Looking For Group - Interview with Creator, Ryan Sohmer
For years, designers have cited everything from various games, artists, and musicians as inspiration for the games they make. Continuing the cycle, game designers also regularly cite the works of previous game developers as the reason they got into the industry. What happens when the young genre of MMORPG games inspires a web comic? Looking For Group is what happens, and as a personal fan of the comic, IÂm thrilled that it did.
Looking For Group (LFG) took the concept of web comics to a whole new level when it was first introduced to the masses in November of 2006. At this time, there were plenty of other web comics available to the public, but LFG immediately raised the bar with the quality of art. It was leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors. Thanks to artist Lar DeSouza, each webpage for LFG looked far more like a full blown full-color printed comic page than a web comic.
I recently had the chance to chat with the comic's writer and creator, Ryan Sohmer. Taking time from his extremely busy schedule, he was kind enough to answer a wide variety of inane questions (I take full responsibility for them) before letting us in on his latest project, the LFG Â The Fork of Truth video game.
Since it first released, the characters and world of LFG have been compared to World of Warcraft. So, of course I had to ask how much of an influence the game had on their creative process.
"I lost a good 18 months to WoW,Â said Sohmer, Âand I wouldn't hate to have that time back these days. When we were coming up with LFG, the way we wanted to do it, we honestly borrowed from every MMORPG, every fantasy book, every movie, every trope, every idiom, we took it all in like a greedy sponge."
Hearing how Ryan and Lar had been influenced by everything they could get a hold of I asked how LFG came about.
"LFG started out as something much different than what it ended up being,Â said Sohmer. ÂOriginally, Lar and I were approached by a gaming accessory company to make a once per month comic to be posted on their site, and in their community forums. As their accessory was WoW based, they really wanted us to do something Warcraft-y.
ÂLar and I gladly took the job, and for the next 2 weeks, brainstormed and came up with this ridiculous world with these ridiculous characters, and aside from visually, completely veered away from what the client wanted. But, Lar and I had our teeth in it, were excited by it, so decided to put up a page online. Then another. And another.
ÂThen WoW.com gave us a link on their front page, and we got 150,000 visitors reading a comic with 3 pages. We were off."
It's amazing how what can be a side project one minute can turn into a main focus of creation the next. It's even more amazing that with one shared link, the trajectory of an awesome but relatively unknown at the time comic can skyrocket in popularity.
Because of all this, I was introduced to LFG early in its infancy and became a huge fanatic of one character in particular: Richard. How big a fanatic? My Xbox Live profile quote has gone back and forth between "W.W.R.D.?" (What Would Richard Do?") and "For Pony!" (an infamous line from the comic) ever since I discovered the work of Ryan and Lar all those years ago. As such, it was inevitable that I would ask him some Richard-specific questions. I wanted to know the inspiration behind Richard, because I find his matter-of-fact disregard for anyone else in his evil acts hilarious. How did LFG tap into that kind of dark side, yet manage to keep RichardÂs dialog and actions humorous instead of morbid?
"In every Fantasy or Scifi novel or film, there's always this roguish character who borders on evil,Â said Sohmer. ÂEventually, with some amount of backstory, he gets humanized and tries to do the right thing. I wanted to go a different direction completely. Richard was born completely evil, completely unapologetic, and with his only redeeming qualities being his ability for carnage. He's that little voice in your head telling you the wrong thing to do, the wrong thing to say. In that respect, he's pretty easy to tap into."
With my Richard obsession temporarily sated (I promise not to bother you too often with future questions, Ryan! But, uh... you may want to change your phone number just in case), I finally got around to asking what Sohmer and his team have been up to lately, and I was both surprised and shocked by the answer.
They've recently started a Kickstarter campaign to bring the world and characters of LFG to life, complete with all the humor and storytelling of the web comic in a co-op hack and slash RPG video game. With dreams of playing as Richard going through my head ("I'm no physician, but there appears to be a dagger through my chest"), I had to know what made them decide to try their hand at creating a video game.
ÂWe've wanted to do this for quite a long time,Â Sohmer said, Âand after so many years, the stars were aligned perfectly for us to make it happen with the great guys at paladin. The story takes place within the first 12 issues of LFG, and while you don't need to be familiar with the comic to enjoy the game, readers will get a lot more out of it.Â
Their Kickstarter project is in full swing but time is running out, so get over there and check the video of the gameplay out. If youÂve ever wanted to play as Richard, Cale, BennÂJoon, or Krunch, you owe it to yourself to check out the page. You can certainly bet IÂm ready to get my fwoosh on!