Jesse America

Playlogic Entertainment

Posted by Bruno de Figueiredo.
First posted on 22 August 2008. Last updated on 06 April 2012.
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Jesse America
Jesse America
Jesse America
Jesse America
Jesse America

All images are courtesy of Rick van Beem, Playlogic Entertainment © 2008.

Tales of young sorcerers and evil wizards long walked hand in hand with the adventure game genre. Among the most remarkable and popular adventure games of all time, Simon the Sorcerer was supposedly Adventure Soft's response to LucasArts' beloved graphical adventures. The original version of the game was released in 1993 for the MS-DOS, but later versions were adapted to several other platforms. Inspired by C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, the game told of a story about a modern day teenager named Simon who had been chosen as the savior of a parallel world where magic was more than mere illusion.

Nearly 6 years have passed since Simon's last adventure. The series is now being brought back after the somewhat flawed sequel Simon the Sorcerer 3D. Picking up where our favorite teen sorcerer has left off, the new Simon the Sorcerer sequel, subtitled "Chaos Happens", is to be developed by German studio Silver Style Entertainment and distributed worldwide by Playlogic Entertainment. Our perky hero Simon, years after his original adventure, is once again summoned to open "Ye Olde Spellbooke" and embrace the arts and crafts of incantation.

We are privileged to have an opportunity to interview Jesse America, producer of Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens, at Playlogic Entertainment. America has been kind enough to answer a few questions about the new game and speak about the direction that his team is taking in order to throw the young magician back into the spotlight of point-and-click adventures.

Check out our gallery of rare concept art from Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens!

Headfirst Productions' Simon the Sorcerer 3D was somewhat of a disappointment to some fans of the original adventure series, possibly due to its heavy arcade and action elements. What was behind the decision to revitalize the series so many years later?

We strongly believed in the power of the vision of the original product and are huge fans of those as well. We thought the series needed revitalization and we are confident we succeeded in that regard.

Simon has been an iconic adventure game character for more than a decade, though gamers new to the genre may only know about him by reputation. To what extent has that been a motivation in recreating the character for a modern audience?

We felt that new audiences deserved to experience the magic we had when we were young, and that is why this game was made. We are hugely enthusiastic about what was achieved and hope that the new Simon will enthrall new generations of gamers like the old one did with us.

From its presentation, this sequel seems to incorporate new locations and characters as well as a few familiar acquaintances. What are some of the details concerning the story in Simon's new journey?

Simon hasn't visited the magic kingdom for some years. In a vision after an accident his sweetheart comes to him and asks for his help. When he goes back to the magic kingdom he realizes an evil lookalike has been acting to be him during his absence and Simon plans to set the record straight.

As a producer, you oversee the creative process of game development while providing help in its planning. What particular functions have you assumed in the development of this sequel?

Localization, testing, overseeing the implementation of copy protection, making sure nothing was lost in translation, playtesting the game (a *lot* of playtesting!), scheduling and budgeting and making sure the development studio had everything they needed to bring this title to market and that there were no obstructions.

The character Simon can be easily labeled as a young hero out of place who is always amusing but sometimes sarcastic towards the chaos that frequently finds its way to him. What will change about the character and what will remain the same in this sequel?

Simon has slightly matured and is somewhat modernized but he is still up to his old tricks!

Unlike other fantasy adventure games, Simon the Sorcerer series has established a reputation of incorporating well planned and entertaining puzzles while avoiding the frustration of elaborate labyrinths or timed sequences. How has the team approached the gameplay element in this sequel?

It has become a point and click adventure combining 2d with 3d graphical elements, while keeping the humor and atmosphere of the previous games. To stick to the style of the much loved original was our main objective—but we had to also bring the visual presentation of the title somewhat into the modern age. As for the rest; I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the feel and style of the new game.

The original Simon the Sorcerer from Adventure Soft is very similar in style to the early LucasArts adventures such as Zak McKracken or Manic Mansion. Interaction with surrounding objects and locations is handled by a menu of word coins and graphical icons. How will the interaction system differ in Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens?

Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens uses a point and click based exploration mechanic that is quite easy to pick up and that is very intuitive.

Magic and fantasy have reached a peak of popularity worldwide: the recent success of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books and the movie adaptations of C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia have spawned a new interest among people of all ages. How has this worldly phenomenon weighed on the decision to move onward with this game project?

This project was near completion when the Chronicles of Narnia was announced, so that has little to do with it, but in regards to Harry Potter you have a point. The idiom of the pointy hated wizard with his magic wand and star embroidered robe was obviously deemed not be cool for a very long time. With the advent of Mr. Potter's popularity however, we saw that the iconic presentation of the young, struggling wizard was back and here to stay!

Founded in 1993, Silver Style Entertainment is among the most prominent German game development studios, having collaborated with many major PC game production companies and publishers. What is the collaboration between Silver Style Entertainment and Playlogic Entertainment over the course of development of this game?

Our collaboration had its fair share of obstacles, certainly because it is difficult to work on a project which has been acquired from a developer (and with whom you expect to have the standard developer-publisher relationship), but who is then itself acquired by another publisher who basically is a competitor. That throws up unexpected barriers in the production pipeline which we did not count on. The people of Silver Style however have been great throughout our working relationship and we are very happy with what they tried to achieve on Simon 4; they worked very hard on the title and I think they have a right to be proud of what they've achieved.

The pre-release screens and trailers of the game show a great deal of attention to visual grandeur and details. Whereas Simon the Sorcerer 3D chooses to use highly stylized 3D character models, Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens seems to blend high quality organic 3D models with colorful and detailed pre-rendered backgrounds. What are some of the details behind the development of this visual splendor and the functional decision of using enhanced character models for the dialog scenes?

Well certainly you want to use more detailed graphics after all, since the franchise is very much driven by character oriented story elements. The best way to express those elements is to connect with the viewer and the most relevant way in which you can do that is to make the characters in the game as expressive and likable as possible. Of course, the backgrounds in adventure games are explored with the eyes (not necessarily with the camera), so everything needs to be as clear as possible; that is where the highly detailed prerendered backgrounds of the game come into play. Of course we also really like how the game looks in total and I am very happy with what the development team managed to achieve.

Chris Evans had done a magnificent job in the voiceover work with the previous games of the series, to a point where his personification of Simon had been truly essential to the integrity of the character. What was his reaction to this new sequel and the prospect of becoming Simon once again?

I respect Chris immensely for his work on the series and I would not presume to speak for him. He is a very talented personality who is doing his own thing, and you had best ask him that yourself.

Looking back at previous chapters of the series, they all share a common language while each adds a new twist to the underlying vision for Simon the Sorcerer. To which past title do you think this fourth chapter most closely relates? Why?

I think that we tried to make sure that the game related to the first and second installment the most. I know some people weren't happy with the 3rd installment, so we took that into consideration obviously. All in all I think it is fair to say we looked the most at the first game.

As the game was developed in Germany, it was already available in that market since late 2007. What was the public response to the game so far? Was it an extra motivation for the game's release worldwide? What changes were made to localize the game for the latter release?

The game has been a success in Germany with good reviews. Changes made were all in the context of translating the humor correctly. We had to be careful that nothing would be lost in translation!

Playlogic Entertainment is now taking the big step of preparing the game's release to a worldwide market. Why do you believe the gaming community is ready for the rebirth of this classic saga?

I think Simon has the power to enchant old friends and to attract new people interested in the genre (because of their exposure to the aforementioned Potter series or other similar entertainment), and I really think that is a good thing. We really need to keep this genre and its iconic characters alive.

What will fans of the series find most surprising about Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens?

That Simon is back with a vengeance, and he's lost none of his old tricks.

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