Hogs Of War Lardcore Developer Interview With Owen Mason-Burns

The developers behind Hogs of War Lardcore, the long-awaited remaster of the PS1 classic are launching a new Kickstarter campaign this week.

We previously covered the announcement of the Hogs of War Lardcore Kickstarter but wanted to find out more about the remaster of the game that takes pigs from the farmyard to the battlefield.

With plenty of comparisons to 2D contemporary, Worms, Hogs of War stood out as something special. Not only for its third dimension of movement, but for its integration of humour and conflict.

The original game saw the anthropomorphic pigs take up arms (trotters?) against one another in a 3D theatre of combat inspired by the First World War.

This unusual premise was made all the more surreal and enjoyable by the inclusion of a fully voiced cast featuring the vocal talents of UK comedy legends Marc Silk and the late Rik Mayall.

With the imminent launch of the Kickstarter campaign for Hogs of War Lardcore, I spoke to Owen Mason-Burns, Lead Game Designer on Hogs of War Lardcore, to discuss remasters, Kickstarters, funny voices and spaghetti code.

Interview With Owen Mason-Burns

LEAD GAME DESIGNER OWEN MASON-BURNS

For the uninitiated can be you briefly describe Hogs of War Lardcore and your involvement with the project?

I am the lead game designer on Hogs of War Lardcore. Lardcore is an official remaster that is being headed up by Ian Stewart, who was the original CEO of Gremlin Interactive back in the day before they were then taken over by Infograms.

I’ve basically unofficially been involved with the project since its inception back in 2018 and it’s only been at the start of this year, 2023, that I’ve officially been brought onto the project. 

Aside from Lardcore, I am a member of the Hogs of War community, so kind of having that background, and I don’t want to say being like the spokesperson for them, but trying to say to the rest of the Internet that, you know, we are our community, we’re here, we’re doing things.

At the moment there are a lot of games coming out with remasters. Lots of things being remade to a certain degree, but we want to take things a step forward.

Yes, it’s a remaster, but we’re also improving things, adding new things on, and of course, if the Kickstarter goes well, then plenty more things could happen. 

HOGS OF WAR LARDCORE KEYART

Can you tell us more about the Hogs of War community?

Aside from Lardcore, the Hogs community within Discord have been doing a whole bunch of stuff including competitive leagues within the original game.

Speed running is huge. There’s been tons of events that we’ve been doing alongside the development of Lardcore because the community have been really patient the last few years.

The Origins Of Lardcore

HOGS OF WAR LARDCORE CONCEPT ART OF GAMEPLAY

How did the Hogs of War Lardcore project start?

During his time at Sheffield Hallam University, one of our current programmers, Luke Melville, started a Masters thesis which was titled ‘Hogs of War: A Case Study for Remastering Classic PlayStation Games’. 

The project involved porting the original PS1 assets onto PS4 hardware. Luke was being tutored by his mentor Jacob Hackett, who happened to be the original programmer on Hogs of War.

When they realized that porting the assets was possible, they approached Ian, who then decided to get get an official remaster going.

HOGS OF WAR LARDCORE KEYART OF AN EXPLOSION

Can you tell us what it is about the original game that means so much to you?

It’s a bit of everything, really. It’s the humour, but it’s also the fact that Hogs is tied to something historical, tied to the First World War, and remembrance, it gives a good split between humour and grittiness.

There’s always the massive comparison between Hogs of War and Worms. It’s in my mind and I’ve been saying this for years that Worms is completely different to Hogs of War because in terms of gameplay, Hogs is much slower paced, the setting is different and the humour is such a big element.

In addition to being a game designer, I’m also a voice actor, so my inspiration obviously came from all the Hogs of War voices done by Rik Mayall and Marc Silk as well, who of course is still with. 

Community Reactions

HOGS OF WAR LARDCORE LANDSCAPE IN THE RAIN

Has the overwhelmingly positive community reaction to Lardcore surprised you and the team at Urbanscan?

I think we’ve had an even split within our team between those of us that are really optimistic as to what we can achieve and the other side that is, I don’t want to say pessimistic, but you know they’re kind of grounded.

We’ve got fan bases dotted everywhere. We’ve got a discord that’s got two thousand members, we’ve got Reddit pages with X number of members. No one’s really in the same space, so the outpouring from this last week has been phenomenal. It’s given a massive boost to the team and if Kickstarter is drawing in those numbers that means that we should hopefully hit our targets. 

Spaghetti Code

Do Urbanscan have plans to reinstate some features that didn’t make it into the original game?

As far as unused content goes, the trickiest part for us is that we’re building off a new engine but we’re also using the original code. That original code is what I like to refer to as ‘spaghetti code’.

Despite the spaghetti code, there are plans for reinstating unused content. There’s a ton of unused maps from the original game. During the original development they must have gone through over one hundred maps. So, we do have a set of unused maps that will be a stretch goal of the Kickstarter campaign.

There are more complex things too, like there’s a character class that was unused in the original game. He’s called the ‘Ace’ class and he would be placed in between the Hero and the Legend classes and I’ve really been pushing to get him on the stretch goal list.

HOGS OF WAR LARDCORE CONCEPT RENDER OF A LANDSCAPE WITH A WOODEN BRIDGE OVER A STREAM

Just to give a little bit more backstory into both the Kickstarter and Hogs, the Italian version of Hogs had its own Italian team that decided to put their own stamp on the game. So, they swapped out the Japanese pigs and made an Italian team. They had the same models, same color etc.

They didn’t look any different, but it was only localized within that version. So for this Kickstarter you might be seeing a stretch goal for the Italian team for all releases, which would be huge. A brand new team with brand new voices for every version. 

Modern Bells & Whistles

How will Hogs of War Lardcore appeal to that next generation of gamer that may not have even been born when the original game was released?

We look at the fundamentals of the gameplay, so obviously Hogs of War has tank controls and the aiming is very difficult to get to grips with, so on the Kickstarter you will be seeing stretch goals for a new movement system and a new aiming system.

Then of course the sort of modern-day bells and whistles of an achievement system as well for PlayStation Trophies. And if we hit our target for the PC port, then that will be integrated within Steam achievements as well. 

New players are always at the forefront of our mind along with being able to balance the game for the existing veteran community and new players.

The existing Hogs of War community is very welcoming in bringing in new players and we have a league system that we have is split between the Grunt League for new players and a Pro League for veterans.

Rik Mayall And The Sounds Of War

HOGS OF WAR GAME CASE AND RIK MAYALL

I think a lot of fans are thrilled that the original voice acting and soundtrack will be making a return in Lardcore. For us in the UK, those voice lines from Marc Silk and Rik Mayall are iconic and strongly linked with original game. How important was it to preserve those voices and do you have a similar situation when it comes to the game’s other languages?

Hogs originally released in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Russia. For, I believe, four of those they used the same formula of hiring famous comedians. 

For our English voice lines, we of course hired Marc Silk and Rik Mayall, the treasure of UK comedy, and in French, German, Italian and Spanish markets the original localization teams got French, German, Italian and Spanish comedians. So, for overseas players keeping the original voices intact is massive.

RIK MAYALL AND MARC SILK

After the sad passing of Rik Mayall in 2014, was there a time where consideration was made to recasting his characters?

Obviously Rik Mayall passed away a few years before Lardcore had happened, but I always figured that if we if there were to be any kind of a remake or something, that the voices would remain the same and I’m glad that we were able to keep the original voice lines.

A lot of people have suggested recasting and said ‘why don’t you get Ade Edmondson’ and have that link back to Bottom. I mean it’s a great idea, but the fact that we can still use those original voices is huge, and we might even be able to put our own stamp on things. 

Kickstart My Heart

HOGS OF WAR LARDCORE KEYART OF SAUSTRALASIA

In your most recent video, you mentioned that the stretch goals have been suggested from community feedback. Were there any suggestions from the community that were so wild or weird that either you had to include them or dismiss them?

75% of those suggestions fell into the they’re really cool, but just not possible because of the spaghetti code but the community have been going absolutely ham with their ideas regarding that.

There’s been some comments that have been thousands of words long and gone into intense detail about new teams or countries and that Lardcore should dive into these themes etc. Some people have really had these ideas for a long time and I’m the same, given that I’ve played this game now for over twenty years. 

Keeping it achievable is the one thing that we’re constantly saying. So with a lot of the ideas that don’t necessarily get picked up for this remaster. They’re definitely something that we’re keeping in mind for later on, either with DLC or, I don’t want to mention the word, sequel…

Community Involvement

KEYART SHOWING MULTIPLE SHOTS OF DIFFERENT MAPS

How does it feel to put your favourite game of all time in the hands of the Hogs of War and Kickstarter communities?

It’s still really weird to me. Just waking up and my entire life effectively right now revolves around Hogs, because if I’m not doing things for Lardcore, then I’m doing things for my own channel based around Hogs of War. If I’m not making videos, then I’m in the community or in the league matches so there is this constant output of Hogs content.

It’s been awesome having the community involved and getting their thoughts on everything and the outpour has been incredibly positive. Overall, the community have been great. They have been incredibly patient and I just can’t thank them enough for all the support they’ve given so far. 

Why is now the right time to launch the Kickstarter?

At the moment this is kind of the golden opportunity for Hogs to bring in new players, but also become relevant again, because when you think about specifically third person turn based strategy games, there’s really not much on the market at the moment.

We want to bring Hogs into the limelight and use that as a platform to hopefully catapult ourselves into bigger and better things. The idea of a sequel is massive and maybe fingers crossed we can do something with that later on down the line. 

Cheats & Rewards

HOGS OF WAR PS1 GAME SCREENSHOT

You’ve already revealed a selection of stretch goals in the stretch goal preview and have included ‘new cheat codes’. Cheats aren’t something we see a huge amount of in modern gaming so I’m wondering if you can share any cheats you’re hoping to include in the game?

There is one that I can reveal because everybody has been asking for it and that is a cheat to have access to play as the Legend class. The Legend Class is effectively the final boss that you face in single player and will be unlockable with a cheat code. I think having access to that with a cheat code and giving you access to an entire team of legends to go crazy with all those weapons will be great.

We’re trying to bring that modern touch with cheats and unlockables, especially to increase the replayability of single player.

Tiers Of Battle

KICKSTARTER ANNOUNCEMENT POSTER OF A PIG IN ARMY UNIFORM

Can you shed some more light on the 13 Kickstarter tiers?

Originally, we had 17 tiers but we’ve spent the last few months whittling things down because we’ve all had our own experiences of Kickstarters. Of course, the Hogs of War card game was really successful as was the Hogs of War miniatures game. 

Apart from one person on our team, none of us have launched a Kickstarter before, so it’s all been a learning experience for all of us.

90% of our Kickstarter backer rewards within those tiers will be digital. There will be physical bundles available too but they will be in the slightly higher tiers and that’s just based on production cost because again as we are a small team and we want as much of the funding raised to go towards the development of the game.

If we do really well then we definitely want to open like an official Hogs of War store where you can buy merchandise later on down the line but our focus right now obviously is just on the games’ development. 

Reporting From The Frontline

GAMEPLAY SCREENSHOT OF A PIG IN A DESERT BATTLE

What can people expect to see from the ‘War Report’ videos during the Kickstarter campaign?

That’s basically just going to be me putting on a funny voice and giving an overview of the Kickstarter campaign progression. It will be a constant flow of review for each week.

Finally is there anything else you want to share about the Kickstarter, the team or the game in general?

There isn’t going to be any paying for cosmetics and that sort of thing. There might be some exclusive headwear that you can only get from the Kickstarter, maybe some exclusive backpacks and weapon skins and that sort of stuff. 

The bigger scope stretch goals include things like new game modes and even new classes.

The overall scope of these things are achievable and with the money that is raised from the Kickstarter, it will also go towards hiring additional staff because at the moment we are made-up of six people. So getting an additional programmer that can really dive into the original code and squeeze the new stuff around it and get it working would be brilliant.

To find out more about Hogs of War Lardcore and the upcoming Kickstarter, trot over to the Urbanscan website.

Original article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *