Humor is a tough nut to crack. Your jokes either hit or miss with the audience, and humor is far from an objective thing. Think of games like this such as Borderlands or even The Outer Worlds are science-fiction RPGs, with their own satirical takes on society today and filled to the brim with jokes. You could say that Journey to the Savage Planet shares some kinship to these titles, as it is also a sci-fi adventure with its own brand of humor. But just what does it take to make a game funny, anyway?
Journey to the Savage Planet is a recently released adventure game by Typhoon Studios and published by 505 Games. Alex Hutchinson, an industry veteran with experience developing games such as Assassin's Creed III and Far Cry 4, is the creative director and co-founder of Typhoon Studios. We talked with Hutchinson about how he and the team at Typhoon created the humor of Journey to the Savage Planet.
Crafting Journey to the Savage Planet's Humor
Dark, light, satirical. Tone and type is essential to capture humor correctly. To begin with, Hutchinson alludes to the fact that a humorous game wasn't what was originally conceptualized. Rather, he and his team thought about gameplay and mechanics, and soon after found that a satirical and goofy tone was fitting for the experience Typhoon wanted to make with Journey to the Savage Planet.
"It freed us up to make whackier mechanics and embrace the fun of our world," said Hutchinson.
One might come to the assumption that Journey to the Savage Planet took inspiration from other games such as Borderlands. Interestingly, Hutchinson's team looked at other forms of entertainment—such as movies and TV shows—more than anything else when capturing the tone of their game.
"We didn't look at games so much as other media," said Hutchinson. "Monty Python, The Office, old issues of 2000AD, weird French sci-fi. All kinds of weird and wonderful genre fiction!"
While episodes of The Office and old Monty Python movies go a long way, creating a humorous piece of media also calls for a funny bunch of developers. That's where Typhoon Studios excels, combining both experience in the industry and like-minded personalities to create a comical experience. Hutchinson said:
We like to think we're a funny bunch in the office, but we were also looking for comedy in the mechanics, so I drew on experiences I'd had on Far Cry 4, or experiences we'd all had with emergent comedy when a bunch of us worked together on Army of Two: The 40th Day. So, we played a lot of co-op games, looked at what streamers were reacting to, and as I said earlier, lots of TV and movies!
As Hutchinson said, he worked on Far Cry 4, which has its own kind of humor. It's different from Journey to the Savage Planet's tone, but he says the black humor from that Ubisoft title helped him in creating this experience. He also credits his time developing The Sims and Spore as helpful, and even Army of Two as well. While the tones of each game differ from one another, Hutchinson is well-rounded in the realm of all things funny.
The Comical Gameplay of Journey to the Savage Planet
The result of Typhoon's efforts to make Journey to the Savage Planet funny led to comical elements that permeated throughout gameplay. One interesting take was Typhoon's choice to make Martin Tweed, the CEO of Kindred Aerospace (the company you are a member of in the game), a live-action character rather than generated with computer graphics. It sets the tone for Journey to the Savage Planet right from the start, which was even seen in the game's reveal in 2018.
"It's much cheaper than CGI!" said Hutchinson. "But seriously, it felt nice to have this window back to the real world inside the game... as though you as a player had been sent from the real world to this fantasy island."
The humor is much more than just a live-action actor. It's in the environments, items, and even enemies that makes Journey to the Savage Planet the way it is. Enemy design can be over-the-top, such as with the huge and disproportionate eyes of the cute Pufferbird.
"We wanted the critters to not just be aggressive," said Hutchinson, "and to have other ways to interact with them than just shooting them: you can slap them, kick them around, you can feed them. A surprising result to simple inputs always gets a laugh."
As mentioned, humor is infused into all elements of gameplay, even items. Weird objects, such as egg sacs, allow you to launch other things into the air—or you yourself can even bounce on it. Nasty mucous is used in combat situations to stick hostile critters to the ground, as well. With exploration at the heart of Journey to the Savage Planet, the small quirky elements add up and make a goofy experience.
Hutchinson and his team had a large amount of confidence going into Journey to the Savage Planet. Again, a comedian never knows how well their jokes go until they have actual "test subjects," so to speak. Even without an audience, however, Hutchinson knew they were on the right track.
"We figured if we put in as many funny bits and pieces as possible," said Hutchinson, "then even if they don't laugh at one joke, hopefully there'll be enough other stuff to elicit a laugh!"
Despite a more lighthearted tone tone, Hutchinson urges players to give Journey to the Savage Planet a try. Having released recently on the Epic Games Store on PC and on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, if you're looking for an experience such as this, now is the time. For those hesitant about this approach to a game, Hutchinson leaves us with these words:
"Comedy doesn't mean it lacks meaning or a message, or that it’s not a significant adventure, it just means you hopefully enjoy the journey a little more!"
Have you played Journey to the Savage Planet? What did you find most funny about it? Let us know in the comments below!