The Big Con arrived on Xbox and PC at the back end of August, giving gamers the chance to take in a wonderfully created ’90s-styled cross-country comedy adventure that was pretty much unlike anything else. We loved it, praising the strong dialogue, the weird and wonderful cast of characters and the stunning art style. So when we were given the opportunity to quiz Mighty Yell Studios’ and The Big Con’s Game Director in order to find out even more about the game, we absolutely jumped at the chance.
Hi, could you please introduce yourself? What has been your role in the development of The Big Con?
Hey, I’m Dave Proctor, I’m the studio founder, Game Director, Designer and Writer on The Big Con
First up, congratulations on the recent Xbox launch of The Big Con. Can you give us a brief development history behind the game, and also share the process of how you ultimately chose Xbox as the first platform of choice?
Hey, thanks a lot! I always loved con artist movies, and adventure games (I mean, I guess you can see where this was going…), and I really wanted to make a game that made you feel like a con artist. Outsmarting people, coming up with schemes, sneaking around — I always thought it would be a fun type of game to make, and hopefully to play. I founded Mighty Yell in 2017 and this was our first title, and I was pretty lucky that we got to work with some great partners, Microsoft being one of them! They really believed in the game from early early concept stuff and wanted to offer us some support however they could. That’s the kind of loyalty that’s hard to find, so when they wanted to support us, to champion us, we were so grateful and excited to support them right back.
Can you tell us a little bit about your previous work in the video game industry before creating The Big Con?
I founded a company with some friends from Toronto called 13AM Games. We made a game on the Wii U called Runbow, and it turned out to be a bit of a breakout hit on that console. When it came time for me to strike out and try some new stuff, before I went to The Big Con I did freelance production work for a few great studios in town, working on titles like Graceful Explosion Machine, Super Crush KO, and even Way of the Passive Fist.
It’s one thing to create an homage to the ‘90s, but it takes a lot more to create something that actually would have belonged there. What were some of the challenges in creating an authentic piece of ‘90s pop culture in 2021?
When we set out to make The Big Con, we knew we wanted it to pay respect to the point-and-click era of 90s video games, made popular by Sierra and LucasArts. But we also didn’t want to create a story weighed down by heavy handed references to the 90s, (or the extreme difficulty of 90s adventure games at that). I think the big challenge is to really present a feel, an attitude, but not to beat people over the head with the time period you’re referencing.
Some design choices that really cemented this era include the decision to not have the internet or any form of cell phone in the story, making the idea of getting away with conning people much more believable. All of the characters, jokes, stories and side adventures in The Big Con live comfortably within a 90s world, but I think the fact that it’s about characters, and the people there, that’s what makes it believable. Not that they’re running around talking about Pearl Jam or whatever.
A struggling video rental store certainly hits close to home, which is what the game’s premise is built around. Any personal nostalgia for that particular aspect of 1990s?
Oh yeah, I used to rent videos every Friday, first with my parents — we’d get a couple tapes and a pizza — and then by myself when I got to high school — I’d get a couple of tapes, and a pizza. Renting movies was such a central point of my life, I think it’s fitting that our game centers around a video store. I also just have a bit of nostalgia for that human experience of talking to someone, picking tapes, not scrolling through an app. Also, shoutout to Medhi, the man who ran my store in town, who sold my dad my copy of Mortal Kombat 2 because I rented it way too many weeks in a row.
Is it safe to assume that ToeJam & Earl was one of the primary influences for The Big Con, both in terms of the game design and the superb presentation?
Haha, yeah, we get that a lot. The art direction and style of that game is definitely something we looked at, alongside Nickelodeon cartoons and comic books from that era. Can’t not mention a few other influences besides ToeJam & Earl — stuff like Battletoads, Uniracer, Crash Bandicoot. We really dove into what came out of that era aesthetically, while still trying to make something that looked new.
Stealing obviously isn’t good, but did you have a target audience in mind for the game? What about younger players who might be curious to try this one out, if only so they can experience the brilliance of the 1990s for themselves?
Oh no, it’s not good? Hang on I gotta patch a few things.
We tried to make a game that let people be a criminal but didn’t require violence. It was pretty interesting to watch because some people we pitched it to were a bit uncomfortable with it, but you know what? Our audience loves being a thief, I think because it’s a thief that is trying to save a family business. I think our audience also likes exploring stuff, taking their time, and seem to be responding really well to what we put out there. I feel pretty proud. I knew that somewhere between the 90s nostalgia and the open-endedness of it, people would find our game though. I think younger players will get it, and appreciate it, and older players may appreciate the references and the shorter playtime. It’s not super designed for a VERY young audience, but we are up for a TOMMI, the German Children’s software award, so that’s cool!
We tried to make a game that was approachable, accessible, easy, and something that encouraged people to finish the story and yeah, experience the brilliance of the 90s. I hope we pulled that off.
As a game director, who were your biggest influences and what games forged your preference in video games?
I always cite Monkey Island, because I think it’s important to note that it was the first game that ever made me laugh — I didn’t know games were allowed to do that. I’ve always gravitated towards comedy in games, even though it’s incredibly hard to pull off. Most of what came out of the early LucasArts games, (Monkey Island, Full Throttle) and led to Double Fine’s games like Brutal Legend, the brilliant writing and comedy in something like Choice Provisions’ Runner 3, these things keep me laughing and really represent the kind of thing I’d like to keep making. Also, I like non-violent games. Again, adventure, but anything that doesn’t use violence as a core mechanic. No judgment to those that do it responsibly, I just think we can do something different.
The title track theme is stuck in my head… what have you done?! Talk us through the music and vibe of the game.
We’re really proud of the music in The Big Con, and it’s a huge part of the game experience. I love taking a lot of time with the music in my games, and our composer Dan Rodrigues is great at riffing on this stuff with me. We made songs that change voices as you go in and out of different rooms, tracks that get more intense as you get more money, or get more ominous if things start to go bad… I’m really proud of the soundtrack on this one.
Both the opening and ending title tracks were performed by an up-and-coming band called Monstrosa. Three incredibly talented women that were so incredible to work with.
This is all to say nothing of Rockapella, who were ALSO incredible to work with on our theme song. And if you’re going to make a 90’s inspired game, why not hire Rockapella to make the theme song?
I’d be remiss if I only talked about the MUSIC experience and not the full AUDIO experience of the game, where we got to have Erika Ishii, Dave Fennoy, and Melissa Hutchison join our voice cast as Ali, Rad Ghost, and Linda Barlow (Ali’s Mom). They may not say much but they brought tons of emotion and life to our characters, and it was so cool to work with three amazing professionals.
Do you have any plans to bring this to other platforms? Maybe even run the Xbox Game Pass route in the future?
We would love to see the game on Xbox Game Pass! Right now we’re just focusing on Xbox and PC but yeah, if you know anyone on the Game Pass team, tell them I know a story about a certain con artist that their audience might love.
And finally, if there is one thing that players who haven’t yet picked up The Big Con are really missing out on, what do you think it is?
I think they’re missing out on some pretty great jokes if I do say so myself. No, but honestly, I think this era is weirdly wholesome, quaint in the face of our current society and the way we live, and I think we captured some of that with a silly lens and some harmless crime along the way. I think there’s something in there for everyone, whether they just want to grab a bunch of wallets or reconnect with their bossy mom. They can do that, at whatever pace they want, and I think that’s pretty special.
Huge thanks go out to Dave for giving us some time after the launch of The Big Con on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC. If you wish to pick the game up for yourself, head over to the Xbox Store. Fully optimised for Xbox Series X|S and only costing £10.74, it’s more than a worthy pick up.
Let us know in the comments if you do.