At the time of this writing, $400 million of President Barack Obama’s $825 billion stimulus bill is dedicated to global warming research--no small chunk of change. So it’s safe to say that the environment is on the minds of politicos and globally-conscious individuals everywhere, including those minds at Daedalic Entertainment. Seated in Hamburg, Germany, developer and publisher Daedalic (Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, The Whispered World) is back to work on their upcoming environmental catastrophe point-and-click adventure, A New Beginning. Claas Paletta was kind enough to answer our questions.
Last we heard, A New Beginning was scheduled for a Q4 2008 launch. How are things coming along?
A New Beginning took a backseat for a couple of other Daedalic projects for most of 2008. We completed and released two games in German-speaking territories last year: Edna Bricht Aus (international title: Edna & Harvey: The Breakout), a slightly insane cartoon adventure game that scored the best reviews of any German game in 2008, and a movie tie-in for a local release by Warner Bros. That’s why we had to push back the release of ANB to late 2009. We have recently signed the PC version with a publishing partner for release in Germany and France, so now it is full-steam ahead! Our dedicated team of designers, scripters and artists is hard at work to deliver one of the most engaging adventures in memory.
Good to hear that A New Beginning is front-and-center once again. But in the past year, worries have shifted more from global warming to global economic meltdown. Are you afraid that a game hinged on environmental disaster will find that its audience has moved on?
Success of the game hinges on whether it engages the player, entertains, tells a great story, challenging his assumptions as well as his puzzle-solving skills and pulls all of these elements together a great gaming experience. That’s what we are working towards and what we are confident, we will achieve.
In addition, we find that the issue of global climate change and its potential disastrous effects is as relevant in 2009, if not more so, as ever before. With the wide-reaching political shift in the US, we feel that it is going to move to the forefront of the global agenda and be generally recognized as the defining issue of our times.
President Obama is certainly reinstating the environment as a priority. But changing the game isn’t a priority in the world of point-and-click adventures; the genre isn’t known for pushing the innovation envelope. Is there anything new and unexpected in the design document for A New Beginning?
Well, innovation is a tricky thing, especially in the adventure genre. For us, every part of the game has to stand in service of the story and its ability to engage the player and not necessarily “push the envelope.” In one area, for example, this has in fact lead to us trying out a new approach with our context-sensitive interface – in A New Beginning, when you select an object or person you want to interact with, you are presented with a set of actions, that are individually tailored to that object or person. So, instead of “speak to, examine, use” for everything, you might get “open, knock, kick in, eavesdrop” for a door or just “switch on” for a light switch. This way, we can offer the player a huge range of appropriate actions, without having to limit him at every point with “I can’t do that” or “That doesn’t make any sense,” your standard adventure game phrases. We want the player to really interact with the environments and have fun doing so.
That sounds to us like you’re tackling a long-standing issue with adventure games--bravo! But as a somewhat newer development, episodic adventure games (like Sam & Max and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People) are being met with very warm critical praise. Did you ever think of taking things in that direction?
It’s definitely a direction we are exploring and one we see a lot of potential for in the future. Not a lot more I can tell you regarding our plans though – sorry!
Ah, so you’ll remain cryptic about that for now. Speaking of cryptic, inventory puzzles are the meat and drink of adventure games. Will you incorporate other types of puzzles as well? Environmental puzzles (ha!), jigsaw puzzles, sliding block puzzles, code deciphering puzzles?
We’re aiming for a wide variety of puzzles, ranging from item-combination puzzles to more minigame-type stuff, where you’re tasked with assembling a device for example.
So, by the game’s conclusion, will I have simply had a grand time solving brain teasers, or will the game arm me with knowledge about how to live my life a little more “green”?
We’re not trying to educate the player or tell him how to live his life. There are no puzzles involving sorting your garbage or replacing your light bulbs, I promise! Rather we’re tackling the whole issue on a character level – our main characters Fay and Bent both struggle with questions of responsibility. Fay has been sent back to our time, as the most junior member of a team that is trying to reverse the fortunes of our world. When that team is hit by a major catastrophe, she suddenly finds the whole mission resting on her shoulders. Bent is a scientist from our time, who has spent his life on finding a cure for the problems endangering our planet, but ultimately he has had to take a step back and accept that he can not save the world by himself. That’s when Fay turns up on his doorstep and tells him that his research is the key to saving the world.
So, that’s the setup for our story that challenges the player to think about how much each of us must and can do – maybe it will make you think, but maybe you will just enjoy the ride for its entertainment value, as Fay and Bent overcome many obstacles, travel the world and must dodge many dangerous situations.
Nintendo has actually found itself in a ‘dangerous situation’ recently. Were you aware that in 2008 Greenpeace graded Nintendo a 0.3 out of 10 regarding their e-waste responsibility? Along with the PC, you’re developing this environmental thriller on the Nintendo DS and Wii. For my next question, how do you spell “irony”?
Well, obviously we’re doing all that we can to keep people from throwing their Nintendo consoles away and instead make them use it to play our game! We’re practically saving the planet, one copy at a time! ;)
A New Beginning is tentatively scheduled for sometime late this year, 2009. We’d like to thank Claas Paletta for coordinating the interview.