Interview: Fillion, Tudyk, And Day Discuss The Zany Fun Of Con Man: The Game
This week Con Man: The Game launched as a free-to-play game on iOS and Google Play. The simulation title lets you run your own convention and is based off the web series starring Alan Tudyk. The show is a lighthearted take on Tudyk's experience in the con circle after Firefly. Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day also appear on the show. As fans know, this isn't the first time these names have worked together (actors in Joss Whedon shows always stay connected), but Con Man is the first video game they've been in together. Developed by Frima Studios, all three had input on the mobile title with Day even serving as producer. We chatted with the three about the game and learned everything from why they made Joss Whedon the janitor to their love for the con scene to how much crazier season two of Con Man gets.
Con Man: The Game became possible thanks to reaching the $3 million tier of your Indiegogo campaign to create the show. Did you expect the outpour you received for Con Man?
Tudyk: No, and I don't know why. It's always a mistake to underestimate the fans. We had never done any type of crowdfunding before, and there are crowdfunding managers who will give you every nightmare scenario of a campaign, so we had those in the back our minds as we launched. The fans immediately broke records with the fastest to a million dollars for any online series. Being the incredible businessman that I am, I'm like, "Alright, pull the plug. We got it. We're making the show. That's what we wanted to do and we're going to do it." First of all, you can't do that. Indiegogo said to stop [trying to end it].
We had, through the two years of shopping the idea around to traditional production companies in Los Angeles, daydreamed about other ways that we could have fun in the world of conventions, and one of the them was this game. It's one that has been in-process before Con Man the series [debuted]. To see it out now is oh-so-exciting and to be so proud of it. It's fun to play, and I hope that the people who funded it are just as excited by it as we are. Felicia, you have a little history with gaming. What do you think?
Day: [laughs] I do have a little history with gaming. I think because I got to be a producer on this game – as a voice actor and appear in it very cutely – that was a really great perspective and experience. To have input on the final product as a [video game] fan for so many years that's the first time I've been able to do that. (A) Just seeing how hard it is to put a game together and (B) just being able to have input was just kind of awesome. I think the first time I ever heard about the game was on the set when P.J. [Haarsma], the producer, was playing Fallout Shelter obsessively. We shared that obsession together and I said, "I hate to admit it, but this is kind of my favorite kind of game right now." And he said, "Well that's kind of what we want the Con Man game to be." I was like, "Wow, really?" From that moment on, I was really invested because P.J. is a true gamer too, and the studio itself [Frima] has made some great games. They made Chariot, which is one of my favorite games in the last few years as a co-op game, so to me...
Fillion comes into the call late.
Fillion: Hello! Hello! Hello! Hi! Nathan Fillion just joined.
Day: Oh, hello! That's the end of what I was saying anyway, and to Nathan!
Fillion: And good morning, Felicia!
Tudyk: It's me also!
Fillion: Oh, I didn't know Alan was going to be here.
Tudyk: Funny, funny. I emailed you about it.
I know Felicia is producer, but did you all have input on the game?
Day: Yeah, I would not exaggerate my input, but I did have the say in what I [wanted] to tweak.
Fillion: I had a lot of input. I was very hands-on with it, especially with what the Jack Moore character's hair was going to look like. It took a lot of weeks of trial and error, a lot of meetings, a lot of vision boards, but I think we really came to something great.
Tudyk: It's surprising how much time we spent on that, but I think the proof is in the puddin'.
Fillion: More than half of the R&D money went into that...
Day: And it's really the best cartoon hair I've ever seen.
Fillion: It's money well spent.
Did you all get to approve your video game form for this?
Tudyk: Oh yeah.
Fillion: That's why we're all good looking.
Tudyk: And [we approved] all of the expressions.
Day: My feet are the size of my ears, which is actually [how it is] in real life if you look. [Everyone starts laughing]. I'm very unsteady. You could push me over in real life easily.
Fillion: I only found out Felicia had feet like two years ago.
Day: Well nobody really looks there. It's all about my ears, which are kind of weird.
Tudyk: A lot of our input on the game over the course of [development] was, "We set out what we achieved to do, but now let's make the game more challenging." "What if Felicia says this instead of this." "What if her role was more of guide?" "What if Nathan's character is more involved?"
At first it was like Jack Moore's character just showed up when you were lucky and would go away and bestow gifts upon you. Now he still does that, but you can hire Jack Moore to come into your con and boost your crowd numbers and also give away the best gifts. All those things and in addition to that, "When I kill rats can the guts be green instead of this yellowy color?" At first, the streaker was a man, and I was like, "That's not as good as an octogenarian old lady streaking." Like the tennis balls we put on the front of her walker that just makes it a little more authentic and fun.
Day: I think those are the touches Alan that really make it special. It's very Fallout Shelter-like. I think if you've ever been to a con those people are going to love it. The booth design is so clever, and you have this taco vending thing and I'm like, "Why isn't that really at a con?" So I think if you've ever been to a con especially, you'd think, "I'd really love to be at a con like this."
Tudyk: The name of the taco place is Diablo Taco Mexican Food. Nathan, what was our name when we played Halo as a team?
Fillion: El Diablo Robotico. That's a reference to an old episode of Angel. "Did you know the devil built the robot? Ah, El Diablo Robotico."
Tudyk: We got to put a lot of the little things that were fun from gaming and any ridiculous ideas we had in it.
Fillion: I was going to say what's great about a convention game is it kinds of build itself. The framework of trying to organize a con lends itself so easily to multiple challenges, from garbage cans filling up to bathrooms backing up to keeping people happy to that one guy who keeps losing his pills...boy, if I could throttle anybody. [Everyone starts laughing.]
Tudyk: He's sick! He's sick, Nathan and you're going after him.
Fillion: His sickness is he needs attention because he keeps losing those pills.
Tudyk: What's great is there's a character in the second season of Con Man that is trying to find his medicine. So we bring stuff from the series into the game. And then there are aliens [in the game], which I've never seen at a con, burning down booths, but that's my favorite part. You've got the sim sort of side to it and then the other side which is battling rogue aliens burning down the con.
Day: Who's idea was it to have Joss Whedon as a janitor? Because when I was playing it and that popped up, I just freaked out. I screamed.
Fillion: I think that's some kind of twisted fantasy of Alan's.
Tudyk: When he comes over, he's very..he's that guy at the party who's constantly going, "Is everyone finished with this?" You know, cleaning the party as he goes. It just made sense. He's that considerate party-goer that is a host even when it's not his party.
Click to page two to see Nathan Fillion get sentimental, their love for con culture, and what's in store for season two of the show....
You have all worked together before on other projects, but how does it feel to be all together in a video game?
Fillion: It seems to make a lot of sense. It really does. You want to get something done. You need people to do it with you, who do you get? You get the people who you know are going to be fantastic. You know they're going to do a fantastic job, you know what they're capable of, and maybe sometimes you even underestimate them because they're just so wonderful. Felicia, I'm looking at you. [Day awws] You get along with them and you know what to expect from them every day. You know that they're going to be great. It's so easy to work with people when you have total faith in their talent, when you have total respect for them as people, and enjoy their company.
Tudyk: And also, and that was really nice by the way...
Day: Yeah, that was unexpectedly nice.
Tudyk: That's your Canadian showing through man, and that is generous. You know the con world is where I met Felicia, and then Nathan and I of course did Firefly together. Nathan had already been going to cons, he's what do you call him...
Fillion: I'm your sherpa?
Tudyk: Yes, you're my sherpa who brought me in and carried my luggage, which was really nice and expensive. So, yes, the con world and it's based in the show Con Man, which we all came together to make, so it's all based on logic that this was the right group of people to make it. We had so much fun making the show and really it's just a continuation of making the show just in a different way to enjoy it.
Exactly. Can you discuss taking that con culture and putting it into a video game and making a whole show around it? I know Felicia you also did this in a season of The Guild.
Fillion: What's great is the people that are going to be playing this game are people who are interested in this world. We've all been to cons. We all have gone and said, "Ugh. Where's the bathroom?" Now we have a sense of empowerment when we say, "I can put a bathroom right here." By the way Alan, I have one right behind your booth.
Tudyk: I'm going to have to talk to you about that. You know the con world, games are there. That's part of the culture. Gaming is huge, so having a game about that world makes sense.
Day: I just think it's really clever. My favorite games are Fallout Shelter, Neko Atsume, Sim City, and Civilization. You know any building type of game. Of course, I always cheat on The Sims to build a base house, but if you say you didn't you're probably a liar. But I think [this game] is a brilliant way to put everything together. Whenever I'm at a con, I'm always thinking, "How do they get all these booths in here?" I mean, my favorite part of the game is when people have to pee and they do this little pee-pee hop to get to the bathroom. It makes me laugh every time. I don't know who's idea it was but it's brilliant.
Fillion: Yeah, you have to space out your bathrooms pretty well. I love the empowerment of karma in the game.
Day: In order to prevent people from peeing properly?
Fillion: Yeah, saying, "You know what? I'm going to tear down these bathrooms and put something a little nicer here because these guys deserve it." I have pride in my con. I really do. Saying, "You know, I put down these booths a little haphazardly, I have to go back and rearrange all of this." I mean I'll be in there for an hour.
Tudyk: It sucks you in. The only thing that sucks about the game is that it sucks you in. Thank you very much. That's going to be one of those quotes that you see in the article that's bigger than the others. I'm hoping. I'm hoping. Also, as we developed it over time, we were able to add elements not just as Nathan was talking about, such as making your con and organizing it the best way to make it work for the fans, but to bring in the stars, they all have a different effect on your con. Nathan, what is your character's effect on the con? I know Wray Nerely, my character, has these disco parties for his action figure....
Fillion: Yeah, the parties give you a lot of good experience, money, and comics. My character gives you goodie bags and I think I attracts more people. I use Dawn (Amy Acker) a lot, because people tend to recycle more. I don't have to empty the garbage so much. It frees me up to do other things. When you use Stutter, Henry Rollins' character, you don't get alien invasions. He's a threat. Nothing goes wrong when he's down there. Then one of the characters makes people pee less.
Tudyk: I think it's Skylar Day's character, Tiffany.
How did you pick the effects that certain talent would have?
Fillion: They're all character-driven.
Tudyk: Yeah, it follows the show in a lot of ways. Definitely the Stutter character (Henry Rollins), he makes his own weapons and this is something you'll see more of in season two. He's a live-off-the-grid type of guy who owns a lot of weapons, so having him at the con and having aliens attack less that makes sense. Tiffany is a starlet that went wrong over the years, I'll just say it – drinks a lot. So maybe the idea of pees less is that she's in there hogging all the alcohol. I don't know.
Day: Alcohol has an antidiuretic and makes you not pee as much.
Fillion: Alcohol makes me pee like crazy...
Fillion: Except for light beer.
Tudyk: So yeah, all of their special powers come from the characters that are better established in the show.
What can we expect from season two of Con Man?
Fillion: I'm going to say it's going to be a little bit of a dose of reality. I think Wray Nerely has some ideas as to what the world is like around him, and in season two we get a better idea [that] what he puts out in front of him for success maybe isn't as glamorous and wonderful as he thinks it is.
Tudyk: And the reality for your character Nathan, Jack Moore, that his career is experiencing as he puts it "brand abatement." He's losing his roles to Australians, who just seems more American to the industry, so he needs the Spectrum movie more than it seems like he needed last season. He's involved more in that way. There's a TV show that Wray is going after called Doctor, Cop, Lawyer, a procedural he's very excited about that Jack helps him get the audition. Then we have the musical that we're very excited about. Felicia's character doubles Wray Nerely in the first season and is [now] doubling Lou Ferrigno. As an assistant she dresses as him in case fans are following him, so she can draw them away as a decoy.
Day: It's one of my most attractive roles. I almost didn't want to do it just because it felt inappropriate to show the internet, and I'd just have to see animated gifs of it and have it used in compromising ways, but you know you gotta do it for the art.
Tudyk: You did a great job. We're editing it right now, and it's amazing. Your muscles are incredible. You're not as vascular as Lou Ferrigno, but you're there. You're there.
Day: Well, I can't stand enough to lift because my feet are so small. I can't really get there.
Fillion: Yeah, you're more of a bench person.
Tudyk: Nolan North's character, Jerry Lansing, we get to see his school and his continued dislike of Andy Serkis, who is the best motion capture artist in the world where he's only considered the second best. Andy Serkis has a school called the Imaginarium. Nolan North's Jerry Lansing has his school the Imaginasium. He helps Wray in his auditions. It's just more of the same characters we set up last season, and I think it's better than last season. It's a bigger world that builds on the last season. We make it to the Shock-A-Con by the end of the season, which is the biggest con in the world, so that's very fun as well.
The second season of Con Man launches in November on Comic Con-HQ.