First posted on 12 September 2008. Last updated on 06 August 2009.
|Dmitry Vasilchenko is General Director at Litera, the developer of The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober.|
|The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober|
All images are courtesy of Anastasia Savchenko, Akella © 2008.
Dmitry Vasilchenko is General Director of the Russian game development company Litera. In 2008, Litera is preparing the English language release of 2 new adventure games for the PC. The first title is called The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober, and the second title is called Diamon Jones: Amulet of the World.
- The following interview was originally conducted in part in Russian. It was translated to English and edited.
The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober is a comedy adventure inspired by Italian, US, and Russian movies set in the Wild West. The Russian language version of this game has been available in market since January 2008. Localizations to several other languages are currently being planned by Litera, and the English language version of the game will be published by Russian developer and publisher Akella in late 2008.
Diamon Jones: Amulet of the World is currently scheduled for release by Russian publisher Game Factory Interactive (GFI) in late 2008. This game's humor plays on US movies and games about archeological treasure hunters.
We are privileged to have the opportunity to interview Vasilchenko about the developer's latest game projects. In the interview, Vasilchenko discusses the influences on Litera's productions, the characteristics of the Russian game market, the cracking of jokes and puzzles (Ruskie style, of course), and other work that is currently going on in the company.
Check out our photos of Vasilchenko as well as our gallery of screenshots from The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober!
- Which westerns particularly helped inspire the humor in The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober? In the Russian language version, does the game also include any jokes based on "osterns" (movies that are comparable to westerns but set in the Asian Steppe)?
- There are three films that have strongly influenced the game: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (maybe you noticed the similarity between our hero and Clint Eastwood), The Quick and the Dead (from that movie we borrowed the idea of a marksmanship tournament) and the Russian movie A Man from Boulevard des Capucines ("Chelovek s bulvara Kaputsinov"). The last one is a funny comedy about an odd fellow, who tries to teach people in the Wild West about cinematography. We've taken some good jokes from that movie; one of them was even used as a puzzle.
- The original version of The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober has been on the market in Russia since January 2008. How pleased are you with the feedback from fans and critics thus far? What kinds of extra work have you needed to do for the game since its local release?
- As a whole, press opinion was positive. We also were pleased with feedback from gamers. After the official Russian release we were mostly engaged in the process of game localization.
- What kinds of video games are currently most popular in Russia? How does your home market affect the way you develop your games?
- Projects that are famous all around the world (like Assassin's Creed, for example) are also very popular in Russia. But the Russian market is very special – unusual niche products can be very interesting for gamers. Jagged Alliance and Fallout became cult projects in spite of their average sales in other countries.
The same conditions apply to the market for adventure games. Russian gamers like everything that is uncommon. For instance, the adventure game Scratches was very popular. So we tried to make our game unusual as much as possible.
- There have only been a handful of adventure games set in the Wild West. How does The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober compare to other games in this subgenre, such as Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, Dust: A Tale of the Wired West, Alone in the Dark 3, and Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine?
- These games are very good ones. In Dust you could buy a little bit of "hooves and irons", and in Alone in the Dark 3 you could find yourself turned upside down and having to walk on your hands. However, we oriented on classic games such as Full Throttle. On the whole, we aim for high-quality graphics and humor.
- What are some of the challenges in writing (or acquiring) humorous game scripts? Who do you use as test subjects for the jokes?
- If the joke is successful then we will hear laughter from level assemblers first, then from testers, and others will come running. If we hear them laughing then we can assume that all is fine with our intended humor.
- How much progress has been made so far in the localization of The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober in preparation for the international release? For the voiceovers, which languages will be available?
- We have just finished work on the French release and we would like to translate the game into at least another 8-9 languages. It is true that those who are responsible for the preparation of localization kit would not support it :)
The preparation work for the French soundtrack is being done right now.
- At what point in the design process did you decide to use colorful, cartoonish 3D graphics for The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober? How difficult was it to recruit artists (locally or otherwise) who could successfully implement this artistic style?
- The idea of using the pre-rendered backgrounds came to us instantly. This kind of background gives us the ability to create a beautiful atmospheric location. The game's visual style was born naturally. It did not change much, probably due to our artists' professionalism.
Good artists are difficult to find in this industry and our artists were faced with some challenges during the development of the game. But at the end they proved to be very successful in implementing their artistic style.
- There seem to be lots of black cats, live and dead, in Westtown (the setting of The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober). What—I hesitate to ask—is the story behind that?
- Cats are an issue with us so it is probably better not to ask. They give us nightmares :)
But seriously, the dead cat in the game was influenced by Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. We came up with an idea to create a quest on warts removal... but it was not included in the final release.
- Who do you find to be the funniest character in The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober? Why? Which character is most "real" for you? Why?
- The most exciting character in the game would have to be the Indian, Flying Arrow. He is basically Castaneda's Don Juan type. (If you happen to be reading books by Castaneda you would understand what that means.) Apparently, he channels the forces of Indian shamanism.
The Old Man is perhaps the most ridiculous character for his attempts at bank robbery.
- What player profile did you aim for when deciding on the difficulty level of The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober, especially for action versus puzzle sequences?
- We took time deciding how to resolve puzzles logically. Sometimes in adventure games you have to do things that seem to be not so logical and we don't like that. We expect an ordinary gamer to be able to accomplish them.
- How long has The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober taken to develop thus far? What has been the most challenging or lengthy part of the process?
- It took us approximately eight months to develop the game. The most difficult part of this project was the very beginning which is usually the case. Also, assembling the locations and the removal of inconsistencies proved to be somewhat nerve-wracking :).
- How did you get started in the video game industry? What experience did you have working in the industry before now?
- All of the participants who worked on this project previously worked in other companies such as Burut, SkyFallen, and Orion.
- Litera is currently developing Diamon Jones: Amulet of the World. This game is a comedy adventure and seems to be a satire of archaeologist heroes and heroines such as Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. How far along in development is the game currently? How will this game compare in style to LucasArts' Indiana Jones and Eidos Interactive's Tomb Raider series? What can players expect to find in this game?
- The development of the game Diamon Jones: Amulet of the World is just about finished and we are engaged in the process of testing it. Also, we are coming out with a second part to this game called Diamon Jones: Eye of the Dragon and we have already begun working on assembling the first levels. The main character is an Englishman who is a treasure hunter and he hunts for treasure in every corner of the globe. (In the first part of the game he visits Egypt and Tibet, and the second act takes place in China).
The game has many funny characters and situations as in The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober.
Of the films that would have been the most influential, we would have to say, is the Mummy series.
- Litera has announced an adventure game called Jack's Story, but few details on it have been released so far. Who is Jack—the same Jack as the protagonist of The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober?
- Jack's Story and The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober are different names of the same game. We've just chosen one of them. So our Jack is similar to the hero of Jack's Story.
- What other game projects are on the drawing board for you and Litera? What genres do you want to explore, satirically or otherwise, in the future?
- At the moment we are in the process of testing a new engine which we will use in the development of 3D adventures. So we are not going to change our genre.