Interview with Rusalka Clarke

After the release of “Beyond Reality”, Yufster started working on a clo…. game inspired by “Grim Fandango”. The AGS Ezine now reveals it. Before I leave you to read the interview, I’ll say only that Misja van Laatum will make some of the graphics. And in case you don’t know he is also making the background art for “Fountain of Youth”.

Ezine: First, I thank you for accepting the invitation for the interview. Would you tell us a bit more about yourself?

Rusalka Clarke: Oh, you’re welcome, Dave. I mean, Vel. Well, I got measured today, and discovered I’m 5”7 1/2.

I weigh approximately 68 kg, and my body mass index varies from source to source

The first games I ever played (on the PC at least) were the old LucasArts adventures, the first of which was Monkey Island 1.

Ever since I’ve loved LucasArts (Until they cancelled S&M2, the bastards!) and it was Day of the Tentacle that first got me interested in the gaming industry.

Since I live in Ireland, it’s pretty far out from the rest of the world, especially the game design world.

But luckily, since my all-time favourite game designer, Tim Schafer, keeps us up to date with the Double Fine ACTION! news….

Ezine: You have an online journal. Do you have a diary in real life?

RC: Well, I used to, when I was between the age of 8 and 10. That’s because my parents forced me to.

I didn’t have much to write about. Most entries would go like this, “Got up. Went to school. Got back from school. Did Homework. Played outside. Started raining. Damn, Ireland. Played Monkey Island. I am stuck.”

But then they got bigger diaries and started making me fill out two entire pages a day, or else they’d beat me with an extension cord.

At the time I hated it, but at least it taught me one valuable skill; how to talk about nothing, non-stop.

Ezine: When did the idea of making games yourself first struck you?

RC: Right after I played Day of the Tentacle. That game was so amazing, you know. At the time especially, the graphics just seemed so awesome, and all of the voice acting (which was something new in games back then) was so brilliant.

I started trying to draw the characters out of it, and started getting the idea that I’d love to design characters for LucasArts. I was, I think, 9 or 10…

I didn’t really know HOW people got jobs in the gaming industry, but then one day I was playing… hmm… what game was it?

I think it was Fists of Fury or something… Or some Epic Megagames thing… at the end they had this thing saying how they were always looking for talented new artists or programmers.

And I drew a bunch of Dr Freds, put it in an envelope, and asked my mother to post it for me. She said she did, but I suspect she may have been lying.

(2nd double)RC: Oh wait, I totally misread that question. Making games MYSELF.

Well, all of the above and this much more: I started designing games on pieces of paper, and what they’d be like and such.

And then I found RPGmaker, but that gave me leprosy, so I moved over to AGS.

Ezine: What were your expectations about “Beyond reality” when you released it and did it fulfill them?

RC: Beyond Reality was for a school project mostly, and because I knew most of the students weren’t actually going to PLAY it, my primary concern was just to make something that could be walked through from beginning to end.

rus1.gif

But I also decided to release it on the AGS forums because it was, after all, a game, and I was proud of it and figured that it was gonna be awesome.

The school project involved SELLING the game, and while I was only selling it for a tiny sum of money, I didn’t want to get a lot of people from the AGS community involved because I’d have felt really guilty about not giving them money for it

And I was too lazy-assed to actually divide up all the profits and send them away to different corners of the earth.

So I tried to make this entire thing myself, and part of the time was taken up learning how to use AGS, and time just crept up on me and so it was released prematurely. Thanks to SSH and Petteri, it wasn’t THAT awful. I could have kept the AGS release until later, but I was truly sick of this game that I’d worked on all summer long, so I left it.

My expectations of it were a lot higher at the start of the project. It taught me a couple of valuable lessons.

First, never attempt a big project on your own. Because when you have people around you, helping, you won’t get sick of it, because there’s always something new to discuss or whatever, and because you won’t have this huge workload on your own shoulders all the time. And second, never, EVER agree to give people their money back if they can’t figure out how to install the game.

Ezine: So what si your new project about, plot-wise? Is it going to have a mature plot or more of a comedy one?

RC: Mature, definitely, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny. There’s a couple of people around the AGS forums that I particularly want to ask to write for it.

Ezine: use the opportunity given.

RC: Er… what?

Oh… yes, exactly.

There’s one particular person that I’d love to write for it, but he’s already working on Puzzle Design and the Keyboard Interface, so maybe that’s too much. He’s quite resourceful. The plot is pretty much set in stone by now.

Basically, the protaganist is this young girl who lives in an oppressed country (Eira) which is ‘owned’ by this other, Bigger, Typically Evil, Bully-style country, (Elsra)

She’s all for freedom of Eira, and she’s part of this Covert Militia

At the very start of the story, though, the town where she lives (And the Covert Militia are mostly active) is targetted. The Elsrans have the names, address and details of all the Militia leaders, and so they go in to Reno to capture them.

Ami (the protagonist) escapes, but makes it her mission to rescue the captured Leaders. Along the way she meets this young Elsran soldier, Luca, and meets up with an old friend, Cale.

At first we’re shown a really narrow perception of the Elsrans, and we can almost believe that they’re this really evil nation. We see everything from Ami’s point of view. But as the story progresses, Ami (And hopefully the players) will come to understand that Elsra isn’t such a big, evil country… the Elsrans are just as oppressed as they are.

The story takes place over a number of years, (Grim Fandango!? What?!) and all I’ll say is that she doesn’t manage to rescue the leaders, and this story involves a colony on the Moon.

I think Ami’s primary concern, as time goes on in the story, changes from freeing Eira, to freeing Elsra and Eira both. Her opinions change drastically.

Ezine: Are those names thought of randomly?

RC: Nope! The entire idea originated from the story of Michael Collins, who was a young revolutionary in Ireland around the early 1900’s. He reinvented the IRA, which as you know, is a terrorist group. Back then, though, it was thought of much differently.

Ezine: Now, why is this game of yours going to use direct control?

RC: The Point n’ Click interface with adventure games, has been tried and tested. Sure, I could go for another point and click interface, but that wouldn’t be innovative in the least, and I think innovation is one of the most exciting things about Game Design. Plus, this game will have action sequences that would benefit more from Keyboard Control, and I don’t want the player constantly switching from Keyboard to Mouse. ShatteredSponge has developed an interface that’s in primitive stages yet, but it’s better than I could have hoped for even now. And it keeps getting better. It’s easy to use, natural to control. It could be very, very good. There’s a lot of prejudice against Keyboard Control, but I think it’s great, when done correctly. The game is also influenced by RPGs, and it’s a lot more action-orientated than a game such as, say, Monkey Island or DOTT. An action-orientated game controlled by a mouse would be… what’s that word Tim uses?… ‘Manky’.

Ezine: Will “Luna” feature a music and/or voice packs?

RC: Right, here’s the thing. I would *love* Luna to have a full voice pack. There’s a heck-a-lot of Dialogue, so it would be pretty sizable, but that’s not what bothers me. I’ll only have voices, if I can find the right people.The worst thing in the world is messy voice acting. As for music; I’d love … ah, what’s that stuff they used for Pleughburger?XM?

rus2.gif

I love that stuff. It can sound very surreal. That said, I know nothing about music and I’ll leave that decision up to whoever is doing the music for it.

Ezine: Okay, so what do you think is the way to put adventure games to the mass gamers? Is it more console orientated ones like BS3 or old-fashioned ones with new technology like Runaway(which sold 500 000 thus far) or the black mirror?

RC: Well, that’s hard for me to judge because I haven’t played those games. But I know what I’d like to see in Adventures, certainly. The Point and Click interface was great, back in the early 90’s.But now we have the technology for way awesomer things. Every genre has to evolve, and to change, but adventures seem to have been slow to do that, and I reckon that’s one of the reasons they ‘died’. I hate saying “reckon”. Goddamn. My ideal adventure would have the freedom of Exploration of Lara Croft, (of of of of of) the atmosphere and characters and story of Grim Fandango, and the frikkin’ awesomeness of Psychonauts. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Ezine: Do you think that AGS has the potential to make a fully commercial effort?

RC: Okay, so I really did my research for Luna, I swear. I got this book, written by this guy who’d been in the industry longer than Ron Gilbert He gave the example of… and try not to laugh… this Barbie game. It had been made on one of these engines like AGS, except I believe it was quite expensive… but still nothing the home user couldn’t afford. And it had been made by a team of I think, 5 or so people. They sold thousands and thousands of units, and made a huge income, and it was a great success. It was endorsed by The Barbie Company, or whatever it’s called, in case you’re thinking it was a fan game. I think it’s called Barbies Riding Centre, but anyway. That’s a case of a fan-effort (ha ha ha) that was hugely successful.  So I think that it can definitely happen, and AGS has the potential, but I doubt it will happen.

Try not to laugh at this, either… I actually asked Tim Schafer once before about something like this. I think I asked whether this sort of thing (as in, mateur game development) would account for anything on a portfolio.If I recall correctly, his response went something like this: It does count, but not for the reasons I might think. It shows the ability to work on a team, and it shows the dedication to finish a project. The end result is secondary to all these things.He also mentioned how they’d interviewed a guy at Double Fine only yesterday, JUST BECAUSE he’d built his own 3D game engine. But that’s probably way above the skill level of any AGSers.

Ezine: Now, the last and most important question for all the community…Are you single?

RC: But in answer to your question; yes. I am. But I did have a really awkward encounter with my ex-boyfriend there last week, and he started saying how he was building this game engine, because he does programming, and how he wanted to go over to America to work in the Game Industry… And all the while I was gritting my teeth and silently wishing I’d never got him interested in Game Design… because I have this nightmare.. That we’ll end up working in Double Fine Productions together one day. Because that is just SO my luck. So in conclusion; I am single, but I especially love anybody who lives in the general San Francisco area.

RC: It was a pleasure to be interviewed by the Ezine.

Ezine: Anything else you’d like to add?

RC: Tim Schafer and Scott Campbell and Bill Tiller. SUPER AWESOME!

As you can see, “Luna” is one promising project. Lets just hope that Rusalka’s desire to copy the mood of “Grim Fandango” doesn’t spoil it. As she said, release dates cannot be predicted at this point of development. And last but not least, the AGS Ezine will be the first to publish actual in-game graphics of “Luna”.

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