Ingmar: An important part of your production story is a successful Kickstarter campaign. Looking back, what was your strategy for crowdfunding, and what advice would you give to other indie developers who are considering doing a campaign?
Liviu: There were so many factors contributing to our success, but the very first public outreach we did was towards the AdventureGamers.com community back in late 2014, when very little of the game actually existed. The support and encouragement we got was crucial in gaining enough confidence to take the plunge into full-time development.
Kickstarter is scary, and it seems to be getting tougher to fund games on the platform with each passing year. Luckily, adventure games seem to fare particularly well there, compared to other genres.
I'd suggest that developers show their game as early as possible, and encourage and incorporate feedback. Also, don't ignore your local gamedev communities! We shamefully had no idea so many people from our own country would have our backs until we timidly posted about Gibbous in a Facebook developers group. Most of our backers came from the US, but Bucharest was the #1 city we got pledges from, so keep this in mind and reach out to people near you.
And finally, Kickstarter is all about transparency. We've tried to keep everyone in the loop all throughout the journey, and we were very honest about everything that went right and wrong with the game – every breakthrough, every new feature, every delay, every reason for said delay. Sometimes we get so caught up in making the game that we take a bit too long to update our backers, but every time we do it we try to make an event out of it. It also helps that we have the best, most supportive and understanding backers in the world. We thank them again for their patience, and assure them it will all be worth it.
We're also very pleased to be able to release Gibbous both on GOG and Steam – you can wishlist the game right now, and we'd really appreciate people telling a friend about us. There is nothing we want more than to keep making games, and for that to happen we need everyone's help to signal boost and help us break through the insane amount of PC games releasing every single day.
Ingmar: What adventure game classics have especially left an impact on you throughout the years?
Liviu: As mentioned before, Day of the Tentacle was my first contact with the genre, and it forever burned the combination of cartoons and interactivity into my brain. It's still amazing to see how much expressivity those magicians over at LucasArts could achieve with so few pixels, not to mention how funny it all is. I still hold that DoTT features the best implementation of time-travel mechanics in any video game, ever.
Sam & Max Hit the Road's excellently implemented sidekick mechanic was a big inspiration when we designed Gibbous. Max also heavily influenced our Kitteh, except she's more condescending than psychotic. I'm a huge fan of Sam & Max's creator, Steve Purcell, and can stare at his art for hours.
Grim Fandango was the first game to make me understand how important world-building is, and its Day of the Dead-meets-Noir theme has been inspirational when it comes to weaving together seemingly unrelated concepts. One of the greatest stories ever told in video games.
And finally, The Curse of Monkey Island is by far the biggest visual influence on Gibbous. The high-res art and animation were jaw-dropping back in the late ‘90s – I couldn't believe that world was actually on my screen, and I could walk around in it. I also loved how Guybrush was always on the verge of being antisocial without crossing into jerk territory – sort of like a videogame Seinfeld. I've done my best to keep that in mind while designing our protagonists, and I hope players will find them endearing despite their flaws.
Ingmar: Old-school classics aside, when you look at the more contemporary adventure games you have seen, which ones stand out for you?
Liviu: So many of them! I'll list a few, along with what I loved about them. Machinarium – for the sheer wordless expressivity; Thimbleweed Park – exceptional puzzle design and great art; INSIDE – one of the most memorable third acts in a game ever; Unavowed – teamwork and a real sense of place; Lamplight City – atmosphere and real detective role-playing; Broken Age – superbly crafted through and through; Paradigm – sheer hilarious insanity; Journey – the first game to ever make me tear up; Darkside Detective – visually striking and hilarious; The Journey Down – lovely characters and production values; Unforeseen Incidents – great story and art; Fran Bow – as beautiful as it is creepy; The Last Door – visually unique, excellent atmosphere... And many others.
Ingmar: There are many games in various genres that refer to the works of H.P. Lovecraft (to varying degrees). What are your personal favorites?
Liviu: I do have quite a few favorites, but reigning supreme among them is Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. It's the one literary adaptation where the developers somehow reached into my brain and perfectly reproduced Innsmouth and its inhabitants EXACTLY as I imagined them. It's uncanny! Another thing it has going for it is something that we're doing too, and that is weaving elements of several Mythos stories into one cohesive whole. I'd recommend it to everyone who is into atmospheric games... At least until you get to the shooty part.
As almost-straight adaptations go, Shadow of the Comet is cool, but suffers from awkward controls and the tendency to kill you with little warning or reason, which I find very hard to deal with.
A special mention goes to a game that is very dear to me, Quake 1. Discovering Lovecraft after playing Quake, and retroactively realizing that its unique monsters and atmosphere were mostly a tribute to HPL's work, was heartwarming in the most eldritch of fashions.
Ingmar: Getting back to your own game, what kind of length are you estimating?
Liviu: I'm guessing anywhere between 8 to 11 hours – add a few more if you take your time and examine everything (and you can do that multiple times). To put things into perspective, it takes me around six hours just to click my way through it at full speed when testing.
Ingmar: What's left for your team to do before Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure is released, and when can we expect the game to launch?
Liviu: We are very close now! We're waiting for a couple of translations and the final batch of voices to be delivered – other than that, the game is done. In the following weeks, once we are content-complete, we'll do a backer beta to make sure we squash any bugs that we might have missed, and we're doing everything in our power to release Gibbous this spring. It's not entirely up to us – working with so many different contractors in different countries with different schedules is very tough on planning, but spring is what we are aiming for.
Ingmar: Good luck with the final stage, and thanks a lot for taking the time for this interview!
Liviu: Thanks! You know that saying, the final 10% is as hard as the first 90%? I didn't want it to be true, but it really is. Cthulhu willing, we'll be unleashing Gibbous on the unsuspecting world very soon. Thanks so much for supporting us, it means a lot! Fhtagn.