Toronto-made The Big Con is a ’90s con artist sport highlighted by the Tribeca Film Festival

Over the previous few weeks, there have been a bunch of video games showcases centered on indie titles hailing from all around the world.

Between Wholesome Direct, Steam Next Fest, Devolver Digital’s ‘MaxPass Plus’ and the 2021 Guerrilla Collective, there was definitely no scarcity of promising indie video games on show.

But solely eight indie builders can say that they have been featured in the first-ever Tribeca Games Spotlight, which was put collectively earlier this month by the world-famous Tribeca Film Festival. What’s extra, simply a kind of studios was Canadian — the Toronto-based indie developer Mighty Yell.

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Tribeca spotlit the four-year-old Canadian studio’s debut title, The Big Con, an journey sport a few teenaged con artist within the ’90s who tries to lift cash to avoid wasting her mom’s video retailer.

“We were floored. This is not only the first Tribeca [Games Spotlight], but we were in it,” says Dave Proctor, The Big Con‘s writer-director. “And we were one of eight. I was like, ‘How many are there, 100? No, eight?’ Yeah, I’m still taken aback by it — I’m still so proud.”

The eight video games in query have been chosen by an advisory board consisting of a number of massive figures within the leisure business, together with Toronto-born The Game Awards creator Geoff Keighley, Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau and Max Payne author Sam Lake.

Impressively, Mighty Yell even managed to get Sabrina the Teenage Witch star Melissa Joan Hart to introduce The Big Con at Tribeca. “That was wild — that was the icing on the cake for this whole thing,” says Proctor.

He credit the group’s advertising director, Corina [Diaz], for locating the entire Tribeca alternative and making use of for the group. This was particularly useful, he says, because the core group consists of simply six individuals. “As the guy who’s doing the writing and game design, having someone who was in charge of marketing and visibility […] is such a huge benefit and privilege,” he says.

This helped Proctor give attention to realizing the sport’s imaginative and prescient, which he says comes from years of reverence for con artist tales and ’90s nostalgia.

“I’m a big fan of period-based nostalgia but not specific references. I didn’t want the game to be ‘the Clintons!’ ‘Nirvana!’ We wanted it to feel like you’re in the ’90s, so a lot of that is aesthetic-based,” he explains. “There are some references, too — landlines, teenagers having their own phone line, I think I mentioned Pearl Jam once in the game.”

In retaining with the ’90s vibe, Ali even has an imaginary buddy named Rad Ghost. “He’s just this guy who looks like a ’90s bedsheet. Canonically, in our heads, he’s also the ghost of an MTV VJ, although we never say that,” Proctor says with fun.

The Big Con mall

The sport’s whimsical tone, in the meantime, is available in no small half attributable to its vibrant aesthetic, which Proctor attributes to artwork director Saffron Aurora.

“We wanted to try something that was inspired a little bit more by 90s comics and cartoons. So she started looking at Nickelodeon and stuff, and I was like, ‘also check out comics like Ghost World, look at the way that’s shaded and heavy line drawings and stuff,” he says.

“But there was a big part of her that remembered or watched a lot of [’90s content]. People say Doug a lot of time because it’s got those big thick black lines and bright colors and stuff like that, and I think there’s a there’s a lot of truth to that. But we also just wanted something that was bright and colorful.”

On the music entrance, composer Dan Rodrigues has lent The Big Con a decidedly upbeat and laidback rating. But Proctor additionally acquired to leverage his personal Toronto band expertise alongside Rodrigues and his buddy Matt Winkler in an thrilling manner. To add to the ’90s really feel, Mighty Yell labored with Rockapella, the a capella music group behind the nostalgic theme to the ’90s PBS present Where within the World is Carmen Sandiego?, to create The Big Con‘s theme track.

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“[Mighty Yell] wrote the song, we were like ‘this is what needs to happen for the song,’ and we gave it to Rockapella and they gave it back to us and we’re like, ‘wow, what have you done? This is beautiful!’” says Proctor of the Rockapella collaboration.

Overall, although, Proctor doesn’t need The Big Con to solely be about nostalgia. “It’s more about creating an atmosphere and a feel. To me, the stories kind of emerge from that.”

The key story there’s Ali’s, who undergoes her personal coming-of-age journey amid her grifting. It’s a story that Proctor labored out early on with Jill Murray, a prolific video games author who’s labored on such titles as Eidos Montreal’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Unknown Worlds’ Subnautica: Below Zero. 

“We were kind of like, ‘Who is this character? Who is Ali?’” says Proctor of his early conversations with Murray. “She’s this kind of sarcastic ’90s protagonist [who] also has these hang-ups about wanting to live her own life that don’t necessarily involve becoming a famous musician like her mom wants. That kind of resonated with both of us.”

The Big Con Ali

From there, he says his love for con artwork motion pictures made it “a natural fit” to form The Big Con into an journey sport.

“It was something I always wanted to do and I always wanted to experiment with non-linear adventure gameplay. Instead of ‘there’s the door, how do I find the key?’ it’s ‘this is the amount of money that I need to get through,’ he says. “I wanted to have something where you could do a bunch of little quests and that would contribute to a goal. And a very kind of natural design affordance for that is money.”

While Proctor notes that The Big Con isn’t 100% open and systemic, he says the sport does provide some freedom in the way you method your grifts. This signifies that Ali will be capable to go round and pickpocket individuals for small quantities of cash or tackle quests that may contain elaborate disguises or breaking and getting into for better rewards.

The Big Con quest

“If you do the thing that you have to do, do you also do these things on the side? Or do you instead only do the things on the side?” he says of the sport’s design philosophy.

“Every character has their own sort of voice, even if they only talk for one or two lines. And you run around and you stumble on something and someone’s talking about something, and you’re like, ‘oh, I wonder if I can engage with that.’ It’s definitely a bit more open-ended.”

Players additionally don’t have to fret about a few of the different limitations that could be present in different video games, Proctor says. “I’m not putting a clock on you and there’s no morality metre. It’s just like ‘what do you want to do?”

In the case of The Big Con, the idea of morality is an attention-grabbing one, as Proctor notes the sport’s material initially postpone some individuals. During the Tribeca Games Spotlight, Proctor made a reasonably attention-grabbing assertion in regards to the difficulties of pitching a sport like The Big Con that focuses on non-violent crime. “Games with guns don’t bat an eye, but the moment you have to steal an old lady’s wallet, people start to think maybe there’s something wrong with you,” he mentioned at Tribeca.

The Big Con pickpocket

When requested to unpack that quote, Proctor notes that Mighty Yell did certainly encounter some resistance from publishers it had met with.

“There was some pushback. I’m not gonna lie,” he admits. “Not a ton, [but] I will say that I met with a lot of different people that saw something in the game and didn’t see something else.” He says Skybound, the writer of The Big Con, is an instance of the previous, however there have been a number of others who didn’t vibe with the sport’s idea.

“There were also people that we met and they’re like, ‘well, this isn’t nice.’ Or they would either say ‘no, this is morally obtuse,’ or they would say, ‘I don’t want a game without combat.’ And those were the two things that we kind of batted back and forth. We did not flinch.”

Proctor says this hesitation in the direction of video games like The Big Con is emblematic of the broader online game business’s give attention to extra action-packed experiences. “I do believe our industry is very reliant on violence as core mechanic,” he says. “And I have zero judgment for those kinds of games — just me, personally, and the team at Mighty Yell want to try to do something a little bit different when we can.”

The Big Con train

For Proctor, this meant utilizing the story of a teen turning to crime to avoid wasting her mom’s livelihood to function a commentary on the struggles of small companies.

“I think a lot about local economies and stuff like that. I live in a corner of Toronto and we’ve got a great little general store and sells a bunch of rad social justice books and stuff for kids. And, like, if I give them money, then the money stays here, and they support each other. And that is a positive thing to me because those people live here, and then they bring money to other folks.”

He says this has solely turn out to be much more necessary after small companies have been hit notably arduous attributable to COVID-19.

“During this pandemic, we’ve had a huge disrespect for homeless people in Toronto — politically, anyways. And we also have a lot of love for big box stores, and those are not necessarily connected, but they are in terms of where we devote our energy to it,” he says. “I think it’s important to have conversations about what the little guy is doing and to draw attention to that. And I won’t spoil anything, but I do have a little bit of that conversation explicitly in the game, and I’m looking forward to people finding it.”

The Big Con mall

So far, although, he’s proud of the response from gamers who tried out the sport throughout Tribeca and the Steam Next Festival.

“When we were sharing this game with some people, someone said to us, ‘I played this with my son who’s six. And he was like, ‘don’t steal from those people because they’re nice, but this guy’s mean. And they had a father-son conversation about why is Ali doing what she’s doing and what does it mean to steal? And is it right? Or is it wrong?’” he says.

“And they didn’t necessarily come to a conclusion or an answer, and that’s cool — that’s a good thing to me. I think if we can do something a little bit different, if we can make people have those questions, then that’s a positive thing.”

The Big Con will launch on Xbox One and PC (Steam) this summer season.

This is the newest entry in our month-to-month Canadian developer interview sequence. Last month’s characteristic, which centered on the noir detective journey Backbone, may be discovered right here.

What do you think?

Written by Gideon


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