We talked to Jeff Allen Williams. Author, Director, Producer and Animator of the Darkstar project - a new interactive movie adventure featuring the crew from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Adventure-Treff: Thinking back, Darkstar must have been in production for quite some time. When did you think about the project the first time and when did production originally start?
J. Allen Williams: Concept drawings and scripting for the project actually began in the early 90's, but was originally intended to be a short, animated film. After my original concepting was finished it spent several years on the backburner waiting for a way to get it produced. Then the idea came to create some sort of interactive storytelling tool as computers and gaming consoles started getting a little more power and the ability to display high quality graphics, audio, and video. I believe production began in earnest June of 2000.
A.T.: When will Darkstar be released then?
Williams: We have the wonderful luxury of not being tied to a release date, which means Darkstar will be as good as it can be when it is released. We are hoping for (but not promising) a Christmas 2006 release.
A.T.: How much work has already been done for Darkstar?
Williams: Finished at this point are the movie cinematics. It is about an hour of chapters the player will win as they explore the world of DS. It is DVD quality with Dolby 5:1 surround, and looks like a big budget sci-fi movie. The game is well into production as well. It will be a lot like the Riven games with an immersive pre-rendered world enhanced with eerie music and sound effects. The quality of the graphics matches the look of the high-end cinematics seamlessly. The player has 360 degree pano abilities. Also "edited" into the game are mini-cinematics to make the exploration feel more like a movie as you explore. Most of the modeling is complete, all production (shooting of in-game actors) is complete, and the animation is progressing deeper and deeper into Darkstar.
A.T.: Interactive movie productions have been quite popular in the mid 90ies. However, nowadays a lot of developers don't make games with real actors anymore as they claim it's to expensive and too much players were pushed away from this subgenre by too many low budget examples in the last years. Even regular adventure games have problems to sell well nowadays. What makes you think Darkstar pays off (if you think, it will pay off)?
Williams: Your analysis is absolutely correct historically speaking. Darkstar will be very different in many ways from these previous releases you elude to. Our biggest task will be to market Darkstar effectively so that the audience is fully aware of what it is and what it is not. We already have a few niche markets who are automatically favorable to DS, ie RUSH fans and Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans. The quality is second to none, Mark Tuffy of THX invited us to be guests at this year's E3 and was very complimentary of our project, and offered us a lot of good advice. We also met with two European game publishers whose biggest concerns about Darkstar was the amount of money it would take to "educate" the market as to what the project is. JoWood passed on us for that very reason, but said our project was breathtaking. In essence, everyone up top who has seen it has been amazed by the look and quality, it's just a matter of marketing and distributing it intelligently.
A.T.: Have you done any games before?
Williams: This is our first commercially available "game", but my studio is primarily an animation studio and have done a lot of advertising projects, documentaries, and music video. We have produced educational "game" devices, but they were distributed in kiosks that show up in public libraries, museums science centers and the like. We are doing some cinematics for a Star Trek mod, but not any of the actual game architecture. We are also producing animations, interactive kiosks and activities at the new "Titanic" museum that is moving from Orlando, FL to Branson, MO this fall.
A.T.: What was the reason to cast the members of Mystery Science Theater 3000?
Williams: I had a connection with Trace Beaulieu (Crow T. Robot -Dr. Clayton Forester), and originally he was going to write and be one of the lead characters. Trace is a very talented writer and performer, and hilarious to work with. The timing of him doing the screenplay didn't work out because the newest season of "America's Funniest Home Videos" was beginning, and he and partner Josh Weinstein were deep into getting that show going. Instead, I took over the script, and he brought in Josh, Joel, Beez, Mary Jo and Frank...it was kind of a reunion of sorts for them.
What are you doing at the moment?
Williams: Currently we are writing custom code for Darkstar that makes the game sequential to the unlimited choices the player can make. Once this code is written and implemented, the game will move very, very quickly.
A.T.: How will it be released? DVD or CD?
Williams: Darkstar will be a 20-30 gigabyte product. You heard me right. We are looking at blueray DVD's and even the possibility of DS being released on a small firewire-USB compatible hard drive (both MAC and PC). My hope is to make it the ultimate plug & play, with no installation needed, and you save games right to our provided drive. This is part of the IT hell we're in right now.
A.T.: Thanks a lot.
Williams: Very much appreciated Sebastian, thank you.