Agustin Cordes "Scratches"

Τρίτη, 09 Αυγούστου 2005, Συντάκτης Fallen Angel

Agustin Cordes "Scratches"

First of all, I would like to thank you, Agustin, on behalf of the adventure-advocate team and the Greek adventure community for accepting to do this interview.

Hello Adventure Advocate! I'm very pleased to do this interview for you. I've grown very fond of Greece and its culture (and its food!) as I have friends coming from there and, of course, it's great to know you like adventure games so much.

Would you like to introduce you, your team-mates and Nucleosys to the Greek adventure community? (who are you, how did you got involved with the adventure games development, your future plans, etc).

We're essentially two people working full time on Scratches. Alejandro Graziani, taking care of most graphical aspects and scenarios in the game, and me, programming and writing, among other minor things. It's a bit hard to say "I'm doing this" and "he's doing that" because we decide and work on many things together. Not working full time, but actively taking part in the project, is Cellar of Rats, taking care of the soundtrack and special sound effects. Of course, we also have the outstanding group of actors voicing the characters to be found in the game: John Bell, who doesn't need introduction really (but in the rare instance that you haven't heard from him, he has worked on several independent adventures, always delivering impressive performances), Jonathan Boakes, creator of the Dark Fall games, Matt Clark, who is developing the upcoming Barrow Hill, Sue Anderson, vocalist who performed in Bark Psychosis (do yourself a favour and seek out this wonderful band!), and Dominic Brewer, professional stage actor and long-time fan of adventures. We also have a most wonderful group of beta-testers!

I think each one of us is doing a terrific job and all the hard work really pays off when you explore the atmospheric Victorian house, along with a moody orchestral theme in the background, and suddenly the phone rings, hearing next a fluid conversation between John and Jonathan as if they knew each other since years (yet they never held a conversation in real life!).

There are many future plans really. There is this document where we have been writing some very short guidelines for future games, and we have ideas for at least eight more! It's almost a certainty that we'll do another horror adventure immediately after Scratches, but this time we'd like to introduce a more cinematic feel to it (no, no direct control, action scenes or hundreds of cutscenes, that's not really necessary). Another thing we definitely want to do is drastically shorten the production time into one game per year.

A young man of 25 years old is now creating an adventure that is highly anticipated worldwide. How do you feel about this?

It feels great, though it is kind of weird. We certainly never expected to attain this level of attention. Scratches begun as a very low-key adventure project, aimed to appeal the fans who doesn't mind the absence of high production values. There never was the idea of including a full-blown soundtrack or panoramic graphics. Now we're hearing things like "it looks more polished than big budget games" or "dude, I've never anticipated an adventure game so much!". It's all very crazy really. The funniest thing that ever happened in this regard was that someone once said "it looks good, but graphics are not as great as in Myst IV". I was like "whaaaat!". I just hope people never miss the fact that this is a garage game after all!

As you know, previous games created by Spanish speaking people (such as Runaway) have seen great success among adventurers. Do you feel pressure under the inevitable comparison in which you will be put through? The fact that is the first adventure game ever created in Argentina increases this pressure?

I don't think there will be comparisons in that regard. I happen to love Runaway (it's really one of the adventures I most enjoyed playing these past years) and it would be flattering if we are compared in any way to such a blockbuster, but Scratches is a very different game. It would make more sense comparisons with the Dark Fall games (also British setting, horror, independent) but still you'll find it plays in a different way. I like to think Scratches stands on its own with a distinct atmosphere and development.

I wouldn't say we're feeling that much pressured. Yes, the project is taking longer than expected (understandably so, given all those improvements which will eventually pay off, trust me!) and it's being quite anticipated, yet we're confident it will be a strong game and the waiting will be worth it. Like in the previous question, it must be that we don't really think about it. It does sound rather intimidating that Scratches will be not only the first Argentine commercial adventure, but the first made in South-America! See, now you have made me nervous.

You have decided to create a pure adventure game -a fact that pleases us a great deal of course. However, we can't stop wandering how come you came up to this decision. Action-adventure games are supposed to attract more gamers and 'sell' more. Knowing that you enjoyed the 'Silent Hill' series we can only be surprised by your decision to create a pure adventure instead of something similar (as far as the action parts are concerned). Are you a romantic adventurer after all?

"Romantic adventurer" puts it rather well, but there are other reasons. Scratches is the kind of game that would have been completely ruined with the inclusion of action sequences or a more dynamic gameplay. I certainly love the Silent Hill series but the arcade gameplay does become a rather dumb aspect in the long run. It feels too much as if it was there to fill gaps and keep the player busy. I mean, the wonderful atmosphere they strive hard to achieve (and manage!) kind of falls apart when you have to battle the traditional end level boss, no matter how terrifying it is. For instance, I found way more scary the part where you have to escape from Pyramid Head in SH2 - you never have to fight it, no real reflexes are required, and yet, it's the most successful sequence I've found in the series.

Scratches will be strictly psychological horror and I believe the 'traditional' adventure genre is truly the only vehicle to achieve this. You'll never let the horror grow in you if the story has to be paused so you can eliminate a demonic creature. The very core of Scratches remains low-key, which I think will surprise many. There's nothing graphic, no filthy words, no 'cheap' scares, no adrenaline - just the uneasy feeling of something sinister creeping into the atmosphere as the game moves forward. It's all a constant build-up, but there are going to be a few shocks.

From a commercial standpoint, the current state of the market never influenced us that much. We felt we that had the knowledge to do an adventure and (most importantly) wanted to do one, being long-time fans of the genre. Of course, action-adventures require a bigger budget which would have escaped our possibilities. But I'm sure that, even if would have had a bigger budget (correction: a proper budget), we would have ended doing a game like Scratches.

When and how was Scratches conceived? Was it something you always wanted to do or something in particular gave you the stimulus to create it? Have you been working on the story-line for a long time now or was it crystal clear in your mind from the beginning?

You could say the very core concept of Scratches was indeed crystal clear. There have been many layers added to the story since then, over a few years actually, but the basic idea remains the same. Everything is built upon the ending (which was the trigger to the story), so you surely won't find any plot holes. I've always been a huge fan of horror in general, ever since I watched House By The Cemetery at the age of seven (a movie that scarred me forever), and believe that scaring people is an art. This gave birth to the Scratches story. Then Alejandro has always loved drawing and architecture, and he couldn't believe his eyes when he found out the kind of stuff you can do with the powerful tools available today. Moreso, the ability to explore your creations in the fashion common in adventures, was far too appealing for him. So those were the stimulus for us - we like to create places, stories taking place in them, horror needs a heavy atmosphere, we want to achieve a distinct atmosphere… it's all a chain of things we like and want to do.

We read that you have not included any slider puzzles, arcade elements or battles whatsoever. A very pleasant announcement indeed. Would you like to give us a general idea of the puzzles that we are going to encounter during our scratches experience?

I don't like when puzzles feel like mini-games, although they can be fun. I like much better when puzzles feel like they 'belong' in the game, meaning they would feel out of place in other situations. If you have to solve a slider puzzle to open a door, it will always give the same impression no matter the game or story. But if you have to do something else, something that makes sense within the environment, something that could happen in the context of the story, that's more satisfying and makes you feel more involved with the game. In this regard we like realism or, better put, a coherent context. You would never find a slider puzzle while exploring a Victorian house (well, who knows really, there's some crazy people out there). You may find such thing in a fantasy environment, but what we're striving to achieve here is a good suspension of disbelief, we want to make the player feel as if he/she was there and do the kind of things one would do in such a place.

I don't think the puzzles in Scratches are extremely complex (which mind you doesn't mean they are easy). A throughout study of your surroundings will be a must, as will be good observation and intuition. Like I said, they are perfectly possible situations in real life, of course somewhat 'spiced-up' to make them more challenging, although never being far-fetched. They're also logical in the sense that you won't be saying yourself "hey, why I didn't just that other thing instead". Several of them will be related to a particular condition of the house (which should be obvious by now!).

Would you like to tell us a little bit more about Scratches? We are awaiting for an intriguing story. What lies beneath? Is it a ghost-story? What should we expect of our character, Michael?

The story is much more complicated than it seems at first. We haven't revealed exactly what you will dealing with inside Blackwood Manor. There is a certain… element to the story that hasn't been mentioned yet, although the clues are there. In the very first teaser actually! The thing is that we can't possibly say anything about it, or make emphasis on one aspect (like "the house is supposedly haunted"), because then you would assume it is an integral part of the story. And it would be wrong really, as there are many aspects which are equally as important. The point of the game is to find that by yourself and arrive to your own conclusions: is this happening for real? Which brings us to our Michael. Basically, while struggling to finish his new novel, he moves into this house to seek inspiration. He finds much, much more than he bargained for though and, convinced the dark past of this place will bring him the inspiration he needs, he will become more and more obsessed with the mystery at hand. You will have a curious relationship with Michael. It's like you're in control, but he follows his own reasoning regarding the strange happenings. Chances are he will echo your thoughts or, better yet, he will force you to follow his reasoning. One of our biggest goals here is that you really become Michael while playing Scratches. That's about everything I can reveal! I can tell you that we know there was an unexplained murder, one of the crucial points being realizing why that murder was committed in the first place.

I like very much how the story developed. I think there are certain things you discover, and carefully planned, that will make the whole experience very intriguing. Even if you see something coming, the way each 'revelation' is executed will be surprising. I really can't wait to see what the people think of some situations. I trust certain things will catch many by surprise!

As for the graphics and the music of the game we were thrilled from the second teaser. What could you tell us about the environment and the soundtrack of Scratches? Will we get wind up? After all it's all about atmosphere as you yourself have very well put it!

A great deal of work is being put into the atmosphere. It's very important to take care of the details, if not everything could fall apart (such as finding something that doesn't make sense). Thankfully, Alejandro is just as obsessed as I am and has designed the house carefully up until the smallest corner. I'm not exaggerating here! You see, certain developments of the story required a certain… arrangement of the structure within the house. Not only he created a convincing and architecturally perfectly possible building, he even took into account wall thickness(!). Things like the angle were the sun hits has been also taken into account. For instance, I once said "here, I have these yummy wooden planks texture to be used in the third floor". He said, "can't use that there, those walls have to be made from concrete because the angle of the roof and outside material wouldn't allow for...". So there you go!

The environments will be very interesting. Each one has its own 'personality'. It's like each room or place is a whole different affair than the rest, although we have managed to maintain a homogeneous look throughout the whole. For instance, a studio inside the house has a red-ish look to it, a combination of strong wood colours and wallpaper with red motifs. The greenhouse has a more green-ish look to it (doh!). Some of these choices were merely esthetical, others have a deeper meaning to them. The same care is being put into the soundtrack. Cellar of Rats will only finalize a theme after visiting a room or at least seeing many pictures of it. It may sound like an obsessive deal of work but it truly pays off in the end. Visiting the greenhouse with its 'icy' theme reminiscent of 'glass' is quite something. Similarly, the soft violins and sparse piano while exploring the house is spot on. I must truly commend the work done by CoR in this regard - it feels as if there just weren't any other type of music that could possibly work like this.

You 've said that you are a fun of adventure games, horror movies and SF books. A really important detail for which we are all expecting Scratches so eagerly. If you should individualize which titles have influenced you during the creation of Scratches, which would those be?

One word: Lovecraft! The vivid descriptions in his stories have had a huge impact on me. Everything, the atmosphere, writing, music (Cellar of Rats also happens to be a huge fan!) in Scratches is very Lovecraftian. And yet, you won't be seeing any slimy tentacles or bizarre creatures. I think this is a common misinterpretation of Lovecraft's works - people tend to associate him with otherworldly creatures and that has never been the point really, it's all about the atmosphere. It's always more frightening wondering what's that lurking in the shadows than actually constantly facing the horror (which means that, sooner or later, you have to face it).

As for more influences, there's definitely gothic horror, and specially the Hammer Horror Films, you know, where eminences such as Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee used to star. Now that I think of it, there's an old horror movie that has played an important role in the development of the story. It's funny, because I've just realized (while typing these lines no less!) a couple of ideas had to come from there. It's one of those movies that aren't that remarkable but, for some reason, you can't help loving. Just for the sake of better safety, I won't reveal the title of this movie in case it gives away too many hints. As in the case of the story question, it might give you something to look for while playing the game and will eventually spoil the fun. But, incidentally, Peter Cushing starred in it (don't waste your breath though, there are over one hundred!). Ask me again when you finish the game!

A tricky question now that all players think of: why should we play this game? What has it to offer us that we won't find in any other game?

I always say that the strength of adventures lies in their story. Even if the gameplay is familiar, a unique story has always something new to offer. In the case of Scratches we'll be doing a few experiments. We are sure there are certain aspects of the gameplay you have never seen in a first person game before. Also, the story is built upon a genuine twist ending, not the one you're accustomed to experience in games. Even if you see it coming (which is always possible) there are many sudden things you learn at once, several pieces of information revealed, and the most terrifying of them all: the true meaning behind the scratches (that one we're certain you won't see coming!).

When should we be expecting Scratches to be released? Have you found a publisher? Moreover, will there be any demo of the game available? We are all looking forward to it after seeing the second teaser of Scratches.

The game is coming sooner than you think really. We have most of the graphics complete, writing, engine, voices... it really feels like we're almost there. So far Micro Application will be publishing Scratches in French-speaking territories and we're in the talk for some more. Hopefully it will be easy for everybody getting a hold of it! The demo is ready (yes, this time with real in-game stuff!) but we're holding a bit more onto it. We're about to release a preview version and we'd like to give some time so that previews can be posted before people finally gets to play a bit of Scratches. The improvements since the second teaser are many, that I can assure you!

And you have my word we'll do our best to get the game published in Greece!

Thank you very much for this interview. We wish you the best of luck for Scratches and we hope to see more adventure games from you in the future! Buen verano!

No, thank you for these fine questions and wish you the best for adventure-advocate! Chau!

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