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There are a few legends in the Games Industry.  Right alongside Pac Man and Mario is Leisure Suit Larry (at least according to this humble writer's opinion).  Larry is being resurrected in a sense with the upcoming Magna Cum Laude and we talk with Josh VanVeld, Producer, on the project about what it's like handling such a legend, nudity, the familiar title music, and the kind of humor found in the game, among so many other topics.  Thanks for your time, Josh!


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Preview: Leisure Suit Larry - Magna Cum Laude (PC, PS2, XB)



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Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude Q&A Conducted by Omni


Name, rank, serial number!  Or your name, background in the games industry, how you wound up working where you are, and your role on Magna Cum Laude.
Josh VanVeld: My name is Josh VanVeld; I work at High Voltage Software.  I am the producer on Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude.  I have a background in TV/VCR Repair and vigilante law enforcement.


The next question was asked but was not commented on:

Maybe the biggest question on everyone’s mind is, how come Al Lowe isn’t involved up to elbows with this project?


Editor's Note: It doesn't seem to shed any light on the situation, but Al Low recently posted an email correspondence on his website (allowe.com) regarding this topic:


----- Original Message -----
From: Cary Okmin
To: webmail@allowe.com
Sent: Saturday, April 10, 2004 2:03 AM
Subject: Writer for LSL: Magna Cum Laude


Hey Al,


I write this email with reverence to your contribution to my slightly skewed sexual development. I also write it with a certain degree of humility. My writing partner and I were hired to write the dialogue for LSL:MCL. Needless to say we were thrilled to be involved in a cultural phenomenon. Although our work was completed approximately a year ago, it was not until recently that I learned you were not involved in the project. I am not privy to any of that information, however, I wanted to contact you and, at the very least, thank you for all you contributed (whether credited or not).


It was great fun and a true honor to work in a world you created and inhabited with such passion and skill.


Thank you.


Cary Okmin


And Al Lowe's response:


Why, thanks, Cary. I appreciate hearing from you. I hope you had as much fun with Larry as I did.

But I'm surprised to learn that you finished up a year ago and the game won't ship for another six months. I used to write until literally hours before the recording sessions--and then sometimes during! <grin>


It's too bad that we couldn't have talked while you were writing, I would have loved nothing more than to be involved but evidently VU has its reasons for keeping me out.




See the correspondence for yourself here.


Is there a lot of trepidation among the team members of handling a character that is considered legendary?

JV: I think our designers (who wrote the scripts), as well as everyone else on the team, felt a great deal of excitement about bringing Larry back.  Larry is a larger-than-life character and most gamers know him, even if they haven't played the old games.  Luckily for us, the character is so much fun that it was really easy for us to jump right in and pick things up where the series left off.


To some old-school PC gamers, Leisure Suit Larry on a console might seem a little blasphemous.  What can you say to reassure those doubters that have already written off Magna Cum Laude that it is a worthy extension of the Larry franchise?

JV: Our line of thinking is that the themes that Larry stands for - sexy girls, funny characters, and weird situations are all things that aren't limited to the PC.  We've worked really hard to create a game that retains the feel of the old Larry games and still translates nicely to consoles.  We think it will be great to be able to play Larry from the comfort of your couch.


Who approached whom regarding the start of this project?  Did Vivendi Universal approach you with the idea of a new Larry game?

JV: Originally it was Sierra who approached High Voltage.  They wanted to know what we would like to do with the license.  We were immediately very excited at the prospect, so we started bouncing all sorts of ideas around.  They liked what they heard, so we got started.


In a nutshell, what’s Magna Cum Laude all about?

JV: In the smallest possible nutshell, it's about trying to get girls.  In a slightly bigger nutshell, it's the story of Larry Lovage, a 6th-year college senior who is a total loser.  Larry thinks he can turn things around by becoming a contestant on a reality dating show that is taping on campus.  The problem is that the show won't accept him unless he can prove he's a ladies' man, so Larry begins a quest to score with every girl on campus.


What’s the biggest difference between past Larry games and Magna Cum Laude?

JV: There are two huge differences.  The first is that this game is 3D, which makes the exploration aspect of the adventure much more involving.  Instead of looking at pre-rendered backgrounds, you can really get up close to look at people and things in the world.  The second difference is that we've added minigames to the equation.  Instead of forcing the player to solve a lot of complicated puzzles, we have all sorts of quick and challenging action-style minigames to play. There are lots of different kinds, including trampoline bouncing, quarters, and even spanking.  These minigames emphasize Larry's interaction with the girls in the game.


Larry has always been about off-color humor, sometimes really obvious, sometimes more subtle.  What kind of humor are you shooting for?

JV: The goal is to cover the full spectrum, just like the older games.  There is definitely a lot of mature humor.  Some of it is visual - you'll catch a lot of funny stuff if you keep your eyes open.  A lot of it is in the audio.  We've recorded over 10,000 lines of dialog, so that Larry can have funny interactions with everybody in the game.  I think our writers have done a fantastic job of preserving the irreverent feel of the old games while updating the humor to reflect the way peoples' tastes are evolving.


Will there be any nudity included as “Easter Eggs” like previous Larry titles, or will they be purged to get a Teen rating?

JV: First of all, nudity is part of the game.  We're shooting for a Mature rating, which means we can show a lot of things people aren't used to seeing in games; even the old Larry games don't come close.  Larry's definitely a loser, but even he gets lucky once in a while.  There are cinemas and strip versions of minigames where you'll see plenty of skin.  We're still discussing cheat codes that will up the nudity level even further, but we want to make sure it fits the game.


Magna Cum Laude is still some time from its ship date, but what kind of control scheme has been implemented?  How will the console and PC versions differ?

JV: The controls are similar to 3rd-person action/adventure games that most people are familiar with, but there are a couple of twists.  For instance, Larry's interaction with the world is similar to the old games - the eyeball icon lets him examine something, the talking mouth lets him talk to someone.  Our goal is that the controls will be easy for anyone to pick up and play.  The PC version uses the WASD keys for movement and the mouse for camera control and interaction with the world.


Is Magna Cum Laude a pure adventure game or have there been other genres – like platforming or RPG elements – integrated into the design?




JV: We have definitely updated the adventure genre by cutting some elements that we weren't too fond of and adding others (like the minigame system) that are a lot of fun.  Don't expect to see Larry jumping on moving platforms or leveling up though, this is still an adventure game at its core.  


Will the familiar title music remain the same?  Have anyone in mind to record it?


JV: We've already recorded a few new versions of the classic theme for use in the game.  There's a hard rock version that I'm particularly fond of.  


Do you have any high-profile voice actors involved in recording the dialogue?  Are you even at that stage yet?

JV: The voice recording process is almost complete.  We've used top-notch professional voice talent throughout the process because it's so important to get the humor across properly.


What’s been the biggest problem you’ve encountered so far in the development of Magna Cum Laude?

JV: The hardest thing so far has been managing the huge amount of content in the game.  There are so many environments, girls, cinemas, quests and minigames that it's hard to keep it all in order.  Luckily we've got an amazing team that is working very hard as we speak to make sure it all comes together.


The look of Magna Cum Laude seems to at least nod to past Larry games.  What has been changed to “update” the look of Magna Cum Laude?

JV: The jump to 3D required a great deal of effort on the part of our level artists to capture the feel of the old games in a fully 3D world.  It was a matter of looking at the old games for reference and using a lot of know-how and imagination to create new environments.  I would say the biggest surprise is how many people say the new game reminds them graphically of other games in the series.


How many hours of gameplay is the team aiming for?

JV: Our current goal is to hit 25 hours of gameplay for a true adventure gamer who will leave no stone unturned, no secret unlocked, and no side quest unfinished.


Adventure games have maligned for being once-through games (i.e. not replayable to a large extent).  Will Magna Cum Laude feature multiple paths to the conclusion to encourage replay?

JV: Magna Cum Laude offers the player a great deal of freedom in terms of how he chooses to play the game.  Our story is not nearly as linear as the older games, allowing the player to explore freely and choose the path he wants to take.  We expect that many players will enjoy going back through the game just to catch all the humor they missed the first time.


Do you envision Magna Cum Laude coming under fire for its bawdy content, like the old Larry games did?

JV: Part of our intent from the beginning was to create a game that lived up to the reputation of the franchise in terms of pushing the boundaries of adult humor and content in a video game.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of feathers ruffled when this game is released, but I think most people will appreciate it for what it is- a game that doesn't take itself very seriously.


Will Magna Cum Laude be shown at E3 2004?

JV: You better believe it!


(April 14, 2004)


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