First posted on 27 February 2009. Last updated on 06 April 2012.
|Markus Tuppurainen is the cofounder of BugFactory, developer of The Tales of Bingwood.|
All images are courtesy of Markus Tuppurainen, BugFactory © 2009.
Markus Tuppurainen is the mastermind behind The Tales of Bingwood, an indie point-and-click adventure game inspired by classic LucasArts adventures of yesteryears. Currently planned as a trilogy series, The Tales of Bingwood tells of the adventures, or rather misadventures, of a boy hero named Tombrandt Driftwood who must rescue the Royal Princess from the Evil Wizard who is wrecking havoc in the Kingdom of Bingwood. Despite a familiar theme, The Tales of Bingwood is full of fairy tale charms that will appeal to old and young gamers alike.
We are privileged to have an opportunity to interview Markus Tuppurainen, cofounder of BugFactory, about The Tales of Bingwood. In the interview, he speaks about the inspiration behind the game, the long development period that the game has endured, the trials and tribulations of being an indie developer, and what adventure game fans can look forward in future episodes of the series.
Check out our exclusive gallery of previously unpublished concept art from The Tales of Bingwood!
- What inspired you to become an indie game developer? What programming experience did you have prior to this project? Why did you choose to develop an adventure game?
- Bingwood development team BugFactory, which was set up in 2008 as a venue for developing and distributing hobby game projects, consists mainly of two members. Personally I'm mostly involved with design and art related tasks whereas Carl Granberg has taken on himself to tackle the programming side of things.
As both of us are already working full-time in game development companies, becoming an indie developer on the side was not something we planned. Our collaboration began when we took part in a small game dev competition on our free time. After finishing the first title, scraped together in a measly 11 days, we immediately started to plan the next project. It was to be a 1st person 3D adventure set in the futuristic earth, titled "Day of Wrath".
Carl had been working on his own 3D engine and he quickly set to creating the editors and tools necessary to build the game environments. Few months into the project, after having failed to find one or two enthusiastic 3D artists to lighten our burden, we decided to shelve the project as too ambitious for a team of two. We're still hoping to continue the project one day.
As the adventure genre is something both of us have always enjoyed, and as we needed something of more manageable size to suit the size of our team, an old project of mine raised its head again. The Tales of Bingwood had been in the works a couple of times before with different programmers, but the momentum had waned and died on both occasions. Now, with Carl aboard, the completion of the first chapter finally felt achievable.
- What is the premise of the storyline in The Tales of Bingwood? Who are the major characters in the story?
- As the title suggests, the action takes place in the village of Bingwood (which is also the "capital" of the kingdom of the same name), where the royal family has just had a clash with the Evil Wizard resulting in the kidnapping of the Royal Princess. Tom the fisherman's son is nearly unanimously chosen by the villagers as the rescue team to bring her back.
As Tom takes on the effort he quickly finds the way out of the village so effectively blocked that he will need the help of the villagers to find an alternative way out. This in essence is the major obstacle and goal of the Chapter I, the rescue effort then continues in the installments to be released later on.
Nearly all citizens of Bingwood have some influence on whether or not the hero is successful in his endeavors. Still, some characters are given more screen time than others. It's the combined expertise of the Hermit and the Sage that ultimately provides the way out of the village. It's up to the rest of the villagers to provide the means to put the plan into fruition. Finally, the King and Queen deliver the details about the kidnapping and hints about the nature and personality of the villain.
- What classic adventure game characters, if any, inspire the character of Tom (Tombrandt Driftwood) from The Tales of Bingwood? Is it a coincidence that he bears a striking resemblance (even in name) to Guybrush Threepwood from Monkey Island?
- The similarities are quite obvious for sure. To properly explain it I will tell more about the conception of the project.
The idea for the project was conceived in the early 1990s. I had just finished playing through Monkey Island 2, and I couldn't come to terms with the fact that the game was really over. Back then there were no walkthroughs readily available, and the completion had literally taken weeks. As the game was finished, there was nothing left to satiate the emerged Threepwood addiction.
I concluded that in order to have more of the same, I'd have to make it by myself!
I decided that the setting, story and characters couldn't be borrowed, but the most important ingredient I wanted to capture was the humor and the overall atmosphere of the great adventures of Guybrush.
Even with the similar attire with Guybrush in the first Monkey Island, I didn't strive to make Tom a direct carbon copy of him. Tom is a poor fisherman, like all his ancestors before him... or was, until he developed an allergy to fish! This is the setting in which, while searching for himself and his new purpose in life, Tom is graciously volunteered by the villagers to save the Damsel in distress.
Tom's last name "Driftwood" was decided on very late in the project. Not only did it suit the family with long line of fishermen, but it also served as a conscious homage to Guybrush.
- Development of the game had started but eventually stalled at least twice in the past. What practical lessons about indie game development had you learned from your past experience working on the project? How did you finally succeed this time?
- The biggest challenge in getting the project started 15 years ago was finding a programmer! In the barbarous time of landlines and BBSs we were finally lucky enough to find a skilled programmer, involved in the Amiga demo scene, living just one street away from us. He soon became convinced of the "worthwhileness" of the project, and set to work. Not long later we witnessed the hero walking and zooming in the first two linked scenes.
This was as far as the project went at that first time. The programmer was adept only with Assembly language, and everything so far was hard coded in the purest demo scene fashion.
As the project was picked up again in 2007, I already had several years of experience working in various positions in various game companies. Having some firsthand experience and insight in how games are really made had a huge impact on how the project was handled this time around. With most of the game art already done in sporadic bursts throughout the previous 1 1/2 decades, this time the project moved on with a surprising speed and was finally finished in 2008.
- Bingwood is a curious name for a fairy tale. What is the etymology of "Bingwood"?
- When naming the project I wanted something generic enough to potentially cover more than just one story arc and one main character. This idea was based on pure speculation, back then I couldn't really picture even the first trilogy ever being finished. This is why I started the name with "The Tales of". Coming up with the name of the kingdom/village took a very long time. Around the change of the millennium, during the second effort to get the game done, I was reading "The Liveship Traders" fantasy series by Robin Hobb. The books featured a lively trade port called Bingtown, and the name kind of rubbed off on me. So, Bingwood it was then! The name stuck and a few years later I was too used to it to even consider replacing it with anything else.
- The Tales of Bingwood is advertised as a classic 2D point-and-click adventure game. What kinds of puzzles can gamers expect in the game?
- The player is required to solve mainly logical inventory and fetch puzzles and to interact with the citizens of the village to find key information about how to proceed in the quest. Bingwood lives up to its ancient spiritual heritage, and features no separate action parts, mini-games, mazes, memory and sound or color puzzles. Just pure adventuring! True enough, Monkey Islands did come with a maze or two, but it was an easy decision for me to not include one in the home village of the main character.
- What is your favorite part of the story in this game (without any spoiler)? Who is your favorite character? Why?
- It's difficult to set apart a single favorite part or a character, easier would be to pinpoint a favorite scene... The encounter with the pirates at the inn would be one of those. Even though the event itself is almost entirely irrelevant to the main goal of the game, it allowed me to have a go at staging an almost genuine Monkey Island experience! I do also have a soft spot for the Evil Wizard, and I'm looking forward to giving further depth to his character. Same naturally applies to Tom, but that's a given him being the protagonist and all...
- The Tales of Bingwood is built using a propriety editor and engine called AWE (which stands for either "Adventures Without Effort" or "Adventures With Ease"). Why have you chosen to develop your own tools (including AWE and the Dialogger) for the game, rather than using other popular readymade tools such as Adventure Game Studios? Is there any future plan to release these tools, either commercially or freely, to other game developers?
- I have given a try to some editors in the past, but I was always put off by something I found difficult to grasp. This is not to say they were badly made or overly hard to use, but that I've always preferred a teacher who can show how things work rather than trying to decipher cryptic manuals. When Carl took on the project, he didn't think twice about using existing editors, but wanted to make the tools by himself. That's just the way he is wired. I didn't object, at least I had a teacher handy, and I could also have some influence in the functionality of the editor.
AWE works as a comprehensive resource database for all the images, sounds effects, music files, voice lines etc used in the game. It allows for the designer to place the resources into the scenes and assign scripts (written in a scripting language of our own design) to them. The scenes can finally be previewed with a push of a button. When the game is finished, AWE also packages the game into a binary file.
As the game progressed, we continuously came up with some new features that needed to be added into the original editor framework. Towards the end of the project there were so many additions that in order to implement them neatly, it would've been necessary to remake the editor from scratch. This is probably the biggest reason why we're not seriously considering making the tools available for the public. It's fine for us, knowing what each thing does and how it's used, but documenting all that information would be a daunting task, let alone someone else having to read it!
- How did you cast the voices for the game? How many auditions did you screen? What was your experience in using Voice123 to recruit these talents? How and where were the voice recordings done?
- As we started to seriously consider having the game voiced, I stumbled on the Voice123.com site. I posted the project with information about the game and the characters, and in a very short time we received dozens of applicants. I quickly spotted the best matches and contacted them for further details. Overall the process was very quick and simple. The actors recorded the lines in their own studios and delivered the final lines digitally. As we were dealing with the actors directly, there were no middlemen taking a cut from the fees, equally benefiting both parties.
We were lucky to find Casey Mongillo, whose voice was exactly what I had wanted Tom to sound like. Anthony Reece (from www.voicetoons.com) took it on himself to voice over 20 different characters, which is a feat in itself! Anthony was also responsible for involving Lani Minella in the project. She has been doing voices for hundreds of games and is somewhat of a legend in the business.
- Only a few indie adventure game developers have ever achieved commercial success with their game releases. What advice can you offer to other indie developers wanting to develop their own adventure games commercially?
- We weren't originally planning to add a price tag for Bingwood, it was all just about making a game and having fun while doing it. Around the time we decided to invest money for the voice over, we felt it was in our rights to try to get the initial investment back somehow. Although we have reached that goal by now, we don't quite as yet feel qualified to give advice for commercial success ;)
Having completed an independent project is an achievement in itself; the net forums are full of projects that in the end will never see the daylight.
- Chapter I: To Save a Princess is the first chapter for The Tales of Bingwood. How many chapters are planned for the series? When is the next chapter scheduled for release? How long will each chapter be?
- The current story arc is planned as a trilogy. Naturally, if people like the game and it sells like crazy, nothing is preventing us from continuing the series beyond that. There is still plenty to explore in the neighboring kingdoms.
Chapter II: The Shady Forest is currently in the works, and we hope it will take less than 15 years to finish! The series continues to be developed on whatever free time we have (a rare commodity sometimes), and our careful estimate of the release is in late 2009 or early 2010.
The chapters will all be of approximately same length. The most experienced gamers seem to spend around 3 hours with the first installment; some have reportedly spent 10 hours or more.