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Dreamfall(en) in Oslo - Interview part 2
An interview by MaryScots 16th September 2005
(part 1 continued)
Adventure-Archiv: Does the target group have anything to do with the decision to change from pre-rendered 2D with 3D characters to full 3D - apart from the obvious advantage of this design for the console versions? What are the advantages of 3D over 2D in your opinion?
Craig Morrison: It's mainly as mentioned before about bringing it up to date. 2D art can be wonderful and I think everyone acknowledged how great TLJ looked - the thing is that we think we should make the Dreamfall world look just as good in full 3D. If we would make another 2D game now it would limit our design people. Whether its right or wrong is kind of beside the point if we would do a 2D game people would think it to be rather old-fashioned. So, what were trying to do is push the technology, design a good interface and make sure that the 3D environments works for the adventure genre just as much as the old 2D ones did. So, that hopefully in the years to come people dont feel it is a bad thing that these games are in 3D when we can make as convincing worlds and involving story-lines in 3D environments as they used to be in the 2D ones.
AA: Then lets wait if people will ask for a remade TLJ in 3D to be able to explore even the remotest corners
AA: Do you care about what gamers demand i.e. on internet forums its kind of a repetition, now :-) - and such or do you first check what is feasible and then inform yourself on what of it is asked for?
CM: Oh yes, like I said, obviously the community is quite important for us and we do care for what our fans say. We do keep an eye on forums and the fan-sites to see what people think about our games. And obviously sometimes the players have wackier ideas than any of our designers and sometimes the designers have wackier ideas than the players might think of. And the best part about our designers - having a design team - is that they can take all of those ideas and work towards something that is useable, that is, they take the core of the ideas and they refine it into good gameplay that appeals to as many people as possible. So yeah, its not a case of ignoring everyone or using all the ideas out there - its about taking the best bits from all the feedback and going through it - as well as opinions as those are always interesting to read - and see what we might take onboard. And well, to see such strong debates about a game thats now as old as The Longest Journey - its great! And (emphasises his next words with shining eyes) hopefully we will see this exactly again in a few years time talking about Dreamfall, its definitely one of our hopes that people will be talking about Dreamfall for as long after its release as they do about The Longest Journey!
AA: In what way does Norway as the cultural birthplace have an influence on Funcom and its games? One thinks of long winter nights, solitary landscapes and above all the tradition of storytelling through Sagas.
CM: Obviously Funcom is a Norwegian company and someone like Ragnar who is the game director is probably better placed to answer that question than me but I think, yes, it probably does have a bearing on certain aspects. All of our games are very strong in terms of trying to tell a story and create a believable world and I think so some of the things you mentioned definitely do come through in the game. But its also true that we have many nationalities working here and we get a lot of feedback from fans from all over the world. So whilst I think it probably does comes through here and there, and I think although the Nordic people who play the games notice the references are there some of the characters in Anarchy Online for example are truly Norwegian and the players noticed that, its more a subtle influence then anything thats consciously decided.
AA: Which kind of feedback for Dreamfall would you care for the most aside from good sales? Something like: the speed and action will blow your mind for an adventure game! Hot babes! The story is great! Its been some time since I had so much game for the money! My sister loved it; she dropped the Sims for it! Kick-ass graphics! etc.
CM: A perfect combination of all of those! (laughs) Well, we try to push the boundaries with our graphics and make the game visually appealing and well-designed so that it is a compelling gameworld to be a part of and as I said earlier that the story-line is the most important thing with Dreamfall. So, in terms of reviews I think especially for the design teams is that its always good to hear that people appreciate the gameplay, that when people play our games that they have fun because at the end of the day if we dont allow people to have fun in our games everything else doesnt really matter. Because the attitude of the game is that its designed to entertain people and being in the business of entertaining people means that our success is the way were judged on how fun the game is, so I guess that whilst those reviews are always nice to get, well be happier knowing that people enjoyed the experience.
AA: And in return, what would you despise to read again apart from bad sales? I.e. I am disappointed, thought it would be more like TLJ. The graphics arent state of the art. Couldnt concentrate on the game for the bugs. Puzzles were too easy/illogical. Too much action. It was boring. etc.
CM: Again I think, you never want to see bad reviews certainly we wouldnt like to release a game that was full of bugs I think that goes without saying. You dont want anything interrupting the atmosphere and the immersion of the game. You want the player to enjoy the game for what it is and not have to worry about other stuff. The control mechanisms should never get in the way, bugs should never get in the way, the interface shouldnt get in the way it should all be intuitive. And again, likewise the puzzles shouldnt block your progress, there should always be a way to move on even if not immediately because we want to challenge the player but the puzzles shouldnt be so that you, well you know, get frustrated too much. The player wants to be able to solve it without having to look online to find a spoiler. So I guess those are the first things that we try to break, thats why our QA is important. They are the ones who check everything and give the feedback to the designers and say things like "we need this area a little more obvious" or "we need to explain this conversation a little bit more" so the players understand more. Its getting that right balance so that the player can stay immersed in the experience.
AA: You have recently pushed back the release date to spring 2006. What are the reasons competition, development issues, simultaneous release of PC and console versions? I read in Ragnars blog that you were planning to record the voice-overs this month does the decision affect this part of the development?
CM: The release of the game is pushed back to make sure that it was as polished as it possibly could be. Obviously the developers and the designers know their resources and know what stage theyre at and they felt they werent confident releasing as great a game as we hope Dreamfall will be by the original published deadline. So in order to not fail the tradition of The Longest Journey we set ourselves a very high standard with that game, its still one of the most popular adventure games of all time so we felt that we wanted to do it justice. So it was pushed back merely to make sure that the game was great and we feel that we need the time to polish the game and the oncoming aspects that arent quite done yet and make sure that we didnt have to rush anything. Because we didnt want to rush this kind of a game onto the market and make complete trash so its making sure we deliver the best work possible.
There were of course also strategic business reasons for shifting the date, it moves us out of the more competitive Christmas market and allows us to launch at a time when we will be able to get the game the attention it deserves. With the launch of new consoles and the inevitable Christmas hype we felt there was a risk that we might get drowned out by the marketing budgets of the likes of EA or Microsoft. As a smaller developer and publisher we have to consider that kind of thing, so aiming for the spring also made sense in that regard.
The voice casting is a process which takes a lot of time. I dont think its any more or less than, you know, you dont think of it in terms of gaining something, its just that we want to make the experience, the game, as good as possible. Getting the right voice talents is obviously a very time-consuming task, recording every single line of dialogue in the game, again, is a very time-consuming task. So yes, its certainly one of the areas that do take longer, especially if you want to get it right to have the right actors in the right roles with the right dialogue.
AA: Will all versions for PC and console be released simultaneously?
CM: Yes, the release will be at the same time on Xbox and PC. There may be slight variations in the US and European release dates but they will be very similar. Were aiming to release the game worldwide at the same time.
AA: Final question regarding Dreamfall: Do you have any appetizer for our readers that I might reveal?
CM: Aaahh... (laughs and sighs) Im not sure if Im allowed, to be honest.
AA: I dont want to get you into any serious trouble, you know, but I have to try at least. (grins)
CM: We really dont want to give away too much too early again we want the fans to experience it. You know, as yourself the online-world will be doing previews and interviews, say what they think and support the game that they have seen and people read the press releases and the interviews to catch all those little tidbits of information. But I think, wed best wait for the players to show us themselves.
(Pity, then we just have to wait a little bit longer. *pouts and smiles* But I did try, see?!)
AA: In addition I would be very much interested in your view of the recent sad news about Cyan. Especially, as they released the original Myst the very year Funcom was founded. [Question was asked before the news spread that Cyan carries on but I decided not to cut it out.]
CM: Its obviously a shame when any developer has to close that made a quality game. And they have in the Myst series it's one of the most popular PC titles over the late nineties. Its always sad. Certainly we dont think its good that anyone closes down because competition is always good for you. I mean, you saw all the designers and developers here, theyre always trying to look at the other games and we were all enjoying them. You always take something from the experience of other games, I mean, if it were not for anyone else making games it would be a fairly boring landscape. So, its very sad to see developers of other titles for whatever reason to have to close their doors. Because every games been challenging and it sure is good to see what the competition is doing and try and catch that because thats what drives us forward.
AA: Thank you very much, Craig, for giving me the opportunity of visiting you here in Oslo, the chance to see Dreamfall "live" and for taking the time to sit down for this rather long but very insightful interview. And allow me to say that I had a really great time at the Funcom headquarters! :-)