EGX 2016: Talking Political Animals with its developer at Squeaky Wheel
You may have seen the name Political Animals pop up occasionally on GameSkinny. It is a political, or rather an election, strategy game created by a studio in the Philippines called Squeaky Wheel. The game has been shown all over the World in recent months, and we were pleased to finally catch up with them at EGX 2016 in Birmingham, UK, at the end of September. After demoing the game for myself, I got to discuss interesting points about the game with the studio's art director and co-founder Ryan Sumo.
ESpalding - Hello Ryan! Thanks for giving me this interview. Others at GameSkinny have been interested in Political Animals for a while now so I'm sure they, and our interested readers, will love to hear a bit more about it. Could you just give me a little introduction to yourself and your studio, please?
Ryan Sumo - "My name is Ryan Sumo, and I'm formerly a freelance artist whose biggest project was Prison Architect. I've since co-founded a studio called Squeaky Wheel and we're making the Political Strategy game Political Animals."
ES - Prison Architect?! Oh right! I've played it before! Great to meet someone who worked on it!
So, let's get straight down to business and talk about your game. Where did the inspiration for Political Animals come from?
RS - "Political Animals is loosely inspired by Philippine politics but is about politics around the world. It's supposed to be a way for the player to put themselves in a politician's shoes and see how they would react to the incentives presented to politicians."
ES - Why did you decide to use animals instead of making it true to life and use humans?
RS - "Animal characters allow the player to separate themselves from the real world politics they might be facing and more openly confront the idea of being a politician and the strategy of politics without tying themselves to an actual political party."
ES - Visually, Political Animals looks a lot different from other political games and some might say that the art style might not fit the idea behind the game. What made you decide to go with a cartoon style of graphics?
RS - "The art style helps soften the blow of a very serious topic, but at the same time seeing cute animals do shady things can be kind of subversive, so we're trying to have it both ways!"
ES - The game is being published by Positech Games, the developers behind the Democracy series and Big Pharma. How did you come to choose to work with Cliff Harris, owner and CEO of Positech, and was it an easy decision to make?
RS - "I met Cliff via my work with Introversion Software. I've been a huge fan of the Democracy series and when Cliff made the offer it just seemed like the perfect fit for our game."
ES - Is EGX the first time you have shown the game? If not, where else have you been with it?
RS - "We've been all around the world this month, showing it at PAX West, Tokyo Game Show, and Busan Indie Connect."
ES - How has the reaction been over the EGX weekend?
RS - "It's been really amazing. We knew we were building a niche game and were always worried that maybe we were building a game that had no market. The shows we went to simply proved that there really is a market for the game, and we now just have to finish it!"
ES - Well, thanks for giving our readers a little bit of information about how Political Animals came to be. I'd like to finish the interview with a little light-hearted question: Knowing personalities for each character in the game, which do you think you most identify with?
RS - "Instead of myself, I'll let you in on a little secret. The character of Mousey is based on my wife, who works for a non-profit organization for Childfund. While she's not a politician, if she did become one I know that she would be the most hardworking political mouse around, which a squeaky clean reputation!"
ES - I think I would be similar. That or a hard-working Donkey who isn't afraid to do the work herself and be a working class person turned politician for the people!
There have been no release dates confirmed for Political Animals but Ryan told me that they are hoping to release around the date of the US General Election.