(President of Wicked Studios)
Interviewer: Jan 'DasJan' Schneider
Adventure-Treff: "Wicked Studios came pretty much out of nothing. Who are you?"
Yves Bordeleau: "The business was started after the closing of Vircom Interactive. Half of our team was core members of V.I. and creators of The 4th Coming and Black Moon Chronicles MMORPGs; and the other half are former Ubisoft and other company employees."
A-T: "Do you have experience with adventure games?"
Y.B.: "Well, we have more experience with RPGs and MMORPGs since that’s what most of us used to develop when we worked for Vircom Interactive. But we are devoted adventure game fans and, speaking for myself, I just can’t think of an adventure classic that I haven’t played!"
A-T: "It's great to see developers decide to create adventure games, knowing that shooters might sell more units. Why this decision?"
Y.B.: "First of all, it’s because adventure games are great and that’s really what we wanted to do as our first project. Adventure games have a wonderful community of dedicated fans (we are part of them at the same time) and for a first title it’s really good to have that kind of public. Also, on a more technical point of view, an adventure game doesn’t need the latest hardcore, and VERY expensive, 3d engine shooters or RTS titles do... Since Keepsake is our first project as an independent developer, spending a hundred thousand dollars for an engine was out of the question. But anyways, even if we had the opportunity to afford the latest engine, developing an adventure game was very high on all of our team members’ wish list."
A-T: "The story will take place in a medieval fantasy setting. Why did you choose this setting for your game?"
Y.B.: "The first reason is because we are medieval fantasy fans, I mean, hardcore fans. We all used to play AD&D and stuff like that, so it was a major influence. But, we also decided to choose this setting because of the hype around the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies. Finally, we have seen so many adventure game fans complaining that they miss the mood from the old Kings Quest series that it was a no-brainer for us to stick with the medieval fantasy genre."
A-T: "Tell us a bit about Lydia, the heroine in your game."
Y.B.: "Lydia is more of an “ordinary girl stuck in an extraordinary situation” than a typical heroine. Coming from a relatively poor family, she’s been through a lot. But this has made her quite strong and quick witted. She’s generally outgoing, positive and full resources. Besides having a natural potential for magic, she doesn’t have any special powers or abilities; so anyone playing the game can easily relate to her."
A-T: "What is her mission?"
Y.B.: "Lydia doesn’t really have a “mission” to begin with; she’s arriving at the Dragonvale Academy on her first day of school. But she bumps on a little problem once she get there... the school is empty. Every students and teachers seems to have vanished. That’s a very unusual situation on the day a welcoming party should have been awaiting her. So, she’ll start to search for someone who can help her out... but a lot of other unexpected events will transform this strange situation in an extraordinary adventure!"
A-T: "What gameplay elements will Keepsake feature? Where do you put the focus?"
Y.B.: "The main focus in Keepsake is the main characters development. We also putted some emphasis on contextual puzzle solving rather that the typical “go fetch” and item related puzzles. We tried to incorporate different kinds of puzzles in the game like mechanical/logical puzzles, item gathering and matching puzzles, “maze type” puzzles and some dialogs related puzzles (riddles). The puzzles vary in difficulty as the game progress. We also made sure that every puzzle fit in its environment and are there to keep the player involved in the game rather than distract him from the main focus."
A-T: "The game will take place in just one large location. How large do you plan the game to be?"
Y.B.: "Well, all the game occurs inside the Dragonvale academy and its vicinity. But since it’s quite a gigantic structure, the school is divided into two very distinctive areas: the lower levels, which are more of a non-magical/commoner area; and the higher levels, where all the magic classrooms and labs are. The school structure was conceptualized around a mix of classical gothic architecture mixed with dragon inspired elements. The player will also be able to explore the Elvandar forest and other magical locations. On a more technical term, the game will have more that 500 different camera angles for dozens of different game areas."
A-T: "You want to implement a hint system, that helps the player when he is stuck. How will this feature work exactly?"
Y.B.: "The hint system will give hints on demand. Let say, you are stuck in a puzzle where you have to press levers in a specific order. If you want a hint, you can always ask your sidekick Zak for help by pressing the Hint Button from the game interface. The first time you ask him for information, he’ll just explain the general mechanics of the puzzle; but you can ask him for more help and he’ll give you more specific hints every time. After several hints, Zak will ask you if you want him to solve the puzzle for you. This way, the player will never have to leave the game and go on the web to look for a walkthrough."
A-T: "A very unusual decision for a 3rd person adventure is the lack of characters. Next to Lydia there is just a very small number of NPCs. How do you prevent the game from getting monotone?"
Y.B.: "As I said before, one of the main focuses of the game is the main characters development and interactions. Besides the four main characters there are still some other secondary characters, but not a lot; as it would break the mood of the game (Lydia wanders in an empty school looking for people after all). When we designed Keepsake, we wanted to give the player a new and innovative experience. Our character interaction and development is part of that new perspective. The main characters have a very strong and deep background; and they talk A LOT! You’ll get to know them very well throughout the game. What’s really cool about our conversation system is that you don’t need to be in a specific location to trigger a conversation. For instance, Zak can begin to talk to Lydia while you are exploring; or you can have a chat with Zak simply by pressing the “talk” button of the interface. Beside that, Lydia will have some Visions at different times of her adventure; they will add depth to the storyline and give you hints about what really happened in the school..."
A-T: "What engine do you use for the game? What can we expect on the technical side?"
Y.B.: "The technology behind Keepsake is called Glyph. The engine is mostly built on open source projects; we at Wicked Studios have assembled the many parts together while working on integration techniques and engine stability. The main reason for that was the cross-platform issue. The game 3D engine is Crystal Space; it works on Linux, Mac OS X and of course, Windows. The sound engine use DirectSound3D, but it can also support OpenAL for cross-platform."
A-T: "Keepsake is scheduled for early 2005. How far are you in the game making process?"
Y.B.: "The game is progressing very well. Three quarters of the graphics are done and most of the scripts are also done. The biggest challenges that lie ahead of us are the integration, final tweaking and testing. If everything goes as planned, the game will be ready for the end of Q1 or beginning of Q2 2005."
A-T: "Will Keepsake be available in Germany?"
Y.B.: "Of course we want Keepsake to be available in Germany! We definitely think that Germany is a wonderful market for adventure titles."
A-T: "What other adventure games influenced you the most?"
Y.B.: "For story and gameplay, The Kings Quest, Quest For Glory and Broken Sword series have definitely been a source of inspiration, but the newest adventure games like Syberia also really influenced us on many aspects. As for the puzzles in Keepsake, our main influence would be Myst because they are ingenious and challenging, and also vary in complexity."
A-T: "Thanks for your time! We wish you a lot of success with Keepsake and are already looking forward to see the game."
Y.B.: "It was my pleasure. Keep up the good work with Adventure Treff! It’s a wonderful website. :)"