Finneas Fat Cat, a shipping magnate who has a fleet of big honking tanks, is looking for you to help deliver packages all across New Pangea. ConnecTank has players step inside a mammoth machine, link conveyor belts and craft ammo to battle tanks from rival titans of transportation. You can drive through the game’s procedurally generated world in single player mode or bring up to three friends and round up yarn balls for Finneas in couch co-op play. ConnecTank’s wacky world was written by Patrick Baker who was a writer for Cartoon Network’s “The Regular Show.” After a sneak peek demo as part of the ID@Xbox Summer Game Fest, we’re thrilled to deliver ConnecTank to Xbox One and Series X|S today and we brought Patrick here to tell us about how he wrote the game’s humorous story.
Director Spencer Yip: In ConnecTank, everything from yarn balls to pizza is delivered via a big honking tank. What’s going on here?
Narrative Director Patrick Baker: ConnecTank takes place in New Pangea, which is our world in a distant future where all of the continents have reconnected to become one big landmass. Business in New Pangea can be cutthroat, so you want a vehicle that can defend your cargo. Plus, big honking tanks with super rad designs are awesome. If you were a rich businessman and you had an excuse to make giant, crazy-looking tanks with your name on them, you’d do it too.
Yip: Who are the three titans of industry you can work for?
Baker: The biggest business magnates of New Pangea are Finneas Fat Cat the Fifteenth, Lord Lewis Longneck of Lewingford, and Emperor Pontius Penguin.
Fat Cat is both a literal and figurative fat cat. An unrepentant capitalist, he’s reminiscent of the Gilded Age robber barons like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt. He has an old-timey demeanor that makes him sound like Theodore Roosevelt when he speaks. Sometimes you’ll be driving needed parts to his factory, or you might be driving to go collect a big ball of yarn that he was just a little too zealous with.
Lord Lewis Longneck of Lewingford is a patron of the arts first and the heir to a banking fortune second. If you’re familiar with the Medici family from Renaissance-era Florence, he’s similar to them in that he’s mostly interested in throwing money at paintings, sculptures, and museums, but he also needs to do the boring work of running a banking empire. Luckily, he’s got you to do those boring tasks for him. You could be driving to collect marble for his next statue, or rushing to preserve an ice sculpture that he could have sworn was crystal when he paid thousands of dollars for it.
Finally, there’s Emperor Pontius Penguin. Emperor Penguin fought a revolution in the tundra to overthrow the royalist leader there, the Prince of Whales. When he defeated the prince, he promised that he would build a just and equitable society where the workers of the tundra would unite for the glory of the tundra! You might just be collecting his phone (which he left in an Uber) or picking up his tuxedo. Don’t look so surprised that Emperor Penguin wears a tuxedo.
Yip: What was it like writing for ConnecTank? How is it different from writing a TV show?
Baker: Now seems like a good time to note that Spencer contacted me about ConnecTank because I’d been a writer for Cartoon Network’s “Regular Show” as well as for some other animated shows. He knew that the world of ConnecTank was going to feel a little wacky and surreal, so my experience on “Regular Show” likely made me a good fit. I’ve always loved video games and I wanted to write for them, so I’m very glad Spencer asked me to join the team.
One of the differences is that the player’s decision and agency can really change how a story unfolds in a video game. Television and movies are very linear. There’s always a beginning, middle, and end to each story, and it’s always viewed in that order. Some games are like this too. That’s not true in a game that has branching dialogue, an open world, or multiple endings.
In ConnecTank, the player always has the choice of which missions they want to take, and with which characters. That meant that players might interact with what I wrote completely out of any order I could anticipate. Also, if one player really loves working with Fat Cat, but hates working with Longneck (I don’t know why you’d hate that; he’s lovely), then I needed to consider what the world and dialogue should look like in a version of the game where Longneck just wasn’t a major player in New Pangea. As a result, the ConnecTank mission spreadsheet was filled with all sorts of stories that might only appear if a certain leader had a lot of power, or none at all.
This also leads to another thing that you have to consider when writing for games that you don’t need to consider when writing for TV: There might be entire sets of dialogue or entire missions that you write, and a player may never see them. Unless someone falls asleep in the middle of my TV episode, they’ll see everything I wrote. This isn’t always true in games. I’ve had people ask me if I find that disappointing as a writer. On the contrary, I think it’s really exciting. I love that I can always find something new that was previously hidden away. I really hope that players continue to play ConnecTank over and over to make sure they found all the stories I wrote. I would take that as a very high honor.
Thank you for giving us insight about ConnecTank’s story, Patrick! ConnecTank is available now for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S! Follow @ConnecTank on Twitter for the latest news and let us know if you’ll be driving for Finneas Fat Cat, Lord Lewis Longneck or Emperor Pontius Penguin.