An Interview With Uber Entertainment's Chandana Ekanayake
I sat down with Uber Entertainment’s Art Director/Executive producer today, Chandana Ekanayake (commonly known to forum and Twitter peoples as Eka), to ask him about some of the thematic elements of Monday Night Combat. What follows is the exchange–certainly a fascinating read not just for MNC fans, but also those who appreciate real world issues and “serious” subjects being tackled by games. Also, bees.
So, tell me a little about the writing process for the lines in Monday Night Combat: who or whom are the writers, how did Uber decide which subjects to touch upon?
The process began with us figuring out a general direction for the game when we first started. The general theme we liked was that of a humorous futuristic combat sport with a stylized look. So when you start there, there are certain things that just make sense like announcers, sports metaphors, star athletes, big personalities, etc. I started with the basic set of characteristics for each class to define their personalities as well as what they looked like.
It’s a collaborative process, once we had a basic idea of the player personalities and general theme of the world of MNC we got writer on board to help flesh it out. Ed Kuehnel is the writer that we work with; he’s also done work for Twisted Pixel on Comic Jumper and their new game Gunstringer. The first thing we had Ed work on was how the world became to be what it is portrayed in the game. We have a whole world bible, a history of the MNC sport, etc that was done before anything else. That went back and forth for awhile until we found a good tone that we were happy with.
Oh wow! Are we talking about an actual, physical ‘bible’ here? Is there a tome/novel somewhere in the Uber Ent office which people refer to?
There’s a world bible doc that we refer to but it’s an evolving thing. It’s used more as a guide to keep things consistent. It’s more fun for us to reveal it through the character dialogue, announcer lines, and endorsements.
Ahhh, I see. It’s certainly proven to be amusing piecing together the MNC world from the dialogue, lines and endorsements, yes.
I’m not a fan of “In the year, XXXX, the world is blah blah” as a way to introduce the world. It also lets us play with the history of MNC as we go along. As far as the various ideas, it comes form our playtests, general conversation at the studio and from Ed. After the world bible, Ed did a pass on each of the character bios. So generally, before we get to any dialogue, we feel it’s important to establish some ground rules to the world and characters to keep it consistent. So when lines are written, they need to be in character
Would you say Monday Night Combat is a type of commentary on our society?
We’re not trying to beat you over the head with it but I will say that playing off of concepts and ideas that are familiar to people in our society has a more of an impact. It’s more relatable. It’s the same reason even thought the world of MNC is sci-fi we try to keep it grounded in a reality that people can relate to. Our intent was not specifically to preach but more of what if scenario. Have you seen Idiocracy?
Yeah! Actually exactly what I thought about when framing MNC to other people, haha
Idiocracy, Robocop, Running Man, Wall-E, Starship Troopers are some of the inspirations for MNC. We tried to keep it light hearted with some dark undertones to the society.
Judging from Mickey Cantor’s line’s, it’s obvious that the society that spawned Monday Night Combat is insane. It sounds like a dystopian police state with some seriously deep rooted issues. I was wondering if you could elaborate on the back story of the world you guys have built here. Let’s start with Monday Night Combat itself: would you say it’s a reflection of it’s (appears to be completely blood-lusty) society?
We’d like to leave it up to the player’s interpretation but we took where we are as a society today with fascination with reality tv, sports stars and movies and took it into the future. They’re just clones, no ones getting hurt
Haha! I see. Hence why fans are told that they can use their sniper rifles from home, too?
Do the robots have feelings? what do they do in their spare time. There is a mention of a war so we know that they’re sentient. We know about the Meatsacks.
Mickey Cantor mentions war a lot in his dialogue. Some people were curious about the effects and consequences of war on MNC’s society, if you could elaborate on that at all.
How is the wars going on right now affecting you on a daily basis? I think most of us go through our daily lives oblivious to most things that don’t affect our daily life. Sure you hear about soldiers dying but unless you know someone personally affected, people tend to tune it out.
Do you know that 55 million people voted for American Idol last week? That’s just insane to me.
I’ve heard some ridiculous numbers every time it’s on the air, yeah.
I don’t think that we’re that far off from the world of MNC
So, a fan noted that Shave Ice turrets are sponsored by Lazer Razer–not to mention that all the endorsements sound like ads for products, somewhat establishing MNC’s penchant for sponsorship and advertisements–and he was curious if all of Monday Night Combat’s equipment is also sponsored (turrets, bots, weapons, etc)
A lot of people are wondering what the deal with food is–bulleye is putting himself in a ton of danger for some ounces of real cheese! And there’s Food tubes? What’s happened to the food?
Real cheese not made from bioengineered cows are a commodity and is very pricey. Food tubes are just an extension of vending machines of today, automated drive through.
The Annihilator is the floating blimp in the center of the arenas. It does create lighting bolts. Helios Corp has tech to control weather and maintain it
People are curious about the origins of Monday Night Combat –especially in the wake of Uncle Tully’s fun land, which suggests that MNC existed in the “old world.” Could you tell me a little about how MNC was born, and how it evolved into the sport we know and LOVE today? Or is that something we’ll find out more about when we get that level?
It’s something we will reveal over time. Uncle Tully’s is the first of our throwback arenas. We’re revisiting MNC arenas of the past that were never kept up and weathered away. So you’ll notice more wear and tear, different materials, Tully’s was a Coney Island like place that was converted to an MNC arena.
Okay, I know I said that was the last question but I just got a death threat to ask you something about bees, so! Completely ridiculous question about bees! Are the buzzers the MNC world’s answer to the declining bee population?
The buzzers were a way to bring back the bee population but it failed horribly so now they’re used for sport.