Interview at Gamescom with Mike Huber of IF Games whos the director of the new adventure game Perils of Man
By Peter Rootham-Smith
GB: How did "Perils of Man" get started?
MH: Originally, the game was commissioned by Swiss Re. My company Boutiq created a game for their 150 year anniversary. The objective was to familiarize young adults with the concept of risk. Later, my producer Philipp Zόnd and I were so fascinated with the result that we decided to use it as the basis for developing an indie game, Perils of Man. For this purpose we founded our own indie studio IF Games.
We're here at Gamescom to promote the release of Perils of Man on iTunes. Developed by our newly founded studio IF Games and co-designed by Ex-LucasArts Bill Tiller and Gene Mocsy, the first of two parts will be released on iPad and iPhone in October, with the finale expected before the end of the year.
One of the games key challenges was to credibly portray the 16-year old Ana Eberling as the main character to investigate her family of famous scientists haunted history spreading over centuries. Ana is overly protected by her mother and hardly can make a move outside her home by herself without risking her mothers intervention. Yet the scientifically talented girl wants to break out of her protectorate and investigate the real story behind her famous scientist-father who vanished a decade ago.
GB: Was it difficult to put yourself into that mindset?
MH: No, not at all. Sixteen is the time when you're on the verge of becoming grown-up, and I vividly remember what I had gone through myself at that age. The fact that Ana is a female, of course, adds an interesting dimension. Stephen Beckner, who wrote the story, did an amazing job on creating psychologically believable characters. It's a spoiler, but one of the surprises of the game is that Anas father who she is chasing through time, turns out to be her nemesis.
GB: Is there a moral dimension to the story?
MH: I think so, yes. I'm not a moralist, but good stories have to have a sound moral to be credible and realistic.
The game poses a key question: Is it possible to become the master of your own destiny? In the story Ana comes across a special device a Risk Atlas --- engineered by her great-great grandfather, which can foresee any kind of potential danger. So the dramatic question is whether this device a good or a bad thing? That's the moral basis, the moral grounds. Is it helpful to know that you will be in harms way? Would it make you a better person if you could calculate every action you take in order prevent risk? Your life might actually be miserable and dull.
GB: In a sense you're getting a chance to play God?
MH: That's definitely how the bad guys behave. The question is whether she (Ana) will do it too.
GB: Sometimes one ends up doing evil for a good reason
GB: Tell me some more about how you will further develop the game.
MH: It is definitely an adventure game. We love adventure games. A tablet is the perfect device for an adventure game. Beyond the iOS version we will develop Android and desktop versions as well. The plan is to have these versions ready in the course of 2015.
GB: Is "Perils of Man" a true point and click adventure?
MH: I think the right definition is touch and swipe since it is played on a tablet. But, I still call it point and click, a point-and-click adventure game. As Ana moves through the game, she can touch hot spots to obtain objects which will allow her to solve puzzles. Sometimes you have to combine several objects in your inventory to solve a problem.
We spent a lot of time researching, since there's a historical background to everything you experience in the game. Ana's ancestors dumped their stuff in the house over the years. As a player you get to discover some of these odd objects from the past.
GB: What kind of mini-games are there? Any requiring speed or coordination?
MH: They are simple logical mini-games.
GB: Do you like to play "Perils of Man"?
MH: I love adventure games. Everything I do, I have to be able to identify with 100%. I'm also a film director. And when I do commercials, my films have to have my signature on them.
I wanted Perils of Man to have a cinematic feel to it. We spent a lot of time designing the transitions from the individual rooms and environments. I wanted to create a world that is experienced in a seamless way, with long tracking shots between the rooms.
GB: Will "Perils of Man" be localized?
MH: The game is in English and German, both voice and subtitles. Depending on its success we will localize to other languages.
GB: What engine did you use?
MH: Unity. Its good for cross-platform apps.
GB: People love interactivity.
MH: Absolutely. Storytelling is important, but so is Atmosphere. Judging from the feedback by our users, we got the latter quite well.
I didn't want to do a horror game, be too scary, but I wanted the atmosphere to be dark and melancholic.
GB: And the game has moral questions
MH: Yes. In the sense that it plays on the principles of right and wrong or goodness and evil of human behavior. An example of a moral question might be:
Should Ana use the power of the Risk Atlas to her own advantage, regardless of its consequences? These are questions we ask as storytellers when developing the game. Its embedded in the games DNA.
GB: I like the Steampunk look.
MH: I am a big fan of anachronistic technologies and retro-futuristic inventions. Steampunk is basically a story telling device, which incorporates fantasy, historical and alternate fiction. Perils of Man mixes these genres in a rather unique and fun way.
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