How many blondes does it take to escape from a desert island?

By Flotsam

 

In a world fascinated by Paris Hilton types, itís probably about time we got to play one. So Blonde gives us Sunny Blonde - 17, pretty, rich andÖblonde. What starts as a cruise around Bermuda ends up with Sunny all at sea on an island with no shopping mall, no mobile phone reception and lots of pirates.

Written and designed by Steve Ince, whose most notable projects to date include the Broken Sword games, but who has contributed to games as varied as In Cold Blood and The Witcher, So Blonde looks likely to appeal to everyone with an eye and an ear for some good-natured fun.

GameBoomers recently had the good fortune to speak to Steve about the project.


Tell us a little about the inspiration for So Blonde?

When Wizarbox contacted me and said they wanted a writer they already had a couple of backgrounds created for the beach and the pier and had a number of character sketches. They knew they wanted a story based on the idea of a spoiled blonde becoming stranded on a mysterious tropical island. So I had the great pleasure of taking it from there.

Everyone has a favourite blonde joke, but were you at all concerned you might draw the ire of  any portion of the gaming public?

No, because itís not about poking fun at a specific group of people. What weíve done is to take that stereotype, have a little fun with it in that form and then take it beyond the stereotype.  If Sunny didnít have something deeper within herself she would never get off the first game location.

 

Adventure gamers love a good story, so it must have pleased you to have the script nominated for a Writers Guild Award?

Very much so.  Having my work recognised in such a manner suggests to me that I must be doing something right (or Iím good at fooling people). What pleases me as much as my personal recognition is that itís a real shot in the arm for the adventure genre as a whole.  To all those who claim that the genre is dead, we can refer to this nomination and say that perhaps they might like to reconsider that view.

 

When starting something like this, what comes first Ė a vision splendid or something far more basic?

The high-level vision must be created first because itís this which drives the project forward and unites everyone into seeing the same goal that weíre all working towards.  Because there are a lot of talented individuals working on the game (Wizarbox have a great team), a common vision allows them to maximise their talents in ways that enrich the vision.

 

You coined the term interaction density to describe each location having plenty of things to do Ė can I assume we will get plenty of that here?

The artists have had a lot of fun with background detail and weíve taken that on board so that, yes, there are always things to interact with, even if they donít always move the story forward.  We have a lot of fun with this kind of thing.

 

And plenty of characters as well? Including a parrot no doubt?

I went to great lengths to ensure that all the characters were a vibrant part of life on the island.  They all have a role to play in the unfolding story and there are many times when re-visiting characters through the game gives new information and helps with both the story and gameplay.

 

What is it do you think that will motivate players of So Blonde to stay with Sunny till the end?

Iíd like to think that the way weíve entwined the story and gameplay together will make it a fun experience throughout.  Players will quickly become engaged in the islandís mystery and Sunnyís role in uncovering and hopefully solving that mystery.

 

Getting the dialogue balance right can be tricky Ė too much and some players get bored, too little and exposition is jeopardised. How did you handle that here?

With it being a comedy game, itís easy to have a lot of fun with the dialogue at the same time as being informative where appropriate.  Iíve tried to be quite succinct in any exposition and not overdone it at any one time.

 

I note your role was described as story, gameplay design and dialogue Ė does the design include the puzzles? Any puzzles you are particularly pleased with?

I did the broad, top-level design, which included a lot of puzzle design, but I worked very closely with Jerome Britneff-Bondy, who did a lot of the design detailing, created a lot of the specific puzzles, created the mini-games and generally helped make my puzzles better.

I donít have a particular favourite, but I love the way we have the puzzles and general gameplay overlapping and building on each other.

 

I read there are some mild action type sequences (catching raindrops for instance). Should players be concerned they will get stuck on these puzzles?

No. These puzzles are what we term mini-games and each of them has an option to cheat if players really feel itís not for them.  However, they are just meant to add a bit of fun to the variety and I hope that players will enjoy.

Itís worth noting that completion of some mini-games will help towards triggering one of the multiple endings.

 

Do you get to play as anyone other than Sunny?

Yes, you get to play as two other characters for brief periods.

 

What about fashion? Even deserted on a desert island, a 17 year old blonde has to have a wardrobe change or three?

She lands on the island without a change of clothing and as soon as she reaches the town she spots a beautiful dress sheíd love to have.  Unfortunately, she has no money to pay for it...

 

How about the game interface Ė can blondes manage it?

Apart from the mini-games, itís a traditional point-and-click interface which even I can manage to use.

 

Nico in the earlier Broken Sword games was a strong and resourceful persona. Is Sunny the complete opposite or are there some inner strengths?

Sunny is certainly a very different character to Nico, but she surprises herself with some of her resourcefulness, which grows throughout the game.  If Sunny ended the game as the same person she started it, I think the game would have become boring very quickly and players would probably have been irritated with her character.

 

Most of the adventure games you have been involved with can be described as having an animated comic book graphic style. What draws you to that as a design platform?

The art design decisions are mostly out of my hands, so the fact that many of the games have this kind of luck is a happy coincidence. I must admit that I prefer stylised graphics to photo-realism, particularly when player characters have to be carrying the contents of a small shop around with them.

 

So how many blondes does it take to escape from a desert island?

Thatís an interesting question. Do we know if Sunny escapes or not?  With multiple endings, do we know what the outcome might be? Does she settle down with a herd of geese and a cow, or is there something else that fate has in store for her?

 

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