OMM Interviews Ralph Bagley, Maker of Religious Games
I've always wondered why people get so bitchy about games that express a
religious viewpoint. Of course, they generally suck as games, but the reaction seems
to go deeper than that. Paraphrasing the same logic utilized in most of the hate
mail sent to our good friend Miguel of Fat
Chicks In Party Hats, I think you people are secretly attracted to Bible
games! I know I am. I can't help it. I love them all in the
often irrational, non-judgemental way that parents love their children or that Japan loves
seeing children violently penetrated by tentacles.
Sadly, no self-respecting company that's involved in producing, packaging,
or distributing any religious material whatsoever will come near OMM with a ten foot pole,
even through a hole in a sheet. That is, until now.
Yesterday, we were contacted by David Caputo, a representative of
N'Lightning Software, makers of the upcoming non-violent Christian-themed shooter Catechumen. Apparently, he confused us with
Gamepro or PlanetBibleGame or something. I asked him if I could interview someone at
the company, figuring they'd either read the site and back out while using their hands to
make the cross symbol over their chest, or, worse, set me up with some idiot level
designer. Against all odds, David let me talk to the CEO of
N'Lightning, Mr. Ralph Bagley! And against so many odds that it can only be
described as a miracle straight from Heaven, Mr. Bagley reads and enjoys OMM, even though
he will have to spend four hundred centuries in Purgatory for it when he dies peacefully
in his sleep in 2060 [As usual, thanks to Marvin - ed].
There is a Catechumen demo
available. After downloading it, I can honestly say that it's the best
Christian-themed game I've ever played. Look, I don't know what to tell you.
It's not Serious Sam, but, on the other hand,
it might just save you from going to Hell. I'm talking to you, Mike Wilson. Read on for more details...
Erik: When Black Isle makes a Tolkien-inspired game such
as Icewind Dale, nobody jumps to the conclusion that they're expressing some deeply held
belief about elves. But dare to make a game about the world's most famous book, the
Bible, and all of a sudden people assume you're some kind of fundamentalist nutjob.
My first question is this: are you? Or are you just making a Bible-themed game to
cash-in on the religion fad that's so popular with unpopular kids?
Ralph: I am the first to admit that our company is
loaded with nutjobs... Fundamentalist however, is not really the way that I would
describe us. We have taken a lot of heat from the mainstream game developers as well
as the ultra-conservative Christian wackos. (They think that anything new must be "of
the Devil!") Our vision has been and always will be to make fun, high quality
games with a Biblical theme. Some people have a problem with that, but for the most
part we are getting an excellent response from the gaming community worldwide.
you had made a serious game about Christianity, but presented it from the viewpoint of
Satan, you'd be hailed as a cultural hero. It would probably inspire Wagner James Au to write
one of his classic forbidden-fruity style essays for Salon in
which he'd call Catechumen a post-post-modernist revisionist anti-fascist masterpiece and
compare it to the works of Pier Pasolini. By deciding to align yourself with the
Bible's protagonists, however, you're going to get nothing but snide dismissal
from second-rate gaming sites. Ultimately, that's preferable to having Au mention
you, but, still, you must know you're in for a world of hurt. What inspires you to
keep going? And don't say something stupid like "God". I really want to
know, from a purely human perspective, how you and your team keep yourselves motivated to
continue day in and day out when working on a project that's guaranteed to be met with
Ralph: Being the creator of the concept as well the
President of the company, I knew that we would face some adversity from the media and
certain groups. However, the number one priority of our team from day one of development
has been to create a game that was excellent in terms of gameplay, graphics and sound. We
feel that we have accomplished this and that the gamers of the world will play it if it
meets these standards.
Erik: I'm honestly not trying to be a dick here, but Catechumen is the
worst game title I've ever heard. Nobody knows what it means, and its arrangement of
letters immediately shorts out the reading part of your brain. I've looked at it
about a thousand times, and I have no idea how to pronounce it. As close as I can
figure, you make a coughing sound followed by a sneezing sound. Have you considered
changing the name? How does "Ralph Bagley's The Bible"
Ralph: Remember, we are all nutjobs here at
N'Lightning, we did consider several different titles, but settled on Catechumen because
it made people say "What the heck is this?"
Erik: I said that too, but I replaced "heck" with
a different word - one that, although it ends in "ck" just like "heck"
and has the totally innocuous word "mother" in it, is actually pretty bad.
I don't think I'm the only one who's going to have that reaction either, so you should
think about that before you unleash this damn game on kids. Anyway, I'm a Jew and
you're the only person I kind of know who has some sort of connection to the Christian
God. I'm holding in my hands last week's issue of The Weekly World News. They
stick to a pretty rigid cycle of covers: Satan, Alien, Giant Chinese Baby, Jesus
Christ. The issue I have is from one of their Jesus weeks. Two lines on the
cover caught my attention:
a) The Anti-Christ is alive - and living in the U.S.!
b) Six signs that prove the world is coming to an end!
I can only assume that the fact that the Anti-Christ is alive and living
in the U.S. is one of the six signs, which leaves five signs unrevealed. And I know that
you know what they are. Give me three facts about Catechumen that OMM readers must
know to survive the end times.
Catechumen has top-notch graphics, lot's of unique
puzzle-solving and the sound will literally scare the "hell" out of you!
Adrenaline... our game is loaded with it!
Catechumen is not your typical
"Christian" game. We don't preach at the player at all. We have designed this
game to be enjoyed by the mainstream gamer.
Erik: Mike Wilson founded G.O.D. games. He's definitely
going to Hell for that, right?
Ralph: Fortunately for Mike, that
is not my decision...
Erik: I gotcha. I knew he was goin' to Hell!
Get this: We sent a letter to the hotmail account of John Carmack and told him all
about Catechumen. He sent us mail back saying "Catechumen is the Quake 3: Arena - of
religious games! LOL!!!" He's pretty smug for someone who's going to
soon be saying "I'll tell you what, Mike Wilson, I've done some quick calculations,
and my figures show that I should have spent less time programming volumetric fog and more
time praying" as they bob up and down for all eternity in an ocean of boiling shit -
sorry about the language, padre. Did Carmack's ultimate destination have any influence
over your decision to choose the Genesis3D engine over the Quake 3 engine?
Ralph: With all due respect
to John Carmack, we are in the first stages of developing a revolutionary new multi-player
game that is biblically based. It is still not too late for John though...
Erik: Ralph, check me out [I pretend I'm holding a phone]:
"Hello John Carmack? This is Satan. I'm starting a technical
advisory board here in Hell, and I was wondering if you'd mind being on it... Uh
huh... Uh huh... Well, I appreciate that you're a busy man, but unfortunately, I
MUST INSIST!!!" Oh man, that's gonna be great.
3 was recently announced. Off the top of your head, what do you think the ratio of
nerveless subverted Christian imagery to truly dangerous subverted Islamic imagery will be
once the brave iconoclasts over at id are done spraying the levels with Trent Reznor-style
Ralph: 85% Satanic imagery, 12% Islamic, 2.5% New
Age, .4% Alien, .1% Christian (as usual!)
Erik: Maybe I didn't phrase the question right... Anyway, John and
Anna Carmack's god, Ayn Rand, holds a special place for the retardeds. Unfortunately, it's
a gas chamber! Is there any place for the retardeds in the philosophy underlying
Ralph: Our staff is VERY in tune to
this issue. That's all I can really say about that...
Erik: One of the hottest trends in shooters is the ability to target
specific body parts. Instead of killing people, Catechumen has you converting them with
swords that shoot the word of God. Does your engine support intra-model targeting? For
instance, can I convert just the legs of a Roman soldier so that he starts running to
church while his torso is still poking me with a spear? Cause that'd be wicked.
Ralph: However realistic intra-model targeting
might make the typical shooter game feel, our game is anything but typical so we didn't
think that our concept needed that feature. (That is an interesting visual image though,
would you like a job!)
Erik: Thanks, but I need the trials of a job like I need the trials
of Job!!! LOL! But seriously, will Catechumen support multiplayer?
Ralph: Catechumen does not support multiplayer.
However, we are currently working on a cool new multiplayer game that should hit the
shelves late next year.
Erik: This is a two part question. The first part is about video
cards, the second part deals with abortion.
Does the Genesis3d engine support T&L? Does it even need to? Have
you taken advantage of any card-specific features?
I've made it quite clear that I'm pro-choice because, although I believe
fetuses have little tiny souls, I'm dead enough inside to quite simply not care.
Sometimes, though, I think the anti-abortion people should try to spice up
their propaganda a little. For instance, you could get Priceline's William
Shatner to reprise his Star Trek role and star in an ad where alien brains encased in
computers - representing the liberal media - force him to fight gladiator-style against a
fetus. "I bet four quatloos on the hugh-man Kirk" one would say in a
real deep voice, and then another one would say, in a high-pitched voice, "two
quatloos on the hugh-man feat-us". Even though the fetus would kick his
ass for a few minutes, Kirk would eventually give it one of those double fisted karate
chops to the back of its neck. He'd stand, grimy and chest-heaving, over the
fetus, with his shirt ripped open and bloody scratches across his pecs. Then
the Aliens representing the liberal media would say "Kill the hugh-man feat-us,
hugh-man Kirk." But then Kirk'd get pissed and throw down his battleaxe
and say "I. Will. Not. Kill. This. Fetus. For. Your. Amusement!"
Then he'd tell the aliens representing the liberal media about love, and that'd totally
blow their minds, and sparks would start coming out of them, and then they'd
explode. Then, just to show that, while you're serious as Hell about abortion,
you're willing to give a little on some other social issues, you could steal the scene
that ends every piece of Star Trek fan fiction ever published on the Internet and have
Kirk and Spock make out. I think even hardcore liberals might come around if you
rephrase the debate in terms of things they've seen on Star Trek. What do you think
Ralph: Ahmmm... The Genesis
engine has good texturing capabilities and the lighting is spectacular! As for Kirk, I
think I'll leave that alone...
It seems that people who deliberately deconstruct religion, then exorcise it from their
lives, eventually realize that maybe they're not so much smarter than everyone who's ever
lived after all. When they inevitably discover that faith has a purely utilitarian
value as a way of mitigating the mounting existential dread that arises from simply being
alive, they generally resort to creating some kind of half-assed religion
substitute. This leads to spiritual philosophies that embarrass everybody, like
aromatherapy and everything Jewel believes.
As an example, noted unemployed agnostic Lord British found the
inspiration for his old-fashioned morality play, Ultima IV, in The Wizard of Oz movie [he
admits this in his autobiography - ed]. His bizarrely-inspired, heavy-handed
moralizing continues to this day, yet his games are treated with respect. Your
game's moral code is based on a much saner foundation, yet you will undoubtedly be
demonized for it. Does this make you mad? Followup: Is Lord British
going to Hell?
Ralph: Yes, it does tick me
off that the game developers and publishers out there don't have the testicles to create
first person games that aren't just bloodbaths and centered on evil. When we
initially sought funding for our project, I was turned away by several high profile game
publishers before they even read my game design document. Fortunately, we had several
people with a lot of money step up to the plate. We are now not only a game developer, but
are a publisher as well. Our game is going to be in every major retailer as well as all of
the Christian and Catholic Bookstores in North America. The response has been
tremendous to our demo, and we want to tell all of the game developers and publishers that
didn't believe that a "Biblically-based" game would be successful,
PPPPSSSFFFFTTTTT! Ha Ha!
As for Lord British, see John Carmack/Mike Wilson answers!
Erik: Thanks, Ralph! Get rid
of the crates!