Aventura y CÍA: France has lately become the cradle of adventure games, and we particularly see in Microïds a special interest in the genre. Both the launching of the acclaimed Syberia and surely the one for Post Mortem, will be raising the hopes of the heaviest adventure gamers. Despite adventure gaming is still a profitable genre, with many adepts behind, both the media and the developers seem to have some kind of phobia towards it. Being from the ones that still trust the genre, what do you think is the reason of this "fear"?
Stéphane Brochu: It is interesting that you use the term "fear", simply because I think it does reflect a reality that people do not really look at. It is scary to do an adventure game these days, and it is not simply a question of sales, but rather a question of commitment. It is not easy to make an adventure game from a design point of view. It is simpler for most developer to go into the shooter or the "action adventure" genre, with their tried-and-true formulaes than to try and come up with a good story and characters. I see electronic games right now a little bit like the movie industry a few years ago, when CGI special effects were new. The characters and the plot were not really important, as long as you got a lot of big explosions and 3D dinos running around, everyone was impressed. With time, they moved away from that and went back to good stories and characters. The same will happen in the electronic game industry, given time. Right now, we are trying to wow players with fancy graphics and shallow gameplay. Trust me, we'll get back to solid stories soon...
AyC: These are undoubtedly bad times for the adventure gaming. Fortunately, there are yet companies and developers that still trust the genre. Why do you believe in adventure games?
SB: I don't know if these are really bad times for adventure games. Honestly, the sales, and the critical reception, of Syberia have been excellent and things look really good for Post Mortem. There are a lot of people out there who love adventure games. The funny thing is, these type of games might not sell record numbers the first day out, but rather in the long run. There are very few games you'll still see on the shelves a year or two after their initial release. Adventure games are one such type. Look at Amerzone for example: the game came out three, four years ago and it is still on the shelves, selling steadily.
AyC: A few time ago we've sadly learned about the bankrupt of Cryo Interactive, one of the big french companies that risked most with adventure games. It was very bound to Microïds, so what do you think that failed in Cryo's formula?
SB: Without sounding overly harsh, I believe that what it boils down to is simply a question of quality and a question of business sense. Apart from its adventure games, Cryo did not sell many of its other titles, which costed them much more than its adventure titles. We make and publish fewer games and they sell better. Being on the stock market and trying to grow too fast might have not not help also.
AyC: Many people think that french adventures are very similar to each other, with little variations in gameplay and aesthetics. We refuse to believe this, but it is also true that since 1997 we have only seen spin-o-ramas of different quality, and the technical innovations were very few. Does the french sector need to get adapted to the audience, and the audience to the french adventures?
SB: Err... Again, this might sound odd, but these people need to play Microids adventure games. Amerzone is very different from Syberia, which is miles away from Post Mortem. I think people are looking at a particular brand of games, where the developper got lazy and tried making the same game over and over. It is not the case with us.
AyC: Let's talk about Post Mortem. We've read that it will be a mystery adventure with some "noir" touch, set in the Paris of the twenties, and that it will have some technical points in common with your previous game, Road to India. Tell us more.
SB: Well, like Road to India, Post Mortem is a "first person" adventure game, meaning that it is a 360 warp game... Ok, that wasn't any clearer, but what it basically means is that while you are stationary, you can look around you in all directions... Also, all the characters and objects that you can interact with are in realtime 3D. Apart from that, we rebuilt the conversation engine from scratch and there are a few little more touches that we redid.
AyC: By some reason the third person adventures are more accessible to most audiences. The success of Syberia both with the audience and the critics proves this. We wonder why did you use the engine of Road to India instead of Syberia's?
SB: Simply a question of time. We needed to get up and running fast so we adapted the Road to India technology, which we had a very good grasp on. It also allowed us some time to develop the conversation technology, which is new and exclusive to Post Mortem.
AyC: Both in the aesthetics and in the plot, Post Mortem is between the classic black films and the detective stories of Poe. What are the influences you received when writing the game?
SB: The influences ranged far and wide, anything from movies like The Maltese Falcon, from Chandler and Elroy to Lovecraft and Crowley, from books like The Second Messiah to Paris Noir. It is actually an accumulation of years and years of fascination with Noir, both in literature and the movies and fascination with the occult and occult literature.
AyC: As a farewell, please give a message to all the adventure gamers that hope to see in Post Mortem the adventure game of the year.
SB: Well, hopefully people will see with Post Mortem that adventure games are about adventures, not puzzles, characters and story, not just pretty graphics. I had a great time coming up with the story (along with Steph Blais, my co-designer) and making the game (with Frank Tetrault, Max Villandré, Hughes Richer and the rest of the coders and artists). I actually enjoyed debating the finer points of the story and the game with my bosses (Steph Grefford, Olivier Fontenay) and driving my project managers crazy (Anny Paquin and J.F Pelletier). It was a weird story that started strangely and hopefully people will get a kick out of it as much as I have.
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