with International Hobo
got the chance to interview International Hobo, the company who
were responsible for the main design, level design, parametric
design and script for Ghost Master.
the questions are Chris Bateman (head of the International Hobo
design team on Ghost Master) and Richard Boon (head of script on
Ghost Master at International Hobo).
the first stages of designing the game, you must have had an
idea of what you wanted it to end up like. How does the
'finished product' compare to the original idea of Ghost
Barnett (the director and co-designer of the game) and I
were just discussing this yesterday. The finished game is
remarkable true to the original premises which we laid down
about three years ago. The original premise was that you
would pick a team of ghosts, Mission: Impossible style, go
into a haunting and scare mortals. The scared mortals would
create Plasm - a kind of ghostly voltage - which you can
then channel to your ghosts to use more powerful abilities,
which scare the mortals more, which makes more Plasm.
Looking at what has changed since the original, it's mostly
some concepts that fell out along the way. At one point, we
had the ghosts transform into 'superghosts' at a certain
plasm band, but later it was apparent we didn't need this,
since the ghosts already got more powerful when you channel
a lot of Plasm to them. The original design also had a
notion of 'game time' which has fallen out now - it wasn't
actually very helpful to have a number of seperate 'nights'
in the game, and worked much better with just a continuous
chunk of play time. In fact, I would say everything
essential to the design has remained, and all that's
happened is a few unnecessary features have 'fallen out'
along the way. That's a good thing to be able to say about a
heard that the concept for Ghost Master was influenced by
reality TV shows. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Chris: Gregg was looking at what was popular at the
time, and noticed all the reality TV shows - and how much of
the fun came from the voyeurism of watching people trapped
in a situation where the TV show is actively messing them
around. That influenced the original idea for a scare-em-up.
Once the design got rolling, we were more heavily influenced
by classic horror films - trying to make this the game in
which you can do pretty much anything you've ever seen in a
interested to learn about the different locations a player
can haunt in. Which locations did you originally come up
with, and were there any you rejected?
Chris: Reject is a strong word! We designed about five or six
more locations than are in the first game, but many of the
rest have already been modelled and will be used in a later
game or mission pack, so it would be wrong to consider the
shipwreck, drive in, slums etc. as rejected. However, one
location that has been cut out is the museum. Neil Bundy,
who has been design assistant to Ghost Master, designed on
paper a wonderful location based around a classic museum. It
was one of the most fun location designs, but when we came
to organise the materials to go with the plot it didn't make
as much sense as some of the other options, and it was cut.
locations in Ghost Master look very detailed. How long did
it take to design each of the locations?
paper design here at International Hobo took a couple of
days for each location. Then there was perhaps a week of art
design by Nick Martinelli (one of the finest location
designers working in games and television) and several weeks
with the artists breathing life into it. Our work in
designing the locations was really only the gameplay
requirements - the artists are the ones responsible for
making each location into an astonishing masterpiece. I
can't stress enough how talented the art team on this game
kind of "camera angles" are used in the game? Does
the player have much control over this?
camera angle is totally user-definable. Simple mouse
controls allow movement, tilt and zoom with the camera, and
the whole thing quickly becomes second nature. A default
isometric view also exists for those who prefer a single
viewpoint; this view can be moved in increments to allow
full views of the locations. Other views available include
point-of-view from a mortal or ghost's perspective. The
player won't miss anything!
of the 'ghosts' look pretty cool. How much time went in to
Richard: In terms of visual look, animation, and
personality, all the ghosts are unique. They have very
distinctive personalities based upon their past lives - the
majority of the ghosts come complete with a back-story
explaining how they died and how they live their un-life.
The ghosts all have their own speech. Each ghost has its own
set of powers, and some ghosts have unique powers that only
they can use. Teaming up different ghosts together also
allows for different haunting strategies - for instance, one
ghost is especially effective when teamed up with his
faithful, dead dog! Of course, the player can tweak the
ghosts to their own personal haunting style by teaching new
Chris: There is an AI system for the ghosts that's completely
different for the AI for mortals, and the behaviour of each
ghost is defined differently within the ghost AI, so you
will be able to spot unique personalities in the way they
behave. They'll learn better self-control and quicker
reactions as you work with them too!
Richard: As an aside, each of the mortals in the game has their own
personality too, though because there are many more mortals,
they are less distinctive than the ghosts. It is as possible
to become fond of individual mortals (as you scare them out
of their minds) as it is to be attached to favourite
Chris: You will meet many of the mortals several times as the
story progresses. After manipulating mortals to get the
police called into a house, you will later find the family
at the police station, filing a report.
Ghost Master, have you focused more on scenarios or
Master is almost wholly focused upon scenario-based play.
Each of the individual environments has one or two scenarios
defined to play within it, and the story follows the events
that take place during play. Scenario goals range from
making all inhabitants of a location run away screaming, to
helping restless spirits, freeing ghosts from the control of
evil mortals, and defeating key enemies. Though the focus is
on scenario play, the number of ghosts in the game (nearly
fifty) allow the player to take many different haunting
teams into each scenario, providing different play options
and challenges. The testing teams are finding new ways to do
things all the time! This gives the game excellent 'sandbox'
potential, in which a player may replay the same scenario
again and again without it becoming boring.
kind of dialogue is used in the game? Have you leaned
towards comedy or horror?
ghost has their own lines of dialogue that are appropriate
to their personality - we have cocky surfer Gremlins,
serious gangster ghosts, bad tempered old men and ditzy
undead cheerleaders. Some of the characters are all-out
humourous, while others have a darker edge to them. And
though the game is set firmly in the USA, it has a lot of
traditional dark British humour to it. Basically, there's
something for everybody.
has become apparent that one of the main reasons
"The Sims" was so successful is because of
the way the fans could get involved, and keep adding
to the game. Will there be any additional downloads
or add-on packs in the future?
packs are already in the pipeline, and we will
certainly be listening to what the fans have to say
as we work towards a sequel in the future. We won't
be able to do everyting that the fans want, because
Ghost Master is a complex world and we must remain
true to that setting, but are open to suggestions
and ideas from fans of the game. It was important to
us at International Hobo that the world of Ghost
Master be a complete setting - one of the same
quality as you'd expect from a good film or TV
program - and we have been very careful when making
decisions to ensure we don't do anything that will
cause us problems in the background in the future.
We really want to know which ghosts are everyone's
favourites so that we can make sure that they
continue to appear in the Ghost Master games in the
future. We won't have time to listen to everyone
individually, so the results of polls at sites like
Ghostmaster.net will be important indicators of the
way fans feel about various aspects of the game.
there any final points you would like to mention
about the game?
last point - we wanted to make sure that there was a
lot of detailed information available right from the
beginning, so we arranged with Prima for
International Hobo to provide the manuscript for the
official guide to the game. Not only does this mean
that it's straight from the horse's mouth, but it's
written in the same style as the rest of the game
making it the perfect companion to this game. It's
an essential purchase for anyone who's in love with
the game, and for any FAQer wanting to see how the
game world works.
Chris and Richard for taking part in this interview.
We are sure that Ghost Master is going to be a very