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Thursday
Apr042013

Maaaps!

I came across this old map when I was cleaning out my office a few weeks ago. It's not the original, but a taped-together photo-copy. Where the original ended up, I have no idea.

I sketched this one in 1996 or '97, in pencil on a sheet of A3 graph paper. It was definitely a while before The Longest Journey came out; the map references 'the Pig People' rather than 'the Mole People' (or the Banda). It was my first draft of what Arcadia looked like, and it's remarkably close to the final version. That map, incidentally, will be part of Dreamfall Chapters; a glorious, colourful, high-resolution reproduction of an entirely imaginative world.

I love maps. I love how they can make the unseen (and the unreal) stark, glorious reality. Maps have power, they contain worlds, and everything in them. Maps don't dilute landscapes: they expand upon them. Far from removing mystery, maps are the very source of mystery.

To wit: Here be dragons.

And yet... Maps have become a crutch for an endless torrent of three, six, nine, twelve-volumed fantasy epics; an easy way, together with glossaries, family trees, and 'cast' lists, to avoid lucid storytelling. Why bother describing the geography of your world, teaching the player to recognise signs and landmarks, when you can just reference the map on pages 6-7.

Maps are magical, but sometimes, oftentimes, maps can end up pulling you out of the text. When you have to flip back to the beginning to locate 'Druinwood', instead of instinctively, intuitively, understanding where the characters are, what they are seeing, through the words on the page -- you've lost something crucial. You've lost being there.

Still, though: maps are lovely, aren't they? This is one of Arcadia, and the one that comes with Dreamfall Chapters will be infinitely more lovely.

Saturday
Feb162013

Dreamfall Chapters on Kickstarter

Dreamfall Chapters, the sequel to Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, is now on Kickstarter!

Please help us make our dreams come true! Add your pledge over on the Dreamfall Chapters Kickstarter page TODAY!

Sunday
Jan012012

Twentytwelve

I'm guessing it's pretty obvious that I don't blog much anymore. Mostly because of this thing eating up all the time I have to spare. But also because of Twitter and Facebook, where it just happens to be quicker and easier to express myself, socially network and share.

Still, for those of you who've stuck around for the duration of the dry spell: Welcome to the Future.

2012 is going to be a pretty exciting year, and I'm not talking about Mayan prophecies. The Secret World will finally be out, ending -- or not ending, but paragraphing -- more than five years of development. We won't be leaving TSW behind, of course, since there's tons more to come after launch, but at least we'll be able to catch our breath and look ahead.

And what's ahead? That's too early to say, but rest assured that I haven't, and will not, leave The Longest Journey and Dreamfall fans in the dark forever. Chapters is going to happen, and hopefully this year you'll know when and how.

There might also be other stuff, but it's only January, so let's pace ourselves.

Around this time, I've usually done my lists of top games and films of the year that's been, and that's in the works. Mostly for my own benefit, to recap and process a bit, but hopefully it'll help some of you discover things you haven't yet.

January the one, then. Twentytwelve. Year of prophecy, change and release.

Wednesday
Jul132011

A holiday walkthrough

I'm on holiday. Obviously.

First clue: This.

Second clue: I'm blogging, so I'm either on holiday or it's the End of Days, and while it may still turn out to be the latter, it's also the former. Which means that, while I was steaming like a particularly pale pork bun in the stifling heat of southeast Asia, I missed out on all the fun:

(That was the Polaris, by the way, and not the Savage Coast. They are two very different areas.)

The crew did a fantastic job, and you'll see and hear more of lead designers Martin and Joel (and a bit less of me) in the months ahead. Once the summer holidays are over. Because even obsessively workaholic game developers need a break. To recharge those batteries or, in my case, to tend to the creative well.

(But more on that next time.)

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days with my friend John Walker from Rock, Paper, Shotgun. We spent a couple of days talking about The Secret World and mysteries (and, okay, yeah, The Longest Journey and Dreamfall). It's one of the most interesting discussions I've had about the work we do, and you can read the excellent two-part interview here and here. John also posted his thoughts about The Secret World in a separate preview, which is certainly worth a read.

In addition to putting my bare and deathly pale feet up and catching up on my reading (just finished Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear; currently halfway through Embassytown by China Mieville) I've also finally fulfilled one of my childhood dreams: I bought a cheap remote-controlled helicopter and learned how to perform a smooth landing. This impresses no one but my almost-four-year-old daughter, but that's the joy of children: it doesn't take a lot to get them excited, and they have a way of making you feel good about yourself.

Saturday
Mar122011

About walls and secret worlds

Yesterday afternoon, I finally hit the wall.

Not in a scary way; I was going pretty slow and saw it coming. After more than a month of intense deadlines and constant pressure, there was suddenly nothing. As in: nothing aside from the regular high pace of game development, something I'm pretty used to at this point. (After seventeen years in The Biz, I should be.) I could focus on one thing instead of a million, and so, of course, I couldn't - at all. After a few hours, I gave up and went home.

This is nothing unusual, of course. It's always hard to get back into the rhythm after a long period of controlled chaos and intense stress, and waking up this morning, I already felt unusually refreshed and ready for the next phase of the project.

Of course, I can't wait for The Secret World to ship. Not only because five years is a long time to do any one thing, but also because the response to our latest media push has been tremendous, and both the community and gamers in general appear to be excited about what we're trying to accomplish. I think Jim Rossignol from Rock, Paper, Shotgun nailed it best in his excellent preview: our goal is to be interesting. Different, ambitious, creative - yes - but most importantly, we want to make an interesting game. A game that engages - mechanically, emotionally, spiritually - and a game that doesn't underestimate its audience. PC and MMO players are skilled, experienced, smart and creative, and a huge portion of them are actual adults. Not enough games recognise these facts. I hope ours does.

Here's the video we released this week, which you've probably already seen. It doesn't go into a lot of detail, but it does show a bit of the scope and variety of The Secret World, and it hopefully illustrates why and how we've been working on this game since 2006.

We've also launched a new TSW website, which you can find, conveniently, at www.thesecretworld.com.

I'll be back tomorrow with more about GDC, our presentation, perceptions, comments, corrections and feedback. After I've had a chance to pick up the pieces and recover completely.

Game development, it's fucking hard. But, at times like these, it's also incredibly rewarding.