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Stephen Carrière on Ring II interview

At the ECTS in London we got a chance to talk with Stephen Carrière, who has worked on twelve different adventure games at developer-turned-publisher Arxel Tribe. Stephen showed us a beta version of the upcoming Ring II: Twilight of the Gods, a sequel to their game adaptation of Wagner’s opera “The Ring of the Nibelungen”.

Whereas Ring was a first-person adventure, Ring II has gone to a 3rd person perspective where pre-rendered backgrounds are combined with real-time characters. Also new is the addition of some lightweight action elements. Stephen assured us that it is still a pure adventure, however. Ring has been Arxel’s biggest commercial success to date, and as such they have been careful to build a sequel on the same foundation that made the first game so popular. “The idea with this type of game is to provide the best possible family entertainment,” Stephen said. “It relies very strongly on graphics and story.”

Arxel is taking a very different philosophy in designing their latest adventure game. “[What we’re making] is at the absolute opposite of the chain for a hardcore gamer. Ring II is a short linear game with approximately 12 hours of gameplay, but it’s very dense and very easy to play.” The design team has consciously moved away from hard puzzles, saying that the main drive of the player should be to discover what is next in terms of graphics, animation and story.

“We have a lot of statistics about adventure games and it’s terrible,” says Stephen Carrière. “I’m not talking about sales. I’m talking about the fact that an average of 80% of players of all adventure games worldwide use a walkthrough from beginning to end. Another alarming statistic is that 85% of the people who played Myst never left the first island. We have gathered statistics on many other games. 75% of the people play only the first half of a game.”

Stephen says they have learned from these statistics. “I think the main reason is that people who play adventures are looking for family entertainment. Or they might be people who like to play an adventure after a busy day. They are more mature and are not going to play six hours on end. They will more likely play for sessions of two hours. So we’re trying to give them instant gratification. We decided to consequently lower the level of difficulty, even to a point where the game itself will assist you [when you are stuck].”

As a result of Arxel’s intention to simplify the gameplay they renounced any form of pixel hunting as a basics for gameplay. All usable objects on the screen will have a subtle white glow. Secondly, the design team is trying to prevent any situations in which players will be randomly trying different inventory objects on hotspots. As such you will never have to carry more than one item around in the game at any given time. Arxel has not turned against puzzles, however. Ring II will have traditional object manipulation puzzles, dialogues, interaction with music and simple action events. “We love puzzles,” says Stephen. “We have a lot of classical Mystian puzzles, lots of objects to combine, hints on paper, etc. It’s just that when you’re only randomly pointing and clicking, pointing and clicking, and so on, it gets tiring even for me even though I’m a big adventure fan. “

The priorities seem to have changed from creating long and puzzle-heavy games to simpler and leaner games that are easier to get into. Not a completely bad idea, especially considering Ring’s mass market appeal. We noticed some interesting similarities between what Stephen and Charles Cecil of Revolution Software said at the ECTS show. While their projects are very different – Ring II being a mass market title and Broken Sword 3 being a more high-profile title catering to hardcore gamers – there are definitely some parallels. Is this where adventure games are heading?

Arxel Tribe is going to produce at least one adventure game a year for the foreseeable future. Ring II is coming out in two weeks, so expect our review here soon.


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