Game Developers Conference 2013
First posted on 18 April 2013. Last updated on 18 April 2013.
|The Night of the Rabbit|
|Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded|
About the author
Scott Bruner works as a freelance editor and writer and is an avid old-school gamer with a love for both classic and contemporary adventure games. He currently lives in the United States.
This year's Game Developers Conference (GDC), held on March 25-29 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, was a testament to the expo's continual success and growth from its humble origin—in 1988, Trinity author and Infocom alumni Brian Moriarty was among the attendees at the first GDC (originally called Computer Game Developers Conference), when it was held as an informal gathering in a living room in San Jose. In addition to innovative independent game designers, many large game developers and publishers also came to attend this year's event to showcase their current game projects.
Indeed, the expo floor was crowded with the latest technologies, from a virtual reality hand-mounted display to competing 3D graphics rendering engines. Still, there were plenty of opportunities for developers who sought to lead the renaissance of adventure gaming to showcase their work. Despite the chaotic schedule, I was happy to have some time to chat with a couple of such developers on their upcoming game projects.
There were quite a few adventure games announced by Daedalic Entertainment looming on the horizon for this year. A German developer best known for topnotch artistic design in its games, I was able to secure a private briefing with the company's founder and creative director (as well as an adventure game visionary)—Jan "Poki" Müller-Michaelis.
Müller-Michaelis was more than happy to give an update on a couple of his company's most anticipated releases this year. He also facilitated an interview with the designer of another game on which his company is currently providing production duties.
The first game Müller-Michaelis showcased was The Night of the Rabbit. The game was designed by Mattias Kempler, the creator of What Makes you Tick? and the co-creator of its sequel What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time.
The Night of the Rabbit is a fairy tale adventure, which follows the journey of a 12-year-old Jerry Hazelnut as he pursues his dream of becoming a magician. Jerry is joined by the titular rabbit, Marquis de Hoto, who serves as Jerry's master, friend, and compatriot during his adventurous quest.
During the briefing, Müller-Michaelis launched a demo of the game's introductory sequence. It revealed the character of Marquis de Hoto wandering around a desolate fantasy landscape in search of the story of his fable. The opening scene set the stage for The Night of the Rabbit to what might be among the most intriguing adventure games for the year. The game's art style and innocence quickly evoked a singular sense of sincerity and charm.
"This is a world to get lost in. What's really impressive is the richness of the game, and how Matthias has crafted this deep story."
Like previous traditional point-and-click adventure games from the developer, gameplay in The Night of the Rabbit features a typical variety of inventory and logic puzzles to solve, albeit with a few interesting mechanics. The first is that young Jerry has a magic coin which he can look through to identify all the hotspots in the current scene. The second is that, as he gains experience as an apprenticed conjurer, he will gain spells which will provide new avenues for exploration and interaction. This includes the first spell that Jerry learns, which offers the inspired choice of providing hints whenever he is stuck.
Jerry will travel throughout several different worlds, by using magical portals, in order to help the magical creatures that he meets on his journey from an impending darkness. The game features several charming mini-games, including a mini-game of hide-and-seek with an owl-child that serves to provide some of the back story in the magical realms which Jerry will visit.
"The complexity of the worlds offer us many different possibilities [for puzzles]. There are also day and night cycles where different events may occur at different times."
If the game's narrative can match its gorgeous graphics, then The Night of the Rabbit will be an adventure game not to be missed. The game is scheduled for release in May 2013.
The second game Müller-Michaelis showcased was Goodbye Deponia, the third and final game in his company's own Deponia series. Although he was able to share some early insight on this project, he was not able to give a demo of the game. With the game due much later in 2013, he said that the studio was hard at work wrapping up the series' star and legendary screw-up Rufus's epic misadventure.
To fans of the series, Goodbye Deponia will be a return to the sci-fi pastiche world of Deponia, whose influences clearly include Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Matt Groening, and maybe even a little Frank Herbert.
"I put everything I've ever liked into this trash pile of a game: romance, comedy, slapstick, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, adventure drama and tragedy."
Goodbye Deponia starts off with Rufus—true to form—making his biggest "mistake" of the series, which will have dire consequences for his ragtag team of compatriots, the girl of his dreams Goal, and even the entirety of his world. In order to right his wrongs, Rufus will need to create multiple clones of himself to work together to solve his troubles. This new mechanic promises to offer some very innovative puzzles and solutions, not the least of which is how the different versions of Rufus, all of which are playable, will interact with each other.
"It's predictable that when you multiply Rufus, you're not multiplying solutions, but multiplying the problems. Things get very chaotic very fast."
Many new locations will be unveiled in this final game, and fans will finally to get to find out if Rufus is able to save the world of Deponia and win the heart of Goal. Like previous games in the series, this game will be full of slapstick and droll humor. However, it will also explore deeper themes.
"Goodbye Deponia is about realizing you can't solve every conflict in you, but that you can come to peace with them."
The third (and last) game Müller-Michaelis showcased was 1954: Alcatraz. The game was created by American game designer and writer Gene Mocsy of Irresponsible Games. Rather than speaking with Müller-Michaelis only about the game, I was able to have some time to chat with Mocsy on his collaboration with Müller-Michaelis to release his first personal game project.
Mocsy's adventure pedigree is solid, having previously worked for Autumn Moon Entertainment as a writer on A Vampyre Story and Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island. As Mocsy himself is a Bay Area local, it makes sense that the setting for his new game is pulled from his own backyard—the imposing but now closed prison on Alcatraz Island.
"I've had the opportunity to visit Alcatraz a lot and always wondered what it would be like to escape from Alcatraz - that's the greatest adventure puzzle of all. No one has succeeded."
Set in the 1950s, the game follows the adventures of the married couple Joe and Christina who are facing different personal dilemmas. Joe is eager to escape from The Rock where he is currently imprisoned for armed robbery, while Christina searches the streets of North Beach in the Beat era as she desperately attempts to recover the cash from the robbery after being threatened by the local gangster.
For 1954: Alcatraz, Mocsy is using the game engine from Autumn Moon Entertainment but is working with Daedalic Entertainment to develop the game to its "full glory".
Both Joe and Christina will have to solve a number of puzzles in order to escape from their own predicaments. The story is designed to fit not only into the historical period of the game, but the puzzles have been built to offer challenges that can be found in the real world. The game will feature an interface system allowing for easy examination and interaction with hotspots on the screen and will also utilize an inventory system essential to creating and combining objects such as the tools necessary for Joe to make his escape off the island.
"You can find alternative ways to solve puzzles. I didn't want dead ends, but it is possible to die."
In addition, the game will include a jazz score composed by Pedro Macedo Camacho of Autumn Moon Entertainment that will evoke the mood of the time period for the game.
The last stop of my own tour at the conference was with Paul Trowe of Replay Games, who was showcasing Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded. At first glance, the newest alpha build of the game looked pretty impressive.
Set to be released in May 2013, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is to be a complete overhaul of the original game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, released by Sierra back in 1987. Fans of the original game will feel at home in the familiar wingtips of Larry Laffer but can also expect a number of new surprises. While the basic plotline of Larry trying to get lucky remains intact, designers Al Lowe and Josh Mandel have gone to great lengths to add in new jokes, puzzles, and a nearly endless supply of innuendoes to the environs of Lost Wages.
"We kept the locations and the story the same but all the puzzles have changed. The inventory is different. We have also included both achievements for good things and un-achievements for bad things that you do in the game."
Every object in the game will be clickable on every other object and hotspot in the game. Even the top menu bar, featuring an "unzip fly" button, has been completely redesigned.
While the Leisure Suit Larry series may still be a bit of an acquired taste with its hopelessly adolescent humor, this new remake promises to feature a sleek interface that is easy to navigate and many new jokes that are rather creative. Nostalgic fans may shed a tear over the loss of the text parser, however.
Development of the remake would not have happened without the successful fundraising campaign launched at Kickstarter last year that raised over $600,000 USD (and over $700,000 USD with pre-orders). Not surprisingly, Trowe expressed a great amount of enthusiasm for the crowdsourcing process to raise funds for game development.
"We thank our backers regularly for making our dreams come true. This is the greatest team that I've ever worked with."
The success of this remake will determine what Replay Games plans to do with the series, although a remake of another original game from the series is the most likely. How the game fares financially on release will be interesting to watch, since this will be the first of the true spiritual successors of Sierra adventure games to reach the commercial market.
Trowe recalled from his early days working as a beta tester at Sierra,
"There was more pressure at Sierra. It was a public company and we had to ship games when we said we would. We don't have those types of constraints... When we run out of money, we'll pull the trigger."
This year's GDC was a compelling mixture of high profile game studios and independent game designers—all trying to make their mark and drum up awareness to their latest game projects. It was a promising sign that adventure game developers such as Daedalic Entertainment and Replay Games were not just on hand but were getting plenty of notice for their work at the conference.