Oded Sharon (Englisch)
Gesprächspartner: Axel Kothe
Vom: 11.11.2013
Oded Sharon is one of the founders of adventure game developer Adventure Mob. The are currently running a campaign on kickstarter to fund their newest game Bolt Riley - A Reggae Adventure Game. Click here to view the campaign on kickstarter.

Adventure-Treff: Hi Oded! Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself!

Oded Sharon: Hey all, I’ve been a game developer for as long as I can remember myself. Coding in LOGO at the age of 6, writing a text adventure in BASIC on my Apple ][ at the age of 10, and in 2007 I started my own independent game company Corbomiite Games. Two years ago I started Adventure Mob to focus more on adventure games.

Adventure-Treff: You are currently running a Kickstarter to finance your new game, Bolt Riley. Please tell us about the basic Premise of the game

Oded Sharon: Bolt Riley is a Reggae themed adventure game set in Trenchtown, Jamaica in the 1970s.

You play as Bolt Riley, a poor boy from Jamaica on his pathway to stardom. Bolt is struggling to survive and has to deal with a gang of Rude Boys. You go through a journey of self discovery, of love, friendship, and inspiration, where you are introduced to Reggae music, you have to form your band, get inspiration, write and produce your songs and then perform them. It is the true story of the underdog who breaks out and becomes a worldwide sensation.

Adventure-Treff: Tell us more about Bolt Riley himself

Oded Sharon: When we begin the game Bolt Riley starts as this poor boy who is in a Rude Boy gang. His dad was white and abandoned him and his mother when he was a kid. He has been taunted for not being fully black like all the other kids.

Riley and his best friend Smokey are tasked by the gang leader Deamonde with stealing the old man’s radio. When Riley listens to the beautiful Reggae music on the radio he gets inspired and decides to leave the life of crime and become a singer. Riley becomes a strong believer in the power of one love, and wants to promote peace. He is confident, and cool, and have a deep soft heart, but his background and history haunts him.

Adventure-Treff: Why Reggae?

Oded Sharon: First, I always loved Reggae music. We were working with a publisher two years ago, and the idea to create this game came along and we figured we can do something wonderful with it. A game set in 1970s Jamaica, telling stories of people in the real world, and not a fantasy world. We thought it was unique and original.

Adventure-Treff: In the game description you talk about inspirational powers as a kind of secondary inventory. Please explain

Oded Sharon: Remember that secondary spells inventory you have in the later point and click Quest for Glory series? Basically in Bolt Riley you have two inventories. One is the regular inventory, where you store physical items, while the other is for metaphysical ideas, or inspirations. During your adventures you see, hear, taste, and feel different things, those things will inspire Riley and show up in the inspirations inventory. Riley can use these inspirations on other characters to inspire them, and then progress in the game.

Adventure-Treff: Do you believe in inspirational powers yourself?

Oded Sharon: Sometimes I do. I think we all have some inspirational powers, as we affect the people around us. If it’s something as simple as making someone smile by telling them a joke, or giving someone the idea for his next screenplay, just by sharing an experience.

I do hope I have enough inspirational power to get enough backers to support this project..

Adventure-Treff: Apart from that it's 100% classic point'n'click, right?

Oded Sharon: Yup. We got everything you’d expect for a classic Point and Click adventure. Explorations, story, inventory puzzles, multiple choices branching dialogs, and of course, a rope.

Adventure-Treff: The campaign’s goal of 120k is for the first chapter of the game. How much game can we expect from one chapter?

Oded Sharon: You can expect more than a few hours of unique non repetitive gameplay. A length of an adventure game and games in general depends on the player. Unlike a movie. Well… if you would fast forward through the action scenes in a lot of movies and just want to see the dialog, you’d get very short movies :) But what is length of a game is an age long discussion...

There are other things you can use to quantize the content of the game: We have thousands of dialog lines in each chapter, plenty of screens and environments to explore, and the story in each chapter is the continuation of the story in the previous one.

Adventure-Treff: Will the chapter have a satisfying ending or will it end in a cliffhanger?

Oded Sharon: The story of each chapter is a standalone story, with a proper ending and no cliffhangers. They are individual installments of the same story, and maybe it’s more appropriate to consider them sequels, but I think the word Chapters describes them well, because they were designed as such. To be individual self contained stories.

Adventure-Treff: What are the plans for chapters 2 and 3?

Oded Sharon: Chapter 1 is the introduction. It tells the story of how Bolt discovered Reggae music, and how he left a life of crime as a Rude Boy to become a singer. I want to avoid spoiling the game, but you go through a lot of different adventures, you help connect lost lovers together, help reunite a father and son and bring back the family, save a cat, encourage your friend Smokey to pursue his interest and then fall in love with Thelma. There’s also a story of betrayal, an action chase sequence, standing up to bullies, a live performance, and a climatic ending.

In Chapter 2 Bolt has to form his band, get instruments, and find inspiration for his songs.

Bolt can’t just have a band by playing on his own, so his friend Smokey joins him on the drums but he also needs a bassist, and someone to sing background vocals.

Also, Bolt is poor and cannot afford buying a guitar, so he has to make his own guitar from things he can find around the island, then get other instruments like drums, bass.

Once he has his band and instruments, they need to figure out what to write about. Bolt gets inspiration for his songs from his life experience and things around the island and composes his first song.

In Chapter 3 Bolt and his band record their first song in a recording studio. You need to help Bolt find the right compositions, sounds, lyrics, mix the tracks, and hit the song to the taste of a panel of producers. Later he and his band perform their song at the streets of Jamaica during a "battle of the bands" and have to get his song to play louder than that of another DJ, sponsored by the evil Rude Boy gang leader we met at Chatper 1.

Adventure-Treff: Lori and Corey Cole are connected with the project. How deep is their involvement and how came it to be?

Oded Sharon: As soon as we knew we were working on a new adventure game, I decided to bring aboard some designers with experience. I approached a bunch of my friends and Noah Falstein (Indiana Jones, Mata Hari), at the time he was busy with his own company, but he introduced me to Lori and Corey Cole. For me it was a wonderful opportunity. We decided to work together on this and started having weekly team-wide conference calls to discuss the design, story and puzzles. During that period Lori and Corey Cole worked closely with some of the other designers. We had a team of 6 designers (including myself) working from several places around the world: Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Brussels, and Oakhurst, CA. Each designer was in charge of implementing the puzzles and writing dialogs in one chapter of the game, while everyone was involved in everything. I was directing the game, looking at all aspects of the game creation while planning the backgrounds and animations accordingly, and supervising the programmers writing the code for the framework.

Adventure-Treff: You already spent a lot of money on Bolt Riley, so it's fair to say the success of this kickstarter is very important to you, right?

Oded Sharon: Yes. Adventure Mob has been through a lot since its conception two years ago. A big rollercoaster of emotions going on with the various projects. It’s a company that was built as a continuation of Corbomite Games, to make Adventure Games, but we ended up working for clients so we could afford to pay the bills. And we had some bad luck with other projects we worked on. We’ve put everything we got into this campaign, and this will be the last attempt to get the ball rolling on Adventure Mob, so we’re really hoping to succeed, and I’m counting on it.

Adventure-Treff: You said you already worked with a publisher on Bolt Riley. What happened?

Oded Sharon: First, working with a publisher can be difficult. They had some opinions on the game which we did not agree with, and made us change stuff and lose some artistic integrity.

You also rely on a third party for your success, and sometimes these third parties are unreliable. In our case, the specific publisher went out of business while we were still working on the game. We had to shift our focus to other projects at the time. Now that we’re not tied to any publisher anymore we can self-publish and will have full control of the game, and can bring back some jokes that were censored before.

Adventure-Treff: How does this „Free the Games Fund“ from Ouya work? And what does it mean for your backers? Will it count toward the stretch goals?

Oded Sharon: OUYA matches funds 1:1 up to a sum of $250k. This money will be considered towards the campaign’s stretch goals, since we only get it if the Kickstarter campaign is successful. We do not rely on it to actually make the game. Backers will still get their desktop (PC/MAC/Linux) versions on day 1 and of course OUYA. The exclusivity period means that we cannot release the game on other platforms, so players on other platforms like IOS and Android (and non-backers) would wait a few months before they can play it.

Since the rewards were meant to be desktop anyways, backers should not really be affected by this at all.

I want to say that we’re not making this campaign to get the OUYA money, but this will be a nice addition to our overall budget.

Adventure-Treff: In the past you had several not very successful adventure-related years. Your first adventure game, Pizza Morgana, wasn't a big success and the planned series of 5 episodes has never been released. What did you learn from this experience?

Oded Sharon: I think Pizza Morgana wasn’t successful not because of its content, but because of the business situations at the time it was released. The market was not yet ready for an episodic series like that, the only company making episodic were Telltale, and they made games based on popular brands. No one else had any success. Developers were relying on casual publishers to distrubute thier games, we didn’t have a publisher. It was all before Kickstarter, so we did not have the ability to fundraise to actually make the entire series.

Also it was released on PC only, as it was coded before there were engines like Unity. I have started to convert it to Unity before we founded Adventure Mob, and still have plans on releasing Episode 1 on new platforms and produce the next episodes. Episode 2 is half done, actually, but in the old engine (Wintermute). I have learned a lot from making Pizza Morgana, things about design, coding, work methods, production pipelines, voice acting and the business. I can say for sure that without working on Zbang and Pizza Morgana I wouldn’t be where I am today. Despite it not being a financial success, I still meet a lot of people who keep telling me they really liked the game.

Adventure-Treff: Also your previous Kickstarter experience wasn't that great. First there was Larry Reloaded, where you were supposed to be the development team, but eventually weren't, and then the iOD port of Nancy Drew, that didn't get funded. For most people this would've been enough to stop using the platform... Why do you think Kickstarter is still the best way to finance your game? So, third time's the charm, right?

Oded Sharon: Despite the hardships we endured in previous attempts at Kickstarting I’m still a very strong believer in crowdfunding, as the way to fundraise for Adventure Games. I’ve talked to a few publishers about Bolt Riley. There aren’t a lot who fund development of Adventure Games, and the other publishers all they want is Free-to-play games that monetize through virtual currencies, and obviously it is not the kind of games I want to make. I have learned a lot from my experiences in those previous campaigns, and with dealing with various business partners. I’ve also ran a small Indiegogo campaign a few months ago to go to E3, which was a success and taught me a lot as well.

I’m confident that this is the way to go and, hoping, as you said it, third time’s the charm, and that in a few short months you’ll be playing Bolt Riley, funded by the help of fans of the adventure game genre.

Adventure-Treff: Thank you for your time!

Oded Sharon: Thanks Axel, and thanks to everyone at Adventure Treff for keeping up the torch lit for all adventure game developers out there. If we are successful, I hope to see you in the Gamescom party next year. I hope people are generous and help make this dream a reality.