Bad Day LA - Official Website

"Bad Day LA is a humorous third-person action/adventure game for PC and Xbox. Designed for the mass market with a heavy emphasis on fun and simple gameplay, it is low on frustration and high on comedy."

The player gets behind the shopping car of homeless whacko Anthony Williams, who finds his quest to live a solitary nomadic existence in the wasteland of Los Angeles interrupted by a series of natural and no-so-natural catastrophes. Williams is a classic messiah in denial, forced to rescue the people of Los Angeles from a terrible fate that he feels they almost certainly deserve. Now a lot of people he could care less about are counting on him. Features:

  • Street bum Anthony Williams fights for his life as multiple disasters devastate the city of Los Angeles
  • Humorous narrative, characters, and missions delivered through third-person action game play, in-game cinematics, and stunning pre-rendered animations
  • Fight your way through famous locations around LA as they suffer through calamites such as earthquakes, fires, meteor showers, invading revolutionaries, and constant riots
  • Cinematic musical sound-scape composed of over 100 original and licensed songs, realistically captured voice acting, and block rocking surround-sound audio effects
  • Funky and unique arts style inspired by famed Los Angeles art team, Koxyndan brings to life the locations and disasters that are stage to this truly Bad Day
  • Interact with over a hundred unique characters throughout dozens of insane missions.
Game Chronicles talks with American McGee about his stylish, hip, and "disastrous" new adventure game in this in-depth interview.

GCM: Thank you for your time! Please get us started by telling our readers about the team that will be taking us on another great American McGee adventure and to what extent your involvement is with this latest endeavor.
American McGee: The team is called “Enlight” and they are split between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. The group in China is primarily focused on asset production (2D and 3D artwork) and animation (both in-game and pre-rendered). They have been cranking out tons of cool characters and some really beautiful pre-rendered disaster cinematics. The Hong Kong team is responsible for programming, level design, in-game cinematics, and project management, among other things.

My involvement with the project goes all the way back to the conception of the idea. I’ve been working on it as game designer, writer, creative director, and executive producer. I’ve also been managing the VO, sound effects, and scoring process. This is very similar to the role that I had in Alice production, although there’s one major difference here in that I’ve been working on-site with the team now for over 9 months. On Alice I only went and worked on-site with the team for the final few months.


GCM: We can always count on an American McGee game to bring something “new” to the table, but introducing a “homeless whacko” as the lead character could be construed as poor taste or making light of a serious “epidemic” in the US. How do you plan to spin this into something entertaining rather than controversial?
American McGee: If the epidemic you are referring to is homelessness, then I think it is important to point out a central fact in our main character’s back-story, namely that he’s homeless by choice, not by circumstance. His homelessness is his own personal statement against a society and culture that he’s become allergic to. At no point during the game do we make light of homelessness or homeless people in any way. In fact, what we have is a character made stronger because he is disconnected from our fragile everyday society.

GCM: Tell us a bit about Anthony Williams and what motivates our homeless hero to become the savior of Los Angeles rather than just one of the hysterical masses.
American McGee: From a very basic perspective people simply don’t walk in the city of Los Angeles. That means that most people have no idea how to get around other than by car. In a disaster, where major roadways are crippled, who do you think will have a better idea of how to transverse the city, a homeless guy intimately familiar with every alleyway and walking path or a Hollywood agent who only leaves his Land Rover to walk from the valet stand to the front door of The Ivy?

On another level we have a guy who is mentally detached enough to deal with catastrophes without suffering a meltdown. Using the Hollywood agent analogy once again, who’s going to deal better with an earthquake? Someone who has a multi-million dollar house sitting on the edge of a cliff in Beachwood Canyon or someone who lives in a box?

Ok, so maybe we’re poking a little too much fun at the Hollywood agent, but this isn’t intended to be reality. This is comedy, and seeing a social outcast survive adversity while the weaker around him fall is the core of all good hero stories.


GCM: The title implies the events in this game span a single day. Will you be capitalizing on a 24-hour period or virtual-real-time clock to trigger certain events or create a day and night cycle?
American McGee: The entire day plays out from 7AM until 7PM. The sun rises and falls on one very disastrous day. There is no virtual real-time clock, there is no day night cycle. Just 10 discrete disaster areas played out in a linear fashion.

GCM: LA is becoming an increasingly popular location in which to set a videogame. What areas of the city will you be showing us that we might not have explored in other games, and how will being homeless affect or limit our access to the “classier” sections of the city?
American McGee: “Streets of LA” did a pretty good job of presenting the majority of the city of Los Angeles on a macro scale. We’re going in a slightly different direction and showing you 10 selected areas on a more detailed level. You’ll be roaming through back yards, going into burning houses, exploring buildings downtown, and hiking the streets on foot. Areas that you’ll visit include the Crenshaw/10 Freeway overpass (where the game starts), Park La Brea area (for the earthquake level), Hollywood & Highland (for the meteor storm), Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, and more.

Oh, and when you get to Beverly Hills the local inhabitants get pretty upset… but that probably has more to do with the fact that you’re destroying their homes and vehicles with a tank than the fact that you’re homeless!


GCM: The creative artistry of Kozyndan seems to be a perfect match for your game design. How did this talented art team become part of the Bad Day LA project and what was their impact on the overall “look” of this game?
American McGee: I was first exposed to their art in galleries, bookstores, and bars around Los Angeles. I purchased a few of their prints over time, but it never crossed my mind that I might work with them on a video game until the concept of Bad Day LA started to form. While in the pre-production phase I started looking around to find a style that would match the spirit of Los Angeles while helping to downplay the seriousness of the disasters. Making and presenting a ‘disaster spoof’ isn’t easy from any perspective… and, as the art style is the first thing people are going to see, we knew that getting the visuals right was of key importance.

They’ve had a pretty serious impact on the look of the game as their key concept images were what drove all the early art development for the project. Over time our art director, Ken Wong, worked their style into something that could be easily reproduced by the art team on a large scale. The result is what you see in the game today. Honestly, if it weren’t for Kozyndan (www.kozyndan.com) and Ken the game would just look like everything else out there. And that would be no fun!


GCM: Is the “innocent” cel-shaded look intended to offset the serious nature of an endless stream of disasters or were you just going for a “new look” with your game designs?
American McGee: Um, I think I just said that in the previous answer, but yes. The goal here is to soften the blow of the content a little. We’re not trying to aim the game at kids or “age it down” in any way… this is purely a title for adults. But we did need to do something to communicate the humor aspect of the title. In a lot of ways South Park contributed to my desire to see the game rendered in a cartoon style. They’ve presented some pretty heavy topics on their show but have always managed to keep it light because of the medium in which they present it, the ridiculous nature of the presenters (kids talking about herpes and Iraq!)

GCM: What were some challenges in creating a stylized cel-shaded game like Bad Day versus something more “high-tech” like Scrapland or Alice?
American McGee: To be honest, when I decided on the Kozyndan style I thought that recreating it would be “easier” for the artists than trying to get them to do a photo-real look. Boy was I wrong! As it turns out the art style was one of the more difficult aspects of early production. Getting the art team to understand all of the various nuances of the style was a major obstacle. This is where Ken Wong came in and really worked some magic. His style guides, hands-on tutoring, and concept artwork really helped to smooth out the learning curve. If we ever decide to do that style again on a sequel or future project then the team will be good to go.

GCM: You have the LA art team for the visuals, how about the music? Any LA bands or local inspiration for the soundtrack?
American McGee: All of our music is being handled by a group in New York called The Lodge (www.thelodge.com). These guys work with really big name bands like The Prodigy to produce albums, and they also do a lot of work scoring TV commercials and films. They’ve provided us with over 100 unique music tracks in various styles that fit the LA vibe. As you travel through the city you are presented with the music in a dynamic soundscape composed of in-level natural sound sources like boom boxes, vehicles, and houses. The result is pretty cool and quite immersive.

As for right now we don’t have any actual LA bands involved with the project but we are talking to some labels in LA about the possibility.


GCM: Just how many disasters can you pack into one day and what are a few of your favorites or some that we might not expect to see in LA?
American McGee: In total there are 10 levels in the game. Each has a disaster theme of its own. I think that so far my favorites are turning out to be the airport and possibly the fire level. During the airport level you get to sneak around indoors, avoiding TSA guards while trying to reach an evacuation airplane. There’s a lot of humor involving interrogations, airplane food, baggage handlers, and airport security to be found in this level. The fire level is really ridiculous as well, mostly because it features so many people who are on fire that you need to help out. Again, this is presented in a not-so-realistic manner, so you can laugh along with it instead of being morally offended by it. (Trust me, there’s plenty other stuff to get morally offended by in the game!)

GCM: The AI in Bad Day LA promises some very advanced features (e.g. herd mentality) we haven’t seen before. What are some other innovations you are particularly proud of?
American McGee: The real core of the game play revolves around the idea of “chaos management”, which is in essence like managing the emotional state of your sim characters in The Sims. The difference here is that your interface is direct and you’re using a shotgun and fire extinguisher to do all of your “adjustments”. The AI plays heavily into this aspect of the game and you’ll find yourself working to adjust the emotional state of various NPCs. They become angry, scared, or happy depending on your actions. They can lump together in fear or mob you if you’re aren’t careful.

As for things I am particularly proud of… I always get a laugh when I see burning people running over to put themselves out with fire hydrants. Don’t ask me why.


GCM: With more than 100 NPC’s, what were some challenges in coming up with new and interesting character designs and personalities? Any celebrities lending their voices to the project?
American McGee: Ah, that was the easy part. We just went nuts coming up with funny characters based on pictures that were taken all over Los Angeles. You know, in general, people are really funny looking. At times, when we ran out of interesting characters in the photos we had taken, we’d sit and come up with ridiculous “LA” style people like transvestites, Mexican mariachis, and other nonsense.

All of our VO is being handled by a company in San Francisco called Kandyland. They’re doing a great job of pulling together all the ethnic types that are represented in the game. The final VO script came out to over 110 pages… that’s as much dialog as is found in a feature film!


GCM: Were there any “boundaries” you chose not to cross in the making of Bad Day LA; either a stereotype of character or a certain disaster?
American McGee: Yeah, there have been some issues that I’ve felt were going a bit too far. A lot of times these had to do with race or gender issues that simply aren’t funny. While this is supposed to be a funny game that pokes fun of a lot of common cultural issues, I’m hoping that the content starts intelligent conversations about the presented topics, not that it just offends people for no reason.

GCM: If you had to pick your single favorite element of Bad Day LA that sets it apart from anything else you’ve done in the past, what would that be and why?
American McGee: Certainly the core game play element of chaos management is different. I think beyond that the fact that it’s set in the real world (even if it is a very surreal day) make it pretty different for me. Another really interesting thing about this project has been the development itself…working with the team in China and Hong Kong has been a really great experience and lots of fun.

GCM: What can turn a “bad day” into a “good day” in the life of American McGee?
American McGee: It takes a lot to mess up my day. I live by the belief that only my resistance to reality can cause me distress. It is summed up very simply in the phrase “It is what it is.” As a result I don’t suffer a lot of bad days. If I am having a bad day I usually just take a quiet break, try to examine what it is about a given situation that is making me feel threatened or fearful, and then deal with it in a straightforward manner. Sorry if you were hoping I would say something like, “Punching someone!”

GCM: Thank you again for your time! Do you have any last impressions or thoughts for our readers?
American McGee: Be sure to check out the Bad Day LA website: www.baddayla.com and also check out my personal website: www.americanmcgee.com