Reading the interview in Edge with a former Bizzare Creations member on the production of MSR it reminded me of a chat I had recently with Jeff Lewis, also a previous employee of the former Liverpool gaming studios about one of my favourite Dreamcast game of all time, Fur Fighters. Enjoy!
What are your memories of Fur Fighters?
Furfighters was the first game I worked on in the video games industry. I was straight out of art school and had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and it was just a fantastic experience learning how to make games and at the same time getting to create an entire world and a huge cast of characters. there were about 12 of us working on the game and we had an enormous amount of freedom to do whatever we wanted with the game. Our boss trusted us and had confidence in us so basically any crazy idea we had went into the game. I've worked on a lot of cool projects since then but have never had that amount of creative freedom again and that freedom made making the game a wonderful experience.
What games do think influenced the development of Fur Fighters?
Obviously the hey-day of n64 Rare and Nintendo games had a big influence on us but the other game that really inspired us was Doom 2 strangely enough. I remembered us talking endlessly about how perfectly balanced the weapon and enemy structures were in Doom and we learned lot from looking at it.
What game play aspects are you most proud of in the game?
Two things- The sheer variety of content in it and the Badguy behavior. If you play the game again today it's amazing how much variety there is. Evry time you turn a corner there's a new idea. Modern games are so spectacular and beautiful looking but you forget how much content games had in the late 90's and early 2000's. With the bad-guys the thing i love about them is that they're genuinely funny and constantly make you laugh.
Would you have preferred it to have kept its original title of Furballs instead of having to change it to Fur Fighters during development?
I can't rememeber it being too much of a big deal really. You'd be surprised how many names most games go through during the course of their development.
While the game included local offline play in the form of “Fluff match mode” were there ever any plans for online multiplayer, given the Dreamcast's online capabilities?
I honestly can't remember I'm afraid. It's so long ago!
|"Fluff Matches" were the games equivalent of death matches. |
Sadly, online code was never included in the final release.
Fur Fighters featured some amazing characters, a personal favourite is General Viggo who bears (no pun intended) a resemblance to Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, but who is your favourite character and why?
My personal favorite was Roofus the dog. In my mind he was a super-tough middle-aged hard-nut, sort of a canine Jack Reacher. I always wanted to have a little undercurrent of real drama and peril underneath all of the sillyness and even though the story in the game is pretty simple there are a couple of bits in the game with Roofus when we really managed to pull that off.
Were any of the characters based on real people?
Almost every character in it is based on a pop culture figure or personal friend but I have particularly fond memories of a pair of sub-bosses later in the game who are a karate-kicking, bikini wearing rabbit and deer that are a parody of a pair of famous Bond girls.
The game is particularly renowned for its humour with tons of pop references throughout such as the ants who worshipped the bomb in a Planet of the Apes moment, or the games shop filled with copies of "Shenmoo" , "Metropolis Sheep Racer", and such like. What were your favourites?
We were obsessed with Pop culture references and were constantly trying to find ways to make them. We also loved making terrible puns so any animal-related pun we could make on the title of a film or game had to get put in the game somewhere. My personal favorite.....there's a poster for a war movie in the City level's subway stations entitled 'the thin red lion'.
What was the Dreamcast like to develop for?
I remember it being pretty easy compared to modern games which are so complex with all their shaders and normal maps. We had a really good tools programmer who wrote a brilliant level editor for us and it allowed us to make so many crazy things. In some ways it's the best editor I've ever used even though it's the best part of 15 years old now.
Why did you go for cell shading for the ps2 version, but not the DC original?
It was pretty much the normal thing to do to expand or change dreamcast games a bit when they got ported to PS2 so there was something fresh to talk about for PR. Cell shading was technically possible and interesting so we decided to do that, along with adding a bonus level and some other bits and bobs.
Were there ever any plans for a sequel, and if so, what kind of ideas did you have in place?
I remember we talked about it a bit but we pretty much got offered a big movie license before we'd even finished Furfighters so that took us off in a new direction.
I faintly remember us talking about it being a prequel, and it was going to be about how the Furfighters met during a terrible war with the bears, and repelled an alien invasion by a sinister and mysterious intelligence. I seem to remember it was going to be called Furfighters2 : Dark Thingy.
What happened to the Game Boy Color version of the game and how far along was development?
That was never more than a casual conversation if i remember correctly. I did some screen mockups but it didn't get much further than that. A great regret. That's something that i would have loved to have seen.
Finally, do you think we will ever see a new Fur Fighters?
I don't know if there will ever be a new game but the game's lead gameplay programmer, a great friend of mine, has recently managed to port it to I-pad and it's in the app store now.
Well I never, a prequel about a war with bears called DARK THINGY! Sounds bloody fantastic. Just one thing, Lucid Games, Y U NOT MAKE THIS GAME NOW!? Also, if you are yet to play this game the first time round then it is definitely one to look out for on tablets and the Ipad version was added to Apple's store last month just £1.49! Bargain.