Ingmar: I’m under the impression that quite a few people are pretty strict about the genre’s borders. Like, “an adventure game has to be just so, and as soon as it diverges just a bit it isn’t an adventure game anymore.” That’s okay, of course, but isn’t it rather normal that terminologies – not just genres themselves – change throughout the years? Like, let’s say someone would have told me about the concept of The Witcher 3 twenty years ago, I probably would have thought of it as an action-adventure with RPG elements, but not necessarily an actual RPG.
Jan Theysen: I think the question is always why people like to play point-and-click adventures. Is someone part of the fraction that – for 90 percent of them – plays these games because of their stories and characters? Is someone part of the fraction that is primarily interested in the puzzles, or perhaps both? I’d say that someone who primarily plays these games because of stories and characters, and who rather accepts the puzzle gameplay as a “necessary evil”, is not going to have a hard time going to play an RPG instead, an action-adventure, a walking simulator, etc. These games can give him what he likes about games or why he even started to play. On the other hand, for someone who primarily plays adventure games because of their puzzles it’s going to be a lot more difficult to say: “I’m switching to a different genre” or “I equally like to play games from other genres.”
Personally, I primarily play because of the stories, the worlds, and the characters. Therefore, I never say that I’m a point-and-click adventure game fan; instead I say that I’m a story fan or a fan of interactive stories. I don’t really mind if something is a point-and-click adventure, a role-playing game or something in between, as long as the story is good!
Ingmar: Personally I feel very similar to what you, Jan Theysen, described. Of course, at a website like Adventure Gamers we need to have certain criteria, otherwise we could pretty much start covering all kinds of games. In general, though, how do you think the genre itself is going to change throughout the foreseeable future?
Poki: It always did, and of course it’s going to keep on doing so. We can only hope that we might have peripheral equipment at some point that is going to allow us to be in a story in a more immediate way. Who knows, perhaps by that time even inventory puzzles on consoles might be fun. (laughs)
Although not a conventional adventure game, Daedalic's three-part The Pillars of the Earth is going strong, with the finale due out in May
One aspect that has always changed is the interface. From a parser, where it was kind of tough to come up with the right idea, the interface was reduced more and more throughout time. I can imagine that creating an even more immediate feeling would definitely bring some new excitement. I’m talking about something that doesn’t require an enormous effort from players. Keep in mind that you only have four buttons plus shoulder buttons, etc. on a controller, and so you’d have to remember particular button combinations, and you’d only have a limited number of interactive possibilities. It’s a different thing with mouse control, as you can just use your hand to swipe around on the screen, and because you’re not able to do much more with your hand than the two options the mouse gives you. Left-click and right-click could represent two different things, and if a right-click is the equivalent to your head, and a left-click is the equivalent to an interaction with your hand, this can be enough to capture what you’d do in a normal interaction with your surroundings.
Hopefully, at some point technology gets closer to a holo-deck. (collective laughter). Perhaps we’re even going to witness this ourselves. I mean, VR is constantly progressing, and there are A.I.s [artificial intelligences] that can register and interpret voices, and there’s peripheral equipment that can analyze your posture or where you’re looking on the screen. All of this is quite fascinating, and naturally the technical options developers have are going to have an impact on games because we want to make use of what we’re able to do. At the same time, a critical mass needs to have the peripheral equipment at home. VR was hyped enormously, but I don’t know how many people really have VR goggles at home. Are there going to be more in the future? Is VR going to have its major breakthrough at some point? Are there going to be VR games that you need to play to keep on calling yourself a gamer? (laughs) I’m talking about real killer applications!
Ingmar: The kind of system-sellers that games like Rebel Assault and The 7th Guest were for CD ROM devices….
Poki: Right! Wouldn’t it be cool if that kind of system-seller would be an adventure in the future instead of a space simulation or whatever? (laughs)
Ingmar: Time to wrap-things up! However, before we finish, I would like to mention your current projects. Jan Klose isn’t around anymore, but I can say that a sequel to Deck 13’s last action-RPG The Surge was just announced. In terms of Daedalic, a small bit of info popped up about Poki’s next game in the German press very recently… [The company founded a new subsidiary in Munich, where Poki’s new game is going to be produced.]
Poki: Yes, my new game… I have finally found a development team for it. (laughs) This means that we can finally go into production, and I’m very happy about that! The team in question is Klonk Games from Munich, which is probably best known for their platforming game Shift Happens. I’m super-glad that we found these folks, and I’m sure that they bring the right qualifications. In terms of the story, I can’t really talk about the game, though.
Ingmar: I seem to remember that you were quoted somewhere, and said that it’s going to be a 3D game…
Poki: Right! I was quoted…. actually, I didn’t even to want to give that info away yet…
Poki: (laughs) No, no, it was one of our own people who made this public in an interview. But right… since I just got my team together, we haven’t ultimately decided on the look, but it’s going to be a 3D game indeed. My current idea is that it might be a kind of 3D that somewhat looks like 2D. Yet I don’t want to promise too much here. It might take a while until we show the first material, and by then, the game might look entirely different from what I’ve promised in this interview… so… yeah… people can look forward to a new game from me! (laughs)
Ingmar: Is there anything you can tell me about the genre direction that you’re taking with the new game?
Poki: In terms of genre, I can say that it’s not a traditional point-and-click adventure. First, when it comes to the game’s structure and how you solve tasks in the game, it’s anything but traditional. Secondly, at least natively, it’s not point-and-click because it’s directly going to be released on consoles. We are keeping the PC version in mind from the get-go, though, and yes, the plan is that it can be played with a mouse. In any case, we’re talking about an interactive story, perhaps even more than my previous games were. You can expect the typical, underlying, very serious kind of Poki humor. It is a type of game that is definitely part of what your website covers.
Ingmar: The third episode of Pillars of the Earth is currently scheduled for later this month. Is that plan still valid?
Ingmar: What about State of Mind from Martin Ganteföhr?
Poki: Yeah, State of Mind is finally coming during the first half of this year. I’m pretty sure that we haven’t announced a release date yet, but at least I can promise that it’s going to be out before gamescom in August!
Ingmar: Of course, I can’t let you go without asking you about the status of The Devil’s Men…
Poki: Unfortunately, I can’t comment on this, but there is going to be something official on The Devil’s Men at some point.
[Regrettably, the promised announcement wasn’t good. This interview was conducted shortly before Daedalic’s director of communications Tim Krause-Murroni publicly stated that the game had been canceled.]
Ingmar: Jan [Theysen], you’re returning to Kickstarter, this time with a real-time strategy game called Iron Harvest.
Along with a Kickstarter for their new strategy game, KING Art has launched its remastered version of The Raven
Jan Theysen: Exactly! Our Kickstarter campaign is going to launch on the 13th of March [it has since gone live]. Like you said, it’s a real-time strategy game, but with a strong focus on a single-player campaign. So even in this project, characters, story and the game world are going to be important for us. We’re also doing a second game which has not been officially announced yet. Let me say that while it’s not a traditional point-and-click game, this game is a bit closer to the genre, and it should appeal to fans of story-driven games who like dark and scary elements.
Ingmar: Hmm, interesting – that’s some food for thought! I would also to like to mention that the remastered version of The Raven is supposed to be released on March 13th. Seems like that is going to be a busy day for KING Art! Last but not least, since I imagine this interview is going to be read by some German speakers, I would like to bring up a highly recommended video podcast called Dev Play, which features you, Jan Klose and other German developers who discuss industry-related subjects.
Jan Theysen: Right! It’s a group of German game developers that meets regularly to talk about gaming subjects, and answer questions from players. The cast is partially changing, and we also have a guest at times. The idea is to give players some impressions from behind-the-scenes, and to enable them to ask questions they might been wondering for a long time. Like, “why the hell don’t you do the following thing?” or, “why do I never get a reply if send you a message?” (laughs) We try to answer all pending questions and meet once a week to discuss all kinds of subjects that interest the community.
Ingmar: I can only repeat myself at this point… many, many thanks for taking so much time to do this interview!
Jan Theysen: You’re welcome, it was fun! Take care!
Poki: Yeah, it was also great fun for me! See you guys around!