Simon Woodroffe

Headfirst Productions

Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 08 May 2000. Last updated on 15 August 2009.
Have an opinion? Leave a comment!

Simon Woodroffe
This is a photo of the team at Headfirst Productions. Simon Woodroffe is on the far left wearing the Aston Villa football shirt. Do not be put off by the glum faces, it is just peculiar Birmingham humor!
Simon Woodroffe
Simon Woodroffe
Simon Woodroffe
Simon Woodroffe
Simon Woodroffe
Simon Woodroffe
Simon Woodroffe
Simon Woodroffe

All images are courtesy of Darren Williams, Hasbro Interactive © 2000.

We are privileged to conduct a Q&A with Simon Woodroffe. Woodroffe is the lead designer at Headfirst Productions responsible for the development of Simon the Sorcerer 3D. Simon the Sorcerer 3D is the much anticipated sequel in the Simon the Sorcerer series. In this exclusive interview, Woodroffe speaks of the inspiration and development history behind the series, the technology and gameplay elements to be expected from the sequel, and most importantly, when the game is going to coming out!

Check out our exclusive gallery of screenshots from Simon the Sorcerer 3D!

What (or who) is the inspiration behind the creation of the character Simon the Sorcerer?

Simon is a character that kind of evolved. He's a little bit Blackadder, a little bit Rincewind, a little bit Guybrush... I guess Simon is meant to be the inner teenager inside us all. He says what's on his mind and is a kind of anti-hero for kids everywhere.

Many fans have compared Simon to Rincewind from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, which has already sprung three adventure games. Do you feel the comparison is valid? How does Simon differ from Rincewind?

Rincewind has elements of Simon in him... Or the other way around... The main similarity is the sarcastic sense of humour. The hopeless wizard factor was a simple accident since Simon was originally designed to be a young trainee wizard like Harry Potter.

When and how did the idea to do another sequel after Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe start?

Simon 2 was left wide open at the end and we always knew that we'd do it some day. We need to wait until 3D technology was advanced enough to be able to create Simon's world as we wanted it. We originally started the game back in Summer 1998.

Can you tell us briefly about the development history of Simon the Sorcerer 3D, especially the reason behind the change from 2D to 3D?

The change was brought about as a practical necessity since publishers were no longer interested in a 2D point and click product anymore. I've always wanted to have a go at bringing the adventure genre up to date and Simon 3D is the result of this process. Adventure games have died off in popularity recently and we feel it's because they have remained still whilst the rest of the market was racing ahead of them. Simon 3D redresses the balance somewhat by providing an interface between a classic adventure game and the oh so fickle game buying public.

What are the major technological breakthroughs (such as graphics engine) in Simon the Sorcerer 3D?

The graphics engine from NDL has been integrated with our own AGOS game system (or a new version of it) to create an adventure game scripting language. This means that the designers can spend ages tweaking cameras, lights and ensuring that the scenes in the game are represented to the highest possible standard. Whilst it may not be seen as a traditional 'technological breakthrough', it does ensure that the final game will feature far more lovingly directed scenes than previous 3D games have had before.

The last time we saw Simon he was left lost and bodiless by Sordid, how does the story in the sequel tie in?

Sordid returns from our world with a terrible secret and he and his assistant Runt set about plotting the over throwing over the universe (as usual). Meanwhile, Simon's body is stolen from Sordid by a beautiful female rogue and she and Calypso restore Simon to his former self. He then finds himself struggling to get home whilst defeating the evil machinations of Sordid.

Without giving out the storyline, who are the major characters making a return in Simon the Sorcerer 3D?

The Swampling is there and he's far more of an integral character in this installment. Calypso, Runt and Sordid also make reappearances although one of them doesn't make it to the end (I won't say which!). There's also the Woodworm, Gerald and Max, the Role-players and a whole load of new ones.

Many adventure games now incorporate action, role-playing, or strategy into the gameplay. These games are then marketed as mixed genre titles by their publishers to attract a wider audience. What gameplay elements will Simon the Sorcerer 3D incorporate?

Simon 3D's gameplay is something new in itself as it takes traditional adventure situations and puzzles and puts them into a 3D environment. There will be character interaction (which seems to have died out somewhat!), objects to find and manipulate, some nice 3D puzzles and sub-games as well as exploration and discovery based gameplay. The big difference about Simon 3 over other adventure (except for the graphics) is the control system which is very easy to use and based on the action genre methods of control that the audience is more used to.

Many critics have suggested that the adventure genre is dead. Yet, such pessimistic view seems to prevail only among the North American market. Why do you think there is such a big difference between the North American and European outlook on the adventure genre?

I don't think they're dead so much as 'sleeping'. Sales of adventure games haven't really dropped but costs have spiraled upwards (to make any game) and adventures haven't increased in sales proportionally with other genres. Americans do not like expensive games (and adventures are expensive to make) that don't sell vast numbers of units which is why the genre is becoming redundant to them. They are forgetting that for every spotty teenage Unreal Tournament freak out there, there are 10 families with more money that want games they can play without action and violence. The backlash against violent games in America and the popularity of Harry Potter means that games like Simon 3D couldn't come at a better time to revive the US adventure market.

Did you have any difficulty finding a publisher for the game in North America compared to Europe? Who will be the publisher(s) for the game?

In Europe the game is published by Hasbro Interactive and in America by Southpeak Interactive. We did have to sell the game quite cheaply in America to get people interested but we have faith enough in the product itself. This was a symptom of how the American market works I'm afraid.

What is your favorite design element from Simon the Sorcerer 3D?

That's a tricky question to ask a developer! I guess it's got to be the story and the way everything slots into place neatly at the end. :)

Simon the Sorcerer 3D is being developed by Headfirst Productions. Can you tell us a bit about the history of this company?

Headfirst was formed in 1998 by three ex members (one now departed) of the Adventure Soft UK development team. And that team used to be HorrorSoft before that and Adventure International UK before that so between us we've got quite a pedigree in the industry. We moved our centre of operations to Birmingham and built up a team of young talented individuals to work on Simon 3D.

Is there any plan already for Simon the Sorcerer 4? If not, will there be one?

That really depends on the success of Simon 3. If the market wants adventures, I'm sure there will be a Simon 4 at some point in the future and we have some nice plot ideas for this should it come about.

The original release date was scheduled to be Q2 1999. What are the reasons behind the development delay?

Mainly problems to do with 3D technology that we had never used before. We've learned a lot over the last couple of years and now feel ready to compete with the best 3D games around. We started the game as 3D 'virgins' so the learning curve was steep and treacherous!

What is the current scheduled release date for Simon the Sorcerer 3D?

I believe it's June.... But that's really one for Hasbro. We'll have finished it with 3/4 weeks.

Thank you for answering our Q&A. We are all looking forward to playing Simon the Sorcerer 3D!

• (1) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink