Superhero Shorts: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Game
Superhero Shorts: 8-bit Dr. Horrible
Welcome to this week’s edition of Superhero Shorts where I take a look at a different superhero themed short film and get the creator of the film to answer a few interview questions. This week I’m talking with Doctor Octoroc who was inspired by Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog to create an animated video of what it would look like if Dr. Horrible was actually an 8-bit era RPG similar to Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior, complete with pixel driven cutscenes, time sink fetch quests, a world map, an inventory, and even a boss battle. You can check the whole series out at Doctor Octoroc’s website, his YouTube playlist, or watch the first act right below. You can also visit his YouTube channel for other classic game style animation.
I grew up playing Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, and all the other great NES through Playstation 2 era RPGs, and you can read how much I enjoyed Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, so watching this animation was a real treat on more than one count. The music is a fantastic midi recreation of Joss Whedon’s songs from the movie. I also liked how it stuck to common video game conventions like having a world map and having to talk to all the random people walking around. My favorite part was towards the end when there’s an unwinnable boss battle that’s extremely typical of RPGs of that era. There’s also a couple scenes shown in the game that were skipped over or just mentioned in the actual movie which were quite fun to see. But enough about me, let’s hear from Doctor Octoroc himself.
Bubbawheat: I’m a huge fan of 8 and 16 bit RPGs and I totally love the style you bring to Dr. Horrible, which is also a favorite movie/internet mini-series/whatever of mine. What inspired you to create these RPG styled animations, and what was the first project you did?
Doctor Octoroc: The first “project” I ever did was my “8-Bit Jesus” Christmas chip-tunes album, technically. I’ve contributed to a lot of compilation albums over the years either with a track or cover art, but that was the first thing that was all mine. As far as the animations go, however, Dr. Horrible was the very first project I did.
BW: How well was that received?
DO: Pick a word in the English language somewhere between very and completely and that’s about how well it was received. It blew up on YouTube (and on my fresh channel with no views previously), was mentioned by multiple members of the cast, including Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, & Maurissa Tancharoen (BW note: She’s the Asian fan and co-writer), and was blogged by dozens of high profile bloggers, including Perez Hilton, who referred to me (although not by name) as an “Internet Genius”. That quote is my entire official resume now, haha.
BW: Did you ever get any feedback from anyone involved with Dr. Horrible about your animation?
DO: I talked directly with Maurissa Tancharoen about a few things but that’s the only member of the cast that I received any direct feedback from. The rest of them just tweeted it or mentioned it on their FB pages.
BW: I loved all the extra bits you added to the game animation that felt like they could have been fetch quests in a real RPG, how did you come up with those parts that weren’t directly shown in the movie?
DO: I tried to think of rather ridiculous ways that Dr. Horrible could have accomplished the tasks they never explained in the web series, both from the point of view of the writers for the original, as well as considering any fetch quests from classic games that stuck with me.
BW: What are some of the games that inspired your animation style?
DO: The basic color schemes of the characters was strongly based on Final Fantasy but I wanted it to be it’s own sort of style without too much resemblance to any one, so I mixed it up a bit. I actually had a number of variations of sprites for the main characters, but eventually settled on the style that I also ended up using for other videos in the future. There’s definitely some Dragon Warrior and Earthbound in there as well.
BW: I’m a huge Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest fan, and I was pretty sure the stairs noise was from that game. Has anyone ever offered to use your designs to create a flash game, or something similar?
DO: I’ve had plenty of people who approached me, emailed me, messaged me, called me, etc., to discuss making an actual game but I really wanted it to be endorsed by Joss himself. I wasn’t holding my breath for a licensed version, but I did contact his studio about it. In the end, it just wasn’t worth it to anyone to make it happen, so I decided not to pursue that option at all. Besides, everyone already has the walk-through 😉
BW: What takes more time, the music or the graphics?
DO: The graphics, by far. Some tracks come together on the first pass and can take as little as a half hour if I’m really in the zone, but you can only lay down pixels so fast. Those cut scenes take at least an hour each.
BW: What’s been your most popular project to date? Your favorite?
DO: Based strictly on views, probably the first “Game of Thrones RPG” I did for College Humor last summer. That thing has millions of views on their site, and the extended version that I uploaded has the most views of any other video on my channel, with the exception of “Dr. Horrible”, which has been there for over a year longer.
My favorite is a music video I did with nerdcore artist ytcracker, because he gave me complete creative freedom on it. He just gave me a basic premise and I ran with it. Also, the track was based on one of my favorite NES era tracks, the temple theme from “Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link”.
BW: Can you talk about what you’re working on next?
DO: Yes and no. I prefer not to discuss client work in specifics since spilling the beans before releasing a short can affect performance, but as far as my own personal projects, there are a few in the works but they’re going slower than usual since I have 3 College Humor projects right now, and possibly a few more from other clients. Among those side projects are a Tennant era Doctor Who choose your own adventure style YouTube animation, a Contra style Starship Troopers “level run through” and an ETSY shop with Doctor Who bead sprites and greeting cards based on the Legend of Zelda.
BW: As my site generally focuses on superheroes, I have to ask, what’s your favorite superhero movie?
DO: I thought the Avengers was pretty insane – obviously I have a Joss Whedon bias. But in my mind, it’s hard to beat the Tim Burton and Danny Elfman combo “Batman”. That movie was sickeningly dark and fun, especially when I was 8 years old. And that’s saying a lot because I’m generally a Marvel fan boy and can’t be bothered to follow DC.
BW: Thanks so much for your time, it was a lot of fun re-watching that animation, I hadn’t seen it since it first came out. The boss battle near the end was great!
DO: Don’t mention it, it was my pleasure!