Interview with Lorraine Lue
Product Manager for The Adventure Company, Europe
by Laura MacDonald
Of all the games due out from The Adventure Co this late fall and beyond, the one that truly interests me is Atlantis Evolution. Why? Good question. For one, it looks different from their other games. Certain aspects of the graphics have a fanciful look to them. The characters are not cartoonish, rather they are slightly exaggerated, as in graphic novels. The other reason is I have never quite given up hope that a game with ďAtlantisĒ in the title could be based in Atlantis with actual Atlanteans and other such good stuff. Well, hereís what the press clippings sayÖ
So I trudged over to the TAC booth hoping to be happily surprised and expecting another shell game Ė where Atlantis is just a word on a box designed to take our dollars and break our esoteric loving hearts.
Once there, I had the good fortune of meeting up with Lorraine Lue. Besides being articulate and enthusiastic, she has an obvious appreciation for adventure gaming and Atlantis Evolution in specific. Working within DreamCatchers for over 7 years, she has been based out of the Paris office for some time. (Tough place to work, lucky her!) She also reminded me that we met way back, when she had the position of PR person for DC in their Toronto office. I flashed on her name and it was really nice to put a face with a familiar name after all this time.
The Adventure Co. Europe (TAC)
LM: So as it turns out, I am interviewing someone from back in the day. .*laugh* This is so amazing. I can see you have a full working version of the game here on the PC. This is great, because I heard it was really different looking. And yes, it is!
LL: Well, now remember this is not even a beta yet. So we are still working on it.
LM: Fair enough.. When are you guys looking at for a possible release date?
LL: Maybe late October thru November.
LM: You think you will make that target date?
LL: I think so. Well they are moving forward. They have got a lot of their structure there. Not all of it is optimized, but itís looking really good. The cinematic are ..well, Iíll let you judge for yourself.
Edit: Since this interview, TAC has announced the game has gone gold, so target release date looks solid.
LM: A lot of the recent games that TAC has released all seem to look the same. It is refreshing to see something a little different. AE has a surreal quality to the way the characters look. I read somewhere recently, that the stretch for ever-increasing realism in games is bad for gaming. That they think people want some escapism factors built into their gaming and donít really want them to look just like real life.
LL: Well thatís actually what the developer wanted. Thatís why they also chose the exaggerated cartoon look. The Developer, who is based out of Paris, is A.I.E. or Atlantis Interactive Entertainment. Some members of the AE team were part of the original group that made Atlantis 1, 2 and 3.
So they have come back again. But, everything is different from the earlier games. They wanted to change the look and feel of the game. They have added new effects. Itís still a proprietary engine, where it is point and click, cinematic and things like that. However, as you saw in part of the scene from the game, it uses real time integrated graphic enhancements like water effects. So, the combination of game playing and cinematics is well balanced because it will feel like you are playing an animated film.
LM: Well you have a lot of new people coming into adventure gaming right now. It seems like this style of graphics wouldnít alienate the classic adventure gamers at all. Yet, it may also excite the new style of gamer, who wants a deeper story than they have found in other genres. These people are interested in more story intensive adventure gaming, but they also prefer games with an individual look to cookie cutter graphics. Was this a factor in the direction AIE took with the look and feel of the game?
LL: Thatís good news. Because, this is the first thing that we have out that has this style of characters. The developers really wanted to create a fantasy environment. The only thing that ties into Atlantis the known myth is that Atlantis is an underwater city. This game isnít trying to recount historical data or stuff that people think might have happened. This is pure fantasy.
LM: I think that is the way to go with an Atlantis based plot. It should be an original premise. Hey, the name of our heroís ship is the Lemuria! Ahhh, thatís great! I wonder how many people will pick up on that name?
LL: Yeah it came from Platoís account. The developers, they have little hints built into the game story and actual game play that reference Platoís story about Atlantis.
LM: So they put in that little layer of detail for those who are fans of the Atlantean myths or those who just prefer such background tidbits in their games. Thatís a nice touch. Now how much involvement with Atlantis do we get in this game?
LL: Let me show you. I am going to play through a part of the game here. You will notice that as we go through the game, you will actually meet Atlantean people. You will see Atlantean guards, places and life.
LM: Oh Ė at last!! You know that is a popular grief topic on the adventure sites. They have all these games that have been made, released and such about Atlantis. But not one of them really places the gamer IN Atlantis. The only place you see Atlantis is in the game title.
LL: Exactly! This IS Atlantis. The entire game is placed inside the fabled place that Plato and others wrote about. You spend your entire time after you are shipwrecked in Atlantis. You also will spend time in a floating palace, where the Atlantean gods live. But even then, you are in Atlantis the entire time. You will play the entire game in all of the Atlantean worlds. What you will discover is that you are actually in ďNew AtlantisĒ that was created years after the original Atlantis was destroyed.
LM: Great! People should be happy to hear this. To change subjects, since you are playing through some of the game now. What can you tell people about the inventory set up?
LL: Well, I am just going to pick up a few items here. This will show you how easy the inventory system is to manage. Now we can combine items while they are in your inventory or outside of the inventory.
LM: Oh so you just pick it up and if it can combine with something, it does this automatically! No dragging it over or figuring out if it is used with an existing item by trial and error. Really nice feature!
LL: You will also see some strange looking paintings. You can click on them and these are hints. These paintings actually depict the Atlantean Gods.
LM: These guys look a lot like the guard characters in the sci-fi show, Star Gate. This game has such a nice look to it. I love these graphics.
LL: Another thing with inventory. Letís go over here. The door is locked and you canít get in. So, we are going to use our knife. We are going to try and pry this open and there.. itís opened.
LM: You mean for once in a game, if you have a knife you can actually use it to open the door! Donít you hate that? You always play these games where there is a locked door and you have all these things you should be able to use to open the door like a knife, a lock pick or something. But nooo, you have to go find a piece of paper wet it down into the shape of a key, harden it with dry ice and use it to open the door.
LL: * laugh * No, here the puzzles are all logical. And when you donít need an item any longer, it doesnít just sit in your inventory. It goes away.
LM: So, you donít have to cart it around forever. Then later on run through reams of items trying to get to the things you need.
LL: Right. You also will get these weird glasses and you start discovering there is some strange technology going on here. Now the saved game feature isnít integrated in this mode. So, I have to play through this part. Now in this scene you are still in the space ship. You are looking down. You can see you are traveling across some sort of terrain and then you look down and you see what appears to be a village. All of a sudden you get beamed down. Then guards show up. These guards actually work on behalf of the Atlantean gods to keep the village people inline. Because, you will see a contrast exists between the two groups. Thereís very high tech stuff, as in the space ship. Whereas, the villagers live very simply. The Atlantean guards are really very cruel. They act to suppress the people, to mind control them. They are more like peasants. So, your goal is not only to escape this place and get back home, but also to free these people.
LM: I can see why so many people were impressed earlier at E3 with this game. How is the Atlantean village set up?
LL: Let me jump to a part where you can see this part of the game. Now as you can see itís not Roman based or like any other historical idea of a village.
LM: Youíre right. Definitely has its very own look and style. I also think the detail they have integrated into the environments is very nice. The textures are great looking here.
LL: Now, letís walk around and talk to this gentleman here at the village well for a bit. We are asking the guy what is going on here. What is with the people in the village? Why isnít he using a pulley on the well? But to get here, in the game you have to first escape the Atlantean guards you saw earlier. So they are now looking for us. I wanted to show you another kind of puzzle here. Our character, Curtis needs to find some water. Heís been lost at sea and traveling. He really needs a drink of water now. So this guy we were talking to goes off to find the head chief of the village. In the meantime, you take the rope that is lying by the well and the bucket and you combine them together.
LL: (contíd) So the headman arrives and he says, the Guardians are going to come get you. They will re-align you and everything will be fine then. Your reactions is of course, Time to leave.
LM: Definitely! I am glad you brought up dialogues. How are they handled in the game?
LL: We donít have all the music or voice tracks laid in yet. They just started recording the voices this week. So we have some of the sound effects available now, just not all. When we have the voice tracks in Ė you can choose your topic in dialogues. You can also always come back, after you have done something else and talk about any topics you may have passed up before.
LM: So you donít lose your opportunity to ask a question, just because you skipped it the first time around?
LL: No, you donít lose any dialogue choices. They are always there.
LM: I noticed that particular part of the game just has the actions going on. Are there going to be sub-titles used when the game is completed?
LL: Yes, there will be a subtitle feature.
LM: Well, euro gamers and others will be glad to hear that. Now there must be some games over type moments in the game. For example, if you stay around that one place too long, I assume the guards arrive and ďRe-alignĒ you. Oh grief, I hate it when that happens.
LL: * laugh * Oh ok. Here we go, let me show you that. If you run into one of the guards, he shoots you with a stun gun. Iím not very good at this puzzle, itís where you have to dodge the space ship beams and hide from the ship and the guards. Oops thereís the ship, gotta get out of here and hide. Too late. * laugh *
LM: So what happens here when you get caught? This is often a big concern for adventure gamers. Are there games over moments and if so, how are they handled in the game?
LL: You actually can restart again.
LM: Oh good. So it just takes you right back to where you were before you got caught?
LL: He doesnít actually die, he just gets stunned.
LM: Ok this is good. People will definitely be happy with this news.
LL: Wait I really want to show you is the graphics in this area and how they change from where you were in the village. Ok, here are some more animations and graphics.
LM: Wow, the animations are so good. All those little side events going on. Is this through out the game build?
LL: Yes, thereís always something moving in every scene. So it doesnít just look like beautiful screen shots or backgrounds. Another nice feature is the clothing. In this game he actually has to go and change his clothing so he can blend in and hide from the guards. These clothes donít just magically appear on him.
LM: Ohh, that is truly gorgeous. I like the fact that clothes just donít suddenly appear also. They really seem to have been attentive to all the little details of this game. Can you look overhead or change viewing perspectives?
LL: Yes. Well, I havenít gotten too much further than this in the game.
LM: Thatís fine. Well I think people can get a great idea about the game and too much more might spoil it for them a bit. I will say I am very impressed by what I have seen and heard here today. Thank you so much for taking the time to go through the game and talk with me. Sure was nice finally getting to meet you!
LL: No problem. This has been great!
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