Twinfinite recently had the chance to look at South Park: The Fractured But Whole and sit down with the game’s director, Jason Schroeder. The new title looks to enhance and improve upon nearly every aspect of the previous game, Stick of Truth, even boasting a drastically different combat system. We did our best to get as much South Park info as we could, right down to how involved Matt Stone and Trey Parker were on the project. Of course, some info is still being kept close to the chest by Ubisoft, but let’s go ahead and jump right in to the full Q&A.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole – New Combat System and Story
Hayes Madsen from Twinfinite: What Made You Want to Go From Traditional JRPG combat to a more tactical approach with South Park: The Fractured But Whole?
Jason Schroeder, Game Director of South Park: The Fractured But Whole: Early on when we were starting to have meetings with Matt and Trey, they were talking about what they liked about the last game. They liked the turn-based combat, there were parts of it that had evolved throughout the whole development and all that, but ultimately they were like it was the right choice for delivering jokes, for having a lot of their fans be able to handle the game without being master gamers. When they started talking about things they wanted to improve they felt that there was a disconnection in the gameplay, in the cutscenes, and the exploration, and they wanted to make all of that much more seamless.
What that meant was, we want to have those turn-based combats in the spaces that we’re exploring, so no more cutting away to a slightly different version of the environment. And so we started exploring that, started prototyping that, and then pretty quickly it was like now we kind of end up in this bizarre space where I’m walking around in this Raisins dining room and I have full control, and then all the sudden I can’t move, and it feels weird. So okay let’s add movement, but keep [the gameplay] turn-based, and then you’re making a tactics game [laugh].
Twinfinite: So it was more about making a realistic space where the battles take place?
Schroeder: It was trying to create something that felt seamless, and something that the kids could believably make up the rules to. And so, from there though, we obviously brought a lot of what we know as game developers and as game players, but you know Matt and Trey are game developers now as well, and game players. Trey plays a lot of tabletop games and he was drawing a lot of inspiration from his D&D campaigns that he runs, and other tabletop sort of RPG games. Matt’s direction is always you know ‘I don’t want to be overwhelmed by a bunch of menus, I just wanna keep it simple, don’t distract me from the comedy.’ And that’s kind of the tightrope that we walked.
Twinfinite: With the superhero theme, is there any kind of sidekick and hero dynamic that’s going to play into the story of South Park: The Fractured But Whole?
Schroeder: In this game, Cartman has kind of positioned himself to kind of be essentially the dungeon master of the superhero game, and he gets to make the calls of okay ‘You’re popular enough for our franchise that maybe you can qualify to be somebody’s sidekick.’ And always Cartman is going to try to make sure that he doesn’t compliment you so much that you seem cooler than his character, The Coon. But pretty quickly you just start to realize, I guess I’m kind of the one with real super powers here, I can actually do these farts, I can actually fart so bad that it bends time, whereas all the other kids are kind of playing make believe.
Twinfinite: I noticed the equipment system has changed a bit, you can equip items and change your look, but it doesn’t affect your stats in any way. What was the decision behind moving away from putting on different kinds of gear, and putting on artifacts?
Schroeder: The reason for it is twofold. One in a superhero world, the way a superhero looks is a lot of their brand, it’s really externally speaking, the kids are worried about their superhero franchise, they’re worried about getting followers for Coon and Friends. If all of the superheroes that players created, all kind of ended up looking like the same kid’s version of Iron Man, at the end I felt like people wouldn’t have had the opportunity to build their superhero brand the way they wanted. So I wanted people to be able to create a superhero that reflects them, and when they’re standing next to Cartman, and Kenny, and the kids of South Park, they’d kind of be able to reflect themselves and say yeah I’m playing this game with these kids.
The other part of it was just, besides wanting you to feel like your own character in South Park, was honestly give a visual variety to streamers, people that play, people that share footage online. I didn’t want all of the Fractured footage to necessarily look the same, I thought it’d be cool to see how people reflected themselves in the public as well.
Twinfinite: It looks like the side quests are a little more fleshed out this time than in Stick of Truth. Was there an intent this time to make side quests a little more substantial in Fractured But Whole?
Schroeder: Well I think that in some ways we found in Stick, and in early play tests of Fractured, that people just loved to live in South Park. They like to see what’s behind that person’s bedroom door. So just trying to give people something to do that’s not on the mainline of the superhero story. I feel like there’s always more that you will want, but I’m glad that it’s starting to feel like there’s more to do.
Twinfinite: And you can go out at night now, right? How is night time going to change the town and how you interact with it?
Schroeder: So obviously you’re the same new kid in the same small town, so believably we couldn’t rearrange the whole town. We did the same thing the show does, we changed some buildings here and there some people come and go. But night gave us the opportunity to show a different side of South Park. Batman doesn’t really have Gotham without Gotham at night, and so the Coon, Cartman’s superhero persona, he and Mysterion both take their superheroing very seriously, and so that means they feel like they have to do night missions, that you have to do night missions if you’re going to be a serious superhero crime fighter. And so that I think allows people to see a different kind of South Park. In this case a South Park where adults are getting wasted.
Which to kids, you might remember what that was like as a kid, but it’s kind of baffling that adults act so different some nights. What Matt and Trey were trying to convey I think was that from the eyes of these kids playing superheroes it’s like ‘Wow, something is behind this, someone must be mind controlling, or something must be happening to the adults.’