In the video game business, there are few creators who more routinely conjure completely original action adventures than Japanese game designer Goichi “Suda 51” Suda. With Lollipop Chainsaw, the game maker and his team at Grasshopper Manufacture have introduced a new heroine to gaming lore. Juliet Starling is a high school cheerleader who has a secret life as a zombie killer. When the undead invade her San Romero High School, it’s time to replace those pompoms with a chainsaw and assorted weapons to take out the monsters.
“We wanted to create a fun and exhilarating zombie action game that brings the concept of ‘pop, cute and violent’ to gamers,” said Suda 51.
Suda 51 is delivering an extremely different action-based interactive creature feature this time around, showcasing just how much breadth of scope is available to Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) developers. Lollipop Chainsaw comes on the heels of Grasshopper’s UE3-powered Shadows of the Damned, published by Electronic Arts. And the two games couldn’t be more different.
Although both games share plenty of blood and gore, Lollipop Chainsaw takes an over-the-top ‘80s approach to its third-person perspective action. Starlet wears her Knights cheerleader uniform with pride but delivers deadly combos with accuracy when armed and dangerous.
“Some of the basic methods for taking out enemies are chainsaw attacks and cheerleading attacks,” said Masahiro Yuki, co-producer on Lollipop Chainsaw. “How those attacks can be mixed to slash zombies is entirely up to the player’s creativity. We implemented lots of combination attacks in the game so that users can take full advantage of the variety of moves, such as the chainsaw dash and chainsaw bluster, while strategizing their game plan.”
The technology behind this mayhem benefited from the developer’s multiple UE3 titles.
When it came to choosing UE3 for its games, Tomas Rovina Roquero, technical art director at Grasshopper Manufacture, said the company plans to maintain technologies and know-how that they have built upon over multiple projects. “The provided support system that Epic Games offers was enticing enough to choose Unreal Engine 3 for our development,” he added.
Nobuhiro Obata, a programmer at Grasshopper Manufacture, said the Unreal Kismet visual scripting system is used by the team in many ways. “We were able to create an open development environment where staff members from different divisions were able to easily participate in the game’s development,” he said.
Unreal Cascade and post-processing functions allowed the team to create cartoonish and cute, yet violent effects and expressions for Juliet Starling.
“We were able to flexibly implement halftone and ‘Sparkle Hunting’ in the post-processing, which flawlessly depict the interpretation of the world of Lollipop Chainsaw,” explained Obata. “Our game planners and artists were pleased that we met this requirement.”
Roquero said the team took advantage of Epic’s Unreal Developer Network (UDN) throughout the development process. In fact, by the end of the game’s development they had exchanged more than 350 emails through the UDN site, including many questions regarding new functionality that Grasshopper created for this game.
The end result is a zombie game unlike anything out there, and yet another example of the creativity that comes from Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture. With each new game from this inventive Japanese studio, the capabilities of the Unreal Engine continue to expand.