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How South Park: The Fractured But Whole is fusing gags and gaming

Producer Jason Schroeder on the challenges of creating a laugh-a-minute experience

It’d be fair to say that, as a gaming genre, comedy has always been an under-explored one. While a staple of film and literature, gaming has rarely gone further than wise-cracking characters, pop-culture references and shameless punning in its pursuit of entertainment.

Ubisoft San Francisco‘s forthcoming sequel to the South Park: The Stick of Truth, South Park: The Fractured but Whole, continues creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s natural instinct for going against the grain, aiming to combine classic RPG mechanics with full-blown comedic writing.

I sat down with Senior Producer Jason Schroeder backstage at E3 last to ask him how he and his team are tackling the challenges of working with two such prolific comedy writers.

South Park: The Fractured But WholeSouth Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Fractured But Whole

 
“They’re really, really involved.” Jason says of Stone and Parker’s involvement. “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.

“They’re both gamers, so there’s a really easy common language,” he continues.

“However, deadlines and pressure are actually some of the best ways they get their comedy. Separate from the game, they truly make each episode of South Park in just six days. 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.”

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

There are clearly hurdles in finding the common ground between gaming and TV comedy writing, but Schroeder is keen to emphasise his dedication to the source material.

“My aspiration is to make sure every South Park fan gets an unedited Matt Stone and Trey Parker experience.

“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 dynamic part of the game or do want it to just be something that happens?'”

South Park: The Fractured But WholeSouth Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Fractured But Whole

 
And this seems to be the biggest obstacle for the team – comedy is largely about timing and the difference between a 25-minute TV episode and an eight to 12-hour game can change a lot.

“Sometimes people will have fun with a joke for five minutes but if you try to build a whole level around it they might feel like ‘okay, I got the joke the first time and it was funny but I’ve been doing it for an hour now.”

One thing that stands out as we’re talking is Jason’s enormous passion for the South Park universe and the writers’ quirky sense of humour. I asked him how it felt to be such a big fan of the series he was working on.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

“18 months ago, I got my first hand-delivered paper script while I was down at their office and I was thinking to myself ‘I don’t want to read this, it’s going to be full of spoilers’. It was this very genuine fan moment and I had to say to myself ‘well, I guess it’s my job – I’m going to have to read this thing 100 times over.”

It’s always a gamble turning something you love into a living – does Jason worry that spending so much time with the characters might affect his passion for the show?

“When you do an E3 demo you play the game over and over and when we left at the end of the week, the team was still laughing at the jokes – it’s just been a tonne of fun.

South Park: The Fractured But WholeSouth Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Fractured But Whole

 
“In our theatre yesterday we had one of those really just contagious moments of laughter: someone was laughing and then that made the person sitting next to them start laughing, then our demostrator cracked up. Tears were running down their faces because the jokes just kept coming and coming.”

Looking around the E3 show floor, with its heavy emphasis on action, drama and conflict, it’s clear that the comedy genre is still very much uncharted territory for most game developers.

“Comedy games definitely have room for growth,” agrees Jason. “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 analogue sticks’ and then they see on screen that the kid is moving his butt around.”

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are well known for courting controversy with projects, often pushing the boundaries of whatever medium they’re working in. Jason was keen to assure fans they can expect more of the same from South Park: The Fractured But Whole.

“There’s hopefully going to be some stuff in there that people will say ‘how did that make it through classification?'”

You can find out exactly what he’s getting at when South Park: The Fractured But Whole launches on PlayStation 4 this December. Learn more on PlayStation.com.

23 Comments
2 Author replies
BabyFace765 04 July, 2016 @ 15:14
1

Best game we will see this year! I’m sure of it, loved the first one…hoping this will be even better!

Already preordered. Just hope we don’t get sections censored like in the stick of truth this time…

2.1

I can see it being censored again. Pegi passed the stick of truth, it was ubisoft that decided to censor the game anyway

The ONE positive of Brexit is we should get the uncensored South Park!

andrewsqual 04 July, 2016 @ 16:22
3

It was a great showing at Ubisoft’s E3 Conference with Matt Stone and Trey Parker taking to the stage. I only saw the actual E3 trailer over the weekend though with the “Phases” above and its hilarious. If its anything like the first than it should be amazing.
And that is a really smart move to bring the first one to current gen because there are lots of people who passed on it because of the generation transition.

4

Yeah but £55
FIFTY FIVE POUNDS!

badwolf1983 04 July, 2016 @ 22:42
4.1

the price is good cus it includes south park stick of truth for free on ps4

4.2

@badwolf, all physical copies also come with a code for TSoT (as far as I know) and I have this preordered for £37… So I get the same, for £18 less..

4.3

I’d happily go digital… but not when they’re charging half as much again as I can buy the game for online and receive a physical copy that I can resell later if I don’t feel I want to keep it.

“There’s hopefully going to be some stuff in there that people will say ‘how did that make it through classification?’”

So we people in Germany can already fear censorship for this game`? At least do not make it geo locked so I can enjoy the full experience thank you. Especially if you use Nazi jokes^^

6

Is there any word on if it will be on the AU PSN store for preorder soon? I still can’t find it there.

Biig--Bouni 05 July, 2016 @ 00:49
6.1

I was wondering the same thing. Wanted to pre order but it isn’t available

The US store has it for pre order and when you order it get stick of truth to play now

6.2

I was literally about to write this moment too. I want to preorder it and play Stick Of Truth again!! Come on Ubisoft sort it out!

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5
Stonesthrow 05 July, 2016 @ 01:49
7

Loved the first one so much and this looks just as good. Loved South park since the very beginning and they’ve had some good games over the years like the first FPS and South park Rally <3 but this is just a perfect fit for the series because it allows for more story and comedy. Stick of Truth was truly the funniest game I ever remember playing.. Loved the simplicity and accessibility that allowed me to enjoy the atmosphere to the fullest. Loved the authenticity and getting a look at the structure of South Park as a town. So cool to see their exact rooms in the show and knowing you've had your own adventures there at a time :) The only thing I didn't like about it was ending it, I wanted MOAR, eventhough I played the '8-12 hour experience' over 100 hours, enjoying the atmosphere, before the end :) So I hope this one is even bigger and packed with more content and missions :p

Stonesthrow 05 July, 2016 @ 01:55
7.1

*and most importantly, even more so in this case : Cutscenes! :

Can’t wait for this!

Just out of curiosity will EU get free South Park psn profile images like US does currently when preordering cause i can’t see them anywhere?

9

Not gonna buy this if it like the 1st game censored it true PEGI passed it by giving it a 18 uncut. It was SJW Ubisoft censored it for EU.

10

Will the pre-order bonus, the stick of truth, be available uncensored in Europe this time? That was the biggest disappointment I’ve ever experienced in a game.

WahabWahaibi 09 July, 2016 @ 21:19
11

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