Image: Cartoon network
OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is a TV show that isn’t out yet. It has a parallel universe in the form of a video game called OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes, which also isn’t out yet. The two are being created contemporaneously — the show by Cartoon Network and the game by Capybara Games — and both mediums are bleeding into each other in interesting ways.
At E3, I had a chance to watch a few episodes of OK K.O.!, play a bit of the game, and talk with creators on both sides of the fence about how the collaboration between Cartoon Network and Capybara Games separates OK K.O.! from the rest of TV/video game crossovers.
OK K.O.! centers around its main character, K.O., a plucky, wannabe superhero in a colorful world filled with a wide spectrum of colorful superheroes with their own individual power levels and one robot-creating villain who wants to put an end to them.
In the show, K.O. has to complete tasks (both menial and action-packed) to improve his relationships with fellow fighters and improve his own super skills to reach level one. Game-like elements like this one are pervasive throughout the show.
Meanwhile in the game, K.O. obtains quests from different characters that play out like episodes of a TV show — with entire three-act structures — to progress and improve relationships with other superheroes.
OK K.O.!’s creator Ian Jones-Quartey and writer/director Toby Jones always had this idea that there could be a game involved with OK K.O.!
"As a gamer and a cartoonist, my dream was always, ‘I hope they’ll make a game out of this,’" Jones-Quartey said. "I mean, honestly I want them to make everything out of it cause my childhood was just full of, ‘the game of the cartoon’ and ‘the cartoon of the toy’ and ‘the toy of the game.’ I just wanted to sort of ball [OK K.O.!] up into a weird thing where you can’t even tell where the game starts and the cartoon ends."
To make that happen, Dan Vader, Capybara’s lead writer on the OK K.O.! game said Cartoon Network and the show’s creators have been really hands-on in terms of giving them everything they need to make the game feel like an extension of the show, including storyboards, scripts, assets…anything.
Image: Cartoon Network
In turn, Capybara would make a game — that it feels is both great in itself, and also fits neatly into the OK K.O.! universe — and give the Cartoon Network team new builds of the game every few months.
"They’re involved in the right way," Vader said.
Capybara got its start making licensed mobile games for things like Pirates of the Caribbean and Disney/Pixar’s Cars. For those games, it was existing property first, game second, Capy co-founder and president Nathan Vella said.
"It was the worst," Vella said, and it led Capy to just focus on making original games for years.
When Jones and Jones-Quartey approached Capy in 2015, the property they wanted Capy to work on hadn’t even really been made yet.
"There was just a pilot and some scripts," Vella said. "And they said, ‘Do you want to work with us? Do you want to build these two equally valuable pieces at the same time?’"
That difference is what drew Capy into OK K.O.!, and it allowed them the freedom to build their own stories and situations within the OK K.O.! universe, even creating their own parallel K.O. universe, in a way.
"The game is about K.O. trying to get to level one; that might happen totally differently in the show and that doesn’t matter," Vella said. "That’s kind of awesome. That make us feel like we get to do what we think is best for the game, which translates directly into what’s best for the brand."
Image: cartoon network
As for how Jones-Quartey and Jones feel about the game: they love it.
"What I like about it is how incredibly unique it is," Jones said. "We talked a lot about the show, the story we’re telling and why we’re telling it. It’s a lot about building relationships and helping people… One of the fundamental things about the game is you meet a character, you get to know them, you learn their likes and dislikes and how to help them. The more you help them, you can eventually bring them into battle with you and work with them."
That mechanic — building relationships and bringing friends in to help you fight — was something both Capybara and Cartoon Network were interested in doing from the start.
It all works really well together, too.
I played a slice of the game after watching several episodes of the show and it had an undeniable OK K.O.! feel. The game was full of the show’s characters and hilarious writing, all built on the back of a fun brawler with RPG elements to keep things interesting beyond the plot and characters.
The show OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is scheduled to premiere in August and the game OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes is expected to release later in the fall.