As many people are aware, there was recently a rather large announcement about the decision to take Dreamfall Chapters episodic.
The announcement was made in the A message from Ragnar thread. And it immediately spawned a FLURRY of replies with several questions asked about basically everything under the sun. And Ragnar has been very diligent about answering them. However, the thread is now over 20 pages long, making finding specific discussions problematic.
To help with that, I've compiled a list of all of the topical / non-fluff posts Ragnar has made in that thread for your perusal. Some of them may be slightly snipped to remove fluff / off topic info. If you want to see the original post with the original quote it was in response to, just click the arrow in the top right corner of the quoted Ragnar post.
I will also be taking some of these responses and using them to start new threads for topics that are unrelated to the announcement.
Questions About Episodic Structure, Delivery, And Continuity:
- Will the decisions I make in each book only have consequences within that book, or will the effects follow through across the entire game?
The effects will follow across the entire game. Choices made in Book One will come back to haunt you in Book Five!
- Will my Steam copy update automatically with new content and bug fixes?
Correct — your Steam copy will be automatically updated and bug fixed.
- Will I have to restart the game to switch from one Book to the next?
You won't have to restart the game to get to the next book — it's all pretty seamless
- Everyone is talking about Steam. What about other distribution methods?
Wait, what? Why? If people ask questions about Steam, we answer them
Every episode (book) of Dreamfall Chapters will be released on GOG, Humble Store — both DRM-free — and…Steam. Yep, also Steam.
- An episodic game doesn't mean : a longer/more extensive game compared to non episodic releases, a game of better “quality” compared to non episodic releases, or a game that can take significant player feedback into account during development.
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
It's definitely longer and more extensive because of our shift to episodic.
It will definitely be higher quality, because we get to focus a lot more on smaller releases — we can polish, bug test and fix, and pay attention to the details.
And we will most certainly take player feedback and data into account, as much as possible. This is going to help us a lot in making sure we fix things that obviously don't work as well as they should.
- Concern regarding how much player feedback will be taken into account, especially in the first game.
Well, WE could!
I hear what you're saying, but don't underestimate what changes we CAN do during the 'season cycle'. No, obviously, we're never going to make MAJOR creative changes to the story. That would go against our key tenets — we're telling our story, not a crowdsourced story. But we will listen to feedback about GUI, controls, movement, performance, and so on. Anything we can do something about, we will do something about, as long as it doesn't get in the way of releasing the next book in a timely manner, and it compromises our vision.
And since our game is based around choices and consequences, player actions in earlier books might affect how we do things — subtle things — in later books. And we will listen to all feedback and take it into account when writing, recording and finalising later books.
Obviously, yes, it will be hard to use player feedback to change the FIRST book — I'm not even sure why that's brought out as an issue! — but for subsequent books we will most definitely be listening, learning and adapting to how players play and what the community loves and hates.
And obviously there is a sliding scale here: we will not be making fundamental, structural changes to the game. I think everyone understands that. But that doesn't mean we won't be making any changes at all.
- When you release the chapters on GOG could you put like DLC and not as individual games? Because individual games takes up a lot of space in GOG's library.
Thanks for the input! We haven't yet figured out how we're going to do the GOG release of subsequent books, but it will probably be something like that. We definitely don't want to require massive downloads for every book. With Steam, it's a lot easier: it will just patch up your client with every release.
- So this is a.) to deliver us at least part of the game when we thought we'd get it and b.) To make sure that you are able to deliver the story as you think it should be.
Correct. We wanted to start delivering this autumn, to meet our (very early, very rough) estimate.
- If the game was originally supposed to be 10 hours, how long is it now?
I REALLY don't like giving playing time estimates, because this is usually what happens:
Me: "The game will take ten hours to get through!"
Internet person: "LOL lies! I got through the game in EIGHT hours, so lame, I give this game 0 out of 10!"
An exaggeration, I know, but whenever we start giving estimates, it leads to unhappiness. Some people think it's too short, some too long, and lots of people feel it's their duty to prove that they can get through the game a LOT faster than that.
And that's true: if I give you an estimate, that's based on how I play the game. I listen to everything, look at everything, talk to everyone. I explore. I wander around. I soak in the atmosphere. I enjoy the world, the people, the art, the sounds… I take my time. I'm in no rush. And that's why I love episodes: with every release, I get to return to a world and enjoy myself for a few hours.
So how long will the game be? That depends a lot on YOU. How do you play? Do you skip through conversations? Do you rush to your next goal? Well, then it might not last anywhere as long for you as it does for me.
But I'll give you an indication. Some people have spent almost three hours with Book One. Book One is one of the shorter books. So if you play with the story and the world in mind, you'll definitely be spending more than ten hours in Chapters by the end of the journey.
- I think the game will be "patched" in the DRM-free platforms as well when a new chapter is released. You won't have 5 installed games, just one. And thus no save moving will be required.
That's the plan!
- Will the books be able to be played separately?
I'm not sure if I answered this or not, but that's not the case: the books can not be played separately. You have to play through the story from the beginning, and all your choices and actions are recorded, remembered and used to change things in subsequent books. The structure is episodic, but your path through it is linear — you can't just drop in at any time. Then it wouldn't be YOUR journey anymore. And we want everyone to experience the story from the beginning.
- Will the books be sold separately or only as a season pass?
Season pass only. We don't want anyone to buy just, say, Book Three and play that — in fact, we don't support that at all. You need to play it from Book One and onwards.
- I think they already said that the books were originally going to have beginning/middle/end already, so in that regard nothing has changed.
So the way it works is that each book (Book) takes place within a few days — and between Books (books), a bit of time passes. At most, I believe it's two months. Every Book/book also ends with an Interlude. And usually some sort of (don't kill me) cliffhanger.
Hey, at least you won't have to wait years for the resolution to those cliffhangers!
But yes, books/Books are self-contained, but not standalone. If that makes sense. And they're all part of the bigger story. And things happen. And stuff.
Don't worry, it'll make sense. The important thing is that YES, each Book (book) has its own little arc that helps tremendously when dealing with an episodic format. The reason for this is that it was originally intended to be episodic, and the structure remained.
- So, wait. You said that the first book would come out early, but X / Y source still says November.
Ugggghhhh, I promised myself I wouldn't do this, because it always backfires but:
The plan is to have it out BEFORE November, for sure.
BUT (buts are prevalent, they are everywhere) we're not going to release something half-arsed or buggy or unfinished or just plain not great. So we're not going to set a specific date quite yet, even though we have a target milestone internally. And we're not going to release this game on the same day as the biggest and most hyped PC release, so we need some leeway.
I expect and hope to be able to announce a final date at the end of August. But before November, for sure (except, y'know, with lots of caveats).
- Wouldn't it make more sense to allow people to by the first book as a stand alone to see if they like it?
We MIGHT do something like that later on, but at the beginning we do want to encourage people to buy into the whole season.
- Will there be a Polish localization from release? Also will there be Steam collectible cards?
So What's In Book One / Subsequent Books?
- So Book 1 contains, prelude, chapter 1, chapter 2, interlude 1. As far as I know chapter 1 will only contain Zoë in the story time, and chapter 2 Kian in prison.
Zoë in Storytime in Kian in Friar's Keep is less than half — maybe a third or a fourth — of what's in Book One. We'll have a trailer for the first book/episode/bunch of chapters (!) early next week, so you get to see for yourself.
Except the interlude. We will never show anything from the interludes.
- So We will not get into Europolis until Book 2, but it's mentioned in a few kicksterter updates ago, that it's getting now a second pass of gameplay / optimization. Were we getting more updates (wallpapers?).
Wrong: Europolis is part of Book One. Book One is pretty big. Book Two is even bigger. Book Three…well, Book Three may not be bigger than Book Two. But it's still big. Book Four, on the other hand. Oh, boy!
But, yeah, Europolis is definitely in Book One. All of it.
As for more updates — yeah, that was the plan, but I think we decided it would get lost in the shuffle, and since we have a new trailer coming next week, we figured we'd save the rest of it for then. I hope you guys don't mind, it's been a busy few weeks!
- I watched the gameplay videos because I thought we were getting a whole game. Now I'm worried I spoiled most of the first Book.
There's a LOT left to enjoy in Book One…and we've made quite a lot of changes to both Storytime and Friar's Keep since those videos were released: you'll still get a lot of enjoyment (and also, hopefully, some challenges) out of both.
Don't worry, you haven't spoiled your enjoyment of Book One, not at all!
- Will we be able to collect Books for the Library in the first Book?
Good question. I don't think so, but I'll look into it. That would definitely be cool, though. I'll whisper the right words in the right ears, so maybe, maybe!
Questions About Recaps In Between Books:
- Will there be a "Previously on Dreamfall" style recap? If so, will you be able to turn it off?
We will do a short recap of the previous book at the beginning of subsequent books — just enough to freshen people's memories. And yeah, that should definitely be a toggle.
- Recaps are unnecessarily spoilery. I hope not much effort is put into them. Etc.
Hey, they do "previously on" for weekly television series! People forget quickly, and personally I would much prefer to see a short recap of what's happened previously, since I already read, play, watch, listen to a lot of different stuff.
The recaps will just use clips from the previous episo— sorry, book. So they're not going to cost us anything. Just a bit of recording and editing time.
- What about previews of the upcoming Book?
We will do very brief "next time on" sequences at the end of each book. You can skip them, but they won't be spoilery. They'll whet the appetite for what's coming next. And they are important, because we do want players to be excited and talk about it and be engaged and spread the word.
But yeah, if you know you're going to keep playing the game, feel free to skip 'em.
- Previews and recaps are examples of extra time/effort/money that wouldn't need to be spent if the game weren't episodic.
Actually, and true story: we WERE going to do those anyways. The way the game is/was structured, we made sure we supported the sort of occasional gaming that I know a lot of older gamers prefer. Older gamers like me, for instance. I don't have time to play a lot, and sometimes I return to a game week or months later — and I know I'm not the only one. So we were going to do "previously on" and "next time on" sequences for the game, to support episodic playing…before we went (back to) episodic.
We feel pretty good about that decision now.
- There should probably be a toggle for previews, too.
Good idea. Noting it down.
Questions About Budget / Timeline Concerns:
- What happens if you don't get the income you're hoping for? Will that mean a delay or is there risk of the whole game not being finished?
No, we're not going to run out of money after the release of Book One, regardless. But the more money we make, the more money we can invest in subsequent books. We want to make the game as good as possible, and quality costs. Until we're completely happy with how books two-to-five are looking and playing, we won't be investing any money in other titles — Dreamfall Chapters is our first priority for the foreseeable future.
- Did they make a mistake somewhere in their estimates?
No 'mistakes' were made, but game development is not an exact science — nor is any product development that has a team of more than a couple of people. Part of the creative process is seeing what works and what doesn't. The story has changed a lot since our preproduction phase; not because of bad planning, but because that's how it goes. We write and rewrite until it gets *good*.
We could have made *a* game on time. We have a ton of experiencing building huge games with enormous teams. But we didn't want to make *a* game. We wanted to make a game worthy of the saga — one that wrapped up Zoë's story in a satisfactory way — and that's simply taken longer and cost more than we'd initially planned for. This happens. A lot. Not just with creative projects, but with software in general.
The fact is that we have very good control over the project timelines, the tasks, bugs and todos, and our budget — and it was a combination of all of these that made us realise that going episodic would be a better solution. We're solving a problem that hasn't occurred yet, and making sure we can deliver the best game possible in the best way possible.
It's easy to point fingers and say people made a mistake: we're trying to *avoid* making a mistake, and that's not necessarily an easy thing to do.
- I just wonder about needing more revenue streams after $1.5 million on Kickstarter. I get that it doesn't compare to $100 million for a huge MMO etc. but I would have thought it would enable them to finish without further revenue streams to complete the game.
Dreamfall Chapters is a pretty huge game. We have a reasonably big team — 16 people in-house, plus outsourcing and freelancers — along with associated overheads. I won't break this down into numbers, because that's information I'm not necessarily allowed to share, but it's quite costly.
The Kickstarter funds constitutes a big and important part of our budget, but it's not our entire budget: we've had other investments and grants, and the total budget is certainly higher than $1,5 million.
- People on the Kickstarter seem angry / are making accusations.
The internet is an angry place in general. People like to vent and yell and scream. We don't mind a bit of anger and frustration, but we try to strike down on personal attacks and falsehoods. And we know that most of the people who are negative (they're not in the majority, luckily; most of you have been very understanding and positive — thanks!) feel that way because they want to play the game as soon as possible, and because they actually like what we do. So we take it in stride. Just, y'know, stay rational and understand that we're doing this for a lot of reasons — all of which I listed in my message yesterday.
One thing is for sure: our spending has never been frivolous or out of control. We have an extremely tight and careful control of our budget, to the point where every expense is questioned and we prepare for any eventualities. We're making changes now not because we're in panic mode or because it took us by surprise, but so that we are prepared for the future and that we don't do something that places the project or the company in jeopardy. We have a responsibility both towards our employees and our backers, and we take that responsibility VERY seriously.
There is a reason why I don't sleep very much — running an indie studio is the most terrifying thing I've ever done! But I also love it!
- Episodic formatting will cost more due to things like needing to bring voice actors into the studio multiple times.
No, that's completely wrong. We pay actors and studio BY THE HOUR. It costs no more to have an actor in for a three hour session once than to have that actor in for three separate sessions spread over several months.
I have been doing voice recording for games for two decades now, and I feel I know how to optimise time spent and reduce budget as much as possible. For most games I've worked on — including Dreamfall — actors were brought in multiple times during the course of production, to record dialogue for the same characters. We like to do continuous voice recordings and allow for changes along the way, rather than do it all at the end.
So no, splitting the voice recordings into multiple sessions is not going to cost us any more. That's the basic mechanic at work here
On the other hand: going episodic allows us to actually increase the amount of voice work we do for some characters, and yes, that will add to the budget, but it will also help the story. And while this might not be a regular thing, it's great to have that possibility.
- Concerns over staffing in regards to budget and the episodic formatting.
But of course the team will change over time, as people wrap up their work on the game — that's only natural. We've already created a lot of assets for upcoming books, and some people will run out of tasks before Book Five is out. We can of course use these resources to add more content and polish to Chapters, and perhaps we will, though it will need to serve the story and atmosphere rather than just being added content for added content's sake. More likely, these resources will start working on other project(s).
- Speculation about increasing working hours; budget breakdown.
We are actually not allowed to increase work hours — Norway has very strict labour laws, and we're in a high risk industry so we're also under a very watchful gaze. We can't and won't break the law. And overtime is not only prohibitively expensive; we need people to be rested and focused during the eight (well, seven and a half) hours they do work.
Having said that, we have an incredibly passionate team that works hard without being asked to, and that we sometimes have to tell to go home so that they can relax and be with friends and family. We want our employees to stay with us for the next decade, and we have no wish to exploit or exhaust them. And we have no desire to be fined by the government for breaking labour laws.
But yeah, we are working as efficiently, fast, focused and hard as we possibly can, and I see so much passion and engagement on the team, it makes me emotional — they're such a fantastic bunch of guys or girls, and this is also why I want to make sure they can focus on a smaller part of the game, and get the satisfaction and reward of shipping something as soon as possible…before focusing on the next book.
Aw, now I'm getting emotional *sniff* but I love those guys. Wouldn't want to work with ANYONE else. They're awesome.
- $1.5M is peanuts when it comes to game making / Kickstarter gives people the wrong impression of how much money game creation takes.
Yeah, you hear a lot about the super cheap games made by a couple of indie developers who live for free and don't have kids. It's GREAT that we live in a world where studios like that can exist, and where some games can emerge from almost nothing to conquer the world — that's fantastic, and I'm really happy for those developers.
Our situation is a bit different: we have a bunch of employees who need to pay rent, eat, support their families, and all of whom could easily get better paid jobs elsewhere. Luckily, they love working on Chapters and with each other, so they're willing to do this for less…but we couldn't ask them to work for free. And even the partners in the company have to actually pay their mortgages and put food on the table for their children.
$1,5 million is a lot of money to get on Kickstarter, and we are so incredibly grateful for that — but for game development, particularly in Europe, it's not an enormous amount of money. And it only makes up part of the Dreamfall Chapters budget. A LARGE part, and a hugely important part, but the game is more expensive than that, unfortunately. We can make cheaper games, and some day we will, but to make something worthy of The Longest Journey name, it was going to cost.
But SO worth it.
- On Kickstarter, the costs necessary for making a game are usually vastly exaggerated.
No, most Kickstarter projects ask for a LOT less money than what it will cost them to finish production. It's an unfortunate fact, but it's true. Unless you get people to work for free — and yeah, if that's the case, then sure — the costs rack up super quick. Smaller, younger indies have an advantage: they CAN live on less. Once you have a company with salaried personnel, you need to pay the salaries or lose the people. Most grown-ups can't survive without a steady salary.
And no, $1,5 million isn't peanuts by any measure of things. But it's amazing how costly it is to run a studio: we knew that, and we reacted accordingly, but it is pretty scary at times.
- Could you possibly give an indication of how well Chapters will need to sell to finance things through to the end?
As with most things, we're scaleable when it comes to finances.
Will all five episodes get made regardless of sales? Yes. Do sales numbers have an effect on our company and games? Of course.
Without going into specific numbers, I can say that lower than expected sales numbers will definitely affect our timelines and team size. But our sales estimates are also quite conservative, and we're not banking our future on Chapters becoming a breakout hit. We're a cautious lot when it comes to money, and we've made some equally cautious estimates that — if met — will allow us to maintain our current team size and development velocity.
And if we sell more than our base estimates, we will of course use that money to make an even better game — but without scaling things up or adding more content. We want to focus on polish and bug fixing, rather than adding even MORE content. We have enough of that already.
Worst case scenario, Chapters is Red Thread's first, last and only game. If that happens, so be it: I'll be heartbroken, but we founded this company to make Dreamfall Chapters, and if that's all we ever do, I won't regret a thing. I'm really proud of what the team has accomplished. If Chapters is enough of a success to allow us to make more games — TLJH, Draugen, whatever comes after that — I'll consider it a bonus. This is an incredibly tough industry, and I feel really blessed to be able to do what I do. I never take it for granted.
But yeah, it's a tough question to answer. Part of the reason for going episodic is because we want and need to generate income. Our war chest isn't bottomless, and our budget is tight. We want to have a buffer, and we want to know that we can deliver a game that we can all be proud of, within a reasonable timeframe. Luckily, we have enough experience to set realistic targets — and that's what we're doing. With intricate spreadsheets!
We will definitely keep everyone in the loop once the game is released. We probably won't release detailed sales numbers, but we'll definitely let you know if and when our targets are met, and how that affects production. And if we do better than expected, we'll include you all in the celebrations…somehow!
- Is there an ETA for Chapter Five? Are we looking at 2015 or more like 2016?
Oh, 2015 for sure. We just don't want to make any promises on release dates, because we don't like *breaking* promises. But 2015 for sure.
- Where is production at? Is Book two even started?
Book Two is in alpha right now. And we've finished a bunch of the locations and characters for subsequent books. It's not like we've only been working on Book One; we have worked towards a full release for almost a year.
What he said.
But yeah, atrociously bad sales would have a detrimental effect on books three and onwards — not to the point of breaking the story, but we wouldn't be able to put as much time and love into those books as we will with the first two (which are 95% and 70% done). So we're really, really hoping for decent+ sales. I mean, we're hoping for GREAT sales, of course, but I'm a Negative Nancy* and I like to worry and prepare for the worst. I'm a very, very cautious optimist.
In other words: go forth and spread the word! Tell people about the game! Be our crusaders! We'll give you badges and fancy names!
* I'm not sure why Nancy gets all the shit. One time, one time, she had a bad day and she was all doom & gloom, and from that point on they called her Negative Nancy. It's bloody unfair, is what it is.
Questions About Reward Distribution:
- Will digital rewards be released as the game is released / developed?
Yes, digital versions of the rewards will be released along the way! And the plan is still for the Journeys short story collection to be out before Book One. We're working hard on those. The graphic novel was always meant to pick up where the game ends, so we don't want to release that one until after Book Five.
Tome of the Balance should appear around the halfway point. The Art of Dreamfall Chapters closer to the end, since we want to include all the concept art and illustrations and renders — and some of that won't be finished until Book Five is in beta. The same goes for the soundtrack: our composer will be composing new music along the way, and we would definitely want the soundtrack to include everything.
- Can I still get a boxed copy? Will physical copies of the game be made available down the road?
It's still possible to get boxed copies by going to our slacker backer site at http://redthreadgames.com/pledge/ — we'll keep the option open until we run out of boxes. Of course, those boxes will NOT ship until all five books/episodes (bookisodes?) are out.
There might hopefully be a retail release in SOME territories (like Germany, for example) but this is by no means guaranteed: also, it's doubtful that English speaking areas will ever get a retail release. It just doesn't make much sense, financially.
If the game does well, we'll look into producing our own Director's Cut (or something like that) after all five bookisodes (I'm going to trademark that word) have been released. But, again, no guarantees.
Your best bet is really to grab one now while they're still available.
- Director's cut? Isn't that a stretch goal we already reached? That seems confusing / like it will cause confusion.
Why confusion? The statement above was in regards to a boxed version of the game that we might release after all five bookisodes are out. Why not call it Director's Cut, even though the game is already, technically, a director's cut? It would, after all, include all the goodies we've created for the Kickstarter, along with the full game.
Not saying that such a thing will happen or is financially feasible or that the game is enough of a hit to justify the cost, but it's a possibility.
- Okay, so slacker backing is a go, but what about backerkit? There was an October 2014 deadline for changes, but mine's already locked down.
BackerKit has been such a huge hassle for us, and the cause of many delays — it was our choice, of course, so we can only blame ourselves; never again! — but the whole cut-off and charging thing through BackerKit is causing us constant headaches. We will try to be as flexible as we can be, but in order to ship anything at all we have to lock orders down. We'll update you if and when we have more answers.
- My Backerkit is locked and I wanted to make a change. Upping my pledge seemes really complicated.
What About The Recap Of TLJ / Dreamfall?
Note: An official thread about this has been opened here.
- When can we expect the interactive recap?
We're still trying to work out the format for the interactive Dreamfall summary thingy, and how to maybe (MAYBE) include it with the game itself. We always knew we wanted this out before the game released (naturally) but I'm not sure one or two months in advance is going to happen, or that it's the best idea. Ideally, this will come out just before the game releases or with the game's release, in order to refresh people's memories (or get new players up to speed) just before they embark on the new journey.
Anyway. That's what we're figuring out now and working towards. We definitely want to make sure everyone's on top of the story before getting started with Chapters!
- So it's still being made? Awesome!
Yep, that's the plan! But I think everyone has a slightly different idea of what this interactive recap thingy is all about (including the team!) so we want to make sure players don't set their expectations too high.
Our main goal is to explain the story of Dreamfall (and the TLJ universe) to new players, and to bring old players up to speed on what happened previously. We want to do this in a fun and interactive way, but this is not going to be a hugely ambitious project that takes focus and resources away from Chapters. And hopefully it will be something that everyone can access, easily and quickly, on the web or in the front end of the game itself.
I'll be giving this a lot more thought in the weeks ahead, and if you guys have any input or wishes for what you'd like to see in such a recap app (recapp?) then bring it on! I can't promise to fulfil your wishes, but it never hurts to bring new ideas to the table.
- Ideally the recap should ship with the game, not before. The idea is to get them acquainted with the old games without making them play them. TLJ can be slow to start and that could be a turn off.
Yes, TLJ *can* be a bit uneventful at the start, unless you're really prepared for hours of…talking. It was made in a different age.
And yeah, the recapp (I'm coining that phrase!) has to ship with (or slightly before) the first book, otherwise it's a bit pointless. So with the release of book one actually happening sooner rather than later, we're ramping up the design and production of the…recapp. RecApp. RecapP. ™.
Questions About Beta Access / Early Access / Demos
- When will the beta be released?
We're not going to release a beta, and we never promised to release a beta. We had an internal deadline for a beta today, and that deadline has been met — but unless you're on the team, you're going to have to wait until Book One is released this autumn
- Will there be a demo?
No, there won't be — at least not until much later on.
- What about early access for Backers who pledged at those levels?
I believe we're still doing early access for the relevant tiers — something like two days before official release? Correct me if I'm wrong!
"Bigger / Better" And Factors In Going Episodic
- But dangling the loose idea of an even better game (as compared to the even better game we were promised last year) in front of the noses of backers and other fans, that does_not_sound_convincing to me.
Where did we say that? Oh, wait: we didn't!
We — or, let's be fair to everyone else on the team, *I* — said explicitly that I'm not comfortable with our ability to properly polish, test, bug fix and deliver the game in a timely manner without going episodic. I think I may even have the original text available. Yep, here it is:
Since the conclusion of the Kickstarter, we've had a certain scope and a level of quality in mind — shaped by our success and stretch goals. We've been able to meet that level of quality with books one and two, but boy oh boy is it time-consuming. We're not willing to back down from that and deliver less than what we'd promised, which is why we're going episodic.
No, we're not adding EVEN MORE STUFF to the game — no one's saying that — but on the other hand, the scope we ended up with during and after the Kickstarter was more extensive than we'd thought. As things got nailed down and the story took shape over time, it was obvious that the game was getting bigger than anticipated. And rather than going back and cutting a bunch of stuff out — which we could have, but it would have been a painful process, and I'm not sure I would have been comfortable with the end result — we sat down and came up with a (hopefully) better plan. One that helps us, and (again, hopefully) benefits you.
Are we shit at planning and scheduling? Are we incompetent developers? No. Well, maybe, who knows. But I've worked in this industry for over twenty years now, and no schedule or plan has EVER held up during a development period of more than six months with a team of more than five people — and that applies to everyone else as well (or at least the people I know and have talked to). Every game I've ever been involved with, either directly or watched from the sidelines, has been delayed. Those delays aren't always made public, and sometimes delays are alleviated by dramatic cuts and tons of compromises in order to make a publisher-imposed ship date. As I've repeatedly said elsewhere: game development (and software development in general) is NOT an exact science. It's hard, and when you're telling a story on top of that — when story is your main focus — you need to be able to change things. Many times.
Earlier this year, we went back and changed a lot of the story in the first half of the game. That wasn't cheap and it didn't help us meet any milestones, but you know what, it was so worth it. I'm very happy that we didn't stick with what we had, because it wasn't very good.
The same goes for gameplay: from the beginning, we had a vision of each chapter (there are thirteen in total) being somewhere between 40-60 minutes in length. As we reached alpha stage, it's became apparent that some chapters may be almost twice that, due to a complex mix of factors: longer dialogues; bigger locations; more involved and interesting puzzles and gameplay… And again, we could have made deep cuts, but when the game takes shape and you realise that what you have is pretty damn fun, it may not be a good idea to take all of that away again. And that was part of our conversations, too. Should we make those cuts, and risk losing what we had, or should we go episodic?
On top of all that, we've been working with an engine that isn't entirely suited to the scale and scope we're producing — not that this has been a huge part of the delays, but it doesn't help.
So yeah, game development; a complicated and unwieldily beast. And you know, the team *is* pretty good at it. There's a ton of experience there, and we've made much bigger and much more complicated games in the past, managing hundreds of people over many years — but at the end of the day, you just never know. You plan as best you can, and then, a month later, you revise those plans. And you keep doing that until the game is good enough and ready to ship.
I hate repeating myself, but it's right there in the original message we sent out on Friday: in order to deliver the game WE PROMISED, and with the level of quality and polish we feel is necessary, we need to break it up. Otherwise we'd run into massive delays and probably deliver a game that's buggy, unpolished and possibly broken. And it's not like we have unlimited finances — we have to be realistic, responsible and reactive. So instead, we're giving ourselves some much-needed leeway by splitting it up into manageable chunks, to improve our focus, reduce the incredible pressure on the team, and start generating income — which buys us more time and resources to make the game better than we could have made it otherwise.
- What is now described as the positive effect of the episodic release has rather explicitly previously been promised for reaching the Director's Cut tier. That IS the situation. ... That's the bar RTG is raising for themselves with this announcement, and backers should be aware of that.
No, we didn't say that. You keep saying it, but that doesn't make it true. Read my original message, and read my follow-up: we're splitting up the game so that we can deliver what we promised, and deliver in with a higher level of polish and fewer bugs than we would have done had we NOT gone episodic.
- I don't buy the pretense that a longer, better, more polished product will come from the episodic model.
Will it be better and more polished? Of course it will. How can it not? I've been doing this for a LONG time, and I think I know what it takes to polish and ship a game. Splitting it up into five books gives us a lot more room to actually make it shine — it's amazing how much it helps.
(As for longer: we're not splitting it up because we want to make it longer; part of the reason we're splitting it up is because we realised the game was longer than we'd originally planned! Again: this is ALL in my original message, which you might want to read again! )
I've been making games in a professional capacity since 1993. And before that I made my own crappy little games. I have quite a bit of experience, and I don't have a reputation for lying to our players.
Going episodic — no matter what else you may think of that decision, or your personal views on the model — is a huge benefit in terms of focus and scope. I know that, the team knows it, and anyone who's spent a lot of time making games would agree.
Feel free to be upset with our decision or to question our ability to plan and schedule, but please respect the fact that we're doing this for the very reasons I stated in my original message.
- Saying "It'll be bigger and better than if we didn't go episodic" and saying "It got bigger than we originally envisioned" doesn't necessarily mean that it's bigger than what people had in mind when we hit the "more content" stretch goals.
But we never said that we'll make it bigger because we're going episodic. It's the other way around: one of the reasons for going episodic was that the game had grown bigger than anticipated. And 'bigger' simply means there's a lot more to handle — not necessarily that it has more characters or locations, but there's just more moving parts than we thought there would be, particularly in terms of the dialogue and the different paths you can take through the game.
So, in bullets:
* As a consequence of a successful Kickstarter, we increased the scope of the game to match our stretch goals.
* With this specific scope in mind, we designed and built the game.
* We got to alpha and saw that along the way it had become a more complicated and ambitious game than anticipated.
* We knew we wouldn't be able to ship the game this year, or ship it at all in any satisfactory or polished state.
* We had two choices: massive cuts, or episodic distribution.
* Even with cuts, we'd end up in 2015.
* In order to begin the story in 2014, keep our story intact, reduce the ambition, start earning money and ensure a more polished and bug free game, we decided on episodic distribution.
* Added bonus: no cuts.
* Announcement is made, internet erupts.
* Ragnar spends hours on forum, enjoying the honest interaction with the community.
That, roughly, is how it played out!
Questions About Bad Reaction To The Episodic Model:
- Won't going episodic hurt the game's Metacritic score?
Metacritic is scary and awful for developers and great for consumers and players — but it can also be a boon for smaller guys like us…if our games get good scores across the board.
It can go two ways, really. The great thing about episodic games is that each episode gets its own Metacritic score. So even if one episode gets a low score, another can get a high score. With a full, standalone game you only get one shot.
Episodic games in general get higher average review scores than non-episodic: this, of course, has little to do with the format and much to do with the quality of the games in question. The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us, Broken Age, Broken Sword, Kentucky Route Zero… All games of high quality standards, and, consequently, with fairly high review scores across the board.
But yeah, there's nothing that says going episodic is going to hurt our reviews: quite the opposite, actually. So we'll see. The only thing we can do is make a great game, and I have a lot of faith in Book One — I play it every day, and I still enjoy it immensely. I think others will, too. Not everyone, but a lot of people.
Backer Discontent / Questions About Crowdfunding And Backers vs. Investors
- Shouldn't a decision like this be discussed with your backers?
How would such a decision be made, if it's not based on numerous discussions, tons of planning, budgeting and scheduling, and many long conversations internally and externally? Our backers don't have insight into our bug and task lists, our accounts and our burn rates — the only people who are able to make such a decision are those with managerial responsibilities, and that's pretty much our general manager…and me.
I'm sorry, but what you're suggesting — a discussion with our backers — would be impossible. What would backers base their insight on? Personal preferences? We used hard data and our very long experience developing games as a basis for this decision.
But thank you for being receptive to our feedback, and for becoming more positive in your posts — we do appreciate it
- Crowdfunding is about transparency. You kept this a secret for too long.
I'm sorry, we kept this a SECRET? Do you think we've been walking around since the end of the Kickstarter knowing we'd split the game into episodes?
No. We made this decision very recently, and we've been working hard to ensure that when we made the announcement, we'd have all the pieces in place to explain our decision properly. We're talking weeks.
There have been no secrets. We've been open and transparent. I'm not sure why this is a slap in the face — disappointment, I can understand, but we're not slapping anyone's faces.
- Backers are a kind of investor.
But backers are NOT investors. Not even close. I think Kickstarter makes that very, very clear. So no, we're definitely not going to involve backers in every important decision we make — but we ARE going to inform them (you!) of any important decisions we do make. Like today. You put your trust and money into our project so that we can go off and do what we do best: in turn, we promised to give you a game (and a bunch of other cool stuff). Which we will.
- But we are investors. We just don't have decisional power, etc.
No, that's wrong, and this is really important. Backers are NOT investors — they are BACKERS. An investor is:
"a person who allocates capital with the expectation of a financial return"
The wonderful thing about Kickstarter is that it's not about the expectation of financial return, and it's not about an investment. It's about pledging money to creative projects based on a combination of trust in the creators and a non-monetary (Kickstarter is very specific about this) reward, in return for an insight into the development process.
This is important because an investment is a very, very specific thing, and pledging to a Kickstarter project is NOT that thing. It's something completely different and wonderful and important, and we'd much, much rather have 25,000 backers than 25,000 investors looking for a financial return.
- If you look at crowdfunding as an investment, you'll always find out it's a bad investment.
It would also fall under completely different regulations, and we would have a TON of responsibilities that — fortunately — we don't currently have. Kickstarter makes it very clear that backers are not investors for this simple reason: there can not be a monetary return on pledges. Or they wouldn't be allowed to be in business.
And yes, @Vainamoinen, you're right: most crowd-funding campaigns would be horrible investments! But that's the beauty of it, projects that would never get investments can get funding, because it's about something completely different.
- I can understand you situation a bit, don´t believe every single word of it and don´t have to agree to it.
Feel free to disagree, but don't say you don't "believe" in what we're saying. We don't lie, we have no reason to lie, and most of the time we're probably TOO honest. But in my experience, it's better to be brutally honest than the opposite.
So yeah: I have no issue with people disliking the idea of episodic distribution, or being upset that we're not delivering a full game this November — just don't accuse us of being dishonest!
- Content related stretch goals should probably be avoided in the future.
No, you're absolutely right, and I think it's something more and more Kickstarter veterans are learning.
Stretch goals are important — we always want the total to surpass our minimum requirement — but the next time around (if there is a next time) we won't tie stretch goals to such specific deliverables. Instead, we'll keep it simple:
The more money we get, the better we will make the game.
I think that's the safest stretch goal you can make, and, in retrospect, the one we should have gone for with Chapters. Because that is the case: the more money we raise, the more we can spend on making the game great, and we don't have to tie ourselves down to content or features or promises that can and WILL change as we design and build the game.
On the other hand, people do love goals and achievements. Basic psychology. And we saw how well the stretch goals worked for Dreamfall, so it's a difficult issue. It's really important for us (and others) to raise as much as possible — we just need to find the best, most honest and most workable way to do that, without committing ourselves to things that we maybe won't be relevant a year or two later...
Questions About Backer Exclusivity:
- The game should be exclusive for backers until it is complete.
Are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that we don't make the game available to buy for anyone else when it comes out? In what world would that make sense? You do realise that we're a place of work for a lot of people who would like to possibly keep their jobs in the long run? That we are people with families and mouths to feed? That there are people here who have invested everything they own in getting this game off the ground?
Also: we know there are a LOT of people out there who are excited to play Dreamfall Chapters, but who don't necessarily want to back a game in production. Should they be denied access to the game?
We really appreciate the help and support of all of our backers, and I would think that you guys would be ecstatic if Dreamfall Chapters ended up a big success, so that we can keep making games in the future — including (fingers crossed) The Longest Journey Home. Or am I wrong?
We're game developers, we want to make a great game — for you guys and for the world — and we also want to make money so that we can stop wearing socks with holes in them and have the occasional meal out.
- Just until the first four chapters are done.
I'm sorry, but that's completely insane. No company would ever do this, because, yep, totally insane.
OF COURSE we're going to sell the game to other people. We want as many people as possible to play and enjoy our work, and, honestly, so should you, because it benefits everyone.
- I'm not trying to deny you sales, I just don't feel comfortable with you selling the game when it isn't complete and you're trying to get people to pay part of it.
You make it sound like we're being sneaky by wanting to sell the thing we're making to 'other people' — that's sort of our whole business. I'm not sure why you think it would be a good thing to restrict the game to backers, but it's definitely not a good thing: it's just crazy!
So no, we're not going to do that. But don't worry, you will still get to play the game — starting this autumn!
- Not sneaky. Just concerned the game won't be finished / that this will become a money grab.
If you think we're going for a "money grab" then you obviously haven't seen the amount of work, blood, sweat, tears and personal investments and sacrifices the team is putting into this game. No one's after a 'money grab'. Everyone just wants to make the best damn game possible, and by going episodic we stand a much better chance of accomplishing that.
And if we make a profit along the way, I get to buy new socks. Socks without holes in them. Glorious un-holy socks!
- Shouldn't the game be distributed for free since it was financed through Kickstarter?
No, that's not how it works. If it did, there wouldn't be a lot of Kickstarter — or any crowd-funded — projects around.
If we start giving the game away, we will have to close doors. We'd have to lay everyone off and find jobs elsewhere. I'm not sure that's a great option.
The profits we get from Dreamfall Chapters will hopefully allow us to keep making games for years to come, and to actually pay our overworked and underpaid employees what they deserve.
So no; no, that's not how it works. At all.
Questions About TLJH / Future Games:
- So poor sales could affect TLJH?
Correct: the future of The Longest Journey Home is 100% dependent on the sales numbers for Dreamfall Chapters. Even though we may decide to take TLJH to Kickstarter at some point, we will still need to invest quite a lot in the game ourselves, and to do that we need money. And that money will come from Chapters. If Chapters is a commercial flop, it might be Red Thread's first and only game. But that's not going to happen, of course, because you will all help us spread the word and make Chapters a hit! Right? Right!
- Can you imagine what would have happened if we'd hit the TLJH Stretch Goal? It wouldn't have been enough money.
We only ever promised to get started on preproduction with $2 million. We would have hired an illustrator and a designer to work on preproduction for an extended period of time, in order to get a head start. That stretch goal was NOT to pay for the full production — TLJH *is* going to cost quite a bit, like most games. I can't give you an exact number, and it won't be as expensive as Dreamfall, but in order to make a rich, beautiful, deep game, you need a lot of talented people. And those people cost money.
- Costs of 2D vs. 3D and budget differences.
Oh no, 2D is almost always cheaper, and TLJH will definitely be cheaper than Chapters. We're never going to do another game of the scope and ambition of Chapters (he said knowing that he might have to eat his words in five years' time) — it's MURDER. No, both TLJH and Draugen will be cheaper and smaller games than this lovely behemoth of an adventure.
3D is more expensive because the level of detail needed to meet current quality standards is simply staggering. Just take a look at the characters in our game: our experienced artists spend up to one month creating those models. Doing the same thing in 2D… Well, it would be a lot cheaper.
- When the time comes for TLJH Kickstarter, we will help you to define its gameplay in a completely and absolutely unmistakable way.
But, of course, as always — when we start working on the game, there will be changes, because there always are. And the more specific and precise we are early on, the more people will complain about the changes we do make. It's the nature of the beast, and it's taught me to be as vague as possible, to avoid disappointing anyone.
Ah, it was easier back in the early days of game development.
- Will future games follow this episodic structure as well?
Unless we become enormously successful, hire a bunch of people and grow Red Thread Games into a sizeable development studio, we will not attempt to make a huge, story-driven game in one go again. It didn't work with Dreamfall Chapters. We're just not set up to do that. It's risky and time-consuming and very, very demanding, both financially and organisationally. So in the future we either do smaller and more manageable games like Draugen; system-driven (RPG, sandbox) games — where content is less expensive — or we continue to make episodic games.
I'm not making any broad statements regarding TLJH here, but don't expect Red Thread to make a 12-15 hour adventure game: we just can't do it. We scale it down in scope, we go episodic or we do something else instead.
This has nothing to do with your acceptance or acquiescence, and everything to do with the team, how we work and our operating budget. We have to balance what's possible against what's desirable, and at the end of the day we have to be realistic. We definitely don't want to promise something we can't deliver.
Questions About Changes:
- So in this case a game designer discovering something is more complex than their original estimate and adapting for it is seen as bad, reckless and panicking rather than just adapting to new circumstances and making a new plan.
If people had been able to see behind the scenes on The Longest Journey, Dreamfall, The Secret World — any and all games I've ever worked on — they would have seen a lot of changes of heart. TLJ started life as a platform game. Dreamfall had a fixed camera for the first year of development. The Secret World had a completely different combat system. THINGS CHANGE. We adapt. That's game development. It's not construction work. Well, it's that *too*, but it's also storytelling, art, game mechanics, user interaction — and every little bit needs to be figured out, designed, tested, iterated on, thrown out, redesigned, reworked, tested, focus tested, bug fixed, polished…and it could still end up being shit, because NO ONE REALLY KNOWS. That's the secret: we're all trying to make great games, and sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed, and it's not always easy to see or understand why.
So, yeah. Episodic!
EDIT: And, right, I left out my point. My point is that if you guys got to see behind the scenes on any of my previous games, there would have been threads ten times as long as this one with a lot of very angry people. Kickstarter is great, it enables us to actually make a game! But Kickstarter is horribly scary, because it exposes every tiny part of game development to the world, and to our backers…who have put money down for something that's barely an idea of a game! I wouldn't change it for the world, I love having you guys around to chat with and push us forward, and I'm incredibly appreciative of the support…but, man, developing games in silence and isolation has its advantages too
- Confusion over why some changes have been made to the story.
There's story and then there's story. Let me explain:
Yes, we know exactly what the capital-S Story is, and we have for many, many years. That story exists in a document that's, at most, twenty pages long. But then there's all the story that happens between the big beats of the Story: the stuff that constitutes a lot of what you do in the game. The details. The plot.
Thing is, you have a story you want to tell, but to tell that story you have to also do a lot more. You have to develop characters, create conflicts, design puzzles and challenges, build the world… All of this is where the real storytelling happens. And that wasn't done. That's being done as we make the game. And when that stuff doesn't work, the STORY doesn't work.
Not sure if this made sense, but there it is
- There's a phrase for that. "Kill Your Darlings."
Yep. We do that. A LOT.
(Actually, one of Zoë's career paths in Europolis was going to be as a cupcake baker. That was one of my darlings. We killed it. I still cry bitter tears over that one.)
Questions About The Choice & Consequence / Social Mechanics:
- Scope of choices and carrying them over between books.
Most choices will actually affect things in both current AND upcoming books. Some consequences are long-reaching. You will need to play the game from the beginning to the end; you can't start in the middle, since we're dependent on a lot of the choices made earlier on. Part of the joy will be in seeing how seemingly insignificant actions in one book can have serious consequences in another.
- I don't remember backing an episodic game, or a game with C&C / Social mechanics.
You DO know that when we went to Kickstarter, the game was still in early preproduction and we didn't yet know exactly what we were making? We needed Kickstarter to get…kickstarted — and to put a team together and start working out what Dreamfall Chapters was going to be. In fact, in those early days we cut a lot more away than we added to the project. You weren't there, and you wouldn't know, but it was a group of highly experienced designers and developers sitting down and trying to work out what our game was going to be.
From that point on, the game has NOT changed at ALL. Choice and consequence was an integral part of this from the beginning. As players, we wanted to be able to see the choices made by others — and everyone who's seen this feature has been excited by it. The 'open world' bits (game spaces) was also part of the design from the very beginning.
I think you're confusing what you thought the game was going to be with our vision and design. We haven't wavered from what we designed during and right after the Kickstarter. We've been extremely focused on that game and that design for the past sixteen months. We've changed very little — in fact, this has been the smoothest development process I've ever been part of, because everyone's on the same page, and everyone shares the same vision.
Yes, the game grew because the story demanded it, and yes, we decided to go back to the episodic format — we didn't know when we started that we'd need to make this decision, and as soon as we realised it we put together yesterday's statement and told our backers. I don't think you've ever worked on a game or a creative project: things change! Game development is NOT an exact science. You need to constantly evaluate and reevaluate what you're doing based on taste and instinct. And that's what we've done.
Maybe you don't agree with our design choices, and that's fine, we respect that. But that doesn't mean we didn't have THIS game in mind from the moment we began production.
(And yes, combat and stealth was OUR idea in Dreamfall. We believed we could make it work. We didn't succeed. That happens. As game developers, we have ambitions and ideas that don't always pan out. But we learn, and we're better developers now than we were a decade ago. We have a lot of faith in what we're making, and we hope you'll all agree when you play Book One this autumn.)
- I thought the C&C was decided on either during the Kickstarter or shortly thereafter.
Yes, the choice and consequence mechanics were part of the original design, and it's something we've wanted to do since Dreamfall — heck, since The Longest Journey. There were minor choices in those games, but we didn't have the experience or the skills to do it. With Chapters, from the very beginning we were set on allowing players to shape their journeys, and to make tough choices: it's the theme of the game. The story IS about how all actions have consequences, and how you never know exactly what those consequences will be.
As time has passed, those choices and consequences became even more integral to the structure of the game, and since this is our first attempt at such a mechanic, it's been really challenging and time-consuming — but also incredibly rewarding. I couldn't imagine the game without it.
It may not be what some of you wanted or expected from Chapters, but it is the game we set out to make, and we feel very, very strongly about it. It makes the story a lot stronger and a lot more emotionally gripping and heartbreaking, and I'm extremely excited to see how players are going to react.
So yeah, of course the choice-and-consequence mechanic is a contributing factor to the game taking longer, but it's what the game is all about; it's the gameplay. Or at least a huge part of the gameplay.
- I really get the impression that the delay isn't due to the C&C mechanic but due to other things that come up with game design.
Choices and consequences affect conversations more than anything, so I've made my own workdays a lot harder — and longer — but the environment art and tech remain mostly unaffected by that game mechanic. Tech-wise, we had a working choice-and-consequence system very, very early on. And all the characters (well most) and locations are there in all branches: even if we had no player agency, we'd still need Europolis, Marcuria, Storytime… And those things take up most of our time.
Let's say we didn't have any choices in the game: it wouldn't be the story we wanted to tell or the game we wanted to make; it would be a much less involving and engaging game; it would not be what we'd been working towards for many years — and it still wouldn't be ready, because the art takes a LOT of time. A lot. That's our biggest challenge, to be honest: but at least the game looks spectacular, and when we release Trailer #2 tomorrow or Wednesday, you'll be able to see for yourselves.
- I feel like they changed part of the story to make it fit around the choice mechanic instead of fitting the choice mechanic around the story.
Whenever someone writes C&C I always think, for a moment, that they're talking about Command & Conquer…
No, our story was shaped around the choice mechanic — or, more accurately, our story is ABOUT choices and consequences, and how seemingly insignificant actions can have major and long-lasting ramifications much later on.
That's our theme. It's the core of our story. We couldn't tell this story without it.
You'll see when Book One comes out: I think you'll all understand what I mean.
- Why did you fail to mention the C&C mechanic in the Kickstarter?
Because it was a very complicated thing that we'd just started trying to properly design and figure out. We knew we wanted it, but we didn't yet know how or in what shape or form. And we knew that if we started talking about it, we wouldn't be able to communicate the rest of it. You have to focus your message, and we focused on feel and mood and soul and the visuals — we tried not to get into any gameplay details.
Besides, we talked about the story, and the choices and consequences is all about story; it's part of how we tell our story.
- Will the social mechanic be up and running with Book 1?
The social mechanics are already up-and-running and have been for a while.
You don't need an RTG account and you don't need to connect to anything. If you want to use Facebook or Steam connect to see what choices your friends have made in the game, you can do so, but it's not mandatory. You can also see what the world in general has chosen to do without connecting anything — but this is also optional. You can play the game without being connected to any servers or services.
But it's pretty cool to see what everyone else is doing. I'm addicted to it!
Classic Adventure Game Discussion:
Note: A thread has been started to discuss what constitutes a classic or traditional adventure game here.
- Is Dreamfall Chapters going to be like The Walking Dead?
No, Dreamfall Chapters is a very different game from TWD. There's more freedom to roam, there's more exploration and more puzzles. Where they are similar is in the focus on storytelling, the choice and consequence mechanics, and the episodic structure. But Dreamfall Chapters is closer to Dreamfall than it is to TWD — and we hope the game can bridge three worlds: the soul of The Longest Journey, the immersion of Dreamfall, and the interactive storytelling and player agency of Telltale's games.
- I'm tired of Kickstarters promising a traditional / classic adventure game and then failing to deliver on that.
I can totally understand that — but it's not what we promised with Chapters. We're building on what we did in Dreamfall, albeit with more gameplay complexity and challenge.
TLJH, on the other hand, will be more traditional. Not a retro point-and-clicker, necessarily, but definitely something more classic.
- You did promise a traditional / classic game with Chapters.
We didn't promise a traditional point-and-click adventure. We promised a *classic* adventure, and I guess you can argue about what that means — I totally see the potential for a great deal of interpretation there — but we also made it clear that Dreamfall Chapters is a sequel to Dreamfall, and that we would follow in the footsteps of that game when it came to how you play and experience the world. Dreamfall was NOT a traditional point-and-clicker, and if someone thought we would make a more traditional adventure, they weren't listening.
What we did promise was to bring back more of the magic and interactivity of The Longest Journey, and we are doing that. Chapters' worlds are more alive and interactive than they were in Dreamfall.
But still not traditional adventure gameplay with the pointing and the clicking, though.
EDIT: Oh, and "what we hope will be another classic adventure" — I think it's pretty obvious that 'another classic adventure' means an adventure that will become a classic. But it's all semantics at this point, since we're making the game we're making, and we believe most of you are going to be quite happy with it anyways.
- You implied / suggested point and click adventure game with the controls.
Again, we're talking semantics — "harkens back" can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. We wanted people to know that we'd allow for a lot of interaction with the world, and to encourage exploration. I hate having this discussion, because it sounds like I'm defending obtuse legal language, and I'm not: we produced a prototype video during the Kickstarter that showed the interface and game mechanics. Yes, you're right, some of the text can be interpreted in different ways, but again, we made it clear that Dreamfall Chapters was a sequel to Dreamfall and would be closer to that game, while TLJH was our 'true sequel' to TLJ.
If you thought differently, then I'm sorry: I thought we were very clear in the material we produced during the Kickstarter, and we've also showed extended sequences from the Chapters gameplay since then — there should be no doubt what our game looks like, how it plays, and what the GUI is like.
This is a reply to a longer post about what was promised in the KS in terms of traditionalness and similarities to TLJ / Dreamfall so I'm just going to make it a link to that post.
Look, you're right about a couple of things and I have enjoyed our exchange! You seem passionate in your beliefs, and I respect that, regardless of our different take on things
Yes: Chapters is definitely MORE traditional than, say, The Walking Dead. You can explore, there are puzzles (pillow on a broom!), there's lots to look at, there are dialogue trees. It's not a million miles away from The Longest Journey, and it's very close to the more gameplay heavy (thought not stealthy or combat-y) parts of Dreamfall. It's NOT a 'classic point-and-click adventure', but nor is it an 'interactive story'. It's its own beast. I don't think there's anything quite like it out there, and I'm very happy about that.
When we created the Kickstarter, we didn't plan on deceiving anyone, and I don't think we did. It was early days, we were still designing the game, and we knew what the game was going to be like — but not the details, not the exact mechanics, not the moment to moment gameplay. All that stuff happened after the Kickstarter, once we knew we were actually going to be able to make the game. We tried to stay quite general in our description of the game, to avoid a scenario where people would feel that we'd changed the premises…but of course the game was going to change. Every game does — except, y'know, FIFA and Call of Duty — during the course of production.
Still, the game is remarkably close to what we were aiming for from the beginning. And, in many ways, it's a lot better than what I'd envisioned and hoped for. That's a very good place to be in. I really do think this will be the best game in the saga thus far…but then again I'm also so involved and so close, that it's hard for me to be objective. And it's also a matter of taste. This is the game that I — and the team — want to play. It's not The Longest Journey, it's not Dreamfall; it's a new thing. It's a very cool thing, but a new thing.
And I hope you guys will love it as much as I do.
Tomorrow I'm going to start topics for some of these off topic issues so they can be further discussed outside of the Message from Ragnar thread. Assuming someone else hasn't already.
EDIT: Updated. Now with 10% more spoiler tags. May do a little more formatting of individual questions when I have the time.
EDIT 2.0: Added information about slacker backing / physical copy availability under "Reward Distribution"
EDIT 2.1: Further clarification added under "Reward Distribution."
EDIT 2.2: A note about episodic structure and future games added under "Questions About TLJH / Future Games."
EDIT 3.Uh Oh: I think this is my last edit guys. The code in the OP is getting so bulky that it's breaking as I try to edit it and the page is freezing up on me. Ragnar's latest answers from the thread have been added under Structure/Delivery/Continuity, Budget / Timeline, and Reward Distribution.