Saturday, February 8, 2020

The creators of Kentucky Route Zero discuss the way the robot character changed over time

From a lengthy interview about the game:
Before this interview, I scrolled through the original Kickstarter from 2011, and it’s incredible how the game changed from that initial pitch. In the Kickstarter video, my favorite character, Junebug, was depicted as a Southern belle.

Junebug didn’t even appear in the actual game until years later, in Act 3. She’s now an avant-garde artist who is traveling with effectively a robotic Klaus Nomi-type. Using Junebug as an example, how did the lengthy development process change the vision of the game?

We went through, like, three versions of Junebug. The character in the game now is the third iteration. Loretta Lynn is the original inspiration for that character, and the original version [in the Kickstarter video] looks a lot like Loretta Lynn. And then in between that, there was this one that was, like, Loretta Lynn meets [Rosie] the robot maid from the Jetsons. It was really cool. But it was ... yeah.

By the time we got to Act 3, and [Junebug] actually shows up [for the first time], we had really discovered the game’s tone.

It was so different when we started working. We’d thought, OK, you meet these different people and they travel with you. You can have two of them with you at a time, and they give you different power-ups. And so Junebug’s power-up was that she could talk to computers, and you’d want to bring her in whenever you needed to talk to computers.

It’s this totally instrumentalized, video gamey kind of idea of what this character would be. And [those mechanics were] completely gone by the time we got to actually introducing Junebug. So we totally reworked the character, totally redesigned her and her partner, Johnny. How she evolved was a part of this whole larger shift in how we looked at all the characters for this game.

Kemenczy: The visuals changed, too. The second version was even more robotic: She had wheels, and it was really strange. By the time we made the third version, we’d established the tone. There was an emphasis on theater — I don’t know how to explain, but basically, it was like our characters were people acting on a theater stage. [So for Junebug and Johnny, we asked] What would they look like if they were actors playing androids? It’s a little more toned down.