Danuta Sienkowska, Robert Ożóg
First posted on 28 March 2009. Last updated on 06 April 2012.
If you are a gamer on the lookout for adventure games about artful crimes, ancient mythologies, and global conspiracies—particularly those that feature strong female leads—then you need to look no further than City Interactive's masterpiece adventures: Chronicles of Mystery and Art of Murder.
- The following interview was originally conducted in part in Polish. It was translated to English and edited.
We are fortunate to have an opportunity to interview the project manager of Chronicles of Mystery, Danuta Sienkowska, as well as the lead designer and project manager of Art of Murder, Robert Ożóg. In the interview, they speak of the inspirations behind the storylines of these games, the popular fictional themes that are shared between them, the similarities and differences in the games' gameplay, and what possibly lies in the future for both as a series. Ożóg is even able to answer a few questions about Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer, the sequel to Art of Murder: FBI Confidential.
We are grateful to both Sienkowska and Ożóg for sharing with us the inner workings of adventure game development at City Interactive.
Check out our exclusive gallery of previously unpublished concept art from Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual and Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer!
- The story in Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual mixes mystery and adventure and delves into the history of the Middle Ages as well as popular myths and legends surrounding them. What aspects of the game's fictional tale do you find most interesting?
- Danuta Sienkowska: The most interesting thing in "Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual" seems to be the historical facts about Knights Hospitallers, the treasures of the Maltese Archipelago and biblical tales embedded in the storyline. These are the things that make the storyline myths or new characters more real. I hope that, thanks to this game, a lot of people have learnt more about a stormy history of the Knights Hospitallers, the foundation of La Valletta, and have managed to virtually visit Malta and Gozo – which could become an inspiration for some to embark on real trips to the Mediterranean.
From my personal perspective – seeing that I am an architecture graduate – the things I liked most were the megalithic buildings on Gozo (we inserted the Hospitallers there, which is not entirely true with the historical facts) and the fictitious treasure brought from the Holy Land.
- Besides Sylvie (the heroine), who is your favorite character in Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual? Why?
- Danuta Sienkowska: I have my personal favorite, actually it is a duo – a parrot and its owner. Out of these two characters, my favorite one is Angela. There are moments where her outspokenness simply disarms me. At this point, I should credit the author of all the game's dialogs – Łukasz Pisarek – who managed to convey the character of this parrot while using words sparingly.
- Malta, a main locale in Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual, is deeply connected to the main heroine's backstory. Why is it important to explore such a big part of Sylvie's past in the story? How is this being incorporated into the game?
- Danuta Sienkowska: Undeniably, getting to know the main heroine's history and places where she grew up is essential for the proper creation of her character in the game. As a result, Sylvie becomes more familiar for the gamer, it is easier to identify yourself with her and get immersed in her adventures, victories and defeats.
- What kind of atmosphere are you aiming to achieve in Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual? What storytelling devices are used to create this atmosphere?
- Danuta Sienkowska: The feeling of being on holiday in the south of Europe probably is the most pleasant feature of this game, but this is not the most important aspect of the entire story. The introduction of a mystery from the old times and the powerful forces being able to discover and utilize it was supposed to create an atmosphere of mysticism, conspiracy and threat – this is the ambiance we were aiming at.
- What movies, books, other adventure games inspired the storytelling and cinematic styles for Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual?
- Danuta Sienkowska: We were mainly inspired by Indiana Jones and his adventures – both from the silver screen and the old computer games. You will also find similarities with "The Da Vinci Code", "Broken Sword" series, "Tunguska" or "Art of Murder".
- Both Art of Murder and Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual feature strong female leads, albeit their characters have very different motivations. How do they compare with each other?
- Danuta Sienkowska, Robert Ożóg: Contrary to what you might think at first glance, the motivation is not the only thing that separates those characters. Sylvie is the "streets kid", roaming around the city districts, watched by the neighbors and accompanied by other brats from the neighborhood. She is more self-confident, even impudent. Anyway, to get yourself involved in a story like that, you need to be "naughty by nature". Nicole, by contrast, is cautious, her life is in order. Those features are particularly visible in the first installment of the series, where she is still a rookie agent and makes many mistakes. The protagonist of Art of Murder undergoes a change in the sequel. She is tougher, more resilient, and she copes more skillfully with the criminal underworld.
- Do Art of Murder and Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual share, in part, a common development team? If so, how are the shared projects concurrently managed? How frequently do you share inspiration and ideas with each other?
- Danuta Sienkowska, Robert Ożóg: Managing two projects simultaneously and dividing human resources into two products is by no means easy and requires that we utilize modern methods of management tested in multi-project environments.
On the other hand, sharing ideas and mutual influences are unavoidable. After all, the games were created by the same people. We also need to bear in mind the history of our developing team – the core group comes from Detalion, so we make use of the know-how and experience gained with the older projects.
- Both Art of Murder and Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual feature impressive, atmospheric soundtracks that also include some subtle vocals. Who is responsible for the musical and vocal arrangements? How and where are the recordings done?
- Danuta Sienkowska, Robert Ożóg: Daniel Kleczyński is the author of the musical score. We have collaborated with him even earlier.
- Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer is the sequel to the original Art of Murder. What lessons have you learned about game design from your work on Art of Murder and Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual and their reception by gamers that you are drawing on for the development of this sequel?
- Danuta Sienkowska, Robert Ożóg: We are always open the gamers' opinions. After all, these games are created for them. With every new product, we try to perfect things, improve certain aspects, as much as me can, obviously. For example, "Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer" has a larger number of riddles, mini-games and cut-scenes, making the gameplay more attractive to the eye. It will also take more time complete it than it was the case with "Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual".
- How will the storyline and gameplay compare between Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer and the original Art of Murder?
- Robert Ożóg: The games' action takes place in different countries. The original focuses on the USA and Peru; the sequel focuses on European countries and Cuba. In Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer, we have more logical riddles and cut-scenes to adorn the gameplay. The protagonist's motivation is also important for the game. The investigation she runs is of private nature and is not controlled by the Bureau.
- Will Nicole's mysterious partner, Nick, make a return in Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer? What other characters from Art of Murder will be returning in the sequel?
- Robert Ożóg: Of course, the mysterious partner under the name of Nick comes back and, as usual, saves Nicole from trouble. Our protagonist also makes use of services and advice given by the irreplaceable Ruth. The player should feel like home in the FBI.
- Has Nicole's character changed in Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer as a result of her intense experiences in Art of Murder? In the sequel, will she be much emotionally affected by the gruesome murders or will she become a coolheaded, veteran agent?
- Robert Ożóg: Nicole in Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer has undergone a change – she is no longer a novice in the business, she is more levelheaded and knows how to cope with the criminal underworld. Forget about the inexperienced rookie from the original game, though this does not mean she is free from making any mistakes. It is still hard for her to separate feelings from her work. She is still sensitive to brutal murders, but somehow manages to cope with them better in the long run.