“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
If you’re doing a Godfather game, this has got to be a part of it, right? That’s what I kept thinking when I first knew I was going to be designing a game based on The Godfather.
That’s kind of how we approach licenses – you know, what would I expect from this brand, and how can we meet (or go beyond) those expectations? With Monopoly, you want something to do with Mr. Monopoly, the board, properties, etc. Wizard of Oz has the gathering of the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion. The Lord of the Rings has the epic journey across Middle-earth, The Price is Right has all the different games and the showcases, and I just kept thinking that The Godfather had to have an offer you can’t refuse.
Which led me to think that there had to be an offer you CAN refuse. So we ended up with this cool game feature where any time you win a progressive level below the top one, you can actually refuse a portion of that win for a chance to make a pick for the next progressive level up.
And if you keep winning, you can do this repeatedly, all the way to the top level, which is “the offer you can’t refuse.” It’s really fun, and gives even a minimum-bet player a chance to pick for a big-time progressive prize.
Another part of the game that I really love is the free spins bonus. We put together this cool way of re-triggering the free spins by completing these “challenges” that require you to collect a number of scattered symbols during the spin. I decided that we would do this as little jobs given to you by Sonny Corleone, kind of your way of working your way up in the family. After each set of five spins, Sonny asks you to “Bring me Sal Tessio,” or “Go get the car.” If you collect enough of the symbols he requests, you get five more free spins with a different challenge.
Of course, for this to work, you gotta have Sonny, right? So badabing! We got James Caan to be Sonny Corleone in the game, and I wrote a script for it and traveled to LA to direct the voice-over session with him.
Like most people, I’m a huge fan of The Godfather films, so it was exciting for me to meet James Caan. But more importantly, outside of being a game designer I’m an actor, and James Caan has always been one of my acting idols. Misery, Thief, Rollerball, The Killer Elite, Bottle Rocket, Elf, The Gambler, Honeymoon in Vegas – the list is long and prestigious. And now I was supposed to direct him in how to play Sonny Corleone for our little slot game?
I was, to say the least, intimidated. Even though he walked into the studio and was incredibly friendly and relaxed, I could do nothing but apologize as I explained the context of his character in the game. My dialogue seemed so trite, with my ham-fisted paraphrasing of Sonny’s lines from The Godfather into celebrations of big wins and re-triggering, but he completely set me at ease as he looked up and said, “Oh, I get it. It’s funny. So, how do you want me to play this?”
“Well, Mr. Caan, I’m not going to tell you how to play Sonny Corleone. I mean . . .”
“Aw, come on, that was forty years ago. I’ve forgotten all that. You want him to be threatening?”
The guy’s a complete professional. He genuinely wanted me to direct him in this. I was stunned. James Caan wanted to treat me as a peer. This was my chance to get past all the idol worship and just roll up my sleeves and work on the craft with a fellow actor.
Instead, I smiled and muttered something about “Not so much threatening, but more celebrating with the player and you can say it however it feels right to you and don’t feel like you have to say it exactly as I wrote it.” I started to step out of the sound booth when he motioned for me to stay next to him. He read the lines with me standing next to him, and every once in a while turned to me and said, “Hey, what do you think if I do it this way?” or “Mind if I change this word? I think it might sound better.”
After a bit, we were on a little roll. He was having fun with the script, I was throwing in some direction here and there, we were both sharing little jokes and — in my mind, at least — I was Francis-Ford-Coppola-for-a-day. It was a glorious moment in time.
However, about an hour later as he got in the back of his limo and I threw my stuff in the trunk of my rental car, he was still James Caan...
...and I was no longer even remotely related to any of the Coppolas. We’ve both moved on to new projects, but now when I walk through a casino and hear “Badabing, that’s a big win! Go buy yourself a new Ivy League suit!” I’ll remember the time Jimmy and I worked on that thing together out in LA.
We hope you like it.
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