Footprints Games - Detective Gallo interview
Step aside, Sam Spade. Move over, Philip Marlowe. Make way for the unflappable Detective Gallo!
Actually, beneath his cool exterior, it’s pretty easy to ruffle Gallo’s feathers – quite literally. That’s because the eponymous star of Footprints Games’ upcoming comic-noir adventure is a chicken. Not the cowardly kind; he’s actually pretty brave, particularly when his trusty revolver is cocked and aimed at criminals (or anyone else who happens to annoy him). No, I mean he’s an actual rooster, and he’s winging his way through the most bizarre investigation of his life. There’s “fowl” play in his city, and the killer has flown the coop, so it’s up to Gallo and his exhaustive list of rules to bring the perpetrator to justice. I’m here to crow a little about this lark of a game, and talk to the developers behind it.
Okay, enough with the avian puns (at least, the intentional ones). Really, though, it’s quite in keeping with the spirit of Detective Gallo. Although very much influenced by classic film noir, this game continually subverts our expectations for laughs. Yes, the star is a gruff, hard-boiled (that was an accident!) private eye with very little patience and even less tolerance of fools, but the city populace consists entirely of anthropomorphic birds, while the “murder” victims are five exotic plants. The deceased aren’t the only important flora in this story, either, as Gallo is assisted (mainly by keeping quiet) by a potted cactus named Thorn. Sound bizarre? Welcome to Detective Gallo.
Apart from its highly unusual premise, Detective Gallo is very much a traditional adventure in all other respects. Featuring a simple two-button (look, use) point-and-click interface, beautifully hand-painted graphics, an absorbing jazz-noir soundtrack, quality voice acting, and a host of inventory puzzles, this is a game that was clearly inspired as much by the adventure genre’s golden era and television cartoons as the movie mysteries of the forties.
Don’t believe me? No need to, as there’s a playable demo available from Detective Gallo’s crowdfunding page on Eppela. Set right at the beginning of the game, this substantial sampler will introduce you to Gallo, Thorn, the unrequitedly smitten (non-)love interest Candy Bop, and more zany birds. The puzzles won’t go easy on you either. As you freely travel between interactively-dense locations, you’ll acquire a great number of items needed for obstacles that require outside-the-box thinking to overcome. There is a hotspot highlighter to help you, though the hint feature planned for the full game didn't make it into the demo, in the form of some useful… uh… pointers (sorry, but not a bird pun!) from Thorn.
If the thought of a badly-mangled translation of an Italian comic-noir adventure concerns you (and it normally should), rest assured that Detective Gallo is going the extra mile to get it right. And I can say that with first-hand certainty because I’ve been helping with the English language script editing. While that may give me added incentive to want to see the crowdfunding campaign succeed, it also gives me greater confidence that the final product will deliver, and I wouldn't say so otherwise. Having said that, once you’ve played the demo you’ll have seen as much as I have, so where it goes from here, even I don’t know.
What I do know is that a lot of care is going into the creation of Detective Gallo, and it would be a shame for it to not make its very modest fundraising goal. For those who, quite rightly, are turned off by the thought of signing up for yet another crowdfunding platform, in this case there’s no need to do so for those pledging through PayPal. So do give the demo a try, and I’m sure no further encouragement will be necessary. But for a little more insight into the creation of the game and the developers behind it, turn the page for my interview with Footprints’ co-founding brother team of Francesco and Maurizio De Angelis.
Jack Allin: So, why poultry and vegetables? I’m getting hungry just thinking about the game.
Francesco De Angelis: So are we! Jokes apart, we like roosters and plants in any form, especially in noir version. Just imagine: a never-ending night... a world full of overconfident and tough characters... and then all of a sudden you discover that roosters are punks or detectives, and plants are victims or assistants. In short, it’s a pure comical contrast, with a touch of the bizarre.
Jack: For those who haven’t yet checked out the demo, please give us an overview of Detective Gallo.
Maurizio De Angelis in caricature
Maurizio De Angelis: Detective Gallo is a point&click comic-noir adventure, wholly hand-illustrated and hand-animated. Thanks to his cactus assistant, Detective Gallo has to investigate the serial murder of five exotic plants... and then the case will get more intricate than ever...
Jack: This is clearly not your average, everyday world as we know it. Tell us more about this unusual city and its even more unusual inhabitants.
Maurizio: It’s a dark and deadly city populated by roosters, hens and chicks. Like Candy Bop, who is the parody of the "femme fatale" of noir movies – but in our case, she has totally fallen in love with Detective Gallo who, instead, cannot stand her. The general atmosphere of the game is serious (murders take place... punks endanger the streets... crime is everywhere...) but it clearly looks funny. And the funniest thing is that all the characters take themselves seriously! Like our baby punk, for example: the worse Gallo treats him, the more the baby punk manages to match up to him.
Jack: Detective Gallo himself is a strange bird (literally). What can you say about his odd collection of quirks and foibles?
Francesco De Angelis, cartoon-style!
Francesco: Gallo hates everybody. He’d kill everybody, but he can’t... He knows he must behave like a civil rooster. Yes. By tolerating everybody. And by behaving like a professional private investigator, strictly following a list of rules that allow him to control himself.
Jack: He does seem to have an enormous (and often curiously specific) list of rules. Assuming rules #1 and 2 don’t prevent asking about the Rules of Gallo, just how many rules are there on the list?
Maurizio: Gallo is happy that numbers are infinite, so his rules can be infinite too! He’s created rules for every occasion of his life: for his job... (Rule #1 of Gallo: Be competent, critical and careful), for action... (Rule #101 of Gallo: Don't shoot your mouth. Shoot bullets), for when he doesn’t want to admit he’s unable to do something... (Rule #111 of Gallo: If you don't have a green thumb, be trigger-happy).
Jack: Gallo is clearly not the most sociable of fowl, but still… a cactus for a sidekick?
Francesco: Actually, Gallo wants to always be right, so he hates people because people can criticize him. That’s why he prefers plants: because they don’t speak at all. And that’s why he chose a cactus as his assistant: loyal, portable, silent. The perfect assistant!
Jack: I have to ask… does Gallo actually know Thorn is “only” a cactus? Or does he believe Thorn is really a living, breathing, speaking character with his own personality?
Maurizio: Gallo would just reply “Details…” to these questions! And he wouldn’t like to be contradicted!
Jack: Although more Duckman than The Maltese Falcon, clearly this game has a distinctive noir vibe. What are some of your influences along those lines?
Maurizio: We’ve mixed together thriller-noir moods from Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Rex Stout with the most famous “comic detectives” of videogame history, such as Sam & Max, Tex Murphy and Sly Boots!
Jack: And then the flip side, what kind of comedic inspirations helped make Detective Gallo the humorous game it is?
Francesco: After getting inspiration from the TV series DuckTales and cult-comic Dick Tracy, we took as comedy references some of LucasArts classic game protagonists (like Guybrush, Ben and Manny).
Jack: It’s pretty obvious you’re longtime genre fans, as Detective Gallo seems to be very much cut from the classic adventure mold.
Maurizio: We are true fans of graphic adventures (our favourite videogame genre): we’ve played a lot of adventures (and we’re still doing it) for a very long time. We could not even breathe without graphic adventures... no, ok, we could do that. But they are really our (second) life!
Jack: So tell us more about your team. Who is Footprints Games?
De Angelis brothers: We are two brothers, Francesco De Angelis and Maurizio De Angelis. Francesco, electronic engineer, is the tech soul of the game who created the GUI and programmed the whole script. Maurizio, writer and illustrator, is the artistic soul in terms of character design and animation. We created Detective Gallo’s story together and founded Footprints Games as an indie development company in 2012. Last year, two important collaborators joined us: we are talking of Mauro Sorghienti (color supervisor) and Gennaro Nocerino (soundtrack composer).
Jack: Is there a thriving adventure game market in Italy? If nothing else, it seems your publisher, Adventure Productions, is determined to carve out a healthy niche for adventure games there.
Francesco: The world of Italian indie developers is really thriving! Many projects, many ways to make videogames... so exciting! We are being constantly monitored and encouraged by Adventure Productions to improve the game more and more... and we are doing our best to create a game with a personal style not only for Italy, but also for the international market. Let’s cross our fingers!
Jack: You’re asking for funds to help make Detective Gallo a reality, but you’re not using either of the more internationally well-known crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter or Indiegogo. What is Eppela, and why did you choose that platform instead?
Maurizio: The decision to run the campaign on Eppela and not use the most famous crowdfunding platform in the world was obviously tough, and we knew we might lose some potential backers by doing it… on the other hand, Eppela has been incredibly supportive from day one and even offered us to co-finance the campaign for a third with one of their sponsorship programs, Postepay Crowd. They really love adventure games and have already done a couple of (Italian-only) successful adventure game campaigns, so at the end of the day we decided to trust them even for an international campaign. It would be nice to see the backers acknowledge their effort and give them (and us!) a chance!
Jack: Are there any major differences between Eppela and Kickstarter?
Francesco: Actually, I don’t think there are big differences. You have all the standard options: they only require normal profile information and you have the option to be completely refunded if the campaign fails. It’s important for the non-Italian audience to understand Eppela is quite a big player in Italy: it has supported successful campaigns very well-known in the international audience (like Rockin’1000) and run important crowdfunding campaigns in our country, like the ones for the city of Milan and Crowd4africa). All that’s to say they run a serious business.
Jack: One major difference I’ve noticed is that it’s possible to pledge support for the game through PayPal, though the process isn’t quite as straightforward. Can you explain how that works?
Francesco: Sure, thanks for asking! We often saw that backers don’t want to register for platform after platform after platform… and rightfully so! So we figured out how to offer everyone an alternative payment method using PayPal: after choosing your reward, you can go to our official website (https://www.detectivegallo.com) and choose to pay through PayPal. At that point, we will directly receive your pledge amount and then add the money on Eppela using our personal account. Of course, all the guarantees for backers remain: full refund in 24 hours if the campaign doesn’t meet the goal, and full freedom to change/delete the pledge at any given moment.
Jack: How much of the game is done already, and what kinds of things need crowdfunding to finance?
Maurizio: The game is currently almost 80% done in terms of development. All the dialogues, puzzles and locations are ready... but with the support of our crowdfunding campaign, we’ll be able to add new in-game animations, new cutscenes, better beta-test puzzles to balance difficulty and fix bugs... and last but not least, implement EFIGS multi-language localization and Italian/English speech!
Jack: Well, it looks like a very fun game, and I’ve had a closer look than most, so I wish you all the best in your campaign. Can’t wait to see the finished product!
De Angelis brothers: Thank you, that’s very nice of you! We are very happy with how the game development is going... we also can’t wait to see the finished game, but obviously we know that the path to release is still going through many graphic improvements and so much beta-testing, in order to make the game experience the best possible for our fans!