GameBoomers Interviews Jan Theysen, Creative Director and Co-Founder of King Art Games

By Peter Rootham-Smith

GB:     How long have you been making games?

JT:     Twelve years or so. We founded King Art Games fourteen years ago, and for the first two years we didnít do any games.


GB:     How did you get into making games?

JT:     I always loved playing games, the old LucasArts classics and so on. I started making games as a hobby with my partner Marc when we were in third grade. It was always clear that we were going to make games.


GB:    Whatís your role in creating the games?

JT:     Iím a game designer, and a writer.


GB:    What games do you like playing yourself?

JT:     I like story driven games of all sorts, Adventure games, Role-playing games, Action Adventures. I also play occasionally shooters.


GB:     RPGs like Skyrim?

JT:     Skyrim, or Dragon Age which Iím looking forward to. ďWitcher 3Ē is the next big thing Iím hoping to be great, games like that.


GB:    What influences your game making?

JT:     When it comes to Adventure games definitely games like ďMonkey IslandĒ, ďManiac MansionĒ, Day of the TentacleĒ, ďSimon the SorcererĒ, and the ďDiscworldĒ games. But itís really the old-school LucasArts Adventures I like the most.


GB:    What drives you to make games?

JT:     I think itís really fascinating, you start with nothing, a blank sheet of paper and an idea. And then you create whole worlds and characters and story. You do not do it alone, but with many people from very different professions. There are hard-core technical programmers, artists, everyone works together to create something from nothing. Really fascinating.


GB:    Do you every wish you had a 9 to 5 job?

JT:     No. Iím not even sure itís a job. Letís say itís Saturday afternoon, and I think about what I would like to do next. Itís developing a game! Writing or designing something. Itís not like Iím going to work on weekends, itís Iím going into the office to make something I really enjoy. Itís my hobby.


GB:    Do you work mostly at the office?

JT:     Anywhere, but we have an office. Iím basically seven days a week in the office doing stuff, but most of the time itís not work but something I would do anyway. Getting paid for it is extra.

GB:    How do you plan game development?

JT:    My partner Marc is the business guy, heís really into project management. We have pretty good project plans, and we have really figured out the reporting process and controls. It sounds so unromantic because youíre making a game, time and money shouldnít be a factor but obviously it is. Itís really important to think about things like that because otherwise you have a great game, but only half a great game and you have to do the second half in 10% of the time and so on. And then the game becomes a bad game just because you havenít done your homework and planned the whole thing properly.


GB:    Who do you make games for?

JT:    Most of the time its games I like to play myself. Itís always great to be at Gamescom, and to really meet the people who play the games. Itís really fascinating for me. Here for the ďBook of Unwritten Tales 2Ē everyone whoís here doing the interviews played the first game, and most of them liked it! Everybody said they liked it, and I think they really did!


GB:    What excites you about BOUT 2?

JT:    When you do any game, even now ďThe Book of Unwritten Tales 2Ē, you always have ideas which donít make it into the game because they donít fit the story or something else. So you always have this backlog of ideas where you think this would be great in the next game if we could do this idea or take that character and do that. So this is the game in which most of the ideas weíve had in the last five years are combined. Itís really fun to see finally the stuff getting made.


GB:    Do you work on more than one game at the same time?

JT:    Weíre usually working on three games or so at the same time. This is the only Adventure game weíre working on at this moment, weíre still working on some versions of our turn-based strategy game ďBattle Worlds: KronosĒ, the iPad / iOS versions of the game will be released shortly. Weíre doing some other games as well.


GB:    How important is support from Adventure game fans?

JT:    For a developer itís always good to know thereís people out there who like a game, just to get feedback. When people write emails and letters saying ďThank you, I really enjoyed the game, or ďHereís something my daughter and I drew for youĒ itís really sweet because you feel OK, youíre doing something people like, and people are touched by it. This is something that keeps you going because game development is really hard, and itís really tough to get a game done, and it really helps to motivate.


GB:    Is now a good or bad time to be making games?

JT:    In principle itís much easier to reach people with digital downloads. You can reach people all over the world. Ten years ago that was practically not realistic. As a German game developer we could never have sold any game in South America for example. Now we can do all that, thatís not the problem. At the same time there are now so many games out there itís hard to get noticed. Thereís so many games for players to play that itís almost too easy, so many people are making games and this is another kind of problem.


GB:    Would you recommend game development as a career?

JT:    If youíre really interested in games, and love making them, and youíre good at what youíre doing, it can be fantastic. But you need to be aware that most of the time youíre not doing what you want to do. Weíre very lucky with ďThe Book of Unwritten Tales" Ė we can go on to do the game we wanted to do. Most of the time itís not the fairy-tale of youíre doing your game, and everything is super-successful, and youíre getting rich.


GB:    Can games be Art?

JT:    Sure absolutely. They used to say architecture is the greatest Art because it combines all the other arts. In modern days I think itís film or computer games which combine all the other forms of art. Itís music, graphics, itís design, itís story.


GB:    Will you still be making games in ten years time?

JT:    Yes.


GB:    What are the important elements in a game?

JT:    Depends on the genre and the kind of game you want to make. I personally think story is very important, not for all games obviously. If you have a story it has to be a good story because otherwise itís pointless. Then music and good voice actors are very important because itís the only real things in a game. Everything in a game is artificial and itís created. Voice and music is the only thing which is real, which can help tremendously to create an atmosphere to keep the players excited.   


GB:    When you design a game does the story come first then the puzzles?

JT:    Usually both are going on side by side. You have a broad idea about the story, and where it has to go. When the puzzles come later you feel it like they donít really belong, like they are artificial stops in the story. We try to incorporate the puzzles as naturally as possible. 


GB:    Can games say things?

JT:    Absolutely! Theyíre like books and movies, they can have an agenda and promote certain ideas. Actually games have the potential to do that much better than a book or a movie. In a game you can try things out. If you make a game about torture you could have the question is it worth to torture someone to get information. You can watch a film about that, you can read a book, but if you play a game you could torture some guy and find the bomb, or donít torture him and the bomb goes off. So you can explore both ways, and think about it more deeply. 

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