"Hello and welcome to KOLLOK, America's heart" begins the trailer for the first season of KOLLOK, 1991. This liveplay series using the Kids on Bikes system began airing almost three years ago from Hyper RPG, seemingly beginning as the tale of four students connected by one girl which quickly descends into chaos as she's pulled not only from their lives but from the minds of the town's residents. Through two seasons we get to experience all kinds of Twilight Zone-esque scenarios of talking squirrels, parallel universes, and clones. It's this year that KOLLOK will be receiving its third season, airing on AMC's FearHQ Twitch Channel.
The latest season is set 30 years into the future where the world has become a modern dystopia. We'll follow the main party, known as the Ascended, as they set out on a new mind-bending adventure to try to fix the world. Led by Game Master and 'Driver' Zac Lim Eubank, this new season of KOLLOK will star Ethan Nestor (Crank Gameplays), Aabria Iyengar (Critical Role's Exandria Unlimited and Dimension 20s Misfits and Magic), Danielle Radford (Honest Trailers), Elyse Willems (Rooster Teeth and Psychonauts 2), Lucas Eubank (KOLLOK 1991 and Geek and Sundry), Mika Midgett (Twitch), and yellowspoongirl (Twitch).
Even if you're new to KOLLOK, this latest season should act as a standalone, allowing you to jump in as they go live. For those who enjoy the show there's plenty of content to dive into and enjoy.
In the lead-up to the new season of KOLLOK, Zac Lim Eubank and yellowspoongirl sat down with us to talk about Hyper RPG, the upcoming season of KOLLOK and how it's produced, and who yellowspoongirl's new character Syd is.
What is KOLLOK and Who Is Making It?
In the words of Lim Eubank, KOLLOK is "an experimental interactive liveplay." He further explained that you could call it a TTRPG, but by doing so he would be afraid newcomers might get the wrong idea. Dealing with psychological horror Lim Eubank, as 'The Driver' tries to spin a spooky tale for the cast to perform as improvised theater. KOLLOK also offers plenty of chances for audience participation through roleplay and advice to the on-screen party.
Hyper RPG was initially founded in February 2016 and has always had its roots in TTRPG liveplays beginning with a Battletech tabletop game called Death From Above. Since then, it has created all kinds of content based on other IP such as Power Rangers, The Witcher, and other original IP. Even before the start of Hyper RPG, Zac Lim Eubank started up the Geek & Sundry Live Network in 2014 and was the producer on Critical Role. Lim Eubank's goal was to help develop what interactive storytelling could become and, when seeking further creative freedom, created Hyper RPG. Hyper RPG's focus was to add viewer interactivity to the narrative and see how that could create a different kind of story. To use KOLLOK as an example, Lim Eubank explained how a viewer at home can create their own character in-universe and directly influence the story, feeding important information to the party or having their NPC show up in-world.
Part of the idea of KOLLOK and the experience that Hyper RPG is wanting to provide high-quality production to those who might be subscribing and putting forward their dollars. Lim Eubank never wanted his productions to just be a group of friends sitting around and playing a game; that's not to disparage those who do create content like that, but that isn't the approach he wants to take with his own production.
User Interactivity Is at the Heart of KOLLOK
Those watching KOLLOK at home will be able to connect to the KOLLOK app linking your Twitch and Discord account and create a unique character in the world that has its own unique stats. You'll be able to roleplay with other viewers, and as the story progresses on screen, you'll have chances to interact with the party that the story is focused on.
While this is a neat idea for players at home, I did have to ask what it was like as a game master to have to build a cohesive narrative around the kinds of characters that fans may create or the information they might feed players. Lim Eubank explained that while it was stressful, there's also a lot of fun in the kinds of ideas that fans will come up with. With the thought that his own ideas might not always be the best ideas coming into a session, it's more about letting the story be driven by the players and the audience to see where they want things to go. The benefit of that immediate response allows Lim Eubank to keep his finger on the pulse and adapt to create a more tailored experience for everyone involved. The most stressful time is when it can be felt the audience isn't liking the path the story has been taking, but the narrative of KOLLOK thankfully gives a number of ways to get out of those situations.
Syd of the Ascended and the Rest of the Party
Turning away from the mechanics and running of the game, I had a chance to ask yellowspoongirl about her character Syd and where she fits into the world. Syd is a "rough around the edges" girl with a rough past. Her parents were in the rebellion and frequently used Syd as a spy. Being exposed to those situations at such an early age was extremely traumatizing to Syd. Syd is now a very "lone wolf" character who isn't willing to pick a side between the government or the rebellion; in her eyes the whole conflict is stupid. Not revealing too much, yellowspoongirl did make sure to point out Syd's slashed eye and that we can expect some interesting backstory to develop around it.
It was elaborated upon that Syd and the other party members have known and worked with one another in the past and are now coming back together. This manages to create a number of questions not just in the development of each character but for the dynamic of the group as a whole. "Do I want to go on this journey? Do I even like these people?" Instead of just investigating each character's single past it will be the history of their relationships and shared experiences.
"That's kind of KOLLOK to a T, it's just exploring trauma and this season especially."
The Ascended won't be the only party we see on screen as the show will be set up in two parts, first exploring Syd and the rest of the Ascended experiences in this wasteland but then returning to the legacy cast. Being KOLLOK though, nothing can be simple; the legacy cast portions will take place narratively in the subconscious, piecing together 30 years' worth of memories. As the show starts, the legacy cast won't be aware that this is what's happening but will discover more as the 20-episode season carries on.
The cast was put together through a combination of known quantities, like Ethan (CrankGameplays) wanting to find a new creative output, but also through casting calls and interviews. Finding those who were interesting and had something to say is what was really important in putting together this cast. By looking to fill the table with people from different backgrounds, different experiences, and different things to say that creates a more interesting dynamic. Speaking to the diversity of the cast, yellowspoongirl was excited to see how Syd would interact with all of them. Singling out Ro, played by Xu Mason, who was raised in a Christian cult, yellowspoongirl explained that she felt there would be a little sister kind of relationship going on but that she would try to turn Ro into as much of a degenerate as Syd is. The relationship with C-Dubbs, Danielle Radford's character, might not be as pretty.
Talking to yellowspoongirl about her history with KOLLOK and with TTRPGs she explained that she came into the experience fresh. After talking with Lim Eubank about the opportunity she started watching KOLLOK from the beginning. She remembers the first episode thinking "oh they're just a bunch of high-school kids looking for a girl, it's all good. Then ten episodes later [she's] like 'this is an entirely different show' like it moves and it changes slow and fast in ways". While she started watching to get an idea of the lore she ended up finding she really enjoyed the show. With how Lim Eubank's brain works and the strange history of KOLLOK yellowspoongirl doubts she has any way to predict how the story might go leading into the third season. While she's looking forward to Syd getting to do some wild stuff she also really doesn't want to get herself killed.
What Is Kids on Bikes, and How Does It Enhance Narrative?
Talking about party members dying Lim Eubank brought up the success and failure system of Kids on Bikes. Any dice roll that's six away from the set difficulty of an action is a critical hit or failure, depending on its direction. Traditionally, Kids on Bikes isn't a combat system, but due to character backgrounds and skills, an initial response to fight and not get away from danger poses an interesting challenge to the Game Master. To maintain the kind of danger, you need to feel in a Kids on Bikes system, but interacting with a militia group it's on Lim Eubank to scale up that difficulty further. It's no longer kids approaching someone with a gun, but a militia group coming up against something more dangerous. Players can very easily wind up with scars, permanently paralyzed, or even dead.
Kids on Bikes is a narrative-first system. The dice might inform certain decisions, but the majority of gameplay is driven by the player's decisions and the information given to them. Lim Eubank praised Kids on Bikes as a system that gets out of its own way and doesn't have an ego about itself. It's about bringing out the best in performance.
Talking about how KOLLOK has shifted Kids on Bikes, I had to take the chance to ask whether those home rules and adaptations would even be released, and while Lim Eubank couldn't say much, he did express that if he had more hands and time, then it would likely already be out.
KOLLOK Now on AMC's FearHQ Twitch channel
The first two seasons of KOLLOK were streamed via the Hyper RPG Twitch channel, but through a partnership with AMC, the latest season will show through FearHQ, AMCs Twitch channel. While it might seem an interesting jump, Hyper RPG actually has a long working relationship with AMC. As a production company, it's been Hyper RPG that produces content for FearHQ for the past two years. When looking to bring KOLLOK back and knowing it would take around $500k to produce, between fundraising, Hyper RPG was looking for someone to help produce it. Through this healthy working relationship that was already established, it was an obvious step to pitch this third season to AMC. This has also had the added benefit of PR assistance while still retaining all creative control over KOLLOK and its license.
The partnership with AMC also allows KOLLOK to take what they were doing in terms of props and effects and scale it up further. Lim Eubank excitedly talked about the LED wall they've been able to build for the studio and Unreal developers who have been crafting interactive backgrounds for the show. The experiment of creating a new liveplay format with KOLLOK will be able to continue to develop and grow, Lim Eubank added at the end as he's pushing the boundaries of the "wild west of Twitch" that he's just hoping they haven't gone too far.
"For the audience it's going to be holy shit it's a new set, new table, new screen."
For those who aren't able to watch live, the VODs will be uploaded to the FearHQ YouTube channel immediately, but raw footage from each camera will also be re-edited and repackaged. At the moment, where that will show is yet to be decided.
TechRaptor would like to thank Zac Lim Eubank and yellowspoongirl for taking the time to sit down and talk about KOLLOK with us. New episodes of KOLLOK will be live every Monday night starting on Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. Pacific via the FearHQ Twitch Channel. Lim Eubank stressed that with the audience interaction, it's a show that's made to be watched live, so try to see the episodes as they're coming out.