In Trover Saves the Universe #1 by Tess Stone, based on the instant classic VR game Trover Saves the Universe by Squanch Games CEO Justin Roiland, readers will be introduced to two new eyehole monsters: Klover and Bo.
To find out more about the imminent comic adaptation, arriving this Wednesday, August 4th, 2021 at your local comic shop, The Beat caught up with Roiland and Stone… and asked about death (naturally).
Plus, scroll allll the way to the bottom for a preview of Trover Saves the Universe #2!
So just how does the comic relate to the game? Those who have played through the full story of Trover will find this question especially pressing. Suffice to say that these answers will arrive in the first issue.
But here’s one detail: just like Trover, the eyehole monster that players met (and then controlled) in the Trover game, Klover and Bo work for Important Cosmic Jobs (ICJ).
AVERY KAPLAN: What was your entry point into the project?
TESS STONE: I just got very lucky! I was approached by Skybound and they asked if I was interested in making a pitch, and I already loved the game and I am a fan of Roiland’s work. I was pretty stoked! Didn’t know if I was going to get it, threw together some pitches and doodled some stuff, and I got kind of lucky. I feel very happy to be here. It’s been a lot of fun!
KAPLAN: Did you always know how you wanted the comic to relate to the game?
STONE: It was a little bit of figuring it out along the way. And luckily, my editor at Skybound, Alex Antone, has been helping me out so much, otherwise I tend to write myself into weird little circles, because I just get so excited about stuff.
KAPLAN: There are plenty of references to both the main Trover game and the DLC, ICJ. Was there any allusion that was especially important for you to include?
STONE: I just tried to allude to it and call back to it as much as possible, just because it’s fun and there’s a lot to bounce off there. I just wanted the comic to feel like part of the world. The ICJ killing the bottom of the leaderboard, I took that from the DLC.
KAPLAN: Can you tell us about the origin of Trover Saves the Universe?
JUSTIN ROILAND: I’ll do the abridged version. I got into VR back when the first Occulus was a Kickstarter, basically. And then that sort of got the wheels turning… that was a long time ago. That was when we were writing the pilot for Rick and Morty.
And then, when the DK2 came out and developers started making really interesting experiences just based off of the 6 degrees with the headset, and really no controllers, that really got the gears turning. I started thinking like, “What kind of experiences could I make that negate motion sickness and all of this stuff,” because motion sickness really was a – still is a problem for some people.
Then I went to Valve just on a trip, and I happened to time it coincidentally a week after they announced the VIVE. That blew my mind… the Roomscale! I was like, full-blown designing games on paper, and writing stories and coming up with characters. I put together a game pitch for a Roomscale VR game, and I pitched it to a bunch of people at E3 and Sony was the only one that basically said, “We just want to make something with you, we don’t care really what it is.” Which is very rare, I’ve come to discover, in game publishing.
And I ended up – once I kind of pivoted away from Roomscale and with the Sony PS VR, I really started thinking about gamepad VR. So I started playing a bunch of stuff on the Samsung Something-or-Other VR – I don’t even remember – I just started thinking about what I really had the most fun playing in VR with the gamepad.
So I was thinking, the PS4 controller – I wanted to control a third person character in VR, but I still wanted to be in the story and be a part of it, and have all the NPCs acknowledge me and talk to me. So yeah, it was sort of like this cobbled together – also the way locomotion and all that stuff works was all just like, prototyping and screwing around and looking at other games and seeing what worked for me in other places. Just a huge, almost like studying a bunch of different content and sort of picking the best stuff – like the stuff that I loved the most, the stuff that I felt worked really well but he was very much aware, talking to you, and there was sort of this partner relationship you have with him. Putting those things together.
But in the very early days, there were all kinds of completely different versions of Trover where – that I’ve actually seen other developers do really well, so I’m kind of glad we didn’t – like if you guys have played Pixel Ripped 1995 – it’s a phenomenal game. It’s a love letter to vintage 16-bit, 8-bit video games, but also, just an incredible VR experience, playing to the strengths of what seated gamepad VR is, or can be.
But they did the whole thing where characters are sort of coming out of – well, not literally, but like – the original version of Trover was going to be that this character that you don’t quite know what really was going on. Like, he started out lovable and fun, but then, you’d get these moments of serious creepiness and serious intensity, that kind of slowly, as the story unfolded, you discovered he’s actually a villain.
But ultimately, Trover as a character in the early days… I knew it was going to be this third-person character that you controlled, I sort of knew it was going to be platforming action. And that you would basically be kind of warping along with him along through these worlds, and you were in full control of him.
It was a whole different game, really, and I was really excited about that, but then ultimately, what I realized was that in that version, it wasn’t going to be able to be as silly and loose and kind of crazy as I really wanted to be as a writer. In terms of the process of making it, I knew it was going to be more fun if I just put all that heavier, higher-concept stuff aside and just went with something fun and silly and just made Trover a weird character who’s just nuts, and that’s just who he is the whole game.
It made for a more fun writing experience, and just a more fun project to work on, as opposed to something that was just like – you know, just had all these holds and limitations and restrictions. And that stuff is great for certain projects – I mean, I think super important – but at the time I think I had that in so many places creatively that I just wanted this to creatively free.
But anyway, that’s the world’s longest answer for why it is the way it is!
KAPLAN: I notice many stories you are involved in include death, and specifically the way characters relate to death (and their own death in particular). Is there a specific reason for this repeated theme?
ROILAND: Probably just because … I mean, I’m a bit obsessed with it only because it’s inevitable. It’s something we’re all going to face at some point, I think humanity has this really great way of distracting themselves from that reality and getting caught up in just, the dumbest shit. The most mundane trivial nonsense when there’s this giant reality looming, and it just finds its way into my work a lot, because it’s something that I tend to get massive waves of sobering awareness of my mortality, and that time is just sort of chipping away until I get on that rollercoaster rider and, you know, I don’t know.
Maybe part of me wants to try to like… this really isn’t the reason, but I think there is a little truth to this, maybe a little bit, want to kind of shake people into – people who need it. Obviously, people who are very aware of it – great. I think the more aware of it you are the better.
I think people that are super-religious, I think those people are deeply aware of the mortality, but it’s almost like they have this safety-net, you know? With their religion? I don’t have that. I just can’t – I just can’t – I don’t know, I’m sure that there’s all kinds of bits and pieces of truth to all kinds of different things, but who knows, man? It’s like waiting in line for a rollercoaster ride. We’re all gonna get buckled in, and off to the experience of whatever that is when we die, and I’m just obsessed with it.
It’s almost a subconscious thing, I think – I’m not actively trying to shove that into my work, but it certainly is a good motivator. I mean, you know, all video games, it’s like, “Oh, I died.”
That’s kind of why, I think, just because it’s such a big unavoidable deal that we all get to face – or have to face – I wish certain people… I wish all politicians were a bit more in synch with their mortality, I wish big corporate CEOs at corporations were, I wish a lot of the sort of super-ego driven people that are just so under the illusion that this is it – this is all there is –
Time goes by so fast. If that’s all there is, then fuck man! I don’t know. I just wish more people were a bit more in touch with it, because I think it would breed a better society, the Earth would stop getting pummeled and people might start being nicer to each other. I don’t know. All this division could start to potentially go away…
I mean, again, this is not my motivation for why it finds its way into my work, it’s just such a big thing that it sort of – it’s something that I can’t go, “ahhh.” It’s going to happen, it’s also looming, I mean like, always, so.
And I mean, listen, I don’t live my life in this, “Oh my god, I’m going to die,” every five seconds, but it does come in waves. Every so often I just go like, “Oh, shit,” awful, anticipatory, what in the fuck is it going to be? Is it going to be like a really fucking awful K-Hole, just a hardcore – is it gonna be pleasant, is it gonna be awful, are you gonna all the sudden wake up with a bunch of weird beings around you – aliens, angels, who knows?
Klover Does Not Save the ICJ
Trover Saves the Universe #1 arrives at your local comic shop this Wednesday, August 4th, 2021, with issue #2 arriving September 8th, 2021.