: Prominence appears on the market at a time when the average player
has lost his touch with the adventure genre. This is a daring project.
What made you create this somewhat "risky" game?
: Adventure games are
not as popular as they once were, but there's a bit of a renaissance
happening right now. We believe more and more gamers are looking for
an experience that offers a little more depth and story, and that's
what adventure games can offer.
Truthfully, any genre is risky
for independent developers. Casual games are a frighteningly oversaturated
market; strategy games require a powerful, polished engine (or a huge
amount of time to develop one) and tremendous amounts of playtesting
for the sake of game balance; FPS games typically require a huge team
to develop all the levels, art assets, AI, character models, along
with a potentially enormous budget just for the engine licensing.
So, whichever genre of game
we chose to build would have brought its own brand of challenges.
We chose to make Prominence an adventure, because it's a story-based
game, and that's what adventures are all about.
: Prominence strikes us as the sort of game which is a true labor
of love: it is being developed among friend and family, almost. How
is it like to create a videogame in such a friendly environment?
: We're all longtime
friends and that means there's really none of the usual political
agendas and whatnot that can creep into a typical project if it was
being developed in a corporate environment. We're all very passionate
and determined to make Prominence the best possible game it can be.
We count on each other for critiques and constructive criticism, but
there's a sense that we're always on very solid ground with each other
because of the respect and friendship we all have.
That being said, everyone
on the team is a professional in their own right with years of experience
in their respective profession. Tom has been writing, producing, and
recording music since before I was born. Kevin and I met during our
university days, while he was working toward his computer science
degree. He's been working as a full-time programmer for 15 years.
Debbie has had a long career at a publishing company where she worked
on newsletters, editing and marketing. I've been running Digital Media
Workshop, Inc. for 10 years now, working on all kinds of multimedia
projects from video and audio production to 3D design and animation.
: More than just puzzles, an adventure game must also be rich in terms
of story. Could you give us a few more details about the story behind
the game? Is it a branching story line?
: The story of Prominence
centers on a peaceful race of humans called the Letarri and their
struggle to maintain their existence and identity at a time when war
is raging between two powerful empires and they're caught in the middle.
The depth of story that is
accepted -- if not expected -- in an adventure game far surpasses
that of most other genres, which works great in the case of Prominence.
There's quite a bit of back story to the game and details about the
events that led up to the moment that the player starts playing. A
lot of that information will be accessible in the game, and if players
are interested, they can really dig into that and get the big picture
of what's going on and learn why and how things came to be. Conversely,
they can just work through the game and enjoy the main story line
without exploring the back story in depth and they won't be lost.
There's depth to it for, well, the adventurous!
There is a branching point
in the story, which will ultimately lead to two different paths to
the end of the game and two different endings. That's something we
wanted to offer because the arc of the main character (i.e. the player's
character) didn't feel complete without it. I'd like to say more,
but I really can't without giving too much away. I can tell you that
each path leads to unique content, though.
: In a previous interview I found that you were keen on videogames,
part of the reason which drove you to this project. What games have
inspired you the most and how?
: Some of my earliest
gaming experiences on the PC were definite inspirations, like Spycraft:
The Great Game, which was quite immersive given the technology of
With games, I find it's often
more of a technical inspiration rather than something with the story
or a character - the way the squad AI of the marines elevates the
whole second act of the original Half-Life, for example. Or the way
virtuous behavior was built-in to the gameplay to support the story
of Ultima IV. Or how the costume creator in City of Heroes/City of
Villains led to a community of players that developed rich backgrounds
and complex designs for their characters.
Character and story inspirations,
for me, tend to come more from movies, books, and real-life.
: When I first saw the concept art and game description for Prominence,
I immediately remembered some other classic action/adventure games
for the PC like Bioforge and Mission: Critical. Are you familiar with
No. Both of them came out in 1995, and I didn't
have a CD-ROM drive yet. That sounds really funny now, but at the
time, there were double and quad-speed CD-ROMs and that was it. They
weren't cheap, either! The first CD-ROM games I bought were in '96
- The Neverhood and Spycraft.
From what I've read about
those titles, though, I can understand the perceived similarities.
The story of Prominence is quite different, but I can't really talk
about the deeper aspects of the story. That's for the players to experience!
: We heard that Tom Griffith was joining the Prominence project. What
sort of soundtrack are we to expect?
Tom has worked on many different
projects from jingles to film scores. We've already started developing
the score, and we're taking some symbolic cues from the story and
the characters in order to develop the main musical themes, such as
the contrast of the technical machinery of the facility against the
more organic nature of the people.
: We were originally
going to approach the score as music from an imaginary country, but
odd time signatures and alternate tuning systems and scales might
draw too much attention to the musical score. Its purpose is to underscore
events in the game and - like a movie soundtrack - elevate the mood
without calling attention to itself. So we'll try to bring some of
the "imaginary culture" sensibility to the soundtrack, but
still make it accessible enough that it doesn't get in the way of
player experiencing the story.
: Ultimately, what do you expect Prominence to be as a game? What
are you creating for this game that you think has never been seen
: Prominence will be
many things that adventure gamers expect. It will be easy to pick
up, offer an intuitive control scheme, and will offer players a good
mix of inventory and GUI-style puzzles, wrapped up in a compelling
We've got a few tricks up
our sleeve that we haven't seen in other games. Most are still in
the development phase, but stay tuned, because we'll be sure to talk
about them as the game gets closer to release!
: Thank you very much.
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