Secret Files: Tunguska - Jörg Beilschmidt interview

When Secret Files: Tunguska first appeared on the adventure scene last year at the Games Convention in Germany, its impact was much the same as the historical natural phenomenon it's based on. Completely out of the blue, the game arrived unexpectedly, it shone brightly and dazzled, and then took off like a flash, leaving the landscape permanently changed by its presence. In the aftermath, a bunch of wide-eyed, open-jawed adventure fans were left to pick up the pieces, asking ourselves "where the heck did THAT come from?!"

Okay, maybe the analogy doesn't quite hold up to the massive explosion of 1908 that devastated thousands of miles of Siberian forest in a disaster that still hasn't been adequately explained. But Secret Files: Tunguska certainly caught a lot of us off guard and left us impressed and looking for more. Co-developed by two relative unknowns in Fusionsphere Systems and Animation Arts, just who were these guys, and what did the game have in store for us? With their game having released in Europe a month ago and in North America just recently, we felt it was high time to take a few moments to speak with Jörg Beilschmidt, the Lead Game Designer.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Let's start off with a nice, easy, relaxing question: what REALLY happened in Tunguska in 1908? Okay, maybe that's not so easy, but it's such a unique mystery, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the real historical phenomenon.

Simple questions deserve simple answers: I haven't got a clue. Really. The problem is, we have spent a long time researching the historical facts behind the Tunguska catastrophe (in 1908 a flying object which has not been identified up to the current day crashed into the Siberian steppe, exploded and left behind a massive trail of destruction). We then tackled a wide range of different conspiracy theories (of which there are some ... well ... unusual ones). And because this wasn't enough for us, we spiced up the mixture of facts and theories with a generous helping of our own fiction. I am now no longer sure what is fact, theory and fiction. But didn't a certain Wladimir Kalenkow write a interesting article on the Tunguska phenomenon?

It's a fascinating event, but not particularly well known, possibly because of its remote location and age. What was it that drew you to Tunguska as the topic for your game?

That's exactly it: the subject is fascinating but still relatively unknown. We didn't want to have our adventure set yet again in Atlantis or Stonehenge. And the Tunguska catastrophe provided us with so much material that in the end we had to throw lots of material overboard, as it would have easily been enough for two games.

The game revolves around a modern day fictional account of Tunguska, but obviously you had to understand your subject matter pretty thoroughly. How much research into the actual event did you do?

We spent approximately two weeks searching the Internet for information, in order to find out whether the subject really contained the substance we were expecting. After we had confirmed this, we spent another 2-3 weeks doing intensive research. And despite this, questions still repeatedly occurred during development, which required a large amount of research work. If we design another ten adventures involving secret mysteries, we should be able to call ourselves experts without a doubt.

So why an adventure game? Surely you've heard that there's no market for adventures anymore. What made you believe you could be successful creating a point-and-click adventure in 2006?

Counter-question: Is there a market for average quality games of a different genre? Generally speaking, good games thrive and also generate correspondingly good sales figures. (Exceptions prove the rule). We "simply have to" deliver a top-notch product and then hope and pray a little. Additionally, we all love the adventure genre and just thought that it was about time again for a good old traditional adventure.

Had any of you worked on adventure games before?

Not directly, but as game development is generally quite an adventurous thing, we were able to fall back on some experience. We did of course take a look at all the competitive titles over the last few years, analysed their strengths and weaknesses and checked out the respective forums. This insight corresponded almost perfectly with our perception so we "just" had to realise our vision.

So tell us a little more about your team. At least in the English-speaking world, it seems Fusionsphere and Animation Arts arrived out of nowhere.

Our core team consists of three people, who have all known each other since our time together at Ascaron Entertainment. We worked on The Patrician II together there. We parted ways for a brief while, then the graphics studio Animation Arts was founded, then Fusionsphere. I was occupied with my Political Sciences degree as the time and was not really happy with it, so that the call from the other two with the idea to work together was really welcome for me. The team was added to with freelancers as necessary according to our needs so that we had up to ten employees at times.

Any noteworthy anecdotes from your time developing the game? Unexpected obstacles, late night crunch sessions, anything else we'd never guess from playing such a polished final product?

Unexpected obstacles? Yes there were a few. Sometimes we only worked ten hours a day. And we did even treat ourselves to completely free weekends. Of course only at the beginning of the project. And very rarely. Hardly ever. Actually never.

And otherwise? There are many things that any normal person would consider as extremely strange, but which are perfectly normal in the games world. That's why we love our job so much. Or do we hate it? I'm not always sure myself...

How did your relationship with Deep Silver come about? I believe this is also their first adventure as a publisher, so it seems an unlikely partnership at first glance.

Sometimes it's the little things that make the difference. Deep Silver gave us the feeling right from the beginning that they believed in the title. And we gave them the feeling that their belief was justified. The co-operation, I think, has proven both sides to be right. Both parties have explored new territory and were rewarded for it. We didn't have to think about alternatives, when considering the continuation of the co-operation. Doesn't that sound terribly harmonious? Yes, I'm sorry, but it's really true.

Despite being your first adventure, the game shows a very fundamental grasp of traditional game design, so you're obviously no strangers to the genre. What games would you cite as being influences, either on you personally or your professional approach to Secret Files: Tunguska?

Of course every one of us has our own personal favourites. Simon the Sorcerer II is a candidate as is Day of the Tentacle. Subconsciously they have also influenced us without a doubt, but even if there are people who accuse us of wanting to copy a style (yes, they do exist...) Secret Files: Tunguska is simply our own idea of a great adventure.

Continued on the next page...

Secret Files: Tunguska available at:

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Game Info

Secret Files: Tunguska

Platform:
Android, iPad, PC, Wii

Genre:
Mystery

Developer:
Animation Arts Fusionsphere Systems


Game Page »

Worldwide September 29 2006 Deep Silver
Europe May 1 2008 Deep Silver
United States June 30 2010 SouthPeak

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Secret Files: Tunguska

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