Maciej Miasik talks about Sentinel: Descendants in Time

by Becky Waxman

For those of you who are curious about the upcoming adventure, Sentinel: Descendants in Time, you need look no further!

Earlier this month, GameBoomer members submitted questions to Detalion Game Developers, the creators of Sentinel.   Maciej Miasik of Detalion has responded with many intriguing details about the game.

Learn what he has to say about his latest creation, Sentinel: Descendants in Time.

Are there timed sequences or arcade-style puzzles?

No and no again. Last time we did timed sequence in our game was in "Reah" and we weren't too proud of it then. Certainly we wouldn't be proud of it now. Usually, a timed sequence is used as a last resort obstacle thrown in the game just to slow the players down with it instead of a proper puzzle. We also don't see any reason to include arcade sequences in the adventures - everyone should play those games at her/his own pace without the necessity of testing reflexes. Experimenting with adding arcade sequences (or jumps) doesn't really add anything to the adventures and frustrates many fans of the genre.

Did you use any of the same actors from Schizm 1 or Schizm 2?

No. Only the original Schizm 1 used real actors. Schizm 2 (Mysterious Journey 2) used 3D models instead, and it’s the same situation with Sentinel. We are developing real-time rendered 3D games which don't allow for using live actors anymore. Although low polygon models don't look like real people, they integrate well with the rest of the game. Using real actors had some advantages, because they looked and moved as, well, real persons - but many people complained about the acting. Now we have more "computer-looking" models and they are not 100% moving or acting as real persons -- animating artificial characters in a life-like way is extremely difficult and time consuming and usually is much more expensive than shooting real people in front of a green screen. We couldn't shoot actors and we tried to do our best to animate models well, but the results, as in many games, vary. The best animated models in games I've seen so far were using motion captured data, something beyond our reach.


Will there be a sound track CD, or downloadable MP3s from the music in the game?

I don't know. If the publisher will be interested in releasing the music on a CD, I don't see the reason for not doing this. I don't think the soundtrack will be available online though, as our licensing contract doesn't allow for that at this moment. But this may change in the future.

Are there in-game gamma & sound controls?

Yes. The gamma correction can be adjusted in the game.

Sentinel provides the same sound controls Schizm 2 (Mysterious Journey 2) has - the overall volume of sounds can be set and the music can be only switched on and off. This is a deliberate design decision because I wanted all sonic elements of the game being under control of the sound designer and musician, as in films. Understanding that even the most unintrusive music can get annoying after several hours or days of play, we left the option to turn the music off.

Will there be a Mac version?

No. We will not port the game to Mac and I really don't think anyone else will. Detalion is strictly a PC developer working with licensed engines and we are limited to what these engines offer. Our current engine doesn't offer Mac compatibility and porting the game to Mac would require writing it from the scratch and redoing much of the graphics work.

Are there unlimited save slots?

Yes. At least in theory, because there are definitely some limits, disc space for example, but we didn't encounter them.

Will there be an online source for purchasing the game?

The game will be available on Amazon and probably it will be offered by many online retailers. I don't know much about the game sales details therefore I'm not the right person to ask about that. The people at The Adventure Company should know that much better than me.

Is Sentinel copy protected with one of the programs that give so many people a hard time? If so, which one?

It is not; which was the publisher’s decision. Usually developers are against copy protecting their games because they know that such protection doesn't stop professional piracy, but only gives the loyal, paying customers a hard time. But sometimes the publisher has different view and has the final word on that.

What are the system specs?

I believe that the latest hardware requirements are:

Windows 98E/ME/2000/XP

1GHz Pentium III (or Higher 2.0 GHz recommended)

128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended for XP)

64 MB 3D Video Card (128 MB recommended)

DirectX 8.1

Mouse and Keyboard

Windows® 98SE/ME/2000/XP

But I really recommend playing the game with a fast CPU and fast graphics card. The game uses quite modern technologies and requires up to date hardware to show its full potential and beauty. Machine with the specs around minimal will only allow playing with reduced details, in small resolution and with not that good frame rate.


Has the Jupiter 3D engine been modified in any way since Schizm 2?  If so, how will it affect gameplay in Sentinel?  Will it improve character modeling?

Yes, we modified the engine, but mostly to achieve some desired special effects, or to simplify coding of various elements. Oh, we replaced the audio part of the game with our code, which allowed for very interesting scripting of background sounds. This is probably the most noticeable change - we have very rich and non-repetitive ambient sounds.

The changes don't affect the gameplay; or rather affect the gameplay in an un-obvious way. Thanks to them, the programmers could code the puzzles faster and we had more freedom with puzzle design.

The character modeling isn't actually affected that much by the engine. Of course, the engine allowing for more polygons used in the scene, allows for more detailed models, but it's always a tradeoff - whether we want more detailed scenery, where people spend 95% of their playing time, or mode detailed models accounting for the remaining 5%. As you can easily guess, the decision is usually in favor of the scenery. This is the reason the models are not always as detailed and pretty as we would like them to be - but game development on a budget is full of tradeoffs.

Are there important operations which cannot be done using the mouse or which can make the game more difficult if you don't use the keyboard?

Sentinel can be played with the mouse only, as in our previous games. The standard, two button mouse is all that is required to control the game and playing Sentinel with only the mouse doesn't make it any harder. Using the keyboard for character movement control is an added bonus, for those who learned controlling the protagonists in other first person games.

Can you actually die in the game and, if so, are you likely to die often?  When you die, are you automatically taken back to just before you made the fatal move, or do you have to restore an earlier SAVE?

You do not die in Sentinel. Ever. I don't know what this idea comes from. We've been developing non-violent, never-die adventures since we started working on PC adventures and this isn't likely to change soon. Yes, if we decide to do a game belonging to another genre, then dying will probably be an option.

No need to save just in case. Save the game as often as you feel, or just let the game take care of saving -- the game is automatically saved when you quit it. Anyway, saving from time to time is a good habit, just case some unexpected system or program crashes, which can always happen.

Will there be math puzzles?  Will they be difficult enough that you'll need a calculator to solve them?  (Hoping the answer to both questions is "yes.")

No math puzzles this time. No need to use a calculator. The game is much easier than our previous games, with many puzzles based on finding quite simple relations between objects. The publisher was persistent that the game should be a little easier this time, but we also tried to offer decent challenges for those who need them. The game is partially non-linear therefore anyone facing an overly difficult puzzle will be able to try other locations and puzzles before returning to the difficult one. Eventually all puzzles must be solved to finish the game. Another feature to make the game easier for those players who are not that good at solving puzzles is the optionally activated hint system. The text hints will appear in particular places suggesting to the player what should be done.

Are the puzzles story-driven or do they drive the story, or both? I like it when puzzles are part of the story and not just used as obstacles.

The story is about Beni, the protagonist, being tested by the tomb's occupant. All virtual worlds he explores are specifically designed to be a challenge for him. They are artificial and their main purpose is to act as an obstacle. For that reason, it's hard to tell whether the puzzle drives the story or other way around. But this is a puzzle-adventure, Myst-clone if you prefer using this derogatory term for all first person adventures which put more emphasis on puzzles than on endless conversations, and being such is less story-driven. This is simply that kind of adventure.


Will there be more character interaction in Sentinel than there was in Schizm 2?

There was no character interaction in Schizm 2 (Mysterious Journey 2). The characters met were used to progress the story and they simply appeared in cutscenes, being busy with their own lives when the player explored the world. In Sentinel 2, the only character that Beni meets is the tomb's occupant, or rather her uploaded personality. There's no interaction with her because being essentially the Game's Master, she decides when she wants to appear and speak with the protagonist. She is in total control.

Does the game involve time travel?

No. The game is set in unspecified future, but the protagonist is the person from that future.


Will the atmosphere in Sentinel be creepier or more frightening than the atmosphere in Detalion's previous adventure games?

No, I don't think so. The game takes place in the tomb, but this is a high-tech tomb, which is capable of creating many virtual worlds, most of them being far from creepy and frightening. The story uses strong themes, there's some danger and tension in it, but the locations and overall atmosphere is much lighter. Besides, it is quite difficult to create a creepy and frightening game if you can't die in it.

A year from now, what would you like people to remember about your game? 

Maybe my answer would sound strange for Myst-clone, puzzle oriented game, but I would like people to remember the story, which is quite original. And remember the worlds they explored.

copyright © 2004 GameBoomers

Interviews Index