Trey Parker And Matt Stone Discuss South Park: The Stick Of Truth
It's been a long time since we revealed South Park: The Stick of Truth on our January 2012 cover. Since then, its publisher THQ has gone belly-up and the game has been picked up by Ubisoft. Luckily for fans of the show (and comedic video games), the Obsidian-developed game is still on track for a holiday release. As we look forward to the sure-to-be ridiculous RPG, we decided to revisit an interview that I conducted with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for our January 2012 cover story. You can read it in its entirety below.
The concept of this game has been floating around for a while. How did it finally come together?
Trey Parker: I really loved RPGs growing up, and even now I really love them. We started kicking around the idea of a South Park RPG even a long time ago when we did an episode about Lord of the Rings. I think since then we’ve talked about how cool a big, real RPG with the kids playing a game within the game could be. We had been kicking around the idea since then.
Did you ever flirt with the idea of other genres, or was it RPG from the very beginning?
Matt Stone: We’ve been thinking about this RPG the whole time we’ve seriously thought about a game. I don’t think we’ve ever really considered anything else. It’s the best way to tell the story, we can get some real writing in there.
Trey: The other games, we just kind of found a company and were like, “Go ahead and make a game.” Whatever it was, we just weren’t super involved. The best way for us to be involved and have actual writing in it is to do an RPG.
Considering how the previous games turned out, do you feel this will be the first to really do the South Park name justice?
Trey: Hopefully it will. It’ll definitely be the first one that has us working as hard as we do on the show. We really didn’t have any big reason we’d have to do it, except that we’re both just huge gamers and it was sort of another area. Especially when the show first came out, there were video games that we weren’t super proud of and we were always like “Well, if we ever got the chance to spend the time and do it right and do it big, this is sort of what this is all about.”
Matt: We’ve done this so long that Xbox 360 and PS3 are like the new consoles considering we were doing video games before. We even did a Nintendo 64 game, I think. There was this thing that happened where we realized that even though not everyone sees the show in HD, we produce South Park in HD and we have for like three years. I watch it in HD and Trey and I both think about South Park as a 16:9, HD show. So now with both of the systems, we can finally have a character walk into the scene and it really does look like you’re in South Park. Compared to the old days where they were sort of 3D, but it didn’t look like South Park. We had to have some sort of weird 3D engine to make the game work. This is really gonna have the look of South Park. It’ll look like you’re in a show. That wasn’t possible until the new systems like Xbox 360 and PS3 came out. That was another thing that got us really excited to do a game.
Did you have developers in mind that you wanted to talk to? How detailed was the pitch?
Matt: Not as detailed as all the story we have now, but we had kind of a general concept that we were talking to people about. It’s kind of like doing a game with an existing license, and there’s always a problem because you’ve got us and all we care about. We’d like them to make a good game, and you have Comedy Central that has a license they need to sell. I think developers are somewhat hot and cold. They have a certain prejudice against licensed things, I mean. Some people do it great. Some licensed games are awesome, but some are duds. We’re hoping we can keep it in the awesome category. So that was a little bit of a sticky thing, going out and selling the game.
How topical can you be with this? It’s not a situation where you can write a joke about current events have it air six days later. Do you have to keep the references more general or do you plan on lampooning games more than pop culture?
Trey: There are plenty of games that have lampooned games, and we’re not really doing that. I think we’re talking about a lot of the things specifically in RPGs and how big and bombastic they can get sometime. The truth is, with this show we can get topical and when we do, people really notice because it shows how quick we do the show. Then there are tons and tons of shows that we do that aren’t topical at all, and don’t have the reference of the week in it. This is something we’re not used to, and there’s so much more lead time, and for the first time we kind of have to put something down and let people work on it for a few months before it comes out. We’re just trying to keep everything really fresh and funny and be topical without being too much of whatever is happening today. We’re still airing South Park right now, so whatever is happening today, it’s going in this week.
You’re used to creating 22-minute episodes of the show, but this is going to be a full-length RPG. How does it compare to be working on something this lengthy?
Trey: It’s definitely been a lot for one single thing. I think we’re still just getting into all that we’re gonna have to end up doing for it.
Matt: We’re still learning ourselves, definitely.
Would you say it’s comparable to making the jump from TV to film?
Trey: We actually kind of started in film, so film for us is one of the easiest things to do. The format of South Park is really a three-act sort of movie structure. We just kind of make a little mini-movie every week. That we get the most. This is definitely, besides Broadway, the biggest learning curve for us. Learning how this stuff works and how you have to do it, it’s definitely a whole different thing.
Matt: We’re used to telling stories like, “this happens, and then this happens.” Not, “this happens, and then a person can go do this or this.” That’s a whole different thing, you know. So far, it’s pretty cool.
Trey: It has that same thing, just like with the musical where you can say, “Okay, we’re gonna do a Broadway show for the first time!” You can go, “Okay, here’s what I love about Broadway shows.” And when we make a movie, it’s like “Okay, here’s what we know we love about movies.” That’s always what we try to stick to. With this game, we’re really trying to stick to that and go, “Okay, here’s what we really love about games, and here’s what really drives us nuts about games. Let’s really try to focus on one and not the other.”
With the show, you guys do everything in-house. You don’t have to ship anything out for animation. What is it like working with Obsidian, and how does that relationship work? Have you had to adjust to that?
Matt: So far it’s been great. They’re in Irvine and we’re up in L.A., so it’s not that far. So far it’s just been spitballing sessions with the guys from there and guys from here. Kind of all getting an outline of what the game is gonna be, and in the next few months we’re going to get into the lines and stuff. It’s been fun. We’ll sit there and go, “Hey, we’ve been playing games for a long time and this is what we think a game is,” and they’ll go, “Yeah, kind of, but here’s what it really is.” We have our theories of storytelling, and if you get in a room with us we’ll all say, “You always gotta do this,” and whatever kind of stuff that we’ve formulated over the years that we think are our rules. We think they’re their rules, but it’s kind of an interesting learning experience. Right now, we all just get in a room and jam on ideas, which has been fun.
Some episodes have featured abrupt changes in visual style (“Good Times With Weapons,” the live-action hamsters in “Pandemic,” the Heavy Metal parody). Will we see any of that in the game or will it be more of a consistent art style throughout?
Trey: What was cool when we decided on this was when we saw the first few-second long playable demo. Someone was sitting there with an Xbox controller making this character walk around, and you would think you were just watching an episode of South Park. What’s nice is that we have this simple kind of 2D style that allows us to really make the game look exactly like the show, except that you’re in control of it. I think that we’re really gonna stick with that. Even though it’s gonna have this sort of world-within-a-world thing in it with the RPG thing, and the fact that they’re playing a game within this game. We know people don’t wanna buy the South Park game and then see this wildly different animation. There are people that do way cooler 3D dragons than we ever would. We’re not gonna do anything like that. We’re gonna really let people be in the world of South Park and make that the most important thing.
Has putting together a concrete map of the city changed how you view the town in your head?
Trey: It already has, even just from the talks. It’s kind of cemented it in my head now. Like, “Okay, this is over here and that’s over there.” I’m sure it’ll happen even more, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s good for me to finally know where everything is.
Have there been any lapses in your gaming history, or has the interest been a lifelong thing?
Trey: Lifelong. We both have Xboxes and PlayStations in our offices and at home. A lot of times we’re here and waiting for animation to come in, and we’re doing a lot of our gaming. I was a diehard PC gamer only because I got so used to playing Oblivion and stuff with a keyboard and mouse. I never thought I’d make the switch, but I have Skyrim on Xbox 360 sitting on my desk and I’m taking it home today. I’ve completed every Zelda game. I’d say I can call myself a pretty serious gamer.
Matt: I played the Infocom games and Wizardry. I finished Wizardry like every day after school in 8th or 9th grade. I love the big open-world games like Arkham City, Infamous, Grand Theft Auto, and Red Dead Redemption. Totally unrelated, but for some reason I love hockey and soccer games. I just like the kind of games where it doesn’t stop, and you can just keep kicking the ball around. FIFA basically is my poker night with my friends, we just get together and play FIFA. I play online against some kids and they always have English accents and they always kick my ass.
Trey: One of the reasons I grew up loving RPGs and still do is because I never wanted to play with other people. It was my one time I could get away from everyone. For me, an RPG was the greatest version of that. I control the whole party, and when it comes around to MMOs and stuff like that, I really didn’t get it. The last thing I want to do is play with other people.
Matt: I’m more of that button masher guy. Remember that game Serious Sam? I play games like that for hours. Shoot ****, blow **** up. That being said, I’m playing Arkham City right now. It’s not an RPG, but it’s a little more involved than a shoot-em-up. I like the ones that balance it well. I haven’t played RPGs in a few years because I just got so sick of walking around with a sword and looking for stuff to kill and people to talk to. I just hate that ****.
Is there any game you point to as your favorite?
Trey: I just remember playing Oblivion and being like, “This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for my entire life.” There was no online thing, it was just the greatest RPG ever. That’s probably the best time I’ve ever had playing a game.
Matt: I’ve had so many games I like and get super into. I sound like a broken record, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say FIFA. Since FIFA 06 maybe, every time it comes out in October, I get it. I get the off-year World Cup versions and all that. That’s just the game that I completely subscribe to. I love how the yearly tweaks to it are so nuanced but essential.
Trey: Rest assured, the South Park game will be a brilliant cross between Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and FIFA.
Trey: You gotta go kill a bunch of monsters and **** but you can only use your feet.