POSTAL was a big game for us back in the late 90s. POSTAL 2 made us want to lie down in a nice room with a cup of tea afterwards. Running With Scissors legends Vince Desi and Mike Jaret popped down to Arcade Attack courtesy of ZOOM Platform’s Jordan Freeman. And now we all need a cup of tea. WARNING: this interview contains strong language (even after editing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way).
Hello gents! Your exploits with Running With Scissors are well known in the industry but how did you first both get your starts in gaming?
Vince Desi: A company called Atari opened an office in NY around 1981. I recruited programmers and artists for development on the Atari 400/800.
Mike Jaret: I went to high school with Vince’s son….met Vince, couple years later (2001) I started working here!
What was working life like prior to RWS?
VD: I really don’t relate to the concept of work, matter of fact I think I’m allergic to work (aren’t we all – Ed). I was managing a dev co that made games for licenses like Disney, Hanna Barbera and Sesame Street.
MJ: I sold cell phones in the mall…..and bounced in bars….and played video games!
Running With Scissors is a great name for a video game company, but obviously a very dangerous thing to do in real life. What are the meanings behind this name and were there any other potential company names banded around before you decided on RWS?
VD: In American culture, it was a very popular term growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. Basically, be careful and listen to your mother. So when we were starting I wanted a name that expressed what we were about – doing the exact opposite of what you’re told, taking risk and not listening to the standard bullshit. I don’t remember any other names being considered, I just said to the team no fuckin’ names about space shit and science terms, too generic and pseudo real cool.
POSTAL is a legendary game among retro gamers but received mixed reviews at the time. Why do you think that is? Could more have been done with the project at the time (in 1997)?
VD: I remember showcasing it at the 2nd E3 in Atlanta, Georgia. It received unbelievable attention and positive reaction from gamers on the floor competing for our signature logo t-shirts. CNN and others all came by for interviews. Everything was great until just before the release when Howard Stern did a live radio read of an advertisement and then the shit hit the fan. The overpaid Madison Ave ad agency, Grey, mistakenly put the Panasonic name instead of Running With Scissors on the client sheet (what! – Ed). So Panasonic, the corporate mother of Ripcord Games, basically panicked. Initial orders at major retailers all sold out, but no one reordered as Panasonic pulled the plug. Don’t get me wrong here, I love the Japanese (great food, beautiful women and temples) but corporate had no balls.
MJ: Well… We have never had a great relationship with the games press and that is just fine. Hell we got the first “0” ever from Robert Coffey at Computer Gaming World (which in turn got us a Guinness Record for “The Most Divisively Reviewed Game” as another media outlet on GameRankings gave us 100%), but what matters most to us now is our user review score on Steam. POSTAL 2 and Paradise Lost have 95%+ (Overwhelmingly Positive) user scores. THAT IS ALL WE CARE ABOUT!
Thanks Mike, I’m now deaf, but loving that sentiment. Postal and Grand Theft Auto were two of my top games at the time (in retrospect I may have been a bit troubled), how do you guys feel about Rockstar Games? Especially given that they had the same slant (extreme violence etc…).
VD: I think Rockstar is a great publisher, they know the market and put money behind their projects. The GTA brand originated in the UK, was sold several times in Europe before it made its way to Rockstar, I give them a lot of credit.
MJ: Those may be the only games I play nowadays too. I play our product (obviously) and the only games I buy are new GTA games, of which there haven’t been any recently.
Vince, of all the jobs you’ve had (which I list many inc. cab driver and Wall Street headhunter), where does games producer/designer rank? Has your past employment given you anything you can use in the gaming industry?
VD: My very first job was selling clam shells I painted, then I moved up to shining shoes and delivering donuts, many more like that added to my foundation of hard work leads to smarter work to not working and just having fun doing what you like. My experience in the game industry has been a roller coaster, just like life itself, so to me I think the most important thing I could share is like that old Greek fellow said, do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.
Sticking with Vince, how do you feel about Joe Lieberman? And looking back at POSTAL, do you think his comments were justified? And what was it like meeting him?
VD: I think politics is about the most hypocritical, opportunistic way of life. I have no feelings for him on any level, they all talk out of their asses. Rich people telling middle class and poor people how to live is a fuckin’ joke, no different than listening to celebrities living with armed body guards, in mansions, with chauffeured limos. Looking back at Lieberman’s comments about Calvin Klein underwear ads, Marilyn Manson and POSTAL, he was a total puppet back then, he didn’t know shit from shiola. I attended a political rally he was at and got the photo op (no cell cameras back then). Weird dude, always talks with his eyes closed, very strange, like an animated character at Chuck E Cheese.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. For both of you then, what makes RWS special and are you surprised that a company that was created in the 90s to produce mature content is going so strong? Given there’s now umpteen companies who have the same focus.
VD: RWS is special because we listen to our fans. We’re more like a club than a company, no one really works at RWS, we all contribute because we want to. The big difference between us and other developers and publishers is my house, the house POSTAL bought, is like a bank, it’s our credit line. I’m always amused at developers who consider themselves an indie dev co when they’re being funded by a major publisher. We put our dicks on the line, we don’t pretend we’re something we’re not. We have spouses and partners, kids and grandparents to support, I’m very proud of everyone at RWS.
MJ: Well… We do whatever the fuck we want, that is what made me love it in the first place. Being the true indie we are has allowed a lot of creative and social freedoms that I would never get at a 9-5 somewhere and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
Sounds like bliss. So Mike, what is Vince like to work with?
MJ: Have you ever sat on the nicest bidet and taken the best shit of your life? (I’d prefer to use toilet first and then bidet but I think I see where this is going – Ed). That’s what it is like, almost like if I worked with myself, me and Vince are the same fuckin’ person! Vince has always gone the extra mile for me and everyone with RWS and I would follow him into the dirtiest whore house in Moscow! (hmm, I didn’t see it going quite that far – Ed).
Vince then, how great an employee/colleague is Mike?
VD: Unlike OJ, the glove fit perfectly on MikeJ to join RWS (are we allowed to print that? – Ed). We are a smarter and more proficient business because of him. His sick, demented, gutter morality is a natural compliment to my lifestyle. I’m blessed to have him as a partner.
That’s nice. Staying with Vince, POSTAL 2 (in our eyes) set record levels of controversy at the time. I remember seeing something that the game was actually banned in NZ and Australia. Are you proud of this and do you think it was a worthy successor to POSTAL game-wise?
VD: POSTAL 2 was an insane effort both in terms of development and living through it. We purposely infused it with crazy humor as a distinction from the original more dark (for some people) POSTAL, which was the title that was originally banned and black listed across the globe. I have great love for the original, the fire, the screaming, the hand painted backgrounds. POSTAL 2 is a completely different approach. The Postal Dude comes alive, you get a much stronger feel for his personality and frustrations. POSTAL 2 succeeded in reaching a much wider audience, in age and gender all around the world. HARD ON PROUD!
What were your first thoughts about working in first-person as opposed to Postal’s isometric style?
VD: It was a natural transition allowing us to bring the player into the head of the Postal Dude. Much more intimate pouring gasoline down a road, whacking someone with a shovel (my fav sound) and the liquid physics are priceless.
MJ: Going FPS was the obvious move, and will always be seen as the legitimization of the brand, that’s still why it sells so well today.
How did you get Gary Coleman on board, what’s he like, and was it satisfying making fun of Mr Lieberman?
VD: Gary was and always will be part of the RWS family, truly a great guy, so sad he lost his life (true, legend – Ed). First time I met him he came to Tucson, by the end of his hotel stay he was banned. He had a big heart and was very generous. Complete professional and fun to work with, crazy sense of humour. I simply called Hollywood, said I was rich and wanted him to star in my new project.
MJ: Gary tried to kick me in the balls at a bar once… Luckily I was wearing baggy pants. I miss that dude, shame his whore wife murdered him AND got away with it! (again, can we print this?? – Ed)
You mentioned him a few times there but would you both go out for beers with the Postal Dude?
VD: We have and always will. And blow a few lines, red wine, tequila, vodka and whores. MikeJ likes those pussy drinks (all drinks are acceptable here at AA – Ed), so I’m curious to see what he says.
MJ: DA FUQ? I drink more whiskey than you! But I also enjoy a good pina colada! Hell ya I would drink with the dude… But no crack for me thanks! (we’d second that – Ed)
Out of all the video games ever created, which one do you personally view as the most controversial and why?
VD: Custer’s Revenge was the first real controversial game and even that I didn’t find offensive. Controversial is like a political concept, designed to separate people rather than just accept we all have different tastes and opinions. I believe in harmony, even in disagreement as long as you have respect.
MJ: The game that still makes my blood boil is Manhunt, not because I personally found it offensive, but it was a fuckin’ snuff game that was sold in Wal-Mart… Fucking hypocrites! (we’re expecting to be served any time about…now – Ed)
Moving on to Mike – how does it feel to be immortalised in the POSTAL games and what were they like to work on?
MJ: Coming from my background (failed out of the University of Arizona because of video games) it was always the place I needed to end up. Making a game that truly embodied my attitude towards life. When I got to have my own office in game (in the toilet) and then be the final boss in Apocalypse Weekend truly made my life complete. That’s prob the only reason I could land such a hot wife, cuz chicks dig Final Bosses…
What was it like re-imagining/recreating POSTAL with Postal Redux?
VD: It’s something I always wanted to do. Let me share with you something that started happening a few years ago that completely blew me away. As you may or may not know I’ve answered every email and now social media message I’ve received from the very beginning, thousands and thousands. Well a few years ago I got an email from someone who said their dad had played POSTAL and now they were playing POSTAL 2. And then it happened again, and again and then I realized how POSTAL had become a multi-generational thing, not just a video game. Anyway, when we first decided to do Postal Redux I got a feeling like I don’t want to fuck this up. We’re not going to colorize a B&W classic film, and so the guiding light was to update it technically proficiently but now to change it. In the end we decided to add a few things simply as a gift for our old fans and of course to be appreciated by a new generation as well.
MJ: It was an a-ha moment, because the game always had shoddy controls and looked dated as fuck (easy! – Ed), once we brought it to life on UE4 it made a hell of a lot more sense. It was also significantly more obvious how dark the game was compared to P2!
Why was the PlayStation 4 version of Postal Redux cancelled? Are you creating a new POSTAL game for consoles altogether?
VD: Consoles have kinda been like the missing magic bullet for POSTAL. There are the usual reasons I’m sure but I’ve come to believe POSTAL will be on console when it’s supposed. Who would’ve thought that the Postal Dude may be a Buddhist.
What have RWS currently got in the pipeline?
VD: When you come to understand that making games is who we are and not just something we do, then you begin to live for a purpose greater than the obvious pseudo realism we’re all brought up to believe is our mission (#deep – Ed).
MJ: We’re making a game on UE4, it should make a person like you happy!
A person like me? I hope that’s a compliment! One more before you guys go and I can have a nice long lie down… Barring the Postal dude, if you could go for a drink with any video game character, who would you choose and why?
VD: Mario, he’s a Goombah.
MJ: Nico Bellic, since we seem to have a nonstop Russian connection!
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, RWS, as candid as ever. All the best in your future endeavours and keep in touch! We’ll keep the pina coladas on ice.