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Red Thread Games on why Dreamfall Chapters for iOS and Android won't just be a 'straight port'

In your dreams

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Product: Dreamfall Chapters | Developer: Red Thread Games | Publisher: Red Thread Games | Genre: Adventure
For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad, Windows Phone
Dreamfall Chapters iPhone, thumbnail 1
After my interview with the team at Red Thread Games, Martin Bruusgaard joked that the studio's game would "high five your soul".

That eminently witty line encapsulates the ethos and attitude the Red Thread Games team showed when I met them at the Rezzed festival on the weekend of June 22nd.

The laid-back Red Thread Games trio of Martin (design director), Dag Scheve (writer) and Ragnar Tørnquist (writer / director) are a group that are making a game with a lot of heart, with a big following.

And the three of them couldn't have been more chilled about it all.

I spoke to them about returning characters, how Dreamfall Chapters is being broken up for mobile, how they're rectifying the problems of previous games, and why their release is more like Game of Thrones than you might imagine.

Pocket Gamer: So, Dreamfall Chapters is heading to mobile platforms. To iOS only, though?

Ragnar Tørnquist (RT): It will definitely be on iOS and Android. The one thing we're still not 100 percent sure about is whether it's going to be on Windows Phone, as well. We haven't settled on ideas and we don't really know exactly what we're doing on mobile.

Dag Scheve (DS): We don't want to do a straight port.

RT: That's the thing. We don't want to push a 'convert' button in Unity and scale down the assets and have it run on mobile. That is possible, but we want the game to work well.

We're actually not too keen on the small screens - we're more in favour of the tablets. This is because I think this game will be a much better fit for the 7-inch and up devices. I don't quite see how we would transfer the richness of the world and the storytelling onto a tiny screen.

So, I think ideally this is an experience where you sit with an iPad on a plane with headphones and you basically just chill.

We will ship the whole game on PC as one sort of full game with 13 chapters. On mobile, however, it might be a little bit more 'divided'. And each chapter in the game is, say, 45 minutes to an hour long.

I think our biggest challenge is deciding what we're going to change. I'm hugely opposed to the virtual joystick setup - I think it's a horrible way to play games on the iPad. I would rather you push the character or that you point to where you want to go, and you control the camera with two fingers or something.

You said it was quite a relaxed experience. Has the death mechanic been taken out?

RT: There's no combat, there's no stealth. It's all adventure mechanics.

I'm not saying there isn't any drama in the game, though, obviously. Most of the drama is delivered through the conversations, the idea of this impending threat. You're usually not 'stressed' when you play it, however.

Is this more April's story or more Zoe's story?

DS: This is the end of Zoe's story basically. We're finishing what we started in Dreamfall. Giving an end to what we call the "dreamer cycle".

Why do you feel the game has such universal appeal?

RT: It's a game about real people, relationships. It's a game that has romantic relationships in it, normal everyday conversations.

DS: And I think everybody likes good stories.

RT: A lot of people have played Dreamfall with their significant others. A lot of our female fans say, "I played this with my dad back in the day", and that that got them into gaming.

Some people feel very close to the game. A lot of people feel like April Ryan was them, and the same thing with Zoe. A lot of people say, "when I played Dreamfall, that's exactly where I was at in life. I'd left school and I didn't know what to do. I was living at home..."

DS: They can relate to the situation, and they feel empathy with the character.

How do you find balancing the naturalism of the piece with the magical realism?

RT: I think with Longest Journey that there was a really good balance between the normality of April's life in the city, the wild fantasy world, and then the science fiction ideas. I think in Dreamfall we lost a bit of the magic.

At the end of Dreamfall, there were a lot of cliffhangers, so we're still picking up the story in our world in the future. In Arcadia, though, we're going to play with the magical aspects.

DS: In Dreamfall, this just wasn't front and centre. You had the magical ghetto and the magical peoples, but they weren't really at the forefront...

RT: Zoe is sort of the anchor here. She's a real person, she has a recognisable background. People can identify with her. It's so much easier to go crazy with the magic once you have a realistic anchor.

It's sort of the whole idea of Game of Thrones. Because the characters are so relatable and the setting is so firmly grounded in family relations and politics, people buy or accept it when you bring in dragons.

This is a project that - from an outsider's perspective - has come about because there are a lot of dedicated Longest Journey fans.

Have you taken their feedback on board after the last game?

RT: Yes and no. The story will never be shaped by what players are telling us. We have a very clear vision for the narrative. That's not to say that it's remained unchanged in the decade and a half since the saga began.

Sometimes, fans will give us ideas about things we perhaps haven't thought about, and they're really good at catching us on stuff that we may have forgotten. So, we do troll the forums and Wiki that they've made in order to see what we've forgotten about the story.

But, mechanically, it's meant a lot. The opposition to combat and stealth obviously made us realise that that's not what people want.

What we saw on Kickstarter was that people want a story, they want some interesting challenges. They also want the emotions and magic of the previous games. We had a lot of crazy ideas before the Kickstarter about things we wanted to do, and those are all slowly but surely being discarded.

DS: We're saving those for a different game.

How have you changed up the more traditional P'n'C mechanics in Dreamfall Chapters?

Martin Bruusgaard (MB): There are a couple of things that we're doing in this regard: first of all, we have a mix between moving around in the 3D space via the old skool 2D point-and-click.

Right off the bat, then, you have a very minimalistic UI with a cursor in the middle in first person. But if you right-click, you detach that circle in the middle and you can look around and investigate.

You still have to go in there and look around, but you don't have to hit the pixel - you just have to hit the general area and it'll snap to it.

Secondly, when you run around in the game, you can pick up items. If you want to use them with something in the world, you bring up your UI. There will be an indication there of which items you can use at your current location.

Right, it's a little more streamlined?

MB: Yeah, you don't have to create this matrix in your head. None of us thought that led to particularly good gameplay.

DS: When it comes to the storytelling, we're trying to give people some serious choices, with actual consequences.

I'm not saying you're going to change the story. At the end of the day, it's the same story for everyone. Just that the journey there is a little bit different.

Dreamfall Chapters is currently lined up for a November 2014 release. We'll have more on the game in the months leading up to its release.

Reviewer photo
Peter Willington 28 June 2013
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