|IMG: Postal's Designer Steve Wik Talks Game Design, & More|
October 20, 2006 | Jean-Luc Dinsdale
In the second of our interviews with the Running With Scissors design team, Inside Mac Games had a chance to hook up with Postal 2ís lead designer Steve Wik, and talk about the history of the Postal franchise, some of the difficulties faced by his team when designing his controversial titles, and his thoughts on the Postal movie.
Inside Mac Games: For our readers who may not be familiar with your games, can you give us a brief history into the Postal franchise?
Steve Wik: The story of Postal. Well, we started doing educational titles, licensed games like Bobbyís World, Tom and Jerry, other games like that, and we decided that the real route to fame and glory was to create an original product. And at the time, we didnít have any money, and werenít sure what we could create. We thought that it would be really cool to update a classic arcade game - we all loved Robotron - so we decided to do a really cool, improved modern version of Robotron. We had no idea what the story of the game would be, so, for several months, we tried to nail down a concept that we all liked. We looked at all the games that were out there and closely scrutinized all the ideas we had, and we realized that we didnít like any of them, so we tried instead to come up with a great name for a game, the thought being that if we came up with a name, the story would come. We then started throwing all these potential titles, and, at the time, a game for the first Playstation had just been released called POíed. Wow. Truly all the great game titles had been taken if we were down to POíed.
We were looking for a word that was in the lexicon and was in common usage that nobody had used for a game title, and I was reading a comic book in which one of the characters said ďYouíre going postal!Ē That stuck. It was a cool name, and we joked about all the free publicity we would get when we got sued by the United States Postal Service.
IMG: Thatís ironic.
Steve Wik: Iím ironic like that a lot Ė that was the first of many times when I wished I hadnít said something later. So that was it, the name stuck, and from there I drew up a little sketch of a guy hanging out of a mail truck, hanging out the driverís door with a gun, shooting away. My original concept for the game was that it would be a more catoon-y, Duke Nukem-style of game where you played a psychotic postman who was saving the world from aliens. At some point we were talking about the opening cinematic, and we had this idea that the postman would drive up to a house, get out of his van, and open up the front door. There would be this old lady standing there, and the Postal Dude would shoot her in the face - and it would turn out she was an alien. And then, at one point, one of the guys at the office asked ďForget the alien, why canít we just shoot an old woman?Ē Again, the irony is so thick Ė I didnít buy it. You canít be serious! You canít make a game where you just kill people, thatís insane!
IMG: At the time, most games were cute or cartoony or extremely stylized, and the bad guys were always aliens or monsters or drug dealers or terrorists, stereotypical bad guys. Shooting innocent people was a stretch.
Steve Wik: Exactly. I was really against it. I fought tooth and nail against the idea. No, we canít do it, weíll all go to jail, but it wasnít until we had a playable demo, and the game was so inherently funny - it was so crazy and over the top absurd that I said, okay, this is actually funny. I was writing all the game dialogue, so I decided that no one would be able to stop me from making the game as funny as possible. So thatís how the first Postal came about.
IMG: Then the Post Office got offended and the trouble with Senator Joe Lieberman came down. If memory serves correctly, the USPS sued you guys in 1997 overÖ trademark infringement? Postal was banned in eleven countries, and then democratic senator and then-presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman blamed you and rock music for the degeneration of American youth.
Steve Wik: Yeah, Lieberman was amazing, I wanted to send him a cheque to thank him for all the free publicity. He lumped us together with Marilyn Manson and Calvin Klein underwear ads as the three worst things in American society. You canít pay for that kind of exposure. That was the crowing achievement.
I was really happy to see the humourous elements develop in our game. Apart from the art direction, we were trying at first to be really serious, and we realized that with a game like Postal, you canít do serious, you have to do humour. Thatís always been my thing anyway: anytime we do something, it has to be funny, because thatís what I am about, thatís where I think I have some ability. I try to steer anything we do in that direction. With Postal 1, I wrote all the dialogue, designed all the levels, and that was the limit of my influence. On Postal 2, I got to write the design documentation. We wanted to make this game a first person shooter, and I had so much creative leeway with the second game, it was so cool and then we got a team together that all had the same mindset, the same sense of humour, and the same sensibilities. We didnít have to sell it to anyone working on the project. People got it, it was cool.