Though the idea for "Deadly Creatures" was inspired by a dream that lead designer Jordan Itkowitz once had, the actual character design came from real-life influences in the deserts of Phoenix, Arizona.
Developed by Phoenix-based, THQ-owned developer Rainbow Studios, the T-rated Wii game features a tarantula and a scorpion as its protagonists as well as a plethora of other insects local to the area.
"We did a lot of research, and all the creatures in [the game] are things that we have in Phoenix," Itkowitz told me during a demo held at the MTV offices earlier this week. In fact, a few team members went above and beyond by bringing their own specimens into the office, and someone even left Itkowitz a present on his desk...
"People were bringing bugs in all the time," he explained. "This guy brought in a mama wolf spider with hundreds of little babies on her back. It was in his backyard, and he just picked it up. And some jackass left a couple of dead scorpions on my desk one day on a fly trap."
Itkowitz added that no bugs were intentionally harmed. However, he could not say the same for the game's developers. One of the programmers was stung by a scorpion in his kitchen late one night. But other than that, there were no real job-related injuries, even when Itkowitz himself was handling a tarantula and a scorpion.
"[Fried grasshoppers] are kind of nutty. Better than giant Thai water beetles but not as good as fried mealworm larvae."
"Before working on this game, I had never held either of these," he said. "And then I had to shoot a PR piece over the summer, so I'm standing there on camera out in the desert and I've got a tarantula crawling up my chest the whole time. And it was 115 degrees out that day and the poor thing was looking for shade so she kept crawling up under my chin while I was trying to talk... the scorpion I had on me for a little bit but it was really fast and all over the place."
While they didn't hurt any bugs, the game designers weren't opposed to eating them. "We found a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix that serves Chapulinas, which are fried grasshoppers," he said. "Chapulinas are kind of nutty, kind of crunchy. Better than giant Thai water beetles but not as good as fried mealworm larvae. Yes, this is speaking from experience... It was so we could really get into our characters' heads."
See if the extensive research was worth it when "Deadly Creatures" is released in February for the Wii.