In an interview posted on PlayStation Blog, Jason Schroeder, senior producer on Ubisoft San Francisco's South Park: The Fractured But Whole discussed how the development team handles heavy involvement from series co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
"They're really, really involved," Schroeder says. "We have daily calls and I'm down there a few times a month just constantly trying to make sure that they're getting the comedy they want into the game and making sure that it all makes sense moment to moment."
Writing for a game differs from writing a TV show in several integral ways. In Stone's and Parker's case, some of their best ideas come when they're under the gun to finish production. New episodes of South Park go from conception to finished product in just under a week. "It's from that pressure that they get their really relevant, really timely jokes. The video game cycle, by comparison, is brutally long for them," Schroeder explains.
On the other hand, game developers measure cycles in years. Schroeder and his team work closely with Stone and Parker to ensure they don't get bogged down by the development process. "We always want to try and make sure to get every joke in that we can. Sometimes we have to ask the guys 'Okay, do you want that to be a gag or do you want it to be a whole system? Should we build this in as a dynamic part of the game or do we want it to just be something that happens?'"
That, he says, is the rub: sometimes a joke that has the team slapping knees for five minutes isn't sturdy enough to support a level that lasts an hour or more. The trick that South Park: The Fractured But Whole hopes to employ is to keep the jokes coming. "One of the things that we've discovered is that you can really make people think with a comedy game because you're able to subvert their expectations. Even the typical way they might do things on a PlayStation controller: we say 'Pull the triggers and start rotating the analog sticks' and then they see on screen that the kid is moving his butt around."
Where 2014's Stick of Truth riffed on fantasy themes, South Park: The Fractured But Whole will emphasize the superhero alter-egos of Kenny, Cartman, and the gang when it launches on Xbox One, PS4, and PC later this year.