchise.

TVGB: The last truly great satirical game we can think of was Conker’s Bad Fur Day (maybe Postal, but not really). Why do you think satire isn’t approached much in gaming and why did you decide to tackle it?

SG: I think the simple truth is that comedy is hard in any medium. When it’s done right, it’s done right. But when it’s done wrong it can be disastrous and bring everything around it down with it. We didn’t set out to make a funny game. We were thinking of different concepts and the more we fleshed this one out the funnier it got. Everyone started throwing out ideas of what Matt Hazard would have been like in the 80’s. How his games would have played. What types of enemies he would have fought and it all just snowballed from there.

TVGB: Were all those previous games just clever PR or are they going to be working into the concept of the game?

SG: Blowing it out the way we did was clever PR, but a big part of any character is his backstory and Matt’s is really connected to all the games he’s been in. They’ll be a key part of the storyline in the game as well as influence the enemies, the babes, and his allies that show up. And to top it off there’s even more clever marketing and PR to come. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

TVGB: Matt Hazard seems to be a parody of videogame characters who come back to claim their former glory. Is there any chance we’ll see some spoofs of popular game characters in the game and along with this will we be able to recognize other famous game characters in Matt’s personality or appearance? We can see a resemblance to Duke Nukem, but is there more than that to it?

SG: Absolutely. It wouldn’t be much of an official parody of the industry if we didn’t reference as many other game characters as possible. You might see some mustachioed craftsmen wearing overalls, some shiny green-suited space marines, some sneaky stealth operators in black bodysuits…. I’ve already said too much.

TVGB: Writing is clearly going to be hugely important in a game like this, what are you doing to make sure it’s up to snuff?

SG: Dave Ellis has written a fantastic script that really takes the whole concept to the next level. He won a Writer’s Guild Award last year for Dead Head Fred and comedy is one of his key fortes. Plus he’s also a lifelong gamer so he knows exactly where to hit the right punches.

TVGB: Will the game create an open world for exploring or will we be running around in more linear levels?

SG: I like to think of it more as a cinematic experience. Gamers tend to do their own things in open world environments rather than dive into the storyline and for us that’s where we think all the enjoyment for this game is.

TVGB: Are we going to be in a third person, 3D world the entire time or does the fact that Matt is battling many of his “older” opponents mean we might be getting a wide variety of game types?

SG: You will definitely be in a 3rd person 3D world, but you’ll see some very interesting ways in how we’ve incorporated some of Matt’s older enemies that we think are cool.

TVGB: “Hack effects” sound interesting, but we’d love more detail on them. Does this mean that the level can suddenly change at any moment or will they be more subtle changes?

SG: Yes, both. At first you’ll think you’re going through a run-of-the mill warehouse/box factory that you’ve seen a thousand times before in every other game, but our twist on it is that the level gets completely changed on the fly, and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of an entirely different game fighting enemies that don’t fit in the context at all. Other times more subtle things like weapons, characters, and enemies will be “hacked” in.

TVGB: Cover systems don’t always work perfectly and it can get a bit annoying. What are you doing to avoid some of the more common issues with a duck and cover system? In line with this, will the game play duck and cover or run and gun?

SG: A little bit of both. The developer has definitely pinpointed the frustrations of the duck-and-cover mechanics and has an ingenious fix that we think will become the norm in cover games going forward. We’ll have more details on it soon, but the basic gist of it is that the annoying part of moving between cover will be much simpler than it has been in other games.

TVGB: Clearly we’ll be getting a wide variety of enemies in this game. You guys have any favorites you’re looking forward to people checking out?

SG: I think when players first see the soldiers of the Wafferthin, they’ll pixilate their pants. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in a video game.

TVGB: The general humor and design behind the advertising for Matt Hazard are probably most appreciated by gamers who’ve been around for a while. Do you have any fear of not reaching a wide enough audience?

SG: There’s really enough humor in Eat Lead beyond gaming that reaches into pop culture to satisfy a really wide audience. The marketing targeted core experienced gamers at first since they’re the ones who will be the most excited by the concept. As we start to reveal more about the actual game, the audience will widen with interest in the VO talent, the graphics, the cover system, and just the general fact that this will look different than any other game out there.

TVGB: Eat Lead will be the first game to come out that uses Vicious Engine 2. What would you say is the most notable thing the game does with it?

SG: Dynamic lighting gives the entire game (characters and environments) a more realistic and accurate look and provides the player the ability to see dynamic shadows, etc. And by having our game engine be multi core we can increase the number of enemies, objects, textures and effects while also having fantastic lighting, physics and AI processes running well simultaneously.

TVGB: Now for the real serious questions. Matt Hazard claims he got to know a certain raider of tombs biblically. I think every gamer wants to know how that was. Maybe you could ask him?

SG: Please, that chick has been around the block and back more times than I can count. Who hasn’t had a piece of her? Matt just likes to claim that he was the first.

TVGB: Jumping off the subject of dating, Luke Walker, one of our writers would like to know if Matt is single. Not for himself of course, but just to get the information out there for all the ladies.

SG: He’s certainly had his share of damsels in distress in the past and quite a few resurface in the game. Whether or not any of them are long term is something Matt keeps to himself. But ladies, his number is 867-5309 but if for some reason that number becomes disconnected be sure to add Matt as a Facebook friend as he is starting to dabble in the internet dating world.