Everything in pop culture builds off what came before, but sometimes it’s not so obvious exactly what inspired your favorite video games. Luckily game recognize game, and Source Code is where Playboy explores the eclectic influences of video game developers.
I’m reasonably sure that some game developers have broken the law at some point—y'know, shoplifting candy bars when they were kids, running a red light at 4AM, that sort of stuff—I kind of doubt many of them have pulled off a major heist. Which begs the question: if they were going to make a heist game, how would they know what to do?
Turns out they’d watch some movies, read some books, and listen to some music. At least that’s the answer we got when we asked Shark Punch CTO Leo Lännenmäki, CCO Aarne Hunziker, CEO Jiri Kupiainen, and composers Viljami Lehtonen and Jukka Åkerman where they got their ideas for The Masterplan, a tactical squad-based heist game for Windows, Mac and Linux PCs. Set in the 1970s, this top-down, old school-style game not only has you hiring goons, but also outfitting them with the necessary equipment (read: guns) and deciding whether they’re going to be sneaky or go in all guns-a-blazin’.
With the game out now and stealing hearts, I asked Hunziker and his coworkers what inspired them to help players become master criminals in The Masterplan.
5. DONALD E. WESTLAKE’S ‘DORTMUNDER’ NOVELS
Westlake’s novels, including The Hot Rock, Bank Shot, Jimmy the Kid, Nobody’s Perfect, Why Me, Good Behavior, Drowned Hopes, Don’t Ask, and many others, were a chief inspiration for the team. These books feature career criminal and master planner John Archibald Dortmunder—think George Clooney and Brad Pitt in the Oceans movies.
How it inspired The Masterplan: “The overall concept of the game—with relatable, even likeable, criminal characters hatching their plan, then inevitably running into trouble—has a lot of similarities to the Dortmunder books,” Lännenmäki told me. “Our ending also leaves the crew with little more than what they started out, despite having completed a grand heist, repeating the message from many of the books: crime does not pay, at least not very well.”
4. ‘DOG DAY AFTERNOON’
Dog Day Afternoon is a classic 1975 crime film that starred Al Pacino and John Cazale as bank robbers who have everything go awry and end up taking the bank’s tellers and customers hostage. It was directed by Sidney Lumet of Network note.
How it inspired The Masterplan: “We wanted our goons to be ordinary, victims of circumstance, like the bank robbers in Dog Day Afternoon,” Hunziker told me. “They are everything but professionals, reacting to situations the best they can, on the brink of failing most of the time. The tension is high from the beginning to the end. You root for these understaffed, under-equipped bad guys.”
Heat is classic 1995 crime film that starred Robert De Niro as a bank robber and Al Pacino as the cop trying to stop him. It was directed by Michael Mann, also known for Miami Vice.
How it inspired The Masterplan: Kupiainen: “I can’t tell you how many times we screened Michael Mann’s Heat at the studio. We wanted to recreate those perfect movie heists in our game: going in with a solid plan, struggling to keep an increasingly complex situation under control, and then finally it all goes to hell and the shooting starts. I’ve always loved the tension in the bank robbery scene, especially the way it completely changes when Val Kilmer starts shooting.”
2. ‘MONEY RUNNER’
Quincy Jones’s “Money Runner” is a song from the soundtrack to the 1971 crime caper movie simply titled $. Jones is a jazz musician who worked with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Art Farmer before producing some albums by a guy named Mike Jackson.
How it inspired The Masterplan: “We tried to capture the '70s car chase/robbery/moustache-funk feeling in the game’s score, which is most pure in Jones’ song 'Money Runner,’” Lehtonen said.
Åkerman added, “Throughout the composing, recording, and mixing process, we aimed at staying loyal to the sound of the era, using typical instrumentation and arrangement clichés ruthlessly. The focus was to complete the game’s captivating visual feeling with worthy auditory experience and set the mood for the perfect crime.“
1. ‘ADVENTURE COMICS’
This comic book series from DC Comics ran from 1938 through 1983, and then again from 2009 to 2011.
How it inspired The Masterplan: "The style of comics from the 1950s and 1960s was a product of the limitations in technology at the time, but it’s a very deeply ingrained style in everyone’s mind. Limited colors, fast to draw, easy to understand at a glance, vintage feel—all features that work with our setting, perspective, and small development team” Hunziker said. “We specifically looked at DC’s Adventure Comics when deciding on how to ink our assets. We also have small yellow narrative boxes in the start of each level closely reminiscent to those found in comics.”
Paul Semel has been writing about games (as well as music, movies, books, and other fun stuff) for over twenty years. You can find him online on his own site, paulsemel.com, or follow him on Twitter at @paulsemel.
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