It's been ten years since Carol Reed started looking into her friend Conrad's death while on a summer vacation in Norrköping, Sweden. She, like the rest of us, would never have guessed that this would lead to a thriving private investigator business a decade later. Created by Mikael Nyqvist of MDNA Games, the Carol Reed mystery series now has a strong fanbase around the world, and this year marks Carol’s tenth anniversary as a PI. Her tenth adventure, Bosch's Damnation, is just around the corner, making this an ideal time to find out more about Carol and the indie developer behind her success.
Willem Tjerkstra: The next Carol Reed adventure will be the tenth already. How do you feel about reaching that milestone?
Mikael Nyqvist: I’ve been so busy making the latest game, I haven’t really given it much thought. All I can say is that it certainly doesn’t feel like the tenth game. It seems like we started yesterday, and I definitely haven’t grown tired of the series yet. And I’m very happy that the players haven’t either.
Mikael Nyqvist often makes a cameo in his own adventures.
Willem: Looking back, did you ever imagine when you started that a decade later things would all turn out like they did?
Mikael: Of course not. After completing the first game, Remedy, we weren’t sure if anybody would want to play the game at all. And when people actually started buying the game, we were worried that they had mistaken it for a real game. [smile]
Willem: Do you still like making the games as much as when you started? What part of the process do you enjoy most about it?
Mikael: I’m still just as excited about making games as I was 10 years ago.
Generally, the further I get into the creative process for each game, the more I enjoy the different stages of the process. I really hate writing the scripts; the finished product is so far away, and each new idea for a scene or a setup is like begging for a future problem. I like taking the pictures, and really believe that I’ve become quite a good photographer. The scripting is difficult, since I’m a lousy programmer. It’s rewarding however, since I finally get to see playable parts of the game.
Willem: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? What did you do before you started making adventure games, and what convinced you to try making games of your own?
Mikael: I have been very much into adventure games since Leisure Suit Larry came out in 1987. When I met my wife Eleen, I introduced her to adventure games with the (first) remake of LSL. We played a lot of the classic games together.
I had been making short films since long before I met Eleen, and we often discussed the possibility of making an adventure game. The idea didn’t materialize until (relatively decent) digital cameras were introduced on the market. This made it possible to take hundreds and even thousands of pictures at a very low cost, and without any extra work or time delay with processing.
Scenes from Remedy, the first Carol Reed mystery
Willem: Did you have any prior experience working on games before Carol Reed appeared?
Mikael: None whatsoever. I made short films for 12 years (22 films in all) before we made our first game. I made the last film together with Eleen, which was the same year we released Remedy. I haven’t touched a film camera since then.
There aren’t many technical similarities between making films and games. However, the working process, planning and the amount of discipline required is more or less the same. So I definitely think that making the first game would have been more difficult without our film making experience.
Willem: Is the making of the Carol Reed games a full time job or do you do other work besides it?
Mikael: I absolutely need a more formal job aside from making computer games. That helps me to keep what at least resembles decent hours. I’m a lawyer, and I work for the Swedish Social Security Agency.
Willem: Why adventure games? Do you have a special fondness for the genre, or was that simply the best way to tell the kinds of mystery stories you wanted to tell?
Mikael: As with most people, I dabble in other game genres. The last few years it has been pinball on Xbox and PC (I was quite a pinball master when growing up). But the only genre I’ve been devoted to through the years is adventure games.
I’m especially intrigued by the non-linear storytelling and the genre’s possibilities of merging puzzle solving with narration.
Willem: How did you come up with the idea of making a game about someone who sort of ‘rolls into’ the PI business?
Mikael: This was a very pragmatic decision. When making Remedy, we knew that the game had to be in English, even though it took place in Sweden. We couldn’t hire English voice actors to do all the speaking parts. So we figured that if our heroine was an Englishwoman visiting Sweden, it would force the other characters to speak English with her. That gave us an excuse for the supporting characters’ Swedish accents.Continued on the next page...