Tristan Lambert

Vertigo Digital Entertainment

Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 19 February 2010. Last updated on 03 May 2012.
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Tristan Lambert
Tristan Lambert is a cofounder of Vertigo Digital Entertainment, developer of Adam's Venture.
Tristan Lambert
Tristan Lambert

All images are courtesy of Angelique Houtveen, Iceberg Interactive © 2009.

Adam's Venture is the first adventure game title for the PC from the Netherlands based independent game development studio Vertigo Digital Entertainment. Founded by former employees of Coded Illusions in October 2008, the studio has recently announced the development of Adam's Venture as a preplanned series of 3 episodic adventure games. The episodes will chronicle the adventures of a young intrepid explorer named Adam Venture as he "ventures" (pun intended) out on a journey of both epic and biblical proportions. The first episode, titled Adam's Venture: The Search for the Lost Garden, published by Iceberg Interactive, will have Adam searching for the mythical Garden of Eden described in the Book of Genesis. The unique biblical theme sets this game apart from other adventure games that dare to only draw similar casual references. The game is built using Unreal Engine 3—admittedly an unusual choice of a game engine by a developer who is creating an adventure game rather than a first-person shooter.

We are privileged to have an opportunity to interview Tristan Lambert, cofounder of Vertigo Digital Entertainment, about Adam's Venture. In the interview, Lambert speaks about the inspiration behind the project, the religious connection to the game's back story, the gameplay and puzzles in the first episode, and what lies ahead for the series.

Check out our gallery of rare concept art from Adam's Venture!

Many developers shy away from creating games with strong religious themes, though causal references to them are quite common. How much do you worry that the biblical references in Adam's Venture may alienate non-religious gamers and religious gamers of other faiths? To what extent does the game preach Christian beliefs and messages?

We don't want to preach -at all- in our games. My two fellow co-founders come from a Christian background, I am a non-believer myself. Nevertheless we all basically feel the same on this matter: we want to make high-quality games first, and incorporate the Christian themes second. We all try treating the subject with the utmost respect, but also in a subtle way. By doing this we hope we've made Adam's Venture into a game anyone can enjoy.

It is difficult not to compare the game's main character, Adam Venture, with Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. To what extent do these characters differ? Which real life explorer, if any, does Adam most closely resemble?

Adam's not nearly as well educated as Indy, nor does he live in a huge mansion like Ms. Croft. He's not especially afraid of snakes, and he really shies away from tight outfits. Seriously though, I think the main difference is that Adam is a true anti-hero: Indy and Lara would have probably picked on him in kindergarten.

Who are the major secondary characters in Adam's Venture? How do these characters differ from the archetypical cast of misunderstood villain, aloof mentor, faithful companion, and damsel in distress?

I can only talk about a couple of characters at this point without running the risk of being a major spoiler, but here goes:

First of all there's Evelyn Appleby, long-time friend of Adam, and by no means a damsel in distress: she's an extremely independent woman, especially for the 1920's. She comes from an upper-class background, and is gifted with a healthy dose of sarcasm. She has a love-hate relationship with Adam.

Then there's professor Jacques Saint-Omair, scientific representative of the Clairvaux corporation, that funds Adam's expedition in episode I. He's basically an impatient grumpy old fellow, who can't stand Adam and his inability to take anything serious. Yet, he grudgingly puts up with him because exploring perilous caverns is not one of his strong points.

Last but not least, there's Adam's dog Digger. Ok, ok, I'll admit it: he's the archetypical faithful companion. But I mean...he's a dog! What did you expect?

How large was the core development team for Adam's Venture? When did development begin for the game? Which parts of the game's development were outsourced?

The core team was relatively small at the start of the development process. About six to eight people have worked in-house on Episode I. This was possible of course, because of the huge library of art content we acquired from Coded Illusions. We worked with several other former Coded employees on a freelance basis to create or perfect the animations, music, voice-acting and storyline. Our company size has quickly increased since then.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of developing a game in episodic format? How does the episodic format change, for better or for worse, the workflow of the project?

The biggest advantage, I'd say, is early feedback. We're really trying to listen to all the comments we get about part I, either good or bad, and are using them to make an even better game of part II. The disadvantage is that we have to stay on top of our game, to finish the episodes at regular intervals whilst continuing to improve ourselves. Uhm, no wait: that's also an advantage.

However, in terms of workflow this does complicate a few things, as we need to manage different production stages of the episodes at the same time. This remains a challenge.

Adam's Venture is built using Unreal Engine 3. Why is the decision made to use this engine? The engine is known for its difficult implementation. What are the major difficulties of adapting this engine to build a game that is not a first-person shooter?

That decision, for us, was a no-brainer. We gained lots of experience with the use of the Unreal Engine at Coded Illusions, and are especially impressed by its excellent toolset for artists and level designers. The main problem for me, as a coder, was getting used to the "Unreal way" of getting things done. Working with Unreal seems to demand a particular style of coding that, for me, wasn't always immediately intuitive. Getting the hang of it sometimes seemed like a puzzle game in its own right.

What kind of gameplay can gamers expect from Adam's Venture? How much does the gameplay involve action elements such as platforming and shooting? How long is the gameplay for the first episode?

In terms of gameplay Adam's Venture leans towards the old-school adventure games I used to play as a child, but with a touch of climbing, jumping and crawling added in. Shooting, for us, was not an option. We wanted to make a game with non-violent gameplay: partly because of moral reasons, and partly because I usually feel like it distracts from the strong points of an adventure game: puzzles, story and atmosphere.

The graphics in Adam's Venture are stunning, especially the dynamic lighting (such as the random flickering of the torch when lit inside the underground caverns). What indoor and outdoor environments will Adam get to explore in the game? Which environments are the most difficult to model? Why?

First of all, thanks for the compliment! I've passed it on to our artists, and took the opportunity to ask them your question. They tell me each environment has its own unique challenges, the fact that each cavern in Episode I has a totally unique shape took a lot of time compared to for example an urban environment wherein streets, and buildings tend to repeat. On the other hand, caverns are usually much more sparsely populated with all kinds of props, saving a bit of time when doing the level decoration. In episode I, Adam will remain underground almost the entire time, but as the series progresses players will be introduced to a large variety of surroundings.

The Crusades (and the Knight Templars in particular) have always been a great source of inspiration for stories in adventure games. An excellent example is Revolution Software's Broken Sword series. Which parts of the history of the Crusades and the Knight Templars will Adam's Venture explore? How much of the game's story is historically accurate?

The Crusades and Knights Templar theme is only used as a side story in episode I, and will not play an extremely important role in general. For episode II we have been doing quite a lot of research to add historically correct details, in addition to the many Biblical references. We feel this just adds a certain level of depth to the story, and besides I'm a freak for history.

Vertigo Digital Entertainment was founded by former employees of Coded Illusions after it ceased operation in October 2008 because of financial troubles. What lessons had you learned about the game industry, business or otherwise, from this experience?

Our choice for smaller project and team sizes, without having to rely on external investments has obviously been influenced by the events at Coded. Furthermore we learned a lot about the importance of having a clear focus, not betting on a single horse and avoiding all of the countless other mistakes we had the privilege to make during the Coded Illusions era.

What is your opinion on the current state of the adventure genre? To what extent does the future of the adventure genre rest on smaller but passionate game developers such as yourself?

I think the importance of digital downloads cannot be underestimated for the future of the adventure genre. Shelve space tends to be fairly limited, when compared to the room that's left on the internet. This means smaller companies now get a much better chance to co-exist next to the big guys. The adventure genre seems to be in much better shape than a couple of years ago as a result. Uncharted, in my opinion, is an excellent recent example of the continued importance of larger companies for the future of adventure games. Such a huge production is very difficult to realize by a small company such as we. That doesn't stop us from trying though.

What lies ahead for Adam's Venture as a series? What stage of production, beyond conceptual drawing, is the next episode at currently? What is the intended release schedule for the rest for the series?

We want to release episodes in series of three, with each of those episodes being about 8 months apart. We've just started actual production on episode II, which means we're creating levels as we speak. Adam has left Eden's caverns this time, so that's a nice change for our art team. Of course we hope Mr. Venture can look forwards to a bright future, and our early work on the second episode at least seems to confirm this.

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