Whitney Houston once sang that children are our future. And that’s certainly true when it comes to making video games. Consider Fat Loot, a PC game made by a couple of kids from USC’s GamePipe Lab (a class held in conjunction with the university’s Viterbi School Of Engineering and their Interactive Media division), which you can now play free at fatlootgame.com. So what’s it all about? I spoke to Chen, the team leader on Fat Loot, and Pat, the game’s lead designer, about their interactive final exam.
So what is Fat Loot, how do you play it?
Chen: Fat Loot is a multiplayer competitive stealth game. Basically, you race with your friends to steal treasure from a palace guarded by non-player characters. You will need to sneak pass NPC guards while trying to ruin your competitors’ plans.
What other games do you think it’s similar to, and what do you think distinguishes Fat Loot from them?
Chen: The original concept came from D.O.T.A., Mario Kart, Team Fortress, and many games that I and my friends enjoyed playing together.
At the beginning, we looked into many stealth games, such as Mark Of Ninja, but figured out we couldn’t resemble any of them. Because stealth encourages waiting, and that inherently conflicts with the racing genre. Then we found a series of party games from Nintendo Land: Mario Chase and Luigi’s Mansion. They provided great examples of hiding in a ticking competitive game. Later, we found Monaco‘s PVP section a very inspiring reference. It focused on the escaping part — escaping from guards and other players — instead of the stealth part. They all have influence on Fat Loot, as the experience we tried to bring was kind of similar: competing in time while planning with limited information. But our game distinguishes with them tremendously in form, since Fat Loot is a third person action game, and because we added many mechanics that require player skills to provide deep gameplay.
Pat: As for the combat, it might seem a little odd, but the combat system in Fat Loot was actually inspired by MOBAs, particularly D.O.T.A. 2. The Belly Bump was inspired by the D.O.T.A. character Princess Of The Moon’s skillshot arrow, and how satisfying it is to set up a tricky attack and then have a huge powerful result. I wanted our attack, as it was the only one in the game at that point, to have a big, satisfying effect, which meant that it needed to be tricky. That kind of set the tone for the combat design, and I think it pretty clearly carries over into our other characters.
Where did the original idea come from, and how close is the final game from the original concept?
Pat: The core gameplay is basically the same as what was pitched, and if every player uses the character Lady Qian, you could probably play that game. However, what makes the final version of Fat Loot different is the way we’ve expanded it, adding three player characters with pretty diverse playstyles, and powerups that allow players one shot abilities that can make or break a play.
Chen: Another major change is the title. Initially, we named the game Sneak To Slim, and the whole premise was making fun based on the fat lady character. But we didn’t want to be too controversial, so we abandoned the fat jokes and adopted more characters, including a shorty, a rabbit with identity crisis, and a nude baby.
Fat Loot was originally made as a school project. What class was this for?
Chen: It’s called Advanced Game Project. Every year students pitch ideas and the faculty picks some of them to be developed through one year.
What grade did you get?
Chen: I got A.
Pat: I got an A, too.
Congrats. Some people would expect a game made by college kids to involve drinking and casual sex. Did anyone in your class make a game like that? Grand Theft Kegger or something?
Chen: Not in my class. When I was at UCLA Game Lab as an undergrad, there was a game investigating casual sex. Game folks here like creative gameplay more, in my opinion.
Pat: Yeah, I remember a phone game about beer pong a few years ago, but I don’t think that was someone’s final game. I think Chen is right, people are more interested in making games that are innovative and unique.
So when you finished making Fat Loot, what made you think that other people would want to play it, what made you want to put it up on your website?
Chen: I think there are a lot of people enjoying playing online multiplier arena games. Fat Loot is a new one that differs from any existing ones; there’s no game that combines stealth and Player Versus Player. I think people who like to try the unique experiences would want to give it a shot.
Pat: I also think people would want to play Fat Loot because, on top of having a unique style of gameplay, it has a lot of personality, too. Our art style and character designs have a really cool look to them, and once they’re in I think the game will grab them.
Is yours the only game from this class that’s getting released?
Chen: No. As far as I know, four games out of seven from that class are being released.
You’ve said that Fat Loot will be free. Will it be totally free or free but have microtransactions?
Chen: Completely free. We started the project because we wanted to learn how to make games, and to show that we can make a great game. If we wanted to sell it, we should’ve planned at the beginning, and the game would have been designed in a way to accommodate that vision.
Is the version on the website the same one you turned in for the class?
Chen: Mostly the same. Because school’s over, our members are all on their next steps in life. Though we do plan to improve the network part so that people can connect and start a game easier.
So what’s next? Will you be making Fat Loot 2: Electric Boogaloo?
Chen: No. Though I do hope some day some members could gather again to make more great games. Those could be called spiritual sequels.
Pat: Yeah it’d be nice to work with some team members again.