Testers Wanted

added ago by FireFlower

We're getting close to being finished with the store upgrade we have worked on for a while. Will probably be finished in February or March, but could be later.
We're looking for testers, to test the functionality, once we're done. Contact us through the contact form, Discord or Reddit if you're interested.

New Arrival: Twilight Oracle

added ago by FireFlower

Twilight Oracle is now available.

Explore a strange world in search of the fabled Oracle as Leo, a student with the rare ability to breathe underwater, and uncover your school's dark past.

Developer Interviews 2023

added ago by FireFlower

You can find a compilation of all developer interviews made during 2023, as a PDF download, here.

New Arrival: The Wreck

added ago by FireFlower

The Wreck is now available.

A mature 3D visual novel about sisterhood, motherhood, grief and survival.

At 36, Junon’s life is in pieces: her career has stalled, she’s emotionally numb, and her personal life is falling apart. Things come to a head when she’s called to the ER to find her estranged mother in a critical condition. This is the most important day of Junon’s life, and unless something changes, it might be her last.

Winter Sale 2023

added ago by FireFlower

Looking for a game or two to keep you warm this winter? Check out our Winter Sale (December 11-17). You can find everything from crocs fighting rats to teddy bears playing guitars.

Developer Interview with Guga

added ago by FireFlower

We did an interview with Guga, the creator of the recently released comedy game The Will of Arthur Flabbington; about his game, game development and games in general. Here's what he said:

1. Tell us a bit about you:

My name's Fabio - even though I prefer to be called Guga - born and raised in Sardinia (Italy) and living in Switzerland since 2011. I'm 38 years old, father of two lovely girls. I'm a C++ software developer by day, and making adventure games is my main hobby.

2. What were you favorite game or games when growing up?

I played all sorts of games back in the day. Adventure games had the top spot for sure, but I also loved to play sports games, platformers and sometimes even FPS... but I was never good at it. If I had to choose my favorite title of all time, apart from Monkey Island 2, I'd say the original Prince of Persia.

3. When did you start making games?

I've always been trying to make games one way or another. I remember trying to code a quiz game on the C64 when my father taught me how to read user input in BASIC. I was 6 years old. I made pen-and-paper adventure games for my classmates when in middle school, then tried The Games Factory and Adventure Game Studio around the year 2000, and published my first Android game in 2012, when the name Gugames was born. But if I had to choose a moment where my game making became a regular thing, then I'd say January 2020, when I decided to pick up AGS and remake an old Android point and click puzzle game I made in 2015.

4. What made you start developing games?

Games, and adventure games in particular, are the reason why I entered Computer Science at the University. So even if my professional career brought me away from them, it's always been a goal I had to tick off my list. Once I became a father and my daughters started to be more independent and left me a little bit of spare time, I decided it was finally time to do it. I wanted to show them that if you have a passion, it's never too late to follow it.

5. Why did you decide to make this particular game, what was your inspiration? How did you come up with the idea and story?

It's easy: AdvXJam2021. I had joined the adventure jam world in 2020 and I just adored it, so I wanted to participate in 2021 too. As soon as the theme was out ("contact"), my first idea was "let's make a game where you have to contact a spirit". It rapidly evolved into "you contact the wrong spirit and now you're in trouble" and I was happy, also because I only had two weeks for development, I couldn't put too much thought into it.

It was meant to be a 2-week project, but then my calendar got full with real life appointments, and it was clear I couldn't make it. That's when I decided to polish my entry as much as I could, give it voice acting, and turn it into a demo for a longer game I'd develop later. The response was very positive, so I kept developing the puzzle chains and the subplots, but the whole structure is still the same of the original adventure jam idea.

6. What are your characters based on in the game? For example real life experiences and people, movies etc. Who would you be in your game?

My favorite kinds of characters are usually either inept or jerks, or possibly a mix of the two. I relate with characters whose goals are doomed to fail - Donald Duck for example, especially in the Italian comic books where he's always extremely unlucky, or Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura - but also fish-out-of-water types like Guybrush Threepwood. Jack is the inept kind: his plan backfires and he finds himself trapped in an annoying situation. And Artie the Ghost is just a jerk. Writing his caustic remarks was very fun.

Who would I be in my game? There's a bald Italian pizza loving guy voiced by me in Act 2, I guess this answer the question.

7. How would you describe the style of your game?

It's a classic point and click adventure game, with a strong focus on comedy and puzzles. My two main goals are to make you laugh, and make you reason.

8. What was hardest in the development process of the game? (Warning: Spoiler Alert.)

Apart from finding the time to work on it? I'd say the possession mechanism. There's a section of the game where the ghost learns how to possess people, and you can move NPCs around. That was a nightmare to implement. I had to bend the engine capabilities to make it work properly, from plugging in the correct voice lines to ensuring that NPCs return to their intended place when not possessed. Making a multi-character game is hard in itself, making a multi-character game where they must also keep functioning as NPCs in order to advance in the plot is tragic.

9. What are you most proud of about your game/what do you like most about the game?

It's a complex game, and I still find stuff I didn't remember writing. The game makes me laugh even after two years of development. And the fact that while the game is hard, everyone keeps telling me that the puzzles make perfect sense once you solve them.

10. Is there anything you think could have been better?

One small regret I have is that the plot shows its "game jam" origins. It's functional to the game's spirit, but I'd like to tell a bigger story next time.

11. Are there any Easter eggs in the game?

There is one, in the traditional sense. But mostly there are many many "decorative" interactions that will surely reward those players who explore and try out stuff even beyond the mere puzzle solving.

12. Are you planning on making more games in the future? Do you know what your next game will be about in that case?

I'll never stop making games, that's for sure. I just have to understand where to go now. I always have three or four different ideas fighting for priority, but if I had to choose now I'd probably develop a prototype for a puzzle game I had in mind for a while. No plot, no writing, just plain puzzles. But in the end I'm a comedy writer at heart, and I know I'll miss writing jokes.

A big thank you to Guga, for taking the time to answer these questions. It was interesting to know more about him and his game. Looking forward to more games from him in the future!

New Arrival: The Will of Arthur Flabbington

added ago by FireFlower

The Will of Arthur Flabbington is now available.

Enjoy a comedy point-and-click adventure game about a dead uncle, a hidden treasure, a reluctant ghost sidekick, old people and pizza.

Read a full interview with the developer here.

New Arrival: Universe for Sale

added ago by FireFlower

Universe for Sale is now available.

Universe for Sale is a hand-drawn adventure game set in the dense clouds of Jupiter, where sapient orangutans work as dockhands and mysterious cultists strip the flesh from their bones in order to reach enlightenment.

A few words about the project:

The project was born from the collaboration of Zeno and Federico, respectively a cartoonist and a programmer, who joined forces to create their first real video game: Universe for Sale. Friends since university and gamers, they had created some small smartphone games, but nothing serious, because at that time, they were involved in other projects. Zeno was working on "Universalmente Parlando" (translated from Italian as "Universally Speaking"), a graphic novel project, looking for a publisher who wanted to publish it, but without success.

Everything changed during the pandemic. As many, they were stuck at home with a lot of free time. Zeno talked about the graphic novel project to Federico, who proposed the idea of turning it into a video game.

They wanted to recreate the exact, relaxing experience of reading the comic book, but
enhanced by the potential of the video game medium to make it lively and interactive, focusing on maintaining the drawing style and narrative method.

They immediately began work on it, and in late 2021 they released the prologue based on the first chapter of the comic. Now the full game has been released.

Read a full interview with the developers here.

Developer Interview with Tmesis Studio

added ago by FireFlower

We did an interview with the developers of the game Universe for Sale, that was released today; about the game, game development and games in general. Enjoy!

1. Tell us a bit about you?

We are Tmesis studio! The group consists of only three people: myself (Zeno), the artist and author of the game's story, Federico, the developer who is a jack-of-all-trades ranging from programming to building bicycles, and Guglielmo, the sound designer who studied at the Conservatory and works in sound design for theater and cinema.

We all come from different worlds. I come from artistic studies and work as an illustrator and comic book author. Federico studied architecture and is a versatile person with a wide range of skills. We are all friends and have always wanted to create something beautiful together.

2. What were your favorite games or games when growing up?

Zeno: I really like exploration and management games, much better if set in space: Outer Wilds, FTL and RimWorld are my favorites!

Federico: When I was a kid, I loved almost all kinds of video games, as is normal when you are a kid! From platform/adventure like Rayman, Prince of Persia or Super Mario Sunshine to party games to play as a family (we are 4 brothers) like Mario Party 4 or Mario kart Double-Dash on Gamecube! how many big laughs, Over time I got more and more into fps (Halo, Battlefield, Cod), especially competitive multiplayer.

Guglielmo: Gush! I'm a kind of a fixed guy, when I fall in love with a game I could spend hours and hours on every detail. My first love is Super Mario 64, then Halo CE. I've forgotten to mention my fancy game, a french point and click called Forestia, now a cult for its horror features.

As you may have noticed, there is no one on our team who is passionate about narrative games. This may seem curious because UfS is extremely narrative, but we like to think that we are creating something that would help us appreciate this type of game, going beyond the traditional narrative game schemes.

3. When did you start making games?

Federico and I (Zeno) started in 2016 with a small point-and-click game prototype for smartphones during our university days, both completely self-taught. After that, we took different paths and only started again in 2020 with Universe For Sale.

4. What made you start developing games?

We have always been passionate about video games, we believe it's an incredible means of self-expression. When Federico and I (Zeno) met, this shared passion emerged. I knew how to draw, and he knew how to program, so we naturally started experimenting on this medium.

5. Why did you decide to make this particular game (Universe For Sale)?

After the first experiments we wanted to try something bigger, I (Zeno) had an idea for a comic, but I couldn’t find a publisher who wanted to publish it, so we decided to try to turn it into a video game, focusing on the narrative and the medium of the comic.

Universe for Sale

6. What are your characters based on in the game? For example real life experiences, movies etc.

The main characters (Lila and the Master) were derived from a very long and difficult process of summarization. The Master was born from a series of cards that I made years ago, with a style similar to tarot cards, depicting a series of characters that I pulled out of a stream of thoughts. The Master was the first and perhaps most successful. I wanted him to have a mysterious face with a look that had seen many things but still with a spark of curiosity.

On the other hand, Lila was built much more meticulously. I am a big fan of stories with female protagonists and have always wanted to create one myself. Even before having a story, Lila changed face and name dozens of times. I wanted to start with her and then think about the right plot that could fit.

Therefore, the characters have completely separate origins. However, one day they came together in a small vignette where they were chatting in front of a cup of tea, and that is where their story began.

7. How would you describe the style of your game?

The game style is strongly influenced by Sci-Fi comics from the 80s, but we wanted to move away from the world of Japanese and American comics, which is very saturated nowadays, focusing instead on European comics.

While American and Japanese comics focus heavily on the protagonists, their actions and emotions, European comics are more focused on the context of the story. Often, the protagonists become part of an illustration and reflect the experiences of the place where they are.

There is also a different attention to color and line art. The French school is characterized by a clear and artistic line, which enhances details and gives a documentary style. In Universe for Sale, we wanted to achieve this effect. The characters are small details of a more complex illustration that vibrates in front of the player's eyes.

Similarly, the story and the protagonists (Lila and the Master) will be a mirror of life on Jupiter. In fact, throughout the game, they will talk a lot about their experiences, friendships, and hopes on the planet.

Universe for Sale

8. What have been hardest in the development process of the game?

Many little things! Having been our first serious project we made a lot of mistakes, many times we didn’t take into account things that we thought were easy, and then they wasted a lot of time afterwards.

Even banally the dialogue system, at first it seemed a simple thing but gradually it became more and more intricate, leading us to spend months fixing bugs.

9. What are you most proud of about your game/what do you like most about the game?

Surely the artistic style is the thing we focused on the most and we are very proud of how it came.

Moreover, we are very happy to see that when someone who is not passionate about narrative plays our game, they are often surprised by how they become immersed in the story and world. This helps us understand that, thanks to the narrative method and artistic style, we have broken down the barriers that written text can sometimes create for an average player.

10. Is there anything you think could have been better?

At first we wanted to put more exploration and interaction, but during the development of the game, we had to cut a lot of things because they started to be beyond our capabilities. In any case we think it is not a big deal, that the fact that the game is very "essential" it’s also a good thing.

11. Are there any Easter eggs in the game?

Many! Federico is a big fan of the easter eggs and he wanted to insert some of them in the game, but I think nobody will ever find them. We like to make them extremely cryptic, which will be an end in itself.

A big thank you to Zeno, Federico and Guglielmo, for taking the time to answer these questions. It was interesting to know more about them and their game. Hope to see more games from them in the future!

New Arrival: Feria d’Arles

added ago by FireFlower

Feria d’Arles is now available.

Enjoy glorious pixel art while helping Molly achieve her dream of entering the legendary Feria d'Arles - France's greatest bullfighting competition.

New Arrival: The Witch's Lullaby

added ago by FireFlower

The Witch's Lullaby is now available.

A classical adventure reminiscent of the King's Quest or Quest for Glory series.

Enter the troubled land of Fungham and point and click your way through an enchanted forest, inhabited by sock-stealing gnomes, a pig king and a witch.

New Arrival: Enclosure 3-D

added ago by FireFlower

Enclosure 3-D, a classic text-parser mystery adventure game in 3D, is now available. You are Mike Goodman, joining a mission to investigate mysterious activities at an arctic base.

Developer Interview with Simon Mesnard

added ago by FireFlower

Let me introduce you to Simon, the creator of the Black Cube series, and his thoughts about his games, game development and games in general.

1. Hey! Tell us a bit about you:

Hello! I am Simon Mesnard, I'm 40 and I live in a small village of France near Dijon. I am the person behind Simon Says: Watch! Play!, a micro-entreprise that creates indie video games and 3D visuals since 2009. I work on my own or at distance with other creators/friends that I have met along the years. I am mainly known for my sci-fi adventure games called The Black Cube series, which include such games such as ASA: A Space Adventure, Catyph: The Kunci Experiment, Myha: Return to the Lost Island and Boïnihi – The K'i Codex.

Before I started making indie games, I was working on realistic 3D visuals for advertizing websites for a French communication agency, and next to it in my free time I also made several experimental animated films available here.

2. What were you favorite game or games when growing up?

I went through many different stages with video games, and quite a lot of games have made a deep impression on me. When I was a kid, a friend of mine introduced me to Adventures of Lolo, a nice puzzle game with some very intricate situations. Do you know it?

Then if we continue with the games that really made an impression on me, I don't remember exactly in which order I played them, but there was Grim Fandango, Final Fantasy VII and various other J-RPG games from the PS1 era. I played in a couple of years to a number of those games that had lowpoly characters moving on prerendered 3D environments, and I loved it. This is an era that I really liked a lot, and that I tried to reproduce in several of my games with a similar retro style.

Then, I was in high school when one of my friends showed me a beautiful picture of a 3D flower in a video games magazine. That flower was captured from a game called Exile. I had never heard of it, so he lend me a 5-disc version of the game before Exile, which was called Riven. I installed it for the first time on my computer and... Wow! I think that few people today can imagine the shock I had. It's true that now AAA games are very spectacular, but I think it's nothing like what one could feel around 1998 in such a realistic and unique world such as the one of the Myst series... Quickly, the awe left place to another feeling: the pleasure of solving the challenging puzzles while taking notes on paper.


Above: Riven

More recently the games that made a deep impression on me are Detroit: Become Human, Life is Strange and Tell me Why, mostly narrative adventure games. But I think it's also because I get older and I need more relaxed ways of playing games.

3. When did you start making games?

I am mostly a self-taught 3ds Max user. I started learning the 3ds Max software around the age of 16 maybe. At that time I didn't really had in mind to create video games and was more interested in movies. I wanted to create my own animated film inspired by Shrek or Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

I remember that I had also discovered the RPG Maker game engine, and eventually I tried to make my first game with it. However, as you probably know, RPG Maker only allows to create 2D pixel J-RPGs, but I wanted to create something as visually impressive as Final Fantasy VII. So on the contrary of many users of RPG Maker, I decided to create prerendered 3D backgrounds in 3ds Max and import them in RPG Maker, and the pixelated characters were moving around in these 3D environments.

Then I completely forgot about making games and followed my studies. It was complicated to find a cursus that would allow me to work in the 3D industry at that time, so I was quite busy with my student life. It's only in 2011 after the success of the short film 2011: A Space Adventure on Vimeo, that I decided to create my first game ASA. I had the necessary skills to create the 3D world, I chose an easy to use game engine - Adventure Maker.

4. What made you start developing games?

During a few years I was very much into writing novels. I started writing a sci-fi mythology about mysterious black cubes. It became the background for creating ASA and the whole Black Cube series. I can't share this book because it isn't finished and is written in French, but I love telling stories, it's an important part of my games, and I always enjoyed much more playing to video games with rich stories, rather than discovering a new gameplay.

Then, making a game like Riven was allowing me to walk in the direction of film making because of the peculiar setting/atmosphere in these games, and the addition of many videos to contribute to the immersion. The world of adventure games was quite a niche when I started, and I was aware that no major Myst-like adventure had been released since a very long time. It seemed that I had a chance to shine, so I took the opportunity and worked very hard on it.

5. You previously mentioned the Black Cube series games. What are your characters based on in those games?

There aren't really characters in the Black Cube series. The player is usually represented by astronauts with their spacesuit that hides their identity. The purpose is to allow everyone to identify to them more easily, whatever your age, origin or gender is.

6. How would you describe the style of the games?

I originally used to describe ASA as a "Myst in space" with a cinematographic style. I think that today, knowing more about the world of adventure compared to when I started in 2011, I find that it's better if I avoid the direct comparison with Myst because my games have their own style, and many fans of Myst told me that my creations definetely aren't Myst-like games.

Now the Black Cube series is 10 year old, and my definition has changed. All of the games are different, they are not all created in 2D or prerendered 3D.

Globally I now prefer to talk of the Black Cube series as 1st person sci-fi adventure with logical puzzles and exploration. I don't want to stay stuck in a specific art style, and I don't think that prerendered 3D should remain a signature of the series just because I like it. However I want to continue to include a rich story and expand the mythology in the future.


Above: ASA

7. Did you experience any challenges in the development of them?

Yes! The biggest challenges are all related to working at home on my own, as an indie dev with no publisher, for a niche market. To be honest, none of the games sold well despite the good reviews in the press and the warm welcome from the fans of the genre.

In addition, it's difficult to work on a series! I often insist on the fact that every new game can be played separately, without knowing the previously released episodes, but most of the players that didn't play ASA hesitated to play Catyph or Myha.

There's also the question of knowing the existence of the other games! I have made a website that tries to summarize and list everything about the existing games, but when you get the games directly from another store, it's not always obvious that there are other games. It happened more than once that someone wrote me to say that they enjoyed playing Myha or Boïnihi, and they were surprised when I told them that there are several other existing games in the same series.

Many times I was about to give up the series, and maybe even give up being an indie developer. It's very difficult to make a living. It's only thanks to a very sold fan base (many of which have become friends) that I can continue.

8. What are you most proud of about your games/what do you like most about the games?

What I am the most proud about my games is that I have been able to create them despite working in very complicated condition, and never giving up.

One thing that I like a lot with my games is that I can be in touch with many different players from around the world. When they didn't like my games, I'm a little sad, but when they enjoyed every second, and write a long and detailed review, it's so exciting! I have had long discussions with some of these players, and it was really interesting and rewarding.

9. Is there anything you think could have been better?

Oh yes, so many things could have been better. Not only the conditions in which I am working, but also the games themselves. ASA for example, was created with a big lack of experience and has a lot of space for improvement, despite the existence of the Remastered Edition. I would like to work on a full 3D remake someday, so who knows?

I can only continue to work hard and try to improve my projects and fix the past issues, hoping that one of the games will be more attractive.

10. Have you and your way of working evolved over time?

When I created ASA, I made prerendered 3D images and videos that I imported in Adventure Maker, a great but old-school engine that doesn't allow full HD resolutions. Then for Catyph I migrated to Visionaire Studio, a more modern engine. Then I experienced the creation of my first game in full 3D, Myha, and it was really something different! We can say that a major evolution is simply related to the technique and engines that I use, and everytime I have to learn new things.

Another thing that changed in my way of working, is the energy to put into my project. When I created ASA, I was only 30 and had faith in my own skills and abilities to please an audience. Today at 40, I work with a very different state of mind. I am more serene and I am more tired too, and so globally my way of working day after day is less frantic. I wouldn't be able to do the long days and nights of work that I used to.

Globally, I think that when I started making games, I was doing it like a studio or company, with daily working hours and schedules, while today I approach it more like an artist with a more philosophical view regarding my life and the creation of new games. I now really work depending on my ideas and inspiration.

11. Are you planning on making more games? What will your next game be about in that case?

Since 2020 and the very low sales of Boïnihi, the Black Cube series has been paused and I have not really had the chance to work on a new game.

I am currently working with my brother on a beautifully hand-drawn 2D platformer game, and we hope that such an action game has the potential to reach more players than my previous adventure games. But this is just a parenthesis in my career.

Since a few months I am running the Black Cube Jam, a small challenge where creators and fans are invited to create their own short games inspired by the series, in order to celebrate together the 10 years of existence of the games (ASA was released in 2013!). There are a few prizes to win, and still 2 months to create a demo/prototype/interactive experience.

At this occasion that I have announced Hexpatria, the next Black Cube game. It will be made in Unity engine, will have a different style of puzzles compared to the previous games, and will tell a part of the story of Philip Forté that has been kept silent so far, just after he discovered the existence of the Cubes and the Ark in 2011.

If you like sci-fi adventure games, please wait for Hexpatria and keep an eye on it! Thank you!

12. Why did you choose to add your games on FireFlower Games, and what is your experience with us?

I find that the ideal indie store would have to be DRM-free, have a community of passionate players who do really enjoy adventure games. It would accept most games, would make it quite easy to add them to the store. It would accept the whole Black Cubes series, making it clear for customers that there are several episodes. And there would be a real person behind the store that I can contact in order to ask questions, or that contacts me if there is a need to work on a sale or special event.

It seems to me that FireFlower is somehow replying to most of these needs, so I was happy to have the opportunity to submit my games there.

Thank you for the opportunity of replying to this interview, and thanks for reading it!

Also a big thank you to you Simon, for taking the time to answer these questions.

If you're interested in trying the Black Cube series game, you can find them here.

New Arrival: Sleepytime Village - Demo

added ago by FireFlower

The demo for Sleepytime Village has arrived. It's time to sleep...

Sleepytime Village is a creepy story about learning to rediscover both your inner child and the joy of creativity.

Comment from the developer:

The initial idea for Sleepytime Village came from Steve watching CBeebies and being creeped out by the inhabitants of shows such as In The Night Garden and Moon & Me, so the music and sound of those shows has obviously been an influence; there are a lot of gentle ambient sounds with glockenspiels twinkling gently over the top. Helpfully, horror soundtracks have been known to use similar instrumentation! For Sleepytime Village, our approach has been to utilise these sounds but to ramp up the edginess.

Steve is using a mix of 'traditional' instrumentation and synthesizers, mixing organic and digital instrumentation with influences ranging from modern CBeebies to the Beach Boys, Massive Attack, Brian Eno and classic 70s library music.

New Arrival: The Mystery Of Woolley Mountain

added ago by FireFlower

The Mystery Of Woolley Mountain is here! And it's 40% off for the first week!

Funded on Kickstarter with backers including legend of the genre Ron Gilbert, The Mystery of Woolley Mountain is an otherworldly point-and-click adventure - filled with strange beasts, evil witches, confused automatons and wacky ropemen.

Comment from the developer:

Sitting on a beach in Croatia, small sketch book in hand, the possibilities of my first point and click adventure game spilling from my pen onto the page. The sea, gently ebbing and flowing, the sun beating down. Pure bliss.

The puzzles and locations come to life, creating a world, creating our heroes.

Home, learning Unity, learning Adventure Creator, trying to learn how to write and make a game. The beginning of a dream fulfilled.

Jan 11-18 2016: My world falls apart. I lose my wife and seven month unborn son, Gil. Throughout the darkness, working on this game helps break me from the nightmare, and is something to give me focus, something to keep me from my despair.

April 2019: My game is released on Nintendo Switch (thanks to Huey Games) and on Steam. I am ecstatic and overwhelmed, relieved and sad, it is bittersweet. However, my life is now back on track; my game comes out two months after my darling daughter, Etta, was born. I have been blessed with a new family, and my beautiful wife Nancy, who has supported and encouraged me also, is so happy for me (and shattered of course).

My brother, who wrote the original story of The Mystery Of Woolley Mountain and came up with the main characters originally, shared the joy at finally releasing our first game, in light of our younger selves fun struggle to try and do so.

And so, four years later, with great reviews, fans, learnings and challenges along the way, Lightfoot Bros are well into the process of making two new games. Hurrah!

Developer Interview with James Dearden

added ago by FireFlower

We did an interview with James Dearden, the creator of Technobabylon, about his game, game development and games in general. Here's "the full on James story!":

1. Tell us a bit about you:

I'm recently 36, and was born in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. My childhood followed my parents' government work around the world, so a lot of different schools and a lot of different cultures went into shaping my outlook.

James Dearden

2. What were your favorite game or games when growing up?

I think it's impossible to pick just one, so I'll narrow it down to three:

  • Tie Fighter; after our PC got a sound card, this game was a brilliant mixture of atmosphere and challenge
  • X-Com; still replaying it to this day
  • Space Quest IV; I didn't get around to 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 until much later, as Kuwait was not an easy place to find games after the Gulf War, but IV was a great introduction to the series, and what got me hooked on adventures.

3. When did you start making games?

My first attempts were around 1997, when I was 10.

4. What made you start developing games?

Partly the lack of availability of games where we were on posting, and partly to spite teachers. The school rules prohibited us from installing games on their computers, so I got them to agree that games would be alright as long as we made them ourselves. They didn't think we'd push through with that, but in not too long, we had some fairly solid Snake knock-offs coded in BASIC.

5. The last game you made was Technobabylon. Why did you decide to make that game, what was your inspiration? How did you come up with the idea and story?

Originally, Technobabylon started as a test project for getting the hang of adventures in Adventure Game Studio (AGS). Previously, I'd made a puzzle game and a turn-based strategy, so figured that I ought to use it for its intended purpose. I think the initial section of being trapped in a single-room apartment with nothing but an internet connection took its influence from my living situation at the time in South Korea. Narratively, I think a mix of Ghost in the Shell and Paolo Bacigalupi were big influences on how the story went - especially with all the airships.

6. What are your characters based on in the game? For example real life experiences and people, movies, games etc. Who would you be in your game?

In a way, I think that the three main characters reflect elements of myself, which was an approach I took to make writing their dialogue more natural.

For Latha, I wanted a proper adventure game protagonist, who has no concerns about taking everything that isn't nailed down to help her achieve her goals. I also thought "who doesn't tend to be represented in games?", and opted for a character of Sri Lankan heritage.

Dr Regis is moralistic, with a personal code of right and wrong, but manipulated by his personal demons. His "old fashioned" outlook (despite being born in the 2030s) is a way to allow the player to ask questions about the world they're unfamiliar with, since Regis hasn't been keeping up with the times.

Dr Lao is a technophile who believes in the ideals of the city, but is also able to appreciate that some things warrant changing for the better.

Arguably, the city itself is a character. I put it on the East coast of Kenya near the equator, partly as a thought to where I was born, and partly because it's a good place for space launches as an industry.

7. How would you describe the style of your game?

In terms of style, I'd say it's leaning into nostalgia, the kind of thing that people remember playing in the early nineties in what some would consider the apex of adventure games. It also has the benefit of quality-of-life features added in after decades of research and upgrades that are now available, like a resolution bigger than 320x200, and not needing to manually mount a mouse driver whenever you want to play. Visually, we drew on a lot of sources, but anime like Ghost in the Shell and Psycho-Pass gave us a lot of style cues. Games like Beneath a Steel Sky served as a consistent visual touchstone to keep us grounded in the style of pixel art we were aiming for.

Story-wise, it's a post-cyberpunk adventure - the difference with cyberpunk being that the characters are working for/with the authorities rather than against it, and there's an element of optimism to it rather than the absolute doom of cyberpunk.

8. Did you experience any challenges in the development of the game?

The biggest was probably a continuing theme of my life, moving around a lot. I was following my wife's work between the UK and France, so a lot of Technobabylon was built in hotel rooms throughout Paris. In fact, if you look at the skyline in the game, some buildings might be recognisable as bits of La Defense, on the outskirts of the city.

9. What are you most proud of about your game/what do you like most about the game?

For me, an adventure game is not simply about telling a story in an interactive manner, but making the player feel smart by overcoming obstacles. Based on what we've seen of people playing it, I think we've managed to hit the balance of making it challenging without becoming unplayably frustrating. Building hints into the game organically (i.e. talking to your partner), and letting players put what they've learned earlier into practice are big parts of that. There are puzzles in it that people still fondly remember and talk about, like the android personality-swapping.

10. Is there anything you think could have been better?

When I look back at it myself, I feel like I might have written some of the dialogue differently. It's the kind of situation where, in isolation, it seemed okay, but as part of the bigger picture and with the benefit of hindsight could be cleaned up.

I would probably also add a hotspot-finder, to show players what was interactable. Pixel-hunting may be a staple of the genre, but isn't so popular any more!

11. Are there any Easter eggs in the game?

Plenty - some are personal, like Newton's location in Kenya, or the date that the game is set being my 100th birthday. Others relate to the AGS community, such as the "blue cup" motif that appears in many AGS games. Also to a couple of Wadjet Eye's other games, including adverts for "Blackwell Legacy: The Movie"

12. Are you planning on making more games? What will your next game be about in that case?

I've got a few on the go at the moment, including a follow-up to Technobabylon, though that's taken a number of different forms over the past few years as my technique has improved. There was a bit of a bump in development generally due to health issues, but now that I've got the use of my left side back more consistently, that should speed things up.

As well as Technobabylon, I've been working on other projects as "learning exercises" for getting to grip with what Unity can offer, similar to have TB started as an AGS test project. One is "Tommy Hurricane and the Pirates of the Third Reich", an adventure game that could best be summed up as "Monkey Island meets World War 2", with a style aiming for something like Telltale's. "Retro" is a moving target, and much as it boggles my mind, there are now adults with fond childhood memories of the mid 2000s and its games.

A big thank you to James, for taking the time to answer these questions. It was interesting to know more about him and his game. Looking forward to more games from him in the future!

Developer Interview with Dave Seaman

added ago by FireFlower

We did an interview with Dave Seaman, one of the creators of the upcoming game Captain Disaster and the Two Worlds of Riskara, about his game, game development and games in general. Here's what he said:

1. Tell us a bit about you:

Er well… I'm old enough that my first computer was a ZX81! I've always been into gaming. I'm a Londoner, although no longer living there, and am really good at really bad accents (that's a skill, right?) I've worked on a large number of games in some way or another, mainly those made with Adventure Game Studio.

I have a weird habit of creating non-adventure games with AGS, because I like the challenge of making game mechanics, whereas the process of creating rooms, events and suchlike in adventure games really bores me! (But for the latest Captain Disaster game I'm willing to make an exception.)

2. What were you favourite game or games when growing up?

So many… but I'll try to narrow it down a little.

In my early years the games that stood out were Kikstart, Bandits At Zero, Formula One, RoboKnight and Timeslip on the C16. On the Speccy I remember liking Feud, Taipan, Head Over Heels and Match Day 2.

My formative years in terms of the games I liked were when I had an ST, amd whilst I still loved football games (Kick Off 2 and Player Manager mainly - but also a special mention for the excellent World Class Rugby by Audiogenic), space-faring and swashbuckling adventures with Elite, Frontier and Pirates!, strategy adventuring with Defender of the Crown, business management with Railroad Tycoon. Not to mention genre-creating games like Populous and undefinable gems such as Archipelagos!

It was on the ST that I was first introduced to the point and click graphic adventure genre, with Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders, then a bit later The Secret of Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure. At the time I was heartbroken that neither Monkey Island 2 nor Fate of Atlantis made it onto the ST!

3. When did you start making games?

In terms of something you could actually call a game, I guess it was on the Atari ST with a game development package called STOS BASIC.  I did actually manage to create some games using it, but never released them (and in truth they probably weren't good enough to release.)

I didn't start in earnest until much later, and after helping with some other devs' projects, the first game I really fully designed was Captain Disaster in: The Dark Side of the Moon (featuring some truly dreadful graphics by me!) back in 2013. The first game I actually coded was a Spot the Difference game in 2015.

4. What made you start developing games?

I always had mad ideas about making games when I was a kid, and distinctly remember one summer holiday designing (in my head) what I was convinced would be the best football management game ever made. Needless to say I never actually started making it, and in those days I probably also had ideas of being a football manager (even at a young age I knew I was no good at actually playing the game in real-life), or an astronaut, or you know, both, since I was a kid.

I think the first time I played a game and thought "you know, I would really like to make something like this" was when playing Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. I loved the humour, the characters, the puzzles (the mazes less so) and it really opened my mind to how a game could have a truly interesting narrative. To me it was more like an interactive movie than anything I'd played up to that point.

I did have a few false starts to make a game, but nothing much happened with it. I went through a spell of trying to get my short stories published and the Captain Disaster character, who featured in several of these stories, was one I always felt would translate well to a point and click adventure game. So (after again a few false starts) I began to make Death Has A Million Stomping Boots, although for various reasons Dark Side of the Moon ended up being developed first.

5. You are currently making a new game, Captain Disaster and the Two Worlds of Riskara, can you tell us a bit about it?

The third Captain Disaster game is going to take a rather more story-based approach than the previous games. Although there will still be plenty of parody elements, there is much more focus on a strong plot and narrative strands that work their way through all 6 acts.

It all begins with CD finding a stranded ship and rescuing its inhabitants, but will end up with an ancient mystery spanning millennia being unravelled. I don't really want to say much more about the plot because the way it slowly unravels in the game is key to what I want to achieve with the game!

6. Why did you decide to make this particular game, what was your inspiration? How did you come up with the idea and story?

Strangely enough none of the 3 Captain Disaster games were pre-planned in terms of storyline. At first I wanted to adapt my short stories, but the dev I was working with at the time pointed out several very good reasons why this wouldn't work, so I came up with the idea for Stomping Boots. I wanted to make a shorter game so I quickly devised a storyline for Dark Side of the Moon, which I made with a different dev.

Then, around the end of 2022 / beginning of 2023, a dev and amazing artist that I'd worked with before, Lorenzo Boni, asked if I was still interested in making a bigger game, which we'd kind of talked about before. It was actually pretty bad timing as two other people had suggested working with them on fairly big projects around the same time, but we continued to talk about the idea, and it quickly turned into a long-standing idea of mine to make a third Captain Disaster game.

Um… none of which answers your actual question, sorry. Once we'd decided to make the game, of course I needed to come up with a story. I had gone through one of my very irregular spells of binge-reading science fiction, and had ploughed through the entire Dune series (at least, the ones written by Frank Herbert himself) and the Ender series by Orson Scott Card, as well as 1984 by George Orwell. My brain took ideas from these and combined them with other weird ideas of my own, and thus the general story for The Two Worlds of Riskara was born. Although it's already had multiple modifications along the way, the essential plot remains true to that story idea.

7. What are your characters based on? For example real life experiences and people, movies, games etc. Who would you be in your game?

I would say that Captain Disaster is (unintentionally!) based a little bit on myself - well-intentioned but prone to, well, disaster. (Obviously I'm not QUITE as bad as CD!) I always imagined Tim Allen playing CD if a film version were ever made, but that's probably just because of Galaxy Quest.

Basically, everything's based off my warped imagination, and possibly inspired (knowingly or unknowingly) by something I've seen or read at some stage of my life.

So yeah, basically I don't really know - I just make stuff up.

Probably a surprise to many is that Space Quest is absolutely not an influence, I've barely played any of the games and find the constant dying and reloading extremely annoying (a consequence of growing up with LucasFilm Games' productions rather than Sierra's, perhaps.)

8. How would you describe the style of the game?

The art style Lorenzo's using is heavily influenced by European comics, with the bonus that he's an extremely talented animator as well as artist, so it all looks like a cartoon that you happen to play rather than watch. Which is really what I'd always hoped to achieve one day for Captain Disaster.

The story is a little less flippant than the previous Captain Disaster games; albeit there is still a lot of parody and humour, I wanted to create a really strong storyline with memorable characters and poignant moments. I suppose it's true to say that with the first Captain Disaster game, I was trying to make a playable adventure game; with the second, a good adventure game; with this third game in the series, I want to make something truly memorable.

9. What kind of puzzles can we expect in the game?

Hmm… well, there'll definitely be some traditional inventory usage and combining puzzles, but we really want to have a good variety of different puzzle types. Each Act (there are 6 in the game) will have a particular style it leans towards as well - for instance in Act II there are lots of people to talk to, some dialogue-based puzzles, and multifactorial puzzles based around requests from other people in the game.

Act III will have hardly anyone to talk to and features quite technical puzzles. Act IV puts you in a completely different situation to anything the game contained previously. So all in all, I hope people feel there's a bit of everything in the game (apart from annoying stuff like deaths, mazes and pixel-hunts… I realise some people do like these things, but I can't stand them!).

10. You have also made other games, as mentioned earlier - Captain Disaster in: Death Has A Million Stomping Boots and The Corruption Within for example. What experiences, that you gained from making them, do you think will aid you when making this game?

I think absolutely every game you make, no matter how small, teaches you something valuable. From the two you mention above I think the most outstandingly important thing is the value of good and regular communication with co-devs. Keeping things positive when there are difficulties, keeping things moving when you don't really have time, being absolutely clear who is responsible for what, being flexible with your expectations.

I've worked with devs all around the world - USA (Stomping Boots), Israel (The Corruption Within), and Italy for this current project, as well as many others on different games. Availability / language issues / time zones are all things you need to take into account. Each team (even a team of two) can have a very different dynamic. I've had some crushing disappointments along the way which I won't go into, but on the whole I'm happy to say that I've worked with a lot of great, really talented and (crucially) reliable people.

11. Have you experienced any challenges, so far, in the development of Captain Disaster and the Two Worlds of Riskara?

Available time is always a factor for devs who already have jobs, family and other commitments, but we're making steady progress. There have been a couple of things that have created issues for Lorenzo though - first he had a wrist injury which obviously isn't very helpful for an artist, and then his air conditioning stopped working whilst the heatwave was still hitting Italy!

We also had a short period after releasing the demo where motivation to work on the game just vanished. It was like having put so much effort into refining the demo ready for release, it completely destroyed our momentum. However after a few weeks hiatus, we got back on track.

12. Will there be any easter eggs in the game?

I'm certain there will be, but that doesn't mean I know exactly where they are at the moment… so much work is going into the game in the first place that I'm hesitant to spend time adding too many things most players may never see!

There will be a number of achievements, some of which aren't crucial to completing the game (I mainly thank the excellent Beyond the Edge of Owlsgard as my inspiration for doing this), so I guess they could also count as Easter eggs?

13. When do you expect the game to be finished?

Can't put too definite a date on it, but sometime in 2024 unless something goes really wrong.

A big thank you to Dave, for taking the time to answer these questions. It will be interesting to see the end result.

If you're interested in trying the demo of Captain Disaster and the Two Worlds of Riskara, you can find it here. You can also find The other Captain Disaster game here and The Corruption Within here.

Interview with Lori Cole

added ago by FireFlower

We did an interview with Lori Cole, one of the creators of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption and a few other games, about her game, game development and games in general. Here's what she said:

1. Tell us a bit about you:

I was raised in Arizona, a southwestern state where the summers are extremely hot. I much preferred indoor activities like reading or game playing. When I was a child, the only computers at the time took up an entire floor of a building. I never saw a real computer until after I graduated from college.

Lori Cole

2. What were your favorite games when growing up?

I have played games all my life. I grew up with Monopoly, chess, and strategy games. I even had a “Build Your Own Board Game” kit. However, my favorite game of all time was Dungeon and Dragons. It was the first game that let you work with other players rather than against them - and everybody wins in the end. Besides, D&D allowed me to really use my imagination to create interesting characters and stories.

3. When did you start making games?

I started making games in the early 1980s after I married Corey Cole. The first real “games” I made were scenarios for D&D to run as a Dungeon Master. We were frustrated by the D&D game rules, so we created our own system of rules that allowed the characters of the game to grow and learn skills as they played. We loved the notion of continual growth and improvement through gameplay, and that became the core of our games.

4. What made you start developing games?

Computer games in the early 80s were pretty primitive. Many computer games at the time tried to use character development concepts from D&D, but they would wind up being little more than “kill the monster” with very little story or character.

It was our frustration with the games we played on computer that made us want to create our own - and make them better.

5. Why did you decide to make this particular game (Hero-U), what was your inspiration? How did you come up with the idea and story?

Our first computer game series was “Quest for Glory” - a five game Role-playing/Adventure series that took the player’s character on an adventure to five very different lands. Along the way, the character became more powerful as he gained skills and made friends. This series was extremely popular and many fans wanted a sequel.

After Quest for Glory, we created a website called “The Famous Adventurer’s Correspondence School for Heroes” where visitors could take an online personality test that determined what kind of fantasy game character they would be - Wizard, Warrior, Paladin, or Rogue. Then the player would be able to take “classes” with virtual teachers. They could do class assignments, get grades, and roleplay themselves at this site.

We used Kickstarter for the money to again create our own computer game and we brought elements of the Quest for Glory series and “The Famous Adventurer’s Correspondence School for Heroes” together to create Hero University.

6. What are your characters based on in the game? For example real life experiences and people, movies, games etc. Who would you be in your game?

Some of the characters in Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption are relatives of characters from the QfG games. The instructors at Hero University were from the Correspondence School as were some of the references in the game to past events. A few of the characters and story subplots were contributions from our Kickstarter fans. We tried to bring everything together into a cohesive, compelling story.

When I write my games, I become the characters. I know exactly how each character thinks and feels, so in a real sense, I am all the characters. Personality-wise, I’m probably more like Professor Silvia Witherspoon Featherstonehaugh, the Wizard instructor.

7. How would you describe the style of your game?

We worked for many years to come up with this semi-realistic art style that is moody and emotional while still being beautiful. Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption follows the story of Shawn, a young man who grows and learns from his experiences in the course of the game and gives the player real choice in determining Shawn’s actions and personalty.  Hero-U is a true mix of roleplaying and adventure with an exciting story, humorous characters, and a complex plot. It is everything I ever wanted to play in a computer game.

8. Did you experience any challenges in the development of the game?

There were many challenges to create this game. We had to start our own company, raise the money on Kickstarter, and work for years without any income from the game. We redesigned the game art and style several times in order to overcome technical difficulties and make best use of the people who worked on the project. It took many years and much more money to create Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption than we expected starting out.

But we couldn’t be prouder of the game.

9. What are you most proud of about your game/what do you like most about the game?

Despite all the difficulties, the compromises, and the years of hard work that went into creating Hero-U, it turned out to be a great game that our fans love as much as they loved Quest for Glory.

I am so happy that I was able to make this game.

10. Is there anything you think could have been better?

We made many mistakes along the way. Trying to create an ambitious game on a small budget is challenging. There is one section of the game that is too much “on rails,” while giving players the illusion of having choices. If we had the time, team, and budget, we’d have given the player more real agency in that sequence.

11. Are there any Easter eggs in the game?

There were many funny bits and surprises in the game. Quest for Glory is known for puns and humorous dialogue, but we went even farther in Hero-U. Players who are looking for funny surprises should click on everything, everywhere to enjoy Josh Mandel’s funny contributions to the game.

12. You also created the Quest for Glory series, as you mentioned earlier. Do you think there will ever be a prequel/sequel/remake? Would you like to make one?

Hero-U, while a different style from the original QfG series, is truly the successor to the series. It has the same humorous and yet very serious tone filled with interesting characters and a complex multilayered plot. Hero-U incorporates everything we’ve learned and experienced since we originally created QfG - and is a much better game.

We don’t plan to make another Quest for Glory game. Activision owns the IP rights, and has not shown any interest in licensing them, even to the original game creators. Besides, that game series is complete.

A big thank you to Lori, for taking the time to answer these questions. 

If you're interested in trying Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, you can find it here. Her other games can be found elsewhere. :)

New Arrival: The Castle

added ago by FireFlower

The Castle has arrived! And we trimmed the price a bit, so it's 50% off for the first week.

The Castle is a challenging old school adventure game featuring a group of courageous adventurers taking on an evil vampire in a creepy castle.