SPECIAL II – Dave Gilbert, Wadjet Eye

Well, after our troubles last time, we didn’t learn our lesson.

oh-oh

What we did learn is that Dave Gilbert listened to our special episode with Infamous Adventures’ co-founder Shawn Mills about the problems they had recently gone through. And he offered to have a chat about the state of the business from the Wadjet Eye perspective. Which was jolly nice of him.

For those of you who don’t know, Wadjet Eye is one of those rarities in the adventure games market in that they are producing new games, with original stories and without the need to fall back on established games series or film/TV franchises. Given that so many noble, talented and hard-working companies have failed to do that in recent years, we ask Dave – who you gotta blow in this one horse town?

Apparently, fellatio is not a pre-requisite to success. Dave talks us through how the company was set up ten years ago, before the “revival” and Kickstarter bubble, and has grown steadily and organically ever since. He then adds context to, questions or confirms some of the observations made by Shawn in the previous episode.

doublebubble

Do you see? It’s a representation of the Kickstarter bubble. Oh, there’s far more jokes of that calibre in the episode, let me assure you.

You can listen to the very polite man refrain from swearing while all around him are effin’ and jeffin’ right here in the video, or at the bottom of the page for the podcast link.

Thanks once again to Shawn and Dave for talking to us. As an outsider to the business end of making games, it was illuminating to see just how much work goes into a game beyond simply pulling assets and stories together. It’s a labour of love, certainly, but it’s also one that requires a huge amount of interconnected decisions that may or may not pull off. Luck seems to have a lot to do with it, as Dave admits. But you get the impression, too, that it’s possible to slightly load the dice in your favour through making smart choices.

Who knows what the future will bring?

Hopefully another series of Back Seat Designers! Keep up with the twitters to find out when that will be ocurring in your ear balls.

SPECIAL – Shawn Mills, Infamous Quests

It’s the surprise special you didn’t know you wanted! Actually, you probably didn’t want it, but cut me some slack, will you? It’s been a while.

It was, however, a surprise that I wanted when we decided to reconvene for a special off-season episode last month. We’re still working out what exactly season 4 of this show will be, and Troels is busy with the Space Quest Historian podcast, to which Gareth and I are also contributing. And once we get all of that out of the way, we will presumably come out of near-hibernation to pester your auditory organs on a weekly basis.

The reason for getting together for this special was more depressing, though. Mid-July, Steven Alexander of Infamous Quests (“Quest for Infamy”, “Order of the Thorne”) announced in a blog post that the company will cease to exist following the release of the two games they currently have in production. It was a bit of a kick in the guts. Not only because we consider many of the Infamous Quests developers to be good friends of ours, but also because as fans of the adventure game genre, we had genuinely hoped this labour of love would succeed. When something like that happens, the first question to form in the back of your mind is something akin to “What the fuck is going on?”

It turned out that Shawn Mills, the other CEO of Infamous Quests (and a one-time guest on our spin-off show, Open Crowd Source) was very interested in helping us get to the bottom of that conundrum. In fact, Shawn took to the social media not long after the IQ’s announcement and voiced his disappointment with the way things had ended. His tweets, posts and what have you led to several further questions: why has “Order of the Thorne” only sold about 1,000 copies? Why does that number not correlate with the number of adventure game fans voicing their support for indie game developers on the ‘net? Was piracy a factor? Why the hell are people so hot under the collar for IQ’s long-cancelled remake of “Space Quest III”?

For the humble price of crushing one soul, I can add “responder of fan mail” to my resume!
For the humble price of crushing one soul, I can add “responder of fan mail” to my resume!

So, with the promise of letting Shawn talk about anything and everything relating to IQ’s closure, that’s exactly why we secretly sat up a Skype call a couple of days ago. The poor guy had a cold, and it was 1 AM at his place when we started, but he pulled through until we had a two-hour bitching session about the current state of the adventure game scene.

So, yeah. It’s a long, opinionated listen. You can check it out on YouTube…

… or below this post.

I think it will be fair to say that some people may well feel wronged after listening to our ramblings. If you do, we welcome you to discuss the topic with us on any of the platforms we’re on. We would like to hear from you, because even Shawn’s valuable input did not put that initial question to rest: “What the fuck is going on?”

Finally, on behalf of all of us, I want to thank Shawn for putting up with us for two hours. This was a very fun conversation, and it reminded me that I can’t wait for Troels, Gareth and I to get the band back together. Till that happens, I’m off ruining the former’s life in the guise of an evil, cybernetic owl. Ta-ta, humans!

S3E12 – Remakes and Reimagining

Why come up with an original idea when you can slap a new coat of paint on an old one?

lsls

OK, perhaps that’s a bit cynical. It’s not as if this is a new thing. Even Oul Ken Williams knew that remakes were a way to make a quick buck. And Oul Ken Williams was a flawless genius.

And besides. There’s actually good examples of remastered games that have brought the classics to new audiences. (Or, at the very least, allowed us to play those creaky old games on new systems.) And let’s spare a thought for the detailed fan remakes, that add new technologies while keeping all the things that made us love those games in the first place.

T4pE4

Yeah, yeah. We didn’t love Kings Quest. But we loved the remake! I bet even Oul Ken himself would like it.

The days of a great product being built in a garage are pretty much behind us. There might be some opportunity on mobile devices, which are gutless, but generally speaking, it takes many millions of dollars to build a world-class game. Anything less than that is a waste of time and effort. It is flattering, but … it is not likely to make anyone money. I always supported the fan products, and thought they were cool, but … I also typically encouraged people to put their energy into something that had a chance to make money.

woman-shock-computer

Fucking hell, Ken. Bit of a buzzkill. Jesus.

ken

Right. This week we’re discussing remakes, remasters, reimaginings and all sorts of “re”ing that means that old games get transformed into new products. We have a look at some that went well, some that didn’t go so well, and some that we’d like to see.

The episode took a lot out of us. Hell. The season has taken a lot out of us. Thanks to all those who have tuned in (all 43 of you), and especially those who threw us a couple of < INSERT YOU LOCAL CURRENCY HERE > via the Patreon page. I appreciate it. Fred looks upon you fondly. And Troels has yet to actively take steps against you.

You can check our After Death episode by downloading or watching this fine video presentation.


(Download the After Death)

S3E11 – Adventure Elements in Other Games

Gareth is off doing something more important today, so he has left me in charge of announcing this week’s episode. At least, that’s the reason he claimed. It’s quite fortuitous that I am able to comply, actually, having recently dodged a chance to check into Club 27. If you ever find yourself in Denmark, never allow anyone to treat you to “snaps”.

But my birthday is not what the episode is about. It’s about the birthday of a stallion much more magnificent than me: Man ‘o War!

#WhatAHorse
#WhatAHorse

However, it’s also about adventure game elements that have crept into other game genres over the years. Games like “Strife”, “Half-Life”, “Mass Effect”, “Don’t Starve”, etc. that have appropriated various design elements outside of their genre that they arguably owe to adventure games. You get the idea.

While we initially didn’t have a wealth of examples handy, we wound up with a good discussion that you can check out either at the bottom of this post, or on YouTube.

After the main episode, we wanted to keep going about story in adventure games. Enter friend, fan, and Virginia Capers imitator extraordinare, Francisco Gonzalez. We thought it’d be appropriate to bring in someone who had actually developed a game with a good story. Of course, once we had him all tied up in the Green Room, we wound up working Sting and The Police song titles into every last thing said, but it still rocks, and you can check out this very special After Dark special right here:

(Download the mp3)

Finally, we’ve also got a tirade-filled Patreon exclusive this week. Head over there to find it! See you all next week!

S3E10 – Based on a True Story

Obviously, the first thing you’ll notice about this week’s episode is that it’s a day late. And you have every right to be angry. Furious, even. I know I speak on behalf of all of the Back Seat Designers in sharing your frustration. But, please, put the gun down. I know we can talk about this.

Ah. Now that that volatile situation has been defused, perhaps we can go into discussing the show on our hands. It’s about games based on true stories, and, no, the fact that it’s coming out on Easter is just pure coincidence; you’ll notice both Jesus and chocolate bunnies are entirely absent from this episo– oh, for god’s sake, I said put that gun down!

We can all coexist peacefully!
We can all coexist peacefully!

We were actually finding it quite hard coming up with real-life examples of games that are based on real historical events. Sure, it’s not like there aren’t any at all. But, really, does Custer’s Revenge or JFK: Reloaded shout “well-researched depiction of historical events” to you? Really?! Well, they don’t to us, god damn it!

So, with the few examples we could think of being woefully insufficient to pad out an entire episode, we go into how game designers should (and shouldn’t) go about basing their stories on real life events. Some interesting points come out of this, we feel.

You may decide for yourself if you agree (and you can, of course, download and subscribe at the bottom of this post):

After the show, I wanted to talk a bit about something I didn’t get to bring up in the main show, which was “alternate history” stories — that is, setting the story in a version of historical events that has been intentionally changed from its real-life outcome — and that set off Gareth on a rant so charged with academic indignation that his connection couldn’t take it.


(Downloady the mp3-y)

So, that’s that, really. Making games based on real-life events is something we feel you should all be doing more of, and our evidence is clearly stated. Well, somewhat clearly stated.

Oh, before we forget — last week, our guest appearance on The Nostalgia Roadtrip Podcast was released, along with appearances from other podcast friends. Give it a listen and subscribe to their show. They’re almost as foulmouthed as we are. Thanks again for inviting us, guys!

So that’s that, and we’ll see you next week– er, well, technically THIS week! If you count the coming Sunday as part of this current week. Which you should, ‘cos people who think Sunday is the start of the week are really, really weird.

S3E9 – What Adventure Games Need to Stop Doing

glass house8

The back seat designers are about to start throwing stones up in this bitch.

We love adventure games, and the beautiful people that make them. But sometimes they have some really annoying habits. Yeah, we know. There are all sorts of constraints that designers and engineers have to labour under. Limited funds. Limited time. The need to collaborate between writers, artists, coders and publishers. Technological limits. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Even so. We sometimes feel that you could have done something different. And three drunk Europeans are going to tell you exactly what you shoulda done.

Screen_Shot_2015-07-06_at_12.37.18_PM.0.0

So. Gareth isn’t happy about “bloat”. He doesn’t like it when games seem to add scenes and puzzles to a game simply because they didn’t have faith that their main plot was long enough and engaging enough. (Or, even worse, when they had absolutely no idea where they were going and end up meandering to a finish.)

Fred isn’t happy about nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia. And we end up giving you a sneak preview of our contribution to episode 100 of the Nostalgia Roadtrip podcast. But, come on, guys – pixel art. AGAIN?

Troels isn’t happy about artificial tension. Timers. QTEs. Not being able to go back and undo “bad” decisions. All that jazz. He was inspired by a deep conversation with Darth Helmet on Twitter. So. Thanks, Darth. I guess…

WRAP YOUR LUGHOLES AROUND OUR GLORIOUS EPISODE IN VIDEO FORM.

AND THEN EXPOSE YOURSELVES TO THE GLORY OF OUR AFTER DARK DISCUSSION.


(Downloadski.)

And if we haven’t burnt all of our bridges with our developer friends, we will see you next week.

S3E8 – Unlikeable Protagonists

It’s Sunday, and while most major religions has that day down as a “sit around and twiddle your thumbs”-sort of affair, that means that we are hocking another golden loogie of bullshit wisdom into the ether for you to gag on.

This week’s subject is unlikeable protagonists in adventure games. Many of us are familiar with the antics of unlikeable protagonists and anti-heroes in other media. But which adventure games featured protagonists with an unethical streak, if not more (no, we aren’t blind to the irony here), and what did that do to the adventure game experience? Furthermore, how do you define an unlikeable protagonist? That’s what we’re here to find out.

"Gabriel Knight said WHAT?!"
“Gabriel Knight asked Grace to do WHAT?!”

The episode sees us discussing this subject in our usual sober, academic manner, despite Franzizco Gonzalez putting on his slowest Virginia Capers in a brave attempt to derail us. I may actually be lying about the “sober” and “academic” stuff. And the episode was already off the rails to begin with, but I sure do hope I got Grundislav’s name right this time. The episode is available in audio form at the bottom of this post, or on YouTube:

Once we had recorded that, we gathered our stashes of drugs and broken dreams, and headed into the green room for an After Dark special, wherein we discussed one specific adventure game protagonist who usually gets a bad rep, namely Leisure Suit Larry:

We’ll see you all next week for another round of the podcast you hate to love.

S3E7 – Bad puzzles in otherwise good games

Imagine if half way through The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo shot a storm trooper, turned to the camera and said:

Right. Wanna see if we get off this cloud base? Here. Complete this sudoku.

It would sort of break the flow, right? Even if the sudoku were Star Wars themed…

Sudoku_Mace

Christ, those things actually exist. A lesson here, folks – never make a lame joke and then Google it.

Anyway, this week the three amigos sit down and discuss puzzle design. What is it that makes a puzzle not quite fit? Is it one that is impossible to solve because the game doesn’t give you enough hints? Is it something that seems completely out of sync with the rest of the plot? Is it just something that takes eight hours to complete with no discernible pay off?

All these things, it turns out. And we even come up with some examples.

Thanks to Tomer Gabel for sending in a voicemail related to last week’s topic on adaptations. If you have any follow ups on that, this episode, or indeed anything in life that’s just getting you down, Dr Phil Fred is happy to hear from you. E-mail him, yo.

Also, this episode, Fred realises he needs Latin lessons, Troels realises he needs sleep, and Gareth realises that he needs both of these things.

41IMS4JTk8L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

We also done an after dark thingy again.


(Download After Dark mp3)

S3E6 – Adaptations

Well, we all know what they say:

The book was better

But, actually, you can do good things with an adaptation. Or “adaption,” which Fred insists on calling it, because he speaks much better English than the rest of us.

So we take the rounds and talk about some of our favorite movie/tv show/novel/comic book-to-game adaptations, and vice versa. How do you go from a linear storytelling medium to an interactive one? We reach into our bag of tricks and pull out a couple of examples of good — and not so good — adaptations.

Sorry, that’s all I have. Fred was drunk, Gareth was tired, I was stone cold sober but naked. Have fun with that mental image. You’ll be happy to know that the following video is not actually a video of us, but rather of the mp3 you can download from the bottom of this page.

Despite Gareth being beyond tired by the end of it, Fred’s sobriety being a long distant memory, and my flesh noodle curling up into my belly because my bedroom was cold and I didn’t think to bring a t-shirt, we decided to run with the “how would you do a game of…?” posit that Gareth ended the main episode with. It’s fun. You’ll like it.


(Download After Dark mp3)

See you next week!

S3E5 – Breaking the Fourth Wall

Yes, one week late, we have all recovered sufficiently from binge drinking and/or embarrassment to give you the episode we promised. This week, we’re talking about breaking the fourth wall. Which is a bit of a love/hate-mechanic among adventure gamers, if the input we received from our listeners is anything to go by.

"WE DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT, KOOL-AID GUY!"
“WE DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT, KOOL-AID GUY!”

Breaking the fourth wall is usually described as making the player/reader/watcher/porn aficionado aware that the work of fiction they are enjoying is aware that it is a work of fiction. Most of us are probably familiar with the Narrator mentioning how you casually glance at the title bar in “Space Quest IV”, noticing that you’re suddenly in “Space Quest XII”. Only minutes within the introductory movie, you’re made acutely aware that the protagonist is in a game. This type of snarky commentary is certainly one way to break the fourth wall, but is it really the only way to effectively do so in an adventure games? Are there any other ways, and what bearing do they have on the experience? Those questions, in part, are what we set out to answer (audio version at the bottom of this page):

We reconvened in the green room afterwards to elaborate on some of the stuff brought up in the episode. And on the illustrious career of BAFTA-nominated actor Cuntbubble Bunnysnatch:


(Download After Dark mp3)

We also got a chance to respond to voicemail this week! Granted, Francisco Gonzalez‘ voicemail had already been answered by Mr. Toleman, but we genuinely thought we could do better, and Francisco’s input sparked off a very interesting discussion.

Brian “Demodulated” Devins of the Square Waves FM podcast also chipped in with an interesting little speech about his love for the fourth-wall breaking ending of “Leisure Suit Larry 3”. A game that none of us had thought of, but which is still fairly unique for its reality-bending endgame.

Thank you, Brian and Francisco! It was a pleasure to respond to your thoughts. If there are any games you think we missed, or if you would like to speak your mind about next week’s subject (“Adaptation of other media into adventure game form”), we welcome you to email any contributions to fred@backseatdesigners.com.

Peace out!