Making an indie game, it turns out, is quite hard work. So why did we decide to do it?
I ask myself this sometimes – not because I regret it, but because it’s interesting to look back on how this project has spiralled without us ever really meaning to make that so.
The idea it spawned from was for a short-form free game. It was going to be almost entirely dialogue-driven. The basic concept was there from the start: two people in prison, with one of them trying to get to know the other one. You’d play as Richard, and you’d be interrogating Alice, finding out about her past. As you picked different dialogue options, new options would unlock and old ones would close off, so you could only ever really progress through the game in one fashion, even though there’d be loads of different eventualities depending on the choices you made.
I started thinking more about the story. I knew I wanted Alice to have a fairly troubled past: I’d been thinking a lot about Emily Short’s wonderful piece of IF, Galatea, and how very few videogames have tried to capture the same sort of feel. But the more I started to think about what I wanted to tell about Alice, the more I began thinking about using basic flashbacks to convey this information, and the more the project began to take shape. But also grow. Which is always problematic.
I think this is around the time that A) I’d just released Masked, and B) I started talking to Raze about doing a bit of tidying up of my ideas. Raze is awesome at taking a concept and making it work, plugging in all the gaps, filling in all the cracks in logic. But within about three meetings, what had actually happened is that Raze and I were now envisioning this big, elaborate adventure game where your decisions really mattered and you played through this story as two separate characters.
I think it went in this direction because we were a bit fatigued by adventure games where obtuse puzzles get in the way of the story. Richard & Alice has puzzles, but we formed a mantra right from the start, which is: every puzzle in the game should be there to add pacing to the narrative, not to distract players from it. Does the story need a break at this point? If so, we’ll add a puzzle. Is it heading onwards nicely? If so, we’ll keep letting it head onwards.
We talked about our favourite adventure games, and how many of them are also in fact some of the easier adventure games – or, at least, the most logical, and the least puzzle-dense. We talked about adventures we really wanted to love, but never quite finished, because we got stumped on a puzzle or frustrated by an illogical piece of design. I think Richard & Alice ballooned not because we desperately wanted to spend a year making a game, but because we really wanted to play the end result, see if it could work.
It had become apparent that this was no longer going to be a short free game. So we thought, sod it. We wrote a design document based on the ideas we’d had, we solidified the story and the characters, and we approached Kyra and Yonatan. They did some awesome work. That was the stage I realised we might be onto something: seeing these little guys running around in this world we’d painted, knowing we were about to breathe life into them. It was a good moment.
So that’s why we’re where we are today. We’ll hopefully be revealing more tidbits of information about Richard & Alice in the coming weeks, and press are starting to release previews. There are a couple linked below – we’ll post the rest as and when they come in.
“Thanks to its well-written dialogue and compelling storyline, I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of this extremely promising game.” - Kilted Moose’s Games Blog
“The art style, alongside the melancholy soundtrack, also adds to the narrative, really putting across the bleakness of the world, very reminiscent of Lone Survivor.” – Midlife Gamer
Oh, and we also interviewed each other over on BeefJack.
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- How To Design Adventure Game Puzzles