Tothegame - 27/06/05
The Longest Journey has received dozens of awards and fantastic reviews. But what if you've never set one foot inside its universe? Can you give us a quick run down of what we've been missing?
The first The Longest Journey game was an adventure where you embarked on a journey to save the balance between the twin worlds of Stark (our world some 200 years into the future) and Arcadia (a “fantasy” world where magic exists). Through the eyes of the young heroine April Ryan the player had to travel between the twin worlds, restoring the balance of magic and science. The game is now considered to be one of the all time classics of adventure gaming. I believe the reason for this is that TLJ had a unique and different story, interesting characters, great music and art direction and, not the least, playing on more emotions than what you normally find in games.
So where will Dreamfall start off at? Is there anything you can tell us about the script/story that won't get you killed?
In Dreamfall you will once again be able to travel between Stark and Arcadia, the two worlds from the first game, while we have also added a third world we call ‘the winter', or the world of dreams. This allows us to play with all kinds of themes, ranging from the futuristic to magic, fantasy and even spiritual and dreamlike aspects. The players can expect a rare, and extremely varied, gaming experience.
The story begins in Casablanca, an affluent and powerful city state in North Africa, in the not-too-distant future. We're introduced to Zoë Castillo, a normal 20-year old woman living a normal life. When a good friend of Zoë's, a journalist, goes missing, however, she is suddenly drawn into a dangerous conspiracy involving a shadowy corporation. When she sets out to find and help her missing friend, she gets tangled up in a mystery that threatens the very future of mankind - and that brings her from our world into the magical world of Arcadia and, eventually, to a mysterious and frightening place called the Winter. Along the way Zoë meets the legendary April Ryan and an enigmatic assassin called Kian - and the players will get to play all of these characters, seeing the story from several different perspectives.
It has been said that the whole point and click feature has been trashed and now we'll be looking at a more action/adventure type of style. Why get rid of something that made the first game so successful, and secondly, what can we expect in terms of action?
Luckily I work in a company which is willing to take risks and move the genre forward. I know many of our fans wanted us to go safe and bring “more of the same”, but that wasn't really an option we wanted to pursue. We wanted to take the game and universe and blend it with the mechanics and options of games in 2005, while transferring the best elements of the point and click adventure. For some weird reason there has been so much controversy around this, but I can assure you that the choices we are making are for the simple reason of making the game as good as it can be. To draw a comparison we are hopefully developing a brand new direction in a genre which is (more or less) considered to be “dead” by a lot of people. But this has happened to other genres before, like the RPG genre before Diablo and Baldurs gate came along (and look what happened;). For the best of it I can not hope for a similar success, but we are trying our very best to bring something new, and exciting, to the table.
The game will be filled with action, but not like you find in FPS games or beat ‘em ups. We are not about just giving you adrenaline, we want to give you other emotions too.
In numerous locations you therefore have a choice to tackle a situation in various ways, for instance choosing if you want to go the action route or the more traditional puzzle solving route. I think Ragnar and the team have come up with some ingenious solutions to mix both a tense feeling and action with that of finding solutions through thinking it through, so how much action you want is up to yourself. That said, this is not a platformer or a Lara Croft game. Through mixing the classical adventure and modern action mechanics with a strong story, we aim to bring you on an epic journey of exploration and adventure.
Puzzles were another big part in TLJ. With the stress now on action, can we still expect to see challenging puzzles that need to be solved?
Puzzles are an integral part in Dreamfall too, and we want them to be logical, interesting and a natural part of your journey. Even though we are stressing the action we have also been stressing the story, the world, the characters you can believe in, the fantastic music, even the spiritual experience many of the topics in the game might bring.
In terms of graphics TLJ looks spectacular. In fact the only facet that seemed out of place were the characters. Can we expect to see more realistic facial textures, mouth movement, and an overall glossy finish on the characters? What kind of technological eye candy can we hope to marvel out when Dreamfall is released?
On behalf of the team I must say thank you, I too think that Dreamfall looks stunning, and I am especially impressed with the great art direction. Still, and this is the bad thing about showing a game in early stages, we are far from done. With the new shaders we got in for E3, and the lipsync and emotions now coming in place, I don't think our characters stand back for those in for instance Half-life 2. If we can mix that with great art direction, and suitable actors, I think we can bring a great humanity to all of our characters, making you connect even more as you explore this unique world.
TLJ had many characters numbering around 50-60. Can we expect the same from the sequel? Can you get specific on any of these characters that'll be new to the game?
There will be tons of characters - new and old - in Dreamfall, almost all of which you can interact with in some way. From Zoë's friends and family in Casablanca, to returning favourites from The Longest Journey in Newport and Marcuria, to brand new characters in other locations - all of which will be fully voiced by a number of excellent character actors
The main character will be Zoe Castillo, a young, smart and social girl who must go on a journey of love and danger to, amongst other things, find her ex-boyfriend. She is the focal part of the game, but all over she will meet and intercept with a wide variety of people and situations. You will also be able to control Kian, our mysterious assassin, and of course April Ryan!
Were there a lot of ideas from TLJ that the dev. team wasn't able to use that they plan on implementing now? Any specifics or examples you can give us?
The mechanics of the two games are so different that the dev team had to think a bit different. There are still many things from the TLJ development cycle which are used in Dreamfall, and also a wide variety of tools which has been improved for the new game.
How about music? What are the plans this time around for the musical composer? Can we expect to hear Bjørn Arve Lagim and Tor Linløkken work there magic yet again?
The music and audio design is extremely important to us. For Dreamfall we have teamed up with Creative Labs to deliver 7.1 surround audio and the latest in EAX 4 sound technology. The music and audio of Dreamfall is made by Leon Willett (composer), Morten Sørlie (Audio Director) and Simon Poole (sound designer). In my opinion their creation are some of the most magical tunes ever to grace a videogame. We are very lucky to have found Liam I think, and the ones who purchase Dreamfall can expect some amazing music and soundscapes. Bjørn Arve and Tor are no longer with us, but they still make music.
Dreamfall is set for a 2005 release, is there a more specific time that you can share?
No, we have a very active fanbase, so it's dangerous to nail down the exact date until you are 100% certain. Our aim is to release for Xmas, and we are doing our very best to make that deadline. Our goal is of course to make as good as game as possible, so the release date is secondary to the quality.
What do you think the most impressive moment from TLJ was? That being said, what do you think will impress gamers the most from Dreamfall?
TLJ was a magical journey if you liked good stories. Since so many are, still, playing the game I can only recommend trying it for yourself instead of giving away a key moment. Remember that it has game mechanics from 1999, but also a story and an experience for eternity. Some entertainment can change a life you know.
In Dreamfall I think the whole journey will be remembered and cherished, but there is one point towards the end which is just unheard of in the history of storytelling in videogames. I have a deep deep respect for the teams “mind” and how they can bring emotions forth. It will be a classical moment.
From the looks of things and the chances the team is taking, Dreamfall is shaping up to be just more than another video-game “sequal”. Let's hope they can make that X-Mas deadline or else we might have more than a few disappointed fans when they look under their trees.