Posted by: Mary Duffy |
Today, smash your heroic nemesis! Tomorrow, build a doomsday device to take over the world! But, wait, are your henchpeople going on strike?!
Top Villain: Total Domination is a 228,000-word interactive comedy supervillain novel by Brandon Greer. I sat down with Brandon to discuss the villainous inspiration behind the game and his process.
Top Villain: Total Domination releases this Thursday, August 17th. You can play the first three chapters today, for free.
What was the inspiration for this game?
It would probably be easier to list what didn’t inspire Top Villain. At the surface, a lot of my influences were other subversive takes on the classic comic book genre: Mega Mind, Despicable Me, Watchmen, and Venture Bros., all of whom turn the classic hero vs. villain conflict on their heads. That the character of Superman inspired a lot of the game goes without saying. Of course, another major influence was Hamlet, from which I cribbed a major plot point as well as the titles for most of the chapters of the game. I think Disco Elysium inspired a lot of the gameplay as well. I loved that game’s notion of “all right, here’s the chance to say the next wacky, outrageous thing.” But I also liked that the game had this incredibly sincere core, exploring a hurt character who tries to soothe his feelings of loss, frustration, and self-criticism with copious substance abuse. I feel like Top Villain does that too, but substitute the alcohol and drugs with bank robberies and giant lasers.
Do you have any favorite villains from other media—comic books, films, TV series?
I am a big horror guy, so I love Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Dracula, and Patrick Bateman. Essentially, I’ll watch any big ham with a sharp object. But when it comes to non-horror media, I like Lex Luthor, the Green Goblin, Richard III, Baron Harkonnen, Macbeth, Khan Noonien Singh, and (of course) Darth Vader. There is something absolutely compelling about a person with power, influence, and almost militaristic might who is absolutely insane under his calm, collected surface. I think the concept that someone who does not deserve power can obtain it and exploit it is so thoroughly terrifying. Yet I can’t look away. But if we’re talking about villains like the ones in Top Villain, then I’d say Skeletor. You can’t watch a single scene of classic Skeletor and not smile a little. The guy makes looking goofy cool.
Who was your favorite non-player character to write?
Over time, it became Smartica, the PC’s number one henchperson. At first, she was more of a background character that served as more of a litmus test with how dissatisfied the player’s lackeys were. But over time, she became her own character. She’s probably the person who is nicest to the player, and I really do think she has the most intriguing character arc of all the non- player characters. In many ways, by the end of the rewriting process, she ended up not only helping craft a much-improved resolution to the game, but she reinforced one of its major themes as well. This game would not be what it is without her, and I cannot thank my alpha and beta
testers enough for asking for more of her.
What surprised you about the writing process?
I was surprised how much I could write. Since the novel requires the narrative to change depending on a player’s decisions, that meant that I had to write out each scenario for each choice, each success, each failure, and so on.
At first, I struggled to get to the mandated 150,000 words my contract required. But thank God for my editors and beta testers, because they gave me so many more ideas on how to add new scenarios, jokes, and character interactions to flesh the game out more. The game now sits around 200,000 words, which is a little longer than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and a little shorter than Moby-Dick. Now, compare that to some of the other Choice of Games available, and that is short. I never could have imagined that I could have written a 200,000-word anything. Even the novel manuscript I have in my desk drawer is barely 50,000 (cough, cough, literary agents, if you’re reading this). But, hey, there is a first time for everything. I can only hope my next Choice of Games game is Stephen King-length.
What are you working on now/next?
I have a lot of irons in the fire, as well as a nice pair of oven mitts with which to juggle them. I’m wanting to adapt Codename: Blank, a podcast I did a while back, into a comic book series. In Houston, someone will be performing a reading of a play I wrote sometime in October. I also have a skeleton of an idea for a novel that I’m still refining a little.
And you know I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year.