Developer Interview with Dave Seaman

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.