I wish I had the time and resources to create a commentary video for this animation or, dare I say, a musical commentary like the original Dr. Horrible DVD, but alas, a written commentary accompanied by screen shots will have to suffice.
The "game" starts out much like the original film with an immediate introduction to Dr. Horrible and the general premise of the story. Here is an obvious dork who wants to be a super villain. He explains his desire to get into the Evil League of Evil, and thus begins his epic quest for greatness.
The main goal at the start of creating Act One was to stay true to the original story while still presenting everything in a "playable" format. By this pre-requisite, the "player" is forced into various situations through dialogue, circumstances and goals. The first example of this is the remote that Billy needs to build and is therefore forced to visit the laundromat and encounter Penny. Through speaking to other patrons at the laundromat, Billy acquires the parts needed and is able to build the remote and take on the heist.
Another thing that was important to me was syncing the music with the "gameplay". Since the original depended so much upon the lyrics in each song to further the plot, as well as the feel of each song to convey the emotions of the characters, I wanted to carry that over as best as I could with the 8-bit version. In that vain, I wanted the "Freeze Ray" song to play through that portion of the "game" and have it end in the same abrupt manner that it did in the original.
The sprites for the NPC's in the laundromat were loosely based on the extras used in the original. While the resemblance wasn't as important overall as that of the main character sprites, I still wanted them to be a proper representation.
For the Bad Horse chorus, I knew from the start that I wanted the characters to come in, dance to the music, then leave without any explaination whatsoever. This was a small homage to Final Fantasy 4, in which one girl at the Inn dances around your character for a minute or so with no explaination when you talk to her. The way that the chorus comes out of nowhere in the original reminded me of that moment in FF4 and I thought that worked best. I think it suffuced to explain the segment afterwards with the dialogue between Billy and Moist, because adding dialogue during the dance would take away from the surprise that one would experience in that situation, RPG or not.
The wonderflonium heist scene was a lot of fun but it also proved to be difficult since there were multiple parties involved and the events that transpired in the original were much less out of the hands of Dr. Horrible than one would want in a playable NES game. I decided that it would be possible to have the "player" in control of many of the events, but for the purposes of the animation, have them make these choices at the right times in the "game". This happens with Billy throwing the remote, and using the iPhone to start the van. The "player" also starts the van at the appropriate time, as a lead up to Captain Hammer jumping into the scene at the same time as in the original. The majority of the rest of this scene plays out as an "in-game, non-playable" cinematic, until the "player" regains control and once again, acquires the wonderflonium just in time for the end of the song when Dr. Horrible exclaims, "BALLS!".
It was brought to my attention numerous times after releasing the first act that I misspelled the words "motor" and "villain". Keep in mind that this animation is not just a tribute to Dr. Horrible but to classic NES games as well, imperfections and all. Having said that, I admit that I did not intentionally spell these words wrong, nor did I bother to proof-read the dialogue. In a lot of original NES games, words would often be misspelled on account of the translation from Japanese to English and while this was not the case for this "game", I did not take any extra care to prevent mispellings because of this fact. I felt it added authenticity to the project.
However, after the billionth time someone pointed out the misspellings to me, I decided to fix them. This is due large in part to the fact that I was struggling with the line between authentic and correct. In other words, is it more important to create something that follows the rules of, say, spelling in the English language, or is it more desirable to produce something that better represents the format to which it pays tribute? To me, it's entirely up to the artist to create it as they wish. Every artist has to make decisions like these and as a man much wiser than myself once said, "You can't please everybody."
The break between acts gave me a little more freedom with the progression of the "game". In other words, once a level is completed in a standard adventure game, the "player" often finds themself at a different location than they were at the end of the last level. Keeping with this trend, it helped me avoid including the mind-numbing task of walking back to Dr. Horrible's lair to complete the Freeze Ray, and I could simply drop the "player" there at the start of Act Two. Also, in an actual, playable version of the game, there would likely be other tasks for the "player" to complete on the walk back to the lair, be it buying food to recharge health or talking with some neighborhood folk in order to learn some new tidbits of information.
For the "My Eyes" track in the "game", I had trouble thinking of something for Billy to accomplish that would span the length of the song itself. Eventually, I decided that the frozen yogurt would play a large part in the progression of the game. In other words, Billy would need to learn that Penny liked frozen yogurt at the park and then use that knowledge to acquire some, which he would later use to further the conversation between he and Penny that would invariably lead to his run-in with Captain Hammer.
As a point of interest, since I'm sure many of you noticed some incongruities of the "game" with the original story, I combined the two laundromat scenes in Act Two into one scene for the sake of avoiding redundancy. In the film format, it works well because it implies that time has passed between visits, but "in-game" it would only serve as a reminder to the "player" that they have to run all over town just to see Hammer and Penny together and get some frozen yogurt. As a matter of saving time for the "player", I decided to combine them as I did.
Another inconsistency that many have pointed out is that Billy sees Hammer and Penny at the Park before he sees them at the soup kitchen, whereas in the original, he sees them at the soup kitchen first, then at the park. First off, that's really splitting some hairs, but since so many people brought it up, keep in mind, that portion of the film is a montage, not a strict presentation of an exact order of events. Also, consider the fact that Billy sees them at the soup kitchen during night and at the park during the day, and considering that Penny tells Billy at the laundromat later that she went on "a date" (not multiple dates), we can assume that they went to the park before the soup kitchen and either the original film overlooked this inconsistency, or it was indeed a montage which jumped around in time.
At this point in the animation, Act Two was seeming a bit sparse on action, so I decided that the "player" should get to see the car-thrown-at-head scene that Dr. Horrible only mentions in the original. This was also a good segue from "My Eyes" to Dr. Horrible's reason for being at home when he receives the call from Bad Horse about his giant fail at the Superhero Memorial Bridge Dedication. It also gave me a chance to include some lines of dialogue from other portions of the film that I had not yet included (like the one about Johnny Snow and the purpose of the Freeze Ray which, in the "game", we had yet to learn), as well as establish a "theme" for each of the three main characters. When Hammer comes marching in after throwing the car, I think the "player" really gets a sense that he has a habit of interupting Dr. Horrible and being a douche about it.
Finally, we get to everyone's favorite scene in the laundomat. I decided to do this cut-scene style with a break in between segments for "in-game" cinematics and a short-lived duration of "player" control to really hit the "player" with the sudden, yet subtle manner in which Captain Hammer tells Billy that he's going to bang the girl of his dreams. Hammer's brief return to the laundromat to inform Billy that the "hammer is [his] penis" comes after the break for that reason.
For brand new day, I wanted to introduce the "player" to a lot of the things that the original introduced to us when we saw it for the first time. The back room of Dr. Horrible's lair, the stalker-style photo of Penny, the dart board, and the giant chair. I initially decided that it needed to end the same way as the original Act Two ended, but I wasn't sure how I would get there. Using the dart board as a metaphor of sorts for Billy to live out his day dream of being gigantic and crushing Captain Hammer to smithereens, I added in a "bonus game" which could be accessed through the dart board. In the original, I think it's clear that Billy using a picture of Captain Hammer as the bull's eye of his dart board is a great way of showing how much he hates Captain Hammer, and the transition to the scene where he's a giant and stomps Hammer reminded me of bonus games often found in the action genre. Still, I wasn't convinced that I really wanted to utilize a bonus game feature until Jude Buffum came up with the idea himself and suggested it to me, before I even had the chance to mention it to him.
Since Act Two ended with the bonus game, I wondered if the "player" should be returned to the back room where they encountered the game, or find themself at a different location. I decided that just because I could didn't mean I had to, and since the original Act Three started with the news anchors discussing the statue of Captain Hammer, I should have the "player" start where they left off so they could see the news on the television. It also afforded me the opportunity to include the "Who's gay?" line from "So They Say" which I was not planning to include during that track in the "game" in order to allow the "player" enough time to complete the task of finding the duct tape and completing the Death Ray.
During "So They Say", I was mostly focused on including a lot of the lines from the song, since they could give the "player" more insight into the nature of the situation Billy was about to encounter at City Hall. Still, I was left with enough time to allow Billy to complete his tasks, and find a way to sneak into the dedication of the new homeless shelter. Having the "player" walk back to Dr. Horrible's lair after acquiring the duct tape allowed me to show that the once dilapidated buildings at the north-east side of the map were now renovated for the purpose of providing the homeless shelter to Penny's cause.
I also decided to include the scene with Moist and the Pink Pummeler at the end of the song as a transition between Billy completing the Death Ray and visiting City Hall. Again, I wanted to avoid another walk across the map for the "player".
Once the "player" reaches City Hall, they are met with resistance from the guards, but since they agreed to help the movers, they have an in. In theory, the "player" could have found the tape elsewhere and found another way into City Hall, but for the sake of the animation and keeping the length of Act Three below an already staggering 15 minutes, the "player" chose the easier method of getting into City Hall, and having the opportunity to hide in place of the Captain Hammer statue.
During the majority of the rest of the animation, after Billy helps the movers set up, witnesses a now-dating Hammer and Penny exchange words, and hides, the events are handled as "in-game" cinematics and cutscenes. As a small homage to many of the awful classic NES games, I added an unwarranted aspect of gameplay that involves Dr. Horrible shooting two guards with his Death Ray. A lot of people will have a problem with this, and I agree with their arguements. It's the same problem that we have with the "X-Men" game for NES in which the characters don't look like themselves, nor do they utilize their powers. It's the same problem anyone would have with a Superman game in which a thug can punch or shoot him to death. It's these inconsistencies that give these classic games a level of "awesomely stupid" that nearly every 8-bit game had for one reason or another, and as I said before, this animation is a tribute to both Dr. Horrible and classic NES games. Again, I was faced with a decision to choose between congruity and proper tribute, which I took to a level that many hair-splitting Whedonites can't accept. And I agree, Dr. horrible would not have killed guards, nor did he in the film, but in the 8-bit game format, this sort of oversight was very common.
The Final Fantasy style battle between Hammer and Horrible was a joke that I wanted to see in the context of the "game" for shits and giggles, but after seeing the positive reactions from a few friends to the addition of the scene (despite it's lack of relevance to the overall format of the "game" as is), I decided to leave it in. In actuality, a real game like this would not likely implement a battle system like Final Fantasy, but I wanted to pay extra tribute to a legendary series of games.
The ending sequence was the most fun for me, since as I mentioned before, I created most of those cut-scene sprites before I even started on the animation, and I was finally able to put them into action. Also, since the ending in the original was so epic, it gave me the opportunity to bring this 8-bit adventure to an epic 8-bit end.
As many people have already pointed out, James Marsters (who played Spike on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") was not in Dr. Horrible. The reason he appears in this animation comes down to a few things. First off, we never see who (if anyone) sits at the Evil League of Evil table across from the seat left open for Dr. Horrible. There are six ELE members, Bad Horse, and eight seats when Dr. Horrible enters the room and I had to wonder, "who's in that last seat that's out of view, behind the door in this shot?" So i figured, who better to fill that spot than a character from another Joss Whedon production? James Marsters, aka Spike, was the first character that came to mind, and as an added point of interest, he was originally interested in being a part of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog. Therefore, I credited James Marsters in the "game credits" despite the fact that he never appeared in the original Dr. Horrible.
The credits were a last minute addition to the "game". Since this is only an animation, and the actual credits would simply read "Doctor Octoroc", I didn't bother making any. I'm the only person who worked on this project (aside from suggestions from friends) so a credit sequence wasn't necessary. However, as another suggestion from Jude Buffum, I decided to credit the actors and writers involved with the creation of the original film, alongside their sprite representations. It also gave me an excuse to compose another track for the ending credits.
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