Adventure-Treff:Hello and thanks a lot for taking some time for us. Please introduce yourself and your role in the development of Lucius to our readers.
Johannes Aikio: My name is Johannes Aikio and I'm the lead designer of Lucius.
A-T: Please talk about your background as an adventure game fan. How did you get in touch with adventure games and which games left such a strong impression on you (for what reasons) that you deciced to do Adventure games yourself one day?
Johannes: During my early years as a gamer there were definitely several adventure gaming titles that really gave a very strong impression and probably influenced our development today. The action of Tomb raider, the strange world of Grim Fandango, the comedy of Larry. I mean, I could go on and on about some of the great work people have done in the adventure genre. As for us going into adventure gaming was not really planned or anything, we just decided to do a game we would enjoy playing and for some reason it started to take shape on the adventure side.
A-T: Since you are doing a horror adventure game I am particulary interested in your thoughts on other horror adventure games. What horror games come to your mind that you really enjoyed for what reason? Please share your personal hit list with us.
Johannes: The first Resident Evil blew my mind when it came out. The dogs crashing through the window and zombies grabbing your leg. They really did a great job on atmosphere there. Alone in the Dark was also something of a hit for me in the early days, for the same reasons. Speaking of more recent games, Dead Space was something that really gives me the shivers every time. Even just watching someone else playing the game is kinda creepy.
A-T: How exactly was Shiver Games born and how did you come up with the concept for the first game Lucius?
Johannes: I had worked with co-founder Heikki Pulkkinen previously in another company, and we were basically just messing around with an early version of Lucius as a hobby, to be honest. Gradually, it started to look like it could actually become a full game. So we decided to form a company and get some help to the project. I'm not sure how exactly the concept for Lucius actually came alive. I simply can't remember an actual starting point when it was invented. I guess one could say that Lucius just was sitting there, waiting to get out. A lot of those old horror movies were probably just hiding somewhere in the back of our minds...
A-T: Speaking of Lucius: Please describe the plot and the setting to our readers in a detailed way to give them an idea of the game.
Johannes: A long time ago a man made a deal with the devil. In exchange for wealth and protection, the man promised a soul in return. Not his own soul, but one of his descendants. Years later, Lucifer took the soul and replaced it with the blood of his own. The child was now the true offspring of the dark lord and would in time fullfill his role as the ruler of earth.
As the player, your job is to make sure this happens and nothing will get in your way. The game starts when the boy turns 6 years old, and the evil starts to take hold of him.
It will tell the player to get rid of the mansion's occupants, but he's got to do it discretely, so that no one will suspect what is happening there. The player will feed on the souls of the sinners and gain supernatural powers to aid him in his mission. With the power of his mind, he will be able to manipulate objects, behavior of the weak and finally even create fire from thin air.
Right behind him there will be the police and press trying to find out what is happening in the mansion of an influencal politician. Sex, lies, alcohol and crime are all common peaces of the great puzzle what is Dante Manor. Home of the evil itself.
A-T: Please reveal some of the gampeplay now. How exactly does the mission of Lucius work out as a game? What kind of puzzles and tasks can we expect in the game? In addition: Lucius has certain mental powers that players will use during the game. How can we imagine ourselfs these powers and in what way do they contribute to the gameplay?
Johannes: Lucius will orchestrate accidents by setting up the environment for them or just using the power of his mind to destroy, float or operate objects for different purposes, for example. Things start off simple, with item combination puzzles just as you know them from classic adventure games. Lucius will be locking one of his victims in a giant freezer, for example, and needs to get rid of the evidence afterwards. We’ll see the classic hairdryer-into-the-bathtub accident. Things get complicated as the player progresses through the game. Lucius will also need to take care of the evidence he’s leaving behind.
Stealth is another gameplay element. Sometimes you need to sneak out in the mansion during the night and try to stay hidden from everyone who is awake, and sometimes you have to arrange everything during the day on plain sight without anyone just noticing anything.
If a person’s mind is weak enough or the circumstances are right, it can be influenced in different ways. Some people can be the ones doing the killing for you or just take care of themselves. The more you evolve the more intense the atmosphere will be and more you can do with your supernatural powers. It will all end in … well, let’s do not reveal too much today... ;)
A-T: The 3D technology used in Lucius makes a very positive impression so far. Why did you decide to do Lucius in 3D and in what ways do you use certain possibilities that 3D offers you to directly influence the gameplay?
Johannes: There are tons of stuff that can be done when we have a full 3D environment to explore, versus 2D backgrounds or anything similar. It also allows us to bring a lot more of the movie feeling into the camera work, and bring the atmosphere of the environment to a totally different level, with fully dynamic lighting and other effects that wouldn't be possible on a static 2D environment. We are working hard on getting everything graphically to the high level of what players expect, and we are still improving alot of those aspects of the game. Also, the straight forward action sequences of the game would have no place in a 2D environment.
A-T: Why did you decide to release Lucius exclusively on Windows PCs? Looking at the 3D-environment and the players game perspective, wouldn't it be a good game to be released on video consoles like Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 as well?
Johannes: Well, first of all, the PC market is still the main market for adventure games. Look at the adventure gamer’s demands – there a just a few players who are also playing games on consoles. Plus, PCs offer so much more technology-wise. It's not to say we were not interested in turning Lucius also in to consoles, but for now we’re focusing on finishing the PC version and no decision has been made yet.
A-T: Is Lucius a rather linear or rather non-linear game? If it contains multi-linearitiy please let us know how it looks like in detail.
Johannes: It’s a story-driven game: Lucius, although he’s possessed by the devil, is basically a 6-year old boy with no experience in the evil things he’s told to do. So he needs the devil to guide him, to let him know who’s next on his list etc. It’s not that Lucius wakes up and perfectly knows that he’s supposed to kill everyone around him now. The devil only reveals small details to him, step by step . You can pretty much get your hands on most of the environment from really early on, though.
So you can investigate a lot of stuff and even do some stuff beforehand, but basically there is an order of things that progresses the major plot elements of the story.
A-T: Lucius already started a lot of controversy on our message board and probably on other places on the internet as well. Some people criticize you for doing something that has no “moral value” and that makes the players do things that some people might feel uncomfortable doing. What is your take on the whole controversy issue and what do you say to these people in reply?
Johannes: Well, in the end, Lucius is just a game. A computer game, digitally telling a horror-themed story, and leaving you some story-based interaction. It’s something we’re used to when speaking of movies and books – horror, and we’re talking classic horror here, not blood & gore splatter, is a classic genre. Having a child being the main evil character is surely a rarely seen addition to a classic horror story, but nothing that’s completely new – just take a look at The Omen, for example. In the end, to us, everything is about the idea to give you the possibility to experience a horror movie from the other side of the screen, once get the chance to play that evil character rather than always being the world-saving hero, and playing around with that basic story idea.
This is what computer and video games are there for – extending your fantasy and allowing it to generate experiences you can’t put into a movie, isn’t it? I can surely understand that for some people this is a really sensetive subject. On the other hand, I guess not everyone is even comfortable of playing first person shooters where you have to kill people for points. What we are trying to do is to bring out alot of the horror movie aspects to a game and somehow it just felt like an intresting take to actually be able to be evil for once. We feel that there will be players out there who just find the game as entertaining as a movie without any issues on the content. It’s clearly a game for adults, though.
A-T: The adventure market is a market that normally doesen’t take many risks. Lace Mamba have proven a lot of guts by publishing your game on the other hand, as it is not only very different from anything else out there, but also because of the element of controversy. How do you feel about this: Do you think that a game like this is a risk because some people might not want to touch it and since the adventure audience is so small already it might become hard to sell? Or is all this talk about controversy and taking risks exaggerated from your point of view perhaps?
Johannes: We are very grateful for Lace Mamba taking a chance on us. In the end, we both don’t see the game’s content as a risk – it’s directed to a certain audience, just in the same way as horror movies are. It can’t just every game be filled with teddy bears and hearts. ;) There is a demand for drama, in every media genre – otherwise, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock etc would never have been successful.
A-T: In recent years we have seen a constant merger of adventure games and casual games. The experiences of developers differ a lot, though, as some developers seem to be doing fine while recent interview partners like Aaron Conners (Tex Murphy) and Sam Clarkson (Casebook) came to very negative conclusions after making their own experiences with story based casual games that didn’t do well financially. What is your take on this ongoing casual/adventure trend and in how far is Lucius also aiming to reach a wider audience by appealing to casual gamers?
Johannes: Well... It's an intresting question. As I mentioned before we are trying also to bring some innovative elements into the game that add some more fun to the traditional adventure gaming puzzles, i.e. to item combination and information puzzles. Above all, I don't belive you can categorize a whole genre like that. I belive that it's all about content of the game and wheter it's a casual/adventure or a new ping pong game, it can always sell if it's intresting and done right.
A-T: As a newcomer in the adventure world: How does your current view at the adventure market look like? It seems like a very tough place for everyone who is in it right now – if you push Telltale aside – and I’d be very interested in finding out how you judge current developments and what exactly do you expect from the market for Shiver Games.
Johannes: There’s still a great market out there for adventure games, as we all know, filled with very dedicated gamers.. And there’s a market for innovative adventure games. Of course the adventure gaming market is not as big as the share of mainstream FPSes, for example, of course, it’s way smaller. We believe in that the adventure gaming market still has potential to grow, though, as long as you’re adding innovations to the genre that are not just innovations for the innovations’ sake.
A-T: Which horror movies left the biggest impact on Lucius for what reasons?
Johannes: Well, the biggest is probably the The Omen, since it has a very similar set-up to Lucius. Additionally I'd name The Shining, The Excorcist, Amityville Horror etc. All these sort of older horror movies had something on the atmosphere that we are really keen on. Big scary mansions, religious stuff and children. These sort of elements shown in a certain light can be really creepy in my opinion.
A-T: Speaking of horror movies: Which are the best horror movies of all time from your perspective? Please also give us the reasons for your descisions.
Johannes: mm... This is a very difficult question since there are so many great ones out there.
The Shining, Psycho, Alien, The Excorcist, Evil Dead, The Saw... I don't really think of them as great horror movies just for the horror's sake, but rather as great films, each with their own thing that makes it great.
A-T: Is there anything you can tease about future projects? Will Shiver Games be a company that focusses on horror games or is it just a coincidence that your first game happens to be a horror title.
Johannes: We will most likely be doing just games we like without much consideration about the genre. If we think we have a good idea for gameplay or a story, we will take that further and see to which category we eventually hit with it.
A-T: Again, thank you very much for your kind will to do this interview. All the best with Lucius and your future projects!
Johannes: Thank you so much for your intrest and keep up the good work with Adventure-Treff.