It’s one thing to make a critically acclaimed TV series, but quite another to make a video game.
High On Life is the brainchild of Justin Roiland, one of the comedy duo behind the award-winning animated show Rick And Morty – the $1 billion franchise Franchise just wrapped up its sixth season.
The game puts the player in the position of a bounty hunter, undertaking various missions to eliminate different targets in an increasingly bizarre Alice in Wonderland-esque world.
A unique aspect of the game is that all four of the available guns feature talking faces on their backs that face the player and respond with unique lines during gameplay.
Despite his success in the TV writers’ room, Roiland said the very nature of games makes them an even greater challenge.
“It’s like writing a TV show where people can reach in and knock things around,” he told Sky News.
“As a studio, we want to have a lot of fun narrative surprises in this area.
“Encounters with NPCs (non-playable characters) will vary depending on the gun you’re using.
“Each gun has its own full dialogue and reactions. Essentially, you’re writing more stuff.”
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The studio responsible for bringing Roiland’s creations to life is Squanch Games, which he founded in 2016.
Lead designer Erich Meyr elaborates on the game’s narrative complexity.
“You have up to four guns, each with a different thread,” he told Sky News.
“So we have to control the extent to which we can use it to make sure we can even do it.”
Given the workload of game development, the idea of artificial intelligence doing some of the heavy lifting is becoming extremely appealing.
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As AI continues to advance, developers are using it more often in production—including High On Life.
While most of the artwork is hand-drawn, Roiland told Sky News that the powerful Midjourney AI can draw original pictures based entirely on written prompts from users, which it uses to give the finishing touch to his alien world.
“It makes the world feel like a weird alternate universe of our world,” he said.
“We use it to come up with weird, interesting ideas.”
“I don’t know what the future holds, but AI will be a tool that has the potential to make content creation very accessible,” Roiland added.
“I don’t know how many years we have, but all you need is a guy with some great ideas.”
Meier revealed that the AI was also used to prototype some character voices, and a small character was cut out.
The game also has a full cast, including Roiland himself, Curb Your Enthusiasm star JB Smoove and SpongeBob SquarePants actor Tom Kenny.
While game development is very different from TV production, there are clear similarities between High On Life and Rick and Morty in terms of their crazy sci-fi aesthetic and tone.
Roiland, who won an Emmy in 2018 for his Pickle Rick episode on Rick and Morty, said his childhood was “obsessed with aliens, Area 51 and abductions “.
“It allows you to tell many different types of stories,” he told Sky News, “that you might not be able to tell otherwise.
“Even if I have some newer ideas, they are all sci-fi related.”
Among the ideas are some British projects, though Roiland is tight-lipped about the details.
Meanwhile, High On Life is available now on Xbox Game Pass, or separately on Xbox Series X and S, and PC.