Director / CrewI'm Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma Entertainment and Creator of The Toxic Avenger!
May 10th 2017 by LloydKaufman • 47 Questions • 2666 Points
I have loved games all my life, made board games as a kid, started programming computer games in 1975 in college, then professionally since 1980. I was one of the first 10 employees at Lucasfilm Games/LucasArts, The 3DO Company, and Dreamworks Interactive. More recently I focused on Serious Games in education, health, training, and neuroscience, before becoming Google's Chief Game Designer for 4 years. I quit there last month to get back to my first love: making games people love to play, with cutting edge technology, new creative tech niques, and great collaborators.
Some games I've contributed to include the arcade game Sinistar, LucasArts games like their flight simulator line, as well as Graphic Adventures like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and Fate of Atlantis, The Dig, and the first two Monkey Island Games.
Here's a more complete (but still partial!) list: http://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,1657/
How do you feel about James Gunn's success/Guardian's of the Galaxy?
Whoa whoa whoa
YOU made Fate of Atlantis?
I don't have any questions man, I just wanna say that game is so good, it's my childhood, I had a CD for it, I loved it so much
You're awesome, LucasArts games were godlike
I love James Gunn. The minute he started working for Troma I knew he was a great talent, and after he masturbated on my desk I was forever indebted to him.
Aw, thanks - I co-designed it, there was a big team and Hal Barwood had the most influence on the game, but as it was the most successful adventure game LucasArts ever did (at least before the recent mobile game remakes, don't have figures on that) and did better than either of the other Indiana Jones games we designed without each other, I think it hit a sweet spot of collaboration, where Hal's writing and cinematic experience blended well with my game design skills. And as with so many things, there was a good dollop of luck and timing, but thank you in any case for the kind words. Incidentally, a bit of trivia - for a long time the working title was Indiana Jones and the Key to Atlantis, but we weren't really satisfied, and I think the manager of the division was particularly adamant that we change it. There were dozens of alternatives thrown around, including some I've forgotten except that they were terrible (and had strong supporters nonetheless). But I think "Fate of Atlantis" was perfect, short but provocative, and with a tinge of foreshadowing since Fate often implies a bittersweet ending. Names are one of the hardest things to do - not kidding, anyone who has worked on a game will concur.
To digress - I remember in particular one 3 hour session doing nothing but hashing out the name for "Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe" - that was actually thrown out as sort of a joke, along with "Hitler's Greatest Hits" which I expect would not have been a wise move. For the record, we had a long talk about the ethics of making a game where you could play the German side, but we thought (and I still believe) that in doing a war game, allowing people to play both sides is important to remind you that there were human beings on both sides of any conflict.
Troma was the first American company to distribute hayao miyazaki movies.
Any plans on distributing more animated movies in the future?
What is your favorite out of all the games?
Yes! If something one of a kind and brilliant, such as My Neighbor Totoro or A Very Troma Christmas, comes along we'll certainly be happy to introduce it to the American public, as we did with Miyazaki's film.
Well, the cliche is that it's like picking a favorite of your kids - but the truth is, it depends on what the criteria are. Probably the one I've gotten the most satisfaction from hearing player's comments is Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. But I also have a soft spot for Sinistar, my best-known arcade game work - which was also the first professional game I did that was published.
How does someone pitch you an idea? Would you produce a new idea nowadays?
What is the absolute worst game you have ever played? What's your favorite dish with chicken in it? Do you play Rocket League?
I'm not a pitcher, I'm a catcher. If you happen to be on Grindr look me up, my name is Chino. I do read finished screenplays though.
One question at a time please! Worst game - wow, that's tough, I try to put the really bad ones out of my mind, and I don't waste time on a game if it doesn't interest me (unless I have to play it, sadly that happens a lot). I really can't think of a "worst". Chicken - I really like chicken in many forms, I guess I'd pick grilled on the barbecue with lemon, garlic and herbs. Rocket league - no, sorry!
Im a mega low budget director, and huge troma fan. Ive always wanted to have a movie released by troma (which is a dream of mine) Is there any advice on what steps to take to make that possible?
Thanks for everything you have done.
How was it to be a part in the beginning eras of gaming?
Make a movie that's entertaining and one of a kind then send it to The Troma Team! www.troma.com
Also, watch my Make Your Own Damn movie lessons for FREE on The Troma Movies YouTube Channel!
Great! I began making computer games in college in 1975, purely for my own satisfaction, but realized I could apply it to my degree (I went to Hampshire College where they let you design your own curriculum) and used games to show off the programming, physics, and astronomy expertise I was gaining. Never thought at the time that it was preparation for a career, except as a programmer doing boring stuff (I did a lot of business programming during my college summers to make cash, and figured that might be my career, but wasn't too enthusiastic about it). But as soon as I graduated I got lucky and got right into the games industry, and never looked back. Certainly being part of the birth of Lucasfilm Games/LucasArts was an early highlight that I will always treasure. I realize now we were very lucky, those of us who started in the 70's and early 80's, because we got to figure out the rules and learn on our own, with no one telling us what to do - we made a lot of mistakes, but there was a freedom and freshness that I miss today. But at the time, particularly when I took my first job at Milton Bradley, people were telling me that I should be wary of "this video game thing" and that it might be a fad that would blow over. I believed them, but it made me even more determined to enjoy it while I could. I don't think it's a fad any more...
Hey Lloyd, can you be my grandpa? I'd be a dope grandson straight up
Why did you make Sinistar so goddamned hard?
You can be a dope grandson but I want to be a woke grandmother.
Money! The game was significantly easier up to about 6 weeks before release, but it was averaging about 3.5 minutes of play per quarter, and we needed to get it down to about 2 minutes in order to optimize earnings. We didn't want to make the first level too hard or no one would come back, so unfortunately we had to goose up the difficulty of level 2 a lot, more than we wanted for fun, but the earnings were critical. The "legend" is that RJ Mical still has a set of the ROMs of the easier build lost in his garage somewhere, but I'm dubious about that.
What films do you love that you don't think people would expect?
Mata Hari is one of my favourite 'modern' adventure games, and one of my favourite games that you've worked on. How did it come about and what was it good to work with Hal Barwood again?
All the movies by John Ford, Mizoguchi, Robert Bresson, Eric Rohmer, and of course, the great cinema poets and interpretive dancers The Mitchell Brothers. Stan Brakhage in my opinion was the greatest visual artist of my lifetime.
Glad you liked it! That one came about as a request from the publisher. They approached me, and I thought it was the kind of thing Hal would be interested in. At the time we were living about a 10 minute drive apart, and both available for freelance work. The theme of Mata Hari was actually a bit tough, not what we might have chosen on our own, but the historical references and spy work were close to our Indiana Jones experience, and we had a lot of fun on it. We got several trips to Germany as a result too, to the developer's offices in Hannover mostly, but also to meet the publisher in Hamburg, and to show it off at Gamescomm, the big German games show. German fans are, per capita, the biggest fans of the old LucasArts adventures, so that was a fantastic experience. (To support that claim before anyone protests, we sold 10x copies per capita of Monkey Island 2 in Germany than we did in the US)
Hey Lloyd! I've been getting into your work and Troma in general over the past few months. Inspiring stuff.
Nobody likes cancelling projects, but I'm assuming that's especially true for you, given your work ethic of trying make as much shit as possible. That said, there are a few cancelled Troma movies that I've seen mentioned, like Schlock and Schlockability, and Lenge: Legends of Troma. What are the stories behind these two (and any others that you care to bring up)? What would you say the "point of no return" is on making a movie, where you're far enough into the process that you have to finish it even if you can tell it's a disaster?
EDIT: Also, know anything about this movie or where one could find it?
Do you think Fate of Atlantis can be made into a movie? Do you think these point and click adventure will make a comeback?
I personally must finish every movie I start. But, if you watch Tales from the Crapper, which I spent 4 years on, you'll see that that's very stupid.
Can be - sure! Will be - very unlikely. Steven Spielberg enjoyed it - he is a hard-core game player, I have a lot of stories of seeing how dedicated to games he is - but he has plenty of ideas of his own about Indiana Jones, as does George. I got to brainstorm with the two of them together when I was the first project leader on The Dig, and really respect their depth of knowledge and their creativity, so I don't think it will be chosen as a movie plot, unless at some future point there is perhaps an animated series like George has done with Star Wars, giving them the option to explore many different stories.
As to point-and-click, it's already made something of a comeback, I'm amazed at how many new games are being made in the genre. I'll put in a plug for an indie game called Agatha Knife, from a Spanish studio called Mango Protocol. I saw it at a conference in Barcelona last year and it's just been released, very biting satire and funny, although it takes a lot of swipes at organized religion and has a pretty (charmingly) horrifying premise. I'm excited to see how the genre has stayed alive and in recent years, grown quite a bit. But it will never be as central as it was in the late 80's/early 90's.
What do you think of Digital film-making becoming the general way of doing things?
What would you say is an often overlooked aspect of game development by most people?
Thats a great question. It's yin and yang, thousands of excluded people can now enter the walls of filmmaking thanks to the miracle of digital filmmaking. It has democratized a heretofore artform that has been controlled by money. You don't need money to make a digital film. On the other hand its almost impossible to live off your art unless your digital film is produced by one of the massive media conglomerates.
Hmm, I'll answer that from the viewpoint of developing games, not playing them, I think that's what you're after but correct me if I'm wrong. Writers (if the game involves writing/story) often are short-changed, with professional writers only brought in mid-way or later in the game, when the best story games have good writers on board from the first day. Musicians also feel overlooked, but unless it's a music-oriented game I don't think they have as good a case.
Can I pay you to be in y'alls next flick? I want to leave my daughter a legacy of her dreadlocked daddy in a Troma film, can we make that happen or nah?
One game you wish you could redesign?
We're writing The Tempest/Shitstorm. Watch my Twitter and Troma Social, when you see we're casting be very aggressive. We cast anyone that's very aggressive for the part. We'll give you an Arm and a Legacy.
Interesting question - with all of my games I usually know even before they are shipped of several things I would have like to have done differently, but didn't have the time. I think that's very common among designers, we're always tinkering and if you indulge the urge to change everything, you end up with one of those disasters that goes on for years and never comes out. Like - no, I won't be catty. I think that with hindsight, I would have made the most changes to Koronis Rift, the first game I did at LucasArts. Looking back, I made many mistakes that a rookie designer tends to make, chief among them trying to do too much, and also putting too much effort into parts of the game that weren't enhancing gameplay. In some ways that was one of the very first FPS games, and I think I could have made it a lot more exciting if I'd made it less strategic.
What would it take for Troma to distribute your film?
Is there a specific process or guideline to follow?
Are you interested in jumping aboard as a producer in an already-financed film?
Besides Fernando Alle and Kansas Bowling, who are some of your favorite up-and-coming filmmakers? Who's the next big thing?
What prompted you to leave Google, and how was your experience with working there?
If there's a producer's fee attached I'll jump aboard anything, including The Titanic! As for up and coming filmmakers, Brandon Bassham is TROMAzing! He wrote and directed "Fear Town USA" and "The Slashening" available on our streaming service Troma Now www.watch.troma.com
Bassham is writing a draft of my next feature "William Shakespeare's The Tempest Presents Troma's Shitstorm"!
I've summarized my reasons for leaving here: http://www.theinspiracy.com/noahs-arkive/the-evolution-of-a-game-designer Bottom line is, I joined there to work on really big game projects but the VP who wanted to do that left the company shortly after I was hired, and I never got to do the kind of game design work I'd come there to do.
But I have to say, Google is a fantastic company. I very much enjoyed working there for a long list of reasons. Lots of incredibly smart and talented colleagues, very interesting challenges, amazing benefits (I still miss the food... yeah, kind of shallow that way) and it was reassuring to feel that they were supporting me when I traveled, I saw about 15 of the offices around the world and never tired of exploring new ones. I highly recommend it as a place to go, and if you're a 20-something hot coder, it's probably the best place in the world to work on many accounts.
Hi Mr. Kaufman! May I ask, do you have any advice on getting a film actually together and made?
So what's wrong with Sega and Sonic? Why do they easily make terrible games for their most valuable IP?
Get out of bed and do it! You don't need money anymore. Thanks to the miracle of digital technology, and armies of film nerds who are willing to work for nothing to support you, you can make your own damn movie. I've written six books about it!!
Sorry, no opinion on that, I never owned a Sega platform and Sonic never appealed to me.
Were Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus their own worst enemies? My sense is that they did so much right, except the scripts. They had huge stars, franchises, some big slick productions etc... but weak ideas. It could have gone so differently if they stayed out of the way a bit more.
Sinistar kicked a$$!! Was there any way to get past the 3rd level? I've seen people playing old games (Asteroids comes to mind) to the point where they could play indefinitely. Sinistar was a BEAST. I probably paid for your kids college trying (and failing) to survive the 3rd level.
Golan loved movies for sure, he just lacked an artistic vision. Globus was all business. Unlike Kaufman and Herz they were motivated by money and power. Unlike Kaufman and Herz they were extremely successful.
Hah, I didn't ever get a cut of the profits from the game - but I did get my first car with bonus money, so thanks! Sure, I've gotten to level 5, and know many people who have gone higher, but it is of course extremely difficult. See above for why that is.
I have so many good memories of watching Toxie, the subhumanoids, Sgt Kabukiman, etc during high school and my early college days. Back then, we relied on the neighborhood video store and their limited selection for entertainment. Do you think the expanded choices we have today with streaming entertainment help or hurt studios like Troma?
How/where did you develop the awesome Sinistar voice? That thing is impressive, especially considering tech constraints
It can only help. The more competition and variety we have in our lives the better we will all be. By the way, subscribe to Troma Now and help support independent art, and make the world a better place. www.watch.troma.com
Answered above, it was voiced by this guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Doremus
There is a pretty tiny amount of recorded voice in the game, I think about 20 seconds of unique stuff. There wasn't much to work with.
Did you ever receive complaints in the mail about Sinistar? I wasn't around in the 80's but that game seems absolutely mentally scarring, and I can't imagine it went through without some sort of controversy, internal or otherwise.
The situation in Venezuela is a mirror image of the United States in 35 years
Whoops, tried to reply to this but something went wrong. Anyway, no, there wasn't any controversy - people liked being startled for the most part, a few were resentful but most people thought it was a fun surprise, and got over it quickly. In a crowded, noisy arcade I don't think it was particularly scary.
The scene in the first film, where the assholes from the gym hit the kid and knock him off his bike, and then as he is struggling to get off the road, they purposefully back over his head. Well that scene kinda messed me up for a long time. Do you feel any guilt about that?
Oooh this question has been on my mind a while now. I read an article posted in /r/futurology that due to robots taking our jobs, humans will soon find themselves at an existential crisis because their lives have no meaning. One of the proposed solutions is that we will spend most of our times living in VR worlds and having rich lives there. What is your opinion on that?
Same thing happened to Donald Trump and look where he is.
What makes you think that hasn't happened already? Pretty realistic, huh?
What is your opinion on games having loads of DLC and no game? Also Whats your opinion on competitive shooters like CSGO and Overwatch?
Not sure what you're referring to, I guess I'm not playing games of that sort. I've never played CSGO or Overwatch. So many types of games now, and I've spent more time on VR and to some extent mobile games recently.
I'm a 28 yo male that wants to be a video game producer. I'm going back to school in the fall to finish up my degree in computer science with a minor in business. What steps do I need to make so that my dream becomes a reality?
There are entry level producer positions - assistant producer or possibly another unique name. www.gamasutra.com has lots of job listings. If you are a competent coder you may well find it easier to get a job using those skills and work internally in a game company to become a producer.