Chris Bateman on Discworld Noir interview

Hi Chris. Can you briefly introduce yourself and the games you worked on?

I started work in the table-top role playing games industry, where I produced a number of RPGs before it became apparent that the trading card games were dropping the bottom out of the market. That's when I started working for Perfect Entertainment on the Discworld games. The script and design of Discworld Noir was probably the best work I did while I was with them.

After the fall of Perfect, I founded a company called International Hobo which provides games design and dialogue scripting services to the games industry. Although we've worked on a lot of games over the last three games, I can't legally talk about most of them, unfortunately. One of the perils of being an external services company, I'm afraid.

In Discworld Noir, Terry Pratchett [author of the novels] is credited as "far too much interference". How involved was he really in the development of the Discworld games?

Terry's involvement was mostly at the beginning and the end of the project. Initially, Terry, Gregg (the producer on Noir) and I were throwing around script ideas, gradually developing a plot line that we were all satisfied with. There were certain things that I originally wanted to do that Terry wasn't so keen on (like using Teppic, the assassin from 'Pyramids' as a lead character) but in the end I'm glad that we ended up creating a new character.

After I'd written the script, Terry took it away with him to Australia to edit. I was tremendously grateful to have Terry as editor, as he tweaked some of the jokes and dialogue to make them more authentically Discworld--you just can't beat having the person who created the license as an editor. I'd say his edits changed about 10% of the dialogue or thereabouts.

His biggest change in the latter stages was making us rerecord Vimes' voice—he wasn't happy with the original recording sessions for that character. Other than that he seemed very pleased with the look and feel of the game.

What kind of company was Perfect Entertainment?

Perfect was the kind of place where you would sometimes go to the pub for lunch and wake up the following morning in a field with a hangover and a traffic cone. Sometimes, you'd be working so hard you literally slept in the office, so we went out drinking a lot to blow off steam. It was a really good crowd of people, with a lot of talent.

What inspired you to make Discworld Noir such a radically different game from the previous two?

We'd covered the offbeat wackyness of the Discworld well in the first two games, but we hadn't really touched on the darker aspects. Noir was a genuine opportunity to explore the other side of the coin, and the change in thematic content lent itself to a very different kind of game.

What made you decide to include more clue-gathering puzzles and fewer inventory-based puzzles in Discworld Noir?

We felt that adventure games had become a bit bogged down by wacky object puzzles. From a design point of view, using an object as a key to progress is functionally equivalent to using a clue—although using the clues placed a lot more burden on the script, but I was confident that we could make it work. It also required a lot more design effort to make everything fit in, but I believe it's worth making the effort to integrate a strong narrative with a game.

Which book(s) was the plotline of Discworld Noir inspired by?

Depending on your perspective, none of them or all of them. I read about 75% of the Discworld novels prior to working on Noir, but I didn't want to be rehashing old stories. The Discworld setting lends itself to an infinite number of adventures, so we made the effort to create an entirely new plot, drawing from various film noir influences such as The Maltese Falcon, To Have And Have Not, The Big Sleep and Casablanca. Casablanca isn't exactly film noir, but we'd chosen so many Bogart films as source material that it was obvious choice.

There are some similarities between the characters of Vimes, as seen in the books, and Lewton. Was this deliberate?

Not initially, but during script writing it became apparent that Lewton was the person Vimes would have been if just one decision had been made differently... a sort of mirror-universe Vimes. That was the origin of the conflict between the two characters within the story.

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