Eek! Games has been building hype for the new celebrity that will be joining the cast of House Party for some time now. We got to sit down with their project lead; Bobby, and talk about the game, and the new cast member.
Q: With over 1 million sales, House Party has been exploding in popularity. Did you expect this level of success when the game was initially released?
A: Of course, I didn’t *expect* it. I thought it was a great idea, and that it would fill a much-desired void in the type of games being produced actively at the time. There were so many games about violence and gore and murder, and with TV shows like Game of Thrones and American Horror Story being among the most popular with their sexy (and rather taboo at times) themes, I thought that the world was ready for a raunchy and sexy game aimed at the mainstream rather than a niche audience. I thought that it’d do well, but you can never predict success, and that success came with a lot of hard work by myself, and my ever-expanding team. We are humbled and ecstatic at the level of success we’ve achieved, and even more excited that this feels like this is just the beginning.
Q: How does it compare with your initial expectations for the game’s launch?
A: Well, I thought the game might find a niche audience or a cult following, but if you told me I’d be working with one of the hottest pop stars on the planet 6 years ago when this game was nothing more than a concept, I would be hard-pressed to think that would be within the realm of reality. I am very happy to know that House Party has a much broader appeal than I had originally anticipated.
Q: Rock, Paper, Shotgun called House Party the worst game of 2017. Can you walk us through some of the biggest changes to the game since then?
A: Ha! This article always gives me a chuckle, and we wear that award as a badge of honor!
The ironic thing is that conceptually, the game hasn’t changed much at all. I think the article they wrote was just very short-sighted. The game is all about choice, and the player’s choices and game-play decisions end up dictating the content and direction of the story. That’s always been the case, even from the beginning. The author of the article made the choices he made and ignored the stories that would have taken him down questlines that would have included gay and lesbian content, or even simply good guy vs bad guy content (you can be both in House Party) and then turned around and concluded that the game was misogynist and was all about conquering women because he took one “bad guy” route. His play-through was more of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I always just wrote this article off as a joke because of that. That’s not to say that we haven’t added a lot to the game since then, we certainly have, but it’s not anything that wasn’t originally in the pipeline save from things we didn’t anticipate like adding combat, controller support, and full-blown cutscenes. But straight love, gay love, and even playing the game as a female was all planned from the get-go. I think if the reviewer wasn’t so hung up on making a political statement, he would have seen a quirky, humorous, and promising indie game under the early development bugs and look.
Q: Have you ever reached out to RPS for a follow-up?
A: Nah, I honestly never thought it was even worth my time. I was a solo indie developer, and a major publication like RPS decided to do a hit-piece on me. I always wonder who they were trying to impress with this one. The irony of this article is that a man wrote it, white-knighting and mansplaining to women how they should feel and how they should be offended by this game, which is more misogynistic than this game ever was. Most women I know find the game hilarious, and we have several women on our team, and even on our writing team, who stand behind the game and its content.
It was even more short-sighted that a game reviewer, whose sole job is to inform his audience about games they might like, recommended that nobody play a game that went on to receive a 90%+ positive player review score. He had one job, and he failed. That’s not a reflection on me, or my game, that’s just a washed-up game reviewer trying to dredge up drama and controversy with a clickbait approach to journalism.
Q: You’ve made the point that the author of the article made his judgments of the game based on his preconceptions and the need for him to make a political statement. Do you believe that this is symptomatic of a larger problem in mainstream gaming media?
A: Yes. For instance, I think it’s a problem that an “AO” rating is the “kiss of death” in video game development. I would have loved to just market House Party as an AO title and have one version of it, if that didn’t cut me off from so many platforms and opportunities. MA games are 17+, so what does “Adult Only” even mean? 18+? It’s super arbitrary, and I think that the whole system needs to be revamped in terms of including AO as a proper category. One year makes that difference, so why do we act like AO is something that needs to be hidden away, and why do platforms try to distance themselves from it so much? If PC and gaming consoles can simply say “Hey, these games are for 18+”, and simply age-gate them, it would open the industry to a huge audience. Instead, they simply won’t sell them. The way AO games are treated in the industry makes no sense for something that is simply one year of difference in terms of maturity requirements, especially considering that the average gamer age is 34 years old.
Q: With the wide variety of characters in the game, how different or harder was actually working on voicing characters with the people that weren’t voice actors?
A: Actually, we used professional voice actors from the very get-go. At first, I found them on services like Fiverr and Voice Bunny before we started doing casting calls, but I always wanted to make sure the game felt very immersive and professional voice acting was something I insisted on from the start. I suppose that could have gotten very expensive over time, but luckily the game’s success allowed me to keep it up. I established the voices of my characters early on and found amazing voice actors that brought them to life and helped shape the future of their stories even in some cases. Honestly, the hardest part was cohesively processing all the audio so that it all felt like it was coming from the same source. Luckily, I have a background in audio engineering, and was able to lend my experience there.
Q: House Party comes with a streamer mode that disables all of the adult content in the game. Regardless, the likes of Twitch still don’t allow it on their platform. Is this something that you have struggled with?
A: Yes, this is something that always felt unfair to me. Even back when Twitch put the game on its prohibited list, this mode was in the game, so streamers could easily censor any questionable content. It never made sense to me considering how much violent, and even sexual content exists in so many other games. There is plenty of other content in House Party to enjoy that doesn’t involve nudity or sex. On the other hand, Twitch has a reputation for being discriminatory, especially the way they have handled female streamers in the past and punished them for even accidentally being sexual in any way, but then of course, there’s the infamous “hot tub stream” debacle, which is clearly sexually focused, and now they have an entire category on their site dedicated to it. It’s getting to be a joke how they selectively do what’s best for them and make exceptions at the expense of alienating and discriminating against their content creators and users. Their current policy states: “For those who present as women, we ask that you cover your nipples”. Right. Can’t see that backfiring in their face anytime soon… They can only be bigoted for so long. The world is changing. It’s going to catch up to them IMO. I’m not bitter, I swear!
Q: As a creator, making your vision for a product come to fruition can be fraught with compromise. Are there any big compromises you have had to make with the development of House Party?
A: Not really, no. House Party’s history kind of speaks to what happens when you don’t compromise… lol. Sure, it created a lot of headaches for us, and I do think a lot of the censorship was unfair, but we still have our Explicit Content patch, which is currently unrated and restores the game to its former glory with everything we originally chose to add to the game, so I think it’s cool that players have the choice.
Q: House Party is a story based game that contains adult content. It is not, inherently, an adult game. How challenging can it be to walk that line?
A: Very. But we found the answer in the Explicit Only patch. A lot of our development as of lately has included slowly moving everything deemed “too hot” for mainstream over to the Explicit Content DLC, allowing the base game to get a mature rating. Other than feeling like it’s very arbitrary what is and isn’t considered “too hot” (in some cases it’s just flat out silly), it’s been a great way to hit both audiences. Finding out where those lines are and what to do about it has been all trial and error though, which has at times been very time-consuming, and in a lot of cases taking steps backwards in order to move forward.
Q: Is there any particular story line in the game that you’re particularly a fan of?
A: You know, back when I was developing the engine, the story wasn’t even really given much thought, and in a lot of places it was thrown together. In retrospect, I can see how that might have triggered people to get the wrong impression of the game at times, but again, you still kind of have to hone in on certain elements and ignore others in order to see it that way.
Once we got more than just me on the team, I was able to refine the writing process and flesh out the stories more thoroughly, and some parts have been re-written to fall more in line with my original vision. But like others who create, going back over any of my stories, I’m always feeling like they can be better/funnier. I always tend to like the things I’ve most recently created better than things I’ve created in the past, but I suppose that’s normal.
That being said, I think Frank’s story is my favorite. He has an odd obsession with his balls, and his story can take multiple paths, some of which end up with him leaving the party altogether, and others where he has a major epiphany, and the player of course, can also romance him. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing for the game.
Q: Before revealing the identity of the new celebrity character in House Party, can you tell us how their inclusion came about?
A: Well, as a lot of people already know, we ran a contest in which the winners got to be included in the game. The biggest and most notorious winners were the gaming duo “The Game Grumps”. It was such a pleasure working with them and so much fun adding them into the game, and it was SO well-received, that we decided to try it again and pitch it around to even bigger celebrities and see if we could find a good fit.
Q: So, it’s time for the big reveal. Who is this mysterious stranger that we have all been waiting for?
A: It’s fucking Doja Cat! 8-time Grammy nominated in 2022 Doja Cat! Her real name is Amala, and she’s been so great to work with so far. We’re really excited about all this coming together. When we first started talking to her team, I was familiar with her music, but didn’t know much about her. After I started following her to see what she was all about, I just fell in love with her and thought she would be a perfect fit for this. I should have seen it at the time since it didn’t take me very long to become a fan, that she was destined to skyrocket into stardom, which she’s done exactly that in the latter half of 2021 and into this year.
Q: You said that you became a fan of Doja Cat after talks with her team. What was it about her that you fell in love with?
A: She’s not afraid to be herself. She’s super wacky and a huge goofball, and that fits in so well with the general theme of House Party. She doesn’t care what people think, and she’s also sexy and body positive as well, which of course also ties in well with the game. I also love how tuned in she is with her fan base. She will go on Instagram live for sometimes hours at a time and virtually hang out with her fans. I’m a lifetime musician as well, and I didn’t realize how amazingly talented she is until I took a closer look at her music. The overproduced poppy stuff you hear on the radio is something you’re used to, and generally make every artist sound similar, but hearing her live in concert and seeing her off the cuff really made me appreciate her voice and talent a lot more.
Q: Something I know everyone will want to know; are there romantic and/or sexual storylines with Doja Cat?
A: I can’t say for sure what will be included in the final product because we are still working out some details, but right now, there are plans to include a romance path with her that her team has approved. Everything is subject to change though. Right now, the answer is yes, a romance path will exist, with the right player choices of course.
Q: Can we look forward to any other personalities joining the cast in the future?
A: Yes actually. The exciting thing is that Doja Cat may be the tip of the iceberg. Of course, I can’t mention any names right now, but we have made some very cool friends along the course of this collaboration, and you might see some amazing personalities coming to House Party soon.
Q: What other changes or updates can we look forward to seeing down the road?
A: After the female main character is fully implemented, you won’t see many changes to House Party in terms of mechanics or basic gameplay. We will continue to add quality of life, bug fixes, and polish updates though for the life of the product, as well as introduce more DLC expansions.
Q: Are there any plans for a House Party 2? Or a new title?
A: Our sequel game will be called “Office Party”. It will be like House Party in terms of gameplay, but it will open the map to more locations, and we are working on a very cool AI system that hasn’t ever been done before in video games. Relationship-building with the player is something that is often overlooked in games, and I have some ideas to take that to a whole new level in Office Party. The cool thing about Office Party is that the relationship building will be a base-game fluid mechanic, and the game-content and stories delivered to the player will be unique based on the state of that system.
Q: Will Office Party follow the same formula as House Party? Or can we expect something different with it?
A: It will feel familiar, but also be very different in a lot of ways. The game mechanics will be similar, but we will have a lot more sandbox abilities and interactivity with objects. It will also take place over time. House Party takes place over one night. Office Party will take place over a career, and the player will manage that career as well as balance it with his personal/social life. Different opportunities will also arise depending on those career choices, and how well the player performs at his career. It will also affect your relationship with everybody else in the game. Our goal is to create a game that feels very sandbox in terms of player choice, but that opens a mountain of different humorous story paths depending on the state of the player at a given time, meaning if you replay the game and make different choices, you will almost always have a completely different experience. We sort of did that in House Party, but this will take it to a whole new level where the content will be entirely different rather than affecting the course of one night.
Q: Something of a personal question. How do you balance your personal life with the face that you produce adult content? Are your family and friends aware of the type of content you develop? If so, were they understanding when they learned of it? Or, do you have to sugar coat it?
A: Honestly, my family and friends have been very supportive. I suppose it helps that the game has been so well-received, and we are working with major celebrities now. They are stoked about all of that. I think that the climate around this type of content is changing, and I honestly think it’s just as weird for somebody to ask “oh, you make a game with sex in it” as it would be for somebody to ask “oh, you make a game with killing in it?”. Sex and violence have been a staple of entertainment in all mediums, and people have always, and will always be interested in those things. Society just pretends they aren’t interested in sex and nudity when convenient, but I think all of that is changing with games emerging like Conan: Exiles, The Witcher 3, and Cyberpunk 2077. Major developers are starting to include sex and nudity in video games just as readily as violence. Of course, games that are put out by major publishers have more leeway with getting away with this stuff than indie developers, but they also set the bar, which has been moving in terms of what you can get away with without getting the “kiss of death” AO rating.
Q: With regard to your hope for the normalization of adult games and content in general, how realistic do you see that being? And how do you see that happening in a practical sense, especially with so many platforms going in the opposite direction?
A: I think it’s very realistic. I think what we’re seeing with these platforms going the opposite direction is just fear, and I think it’s short-lived. I think these companies are being run by people who are afraid of “Cancel Culture”, but they don’t understand what Cancel Culture is. In their mind, if they do or promote anything sexual, they think they are going to get “cancelled”, but the younger generation is one of the most sexual generations I’ve ever seen. They are super aware of their sexuality and exploring it and talking about it in ways that older generations never even dreamed of and would even be flat out embarrassed to. They don’t have the taboos and shame that previous generations grew up with. The generation accused of being “Cancel Culture” are in fact very sex positive, they are just unhappy with the way sex and sexuality is portrayed in media and how that translates to life. They are trying to break down the inequality between the sexes and the stereotypes, including the ones that say sex is icky and should be hidden and never talked about. I think that company leaders, who tend to be older, have no idea how to relate to that, so they avoid anything sexual altogether, but House Party is living proof that people want to consume products that explore sexual themes and topics, especially when it’s inclusive and presented in a sex-positive way, and not in the shadow of the “sex is dirty” perspective of previous generations. I think it’s going to swing very hard the other way very soon and become much more normalized as companies see other companies thriving by being inclusive rather than discriminatory.
Q: For other developers out there, are there any words of wisdom you can impart?
A: Don’t compromise your vision. Perhaps it was bold of me to upload a completely uncensored version of House Party to Steam, but hey, look where it got me. I just thought the world was ready for it, and the success of the game has proven to me over and over that it is. Or at the very least, it’s getting there. We still have more battles ahead of us, but I’m ready!
If you’d like to check the game out, you can get it here on Steam.
Have you played the game before, are you planning to now that Doja Cat arrived at the party? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!