Did you know there’s a shooter out now on PS4 where you play as a middle finger space ship while being barked at by Uncharted’s Nolan North, except with a helluva lot more swearing? You should know this! What are you even doing with your isolation time? Wasting it, by the sounds of things…
We recently reviewed Freedom Finger for PS4, and it was a blast. Then we got in touch with Jim Dirschberger, the mental maniac in charge of Wide Right Games, the studio behind Freedom Finger, and our Freedom Finger reviewer, Max Taylor, put some questions to the man himself. Here’s what went down.
Pure PlayStation: Freedom Finger is a self-described “batshit crazy space shooter”. Where did the original idea for the game come from and how much has the final game changed from that original vision?
Jim Dirschberger: I had been working at Nickelodeon for a few years when my show wrapped up I was really desperate to make something without rules, notes, or outside control. Travis Millard (Freedom Finger’s art director) is a close friend, so his art is always top of mind. I guess the two ideas collided and a big, giant, blue middle finger popped into my head.
The middle finger reads. People see it and they either love or hate it. I found that the ones who love it are down for anything. We tried to keep that in mind while making the game, always trying to one-up ourselves with the batshit factor. How can we make this crazier, funnier, faster? That never changed.
PP: Every level in Freedom Finger is structured around a licensed song. You’ve spoken on Reddit about the arduous process of curating this extensive licensed soundtrack so how did the process of licensing affect other aspects of development like the game’s visual and level design?
JD: Well, the whole process was incredibly time intensive. I think it took me a few months to wrap up the deals. There was so much lag time between the initial contact, negotiations, and final legal clearance. We started early, so it didn’t impact our delivery, but it definitely ate up a lot of my time.
The artwork for several levels was heavily inspired by the soundtrack. For example, if you take a look at World 3, featuring music by Drab Majesty. Most of those enemies are right out of Drab Majesty’s music video for “The Foyer”. The other inspirations are less obvious but we really tried to lean into the aesthetic vibe each band had and amplify it.
PP: On the topic of music licensing, where there any musical artists you really wanted but just couldn’t strike a deal with or find a place for in the game?
JD: Oh, so many. Mac Demarco, Thee Oh Sees, Meat Puppets, Sebadoh, Jay Reatard, Ariel Pink, etc. All amazing artists but, sadly, we couldn’t afford them.
PP: Freedom Finger boasts some impressive voice talent with Nolan North and John DiMaggio. How did they get involved and was the process of getting them on board anywhere near as difficult as music licensing?
JD: John, Nolan, and Eric did voices on my Nickelodeon show. Sam Riegel was our voice director too, so I already had a good working relationship with everyone. They’re total pros, so it didn’t take much to get everyone on the same page.
PP: Freedom Finger has a unique illustrated art style. How was that aesthetic developed and what inspired it?
JD: The whole game was illustrated and designed by Travis Millard. I had been collaborating with him for a few years and we had been looking for a larger project to team up on. This game idea came along and we just dove in headfirst. “Let’s make a video game!”
Knowing what we know now (2000 drawings later) I’m not sure he or I would be as enthusiastic to do it! But I’m glad we did it. His art should be on everyone’s radar. TravisMillard.com
PP: Freedom Finger a bold and unique debut game that establishes a strong identity for the studio. What’s next for Wide Right Interactive?
JD: We’re prototyping the next game. It’ll be a lot smaller in scope and we’re looking to apply all the lessons we learned from Freedom Finger in meaningful ways. Unique art and music will play a big part of everything we do.
PP: And now some random questions, just for a bit of fun!
JD: HEY, I LIKE FUN!
PP: What was the last game you finished?
JD: It’s been forever since I’ve had the time to play anything, but I did manage to 100% MGSV during our development.
PP: What’s next on your hit-list? Games, that is, not people…
JD: I’m about to dive into Doom64, Death Stranding, Half-Life: Alyx, and the RE3 Remake! Maybe start chipping away at that huge backlog of games too. I need to play more games that have a firm ending and a run-time of less than 50 hours.
PP: What was your most-recent pre-order? Don’t say Freedom Finger…
JD: Resident Evil 3 Remake. Loved the RE2 remake! The RE3 demo was tight so this was a no brainer.
PP: What’s your go-to game during these strange times of isolation? Are you playing more multiplayer, or are you happy enough in your own company?
JD: I’m a gaming hermit. I rarely, if ever, play online. For single-player games, Stanley Parable is my go-to if I need a quick laugh. Otherwise, I’ll throw a few hours into MGSV or Graveyard Keeper.
PP: Did Mark Cerny’s presentation do anything for you? Are you excited? Do hard drive speeds get you hot under the collar? Or were you left yawning like we were…
JD: Hard drive speeds don’t exactly give me a boner, so I kinda zoned out. That said I appreciate anytime a company gives devs and software engineers their undivided attention. I saw that presentation being targeted towards a very specific audience, you know?
On the flip side, I think fans are so hungry for PS5 info (and I’m with them) that it got overhyped as a HUGE REVEAL… which it wasn’t. I hope that doesn’t deter Sony from doing more of these tech-centric presentations. Maybe throw it on DevNet first though.
PP: And finally, why should people play Freedom Finger?
This is weird to say, but Freedom Finger is very pliable game. Need something quick to play? Jump into arcade. All forty levels are unlocked and ready to play. Each level runs about 3 mins long. Want a deeper story-driven experience? Start a campaign and dig into the branching paths and multiple endings. Is the game too hard? Use the plethora of difficulty options to fine-tune your experience. Too easy? Turn on one-hit kill and “git gud”. I guarantee you cannot find a better, more customizable shooter for $14.99 (if you do please let me know, that game sounds sweet).
While the overall themes and art style are pretty irreverent, we take the overall quality of the game seriously. My team spent countless hours crafting a high-quality experience for players and everyone at Wide Right is so fucking excited for you to try it out! Join us. Let’s get weird.
Freedom Finger is out now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. You should go and buy it.
Big thanks to Jim Dirschberger and Zac Gunell for helping us put this interview together and for the time and effort involved. Much love.