Interview

by Laura MacDonald

 

Forever Worlds appeared on the gaming horizon like a breathe of fresh air. Though I adore sequels to great games series and personally canít get enough of the tried and true adventure localesÖ It is wonderful to experience something entirely different. Even the title, suggests something entirely newÖ.something truly original. The developers Courtland Shakespeare and Peter Faluisi have created a fanciful universe in Forever Worlds. With the addition of the talented folks at XVIVO, who contributed visual artistry on this exciting project, Forever Worlds has an amazing look. This eclectic team has created a first person adventure game that will transport the player to non-parallel dimensions, where the rules of logic and reality no longer apply.  This is instead a place where magic meets fantasy.

 

The story line takes you back to the glory days of sci-fi fantasy. Think of the fantastic worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne. Remember characters like Doc Savage and Buck Rogers. 

 

We begin with a paleontologist, Doc Maitland. He has spent his life searching for a mythical tree deep in the Amazonian wilds.

Suddenly, the good doctor vanishes, seemingly without a trace.

 

   
 
   

 

His daughter, Nancy, is left behind with this perplexing mystery. Frantic to find her missing father she enlists the aid of an old family friend, Dr. Jack Lanser, hopeful that his skills and knowledge will aid in her quest. While trying to find his old mentor, Jack stumbles into a doorway to a chain of non-parallel worlds. He must now find his way through these worlds, change the future in his own time and ultimately save himselfÖ.from the perils of the Forever Worlds.

This all sounds like very serious business. You know.. save the world, the father Öget yourself back from an entity that has stolen your body.  Fortunately, for our future fun, the creative minds behind Forever Worlds do not take themselves as seriously as all that. The dialogue is crisp and high camp. There is a tongue in cheek approach that regards even heroic missions and the hero who braves them .. as well.. maybe not as glamorous as they are thought to be.  Truth be told, this saving the world stuff is hard work and not always appreciated. Sigh Ė but a hero has to do what a hero has to do Ė So Jack goes off to save the day and of course he needs your help.

So pull up a chair, grab those old comics, turn on the old sci-fi movie channel and rummage through that attic box for your old pair of 3D glasses. We are set to venture into the realm of the mysterious, the bizarre and the fantastic. The satiric universe of Forever Worlds ÖÖ fade to black.
 


Recently I had the chance to field some questions at the Forever World Developers and hopefully ferret out some more details about this new game.  Peter Faluisi, Production Manager and head of Production for Hexagon was kind enough to respond.

 

The box art for the game has a classic old school Sci-Fi look to it. When I read the plot teasers for Forever Worlds, I am reminded of the science fiction of the 30ís and 40ís and cult movie classics such as Buckaroo Banzai.  Much of it was very tongue in cheek. What inspired you to develop the story line and graphics style for Forever Worlds?

Peter Faluisi:    Yes, itís true, we were talking about what was missing in so many of the new PC games and some of the topics that came up were how creative and original the old sci-fi stories and cult movies were. Buckaroo Banzai is still fresh today with its innovative story elements and its strange sense of humor. We love the interesting stuff that gets ďout of the boxĒ and takes you places that surprise you. Players are so experienced today and know all the clichťs and are a bit jaded, so it gets harder to surprise and entertain them. Thatís what we wanted to do. We wanted to make everyone smile and have some fun again while playing a game.

 

The trailer is pure gold. Loved the humor. Would you call Forever Worlds a comic game or does it have more serious overtones as you play?

PF:   You might call it an adventure satire. As much as we love to play adventure games, they can often border on melodrama. So when something comes along that is fun AND makes you laugh, itís kind of special. We didnít think there have ever been enough games like that. We intentionally went after the flavor of satire and the idea of sending up some of the notions of fantasy and adventure. It is still a game all the same, and there are tasks that have to be solved in order to progress through the story, but it is definitely a target rich environment for funny dialog. We try to break the mold when we can.

 

I have read that Forever Worlds is going to be "a pure adventure game in the traditional sense". I love that quote and see it cropping up all around the web. What do you mean by that statement?

PF:   Pure adventure always used to mean exploring exotic places and figuring things out. If there were a category called Adventure in movies, I think The Wizard of Oz would be in there. Dorothy meets strange and exotic characters and figures out how to defeat the wicked witch and it all takes place in a world that the viewer has no way of actually visiting. The only way to get to a place like that is by watching a movie or playing a game. It is a unique space. We tried to invent a world or a place like that. The rules are different there. You have to figure them out. Itís like landing in a different dimension. I think that is traditional adventure. Thereís too much reality as it is.

 

The main character is Jack Lanser, the adventurer scientist on a mission to find a missing scientist, save the world and I assume get the girl. How would you describe Jack and his relationship with some of the other main characters in the story?

PF:   Jack Lanser is just like you and me. He is an average guy, but he gets into an unusual predicament and has to find his way out. We like to think of him as having a past as an archaeological detective, without being a field guy on a dig. He solves problems for other people. He makes mysteries disappear. He solves them. But he is also not a cardboard hero figure either. He has his faults. His buddy and companion in Forever Worlds is actually an enchanted lizard who helps Jack understand the strange place he is in and makes a few wisecracks while he does it. I really think everyone is going to like Ix. He is very, very likeable as far as cold-blooded reptiles go.

 

The game synopsis mentions "unusual characters and animals to interact with." What could you tell us about the some of these?

PF:    Yes, we tried to come up with something different for the creatures you meet too. I think there are some surprises there. There are gigantic butterflies and some guys we just call fillers, because they arenít really people after all. They are just these guys in a virtual world who pretend to be somebody, but who really arenít. Youíll see.

 

The character of Ix is a companion in the game. When he makes observations, are these integrated into the dialogue and/or game play or is his participation level optional with the player?

PF:   Ix is constantly with you once you find him. He wants to stay with you, because you are his ticket out of a boring place. He talks to you when he has something to say and it is usually significant or amusing. You canít turn him off. I donít know why you would want to.

 

Any characters that you identify with or that are patterned after real personalities?

PF:   There are no real personalities depicted here and really no comparisons to specific people or characters anywhere else, but we did have a little fun with the formula where there is history and archaeology and professors and everyone is called Doc, but there are no references to Aztecs or Egypt or Atlantis. We are in the world of one manís past lives and a conspiracy that takes place over 70,000 years - approximately.

 

I think that well crafted dialogue can take a good game and make it great. One of the make or break aspects of this seems to be the quality of the voice work. , I enjoyed the choices made for the Narrator, Jack and Nancy in the trailer. Are these actors set as the voice talent for the final version?  If not, how and when will these parts be cast?

PF:   Yes, those voices you heard are in there. The dialog was a lot of fun to do and we have a great script. It was a lot of fun.

 

What process did you for the voice/audio portions of the game?

PF:   All audio including ambient sounds as well as vocals need special attention to get them right, which means getting them appropriate for the visuals. We talk a lot about the ideas and what characters are trying to express and who they are and what they should sound like. Then we go to samples and listen to actors and try to get an idea of what would be right. We may try quite a few voices and different treatments and try accents and inflections and effects processing too in order to try and get it right. We are very pleased with what we have.

 

I am curious about the puzzles or challenges in Forever Worlds. Many adventure gamers typically want to know whether the puzzles are inventory based, free standing, .. Without spoilers or more detail than you feel comfortable with. What can you tell us about this aspect of the game?

PF:   We did go the inventory route, but with some unusual applications of the pieces. We wanted to challenge the player with non-clichť items. For example, there is not a single key in Forever Worlds. There are some doors you will need to figure out how to get into, but you will never need to find a key. The player needs to think and experiment a little.

 

I am sure that the many fans of your earlier works will be following the news as Forever Worlds gets closer to release. From the teasers I have run across, Forever Worlds looks and feels quite different. How would you compare the graphics, style and other game aspects with the Jewel games?

PF:   The Jewels games were very atmospheric and you would sometimes spend a lot of time in front of one puzzle device. The player didnít wander around much or explore. The puzzles were not hidden or sequenced in any way. You could play them in any order on any level (hard or easy) and keep track of what you completed by how many jewels or tokens you gathered. Forever Worlds is more about exploring and figuring out how to escape this strange place you have landed in. It is still very atmospheric and you might like to visit it in real life, but that is never going to happen. This place is filled with magic. But then, so was Jewels. I mean there was an inverted, pyramid-shaped rock that talked to you in Iambic Pentameter (the Oracle). In Forever Worlds, however, you can actually go ďbackstageĒ and explore the maintenance area of another dimension. I like that feature. I canít think of another world where you can do that.

 

One of the aspects of games that really grabs me personally, is the ambient sounds, music and other subtleties. What can you share with us about these features of Forever World? Who will you be using for the music portions of the game?

PF:   Steve Sauve, who did the audio and music for the Jewels games is on board for Forever Worlds again. He is always great to work with understands those subtleties so well. The audio always makes the images come alive. It makes or breaks a game or a movie. I am a huge fan of movie soundtrack music and am convinced a great score can make even a bad movie really enjoyable. Itís all about getting it right.

 

I hate this question, as I think it is always the quality of the game that matters. But it is one that gamers frequently ask. How long would you estimate the game play in Forever Worlds?

PF:    We estimate it at 25 to 30 hours, but in an adventure game that is probably the most difficult thing to predict. It all comes down to the player. In some of the action games, it is a different question, because so much of the action is timed and the player is not necessarily supposed to take time to explore or loiter in a particular place. In an adventure game, one player may figure out a task or challenge in a few minutes while someone else is driven to the bookstore after a week to check out the hint book. It depends on catching all the details or missing something and having to go back and things like that.

 

Has the process of game development and publishing changed significantly since your work with the Jewels games and if so how?

PF:   Absolutely! The technology has made an extraordinary difference both on the authoring side as well as the player side. We had chains on our hands and legs when it came to doing 3D environments or animation or even having more than 256 colors to work with. Those early days in the 1990s were painful to work in, especially because it was the transition time between early versions of all kinds of software and video compression technology was in its infancy. Jewels had the biggest QuickTime video window for its time. But it was more about the gameplay and Jewels turned out to be the granddaddy of puzzle games. It was hugely popular and is still referenced as a benchmark. Today, with graphics acceleration and full color and faster framerates, it is a pure joy to see. Itís such a spoiler now.
 

 

As I was reading about some of your activities I was impressed. How do you manage your work in other areas and the hours needed to develop game Forever Worlds?

PF:   Itís all about temporal compression algorithms. I exist in parallel dimensions simultaneously.

 

Aha, Well that explains it heh-heh  My next question is, what enticed you to develop another game? It is very exciting to see you guys involved in a new project and my gaming heart is thrilled about this game. But is has been a while since the days of Jewels, which is still selling on the market. So, what did it take to draw you back into the raucous world of game development?

PF:   I never get tired of interesting stories or new ideas and I am constantly thinking and talking about entertaining ideas with people. Everybody likes cool looking pictures and exotic places and an entertaining story. Itís what keeps us going to the movies and makes us keep buying new games. The trouble is, a lot of the new games give us more and more of the same. There are subtle changes and increased realism and stuff like that, but we always need more innovative, fresh ideas Ė especially ones that feature some humor. I really miss some of the old favorites that still haunt me. I loved playing them and played them over and over, because they were great. Today, I canít play them any more unless I resurrect an old processor from the basement and dust it off. But then we thought, why not make an old style, slightly crazy, off-beat type game with a cool story and interesting characters and put it in an exotic location and have some fun with the adventure category? The Adventure Company loved the idea too, so Ė here we are!

 

What sort of graphics or game development technology is being used to develop Forever Worlds?

PF:   We are using high-end 3D packages like LightWave, Maya and 3DS Max and Virtools Dev to make this game. This allows us to do high-polygon count (hi-res) images for the 360 navigation nodes and the animations and also makes it easier to put together chunks of object oriented code with Devís Building Blocks technology. It is an amazingly sophisticated environment, but one that lets us prototype very quickly.

 

I have noticed that Mac users are increasingly left out of game releases. Any possibilities that Forever Worlds will be ported to Macs?

PF:    I donít know. There has always been a shortage of players for Mac machines. Itís just not known as a gamerís platform even though a lot of developers work on Mac machines. At this time, I canít say if Forever Worlds will appear on a Mac. Macs are for working on. They are such serious machines. PCs are for playing. Thatís a joke. I work on both.

 

I have seen the phrase "intuitive interface" used to describe many games. To the techno-challenged, could you explain what this means in terms of Forever Worlds?

PF:   Intuitive usually means easy or obvious in that there is little or no keyboard involved and all you have to do is click one mouse button somewhere and everything you want to know or do will happen. The less interface in a game, the better. In a spreadsheet program or an authoring program, you can take a year or more to learn how to use it well and become an expert. In an intuitive interface game, you donít need to be an expert. You just want to get to the next level. Forever Worlds prescribes to that sentiment.

 

There has been a lot written or speculated about the growing market of women particularly as adventure gamers. What do you perceive to be the market for Forever Worlds and was there any consideration in the game given to the emergent growth market group of female gamers?

PF:    Female players have always been there. Maybe they didnít grab a huge profile or make themselves well known, but they were always a huge part of the market whether playing or buying games. I know the Jewels games had a huge female following. But kids liked the games too. It was all about fun and figuring things out and getting into the atmosphere of the place. Those games were never adrenaline pumpers or twitch games. Forever Worlds is also for the General audience. There is no nudity, foul language, violence or stuff like that. Entertainment doesnít always need that spectrum of activity to be enjoyed. Look at the Pixar movies. I love every one of them.

 

I have interviewed many people who have to juggle family, work and whatever else there is when they are deep into game creation. Then there is the struggle for funding, personnel and such. Any advice for those out there?

PF:   Just never give up.

 

Well this has been wonderful and I look forward to further developments as the release date draws near. Any parting words for all the gamers eagerly anticipating your new title?

PF:   Just enjoy the game and have fun. Forever Worlds is full of surprises and should make people smile. It is definitely not a typical adventure game. Keep checking www.AdventureCompanyGames.com for updates.

 

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