Roman Navratil - Faraway Studios, "Until I'm Gone"

Δευτέρα, 30 Ιουλίου 2007, Συντάκτης Fallen Angel, Mortal

Roman Navratil - Faraway Studios, "Until I'm Gone"

First of all we would like to thank you for your time and even more for creating an adventure game for all of us who haven't given in to the Action-RPG online mania that seems to have taken root all over the globe!

Ok... Hmm... You're welcome ;-)

Well, let's keep it plain and simple. Who is Roman Navratil, and how did you decide to start creating your own game? After all, it isn't the easiest thing under the sun, is it?

No, it is not. But when you are creative, as I am, and as the rest of the team is, you like creating things; graphics, stories, etc.. When you've grown up on PC games from your early childhood, there aren't many other things you can do. So... let's say that Roman Navratil is a student from the Czech Republic who is a creative person and loves playing games. During some part of my life, these two "hobbies" "joined" and I started doing something I always dreamed of doing - making a PC game. I made some games that turned out quite good, some smaller projects, and then I also worked on a few *mods* (modifications of profi games - for HL2 specifically), and finally decided to establish "Faraway Studios" with our first project, "Until I'm Gone".

I'm working as a team leader, game designer and graphic designer on this project.

Can you tell us how many people make up the team that works on "Until I'm Gone"? Does the team change a lot (as we are used to from many of the free projects around the world) or do you work with a selected few core members and other people join you for just short period of times?

These days we are finally able to work almost "exclusively" with the "core" members. We try to avoid cooperating with people, as in, you write "For just a short period of time." We are simply trying to avoid taking such people into the team, because we think that it is not quite fair to those who work in the team from the beginning, and those who work hard. How would you feel if you had made twenty scenes for the game and had your name credited on the same level with a person who made (for example) only one scene? This could be really "quite" unfair...

Because "Until I'm Gone" has been in existance as a project for so long now, we have finally been able to establish a strong team of core members. We have been existing, thank goodness, for some time now, so the team has had plenty of choices and time to take a strong and quite definite shape. It doesn't change a lot now (as it did in the past), because we have found "the right people". But besides "core" members, we also have members who we could call "external." These are, for example, the translators, voice-actors, and correctors. Even though they are not "in the core", in the main center of activity, they are still indispensable members of the team. But we are definitely trying to avoid people who come to "the core," but stay only a few weeks or a few months. If we are talking about the core members, we have a number somewhere around twelve.

Yeah, I do now hear people saying..."Twelve for a freeware game!? Are you nuts? Why isn't the game out already?"... The problem is that this is a big, I would say an almost professional, product, but we are doing it as "amateurs," without any expectations of money... So we CANNOT pay anyone even a single penny! And, where there is no money, everything goes much slower (besides other things), just because you have to make the money for your living somewhere else... What I'm going to say is almost boring now (yeah, I've said it so many times), but it's true: This is a FREEWARE project, so you should understand that some deadlines were unreachable for us even if we "worked till dead"...

The number of external members is quite big. I'm too lazy to count. These are all voice-actors, voice-actresses, translators, etc... It's simply a big number. :-)

This is a scene which i personally like. It has got "nice" mood and we were quite careful about this one. We have "even" rendered it twice, because we were not very happy with the first look. The models there were perfect, but textures and lighting+postproduction were not the quality which we wanted. So the "raw" scene was taken and given to another graphic designer. The second one made it quite in the way we wanted. The scene is now very close to the mood and quality we wanted, but still... nobody says we won't render it again :-)...

What kind of games do you personally enjoy playing? If you had to name the Top-5 you have ever played, which would those be?

That's a really tough question. I don't like comparing games on a "chart", so I will just name few games I like. If I am not counting the old games on Atari on these types of systems/consoles, which I had, but I don't remember very well (I was a little kid), then it would be games like Deus ex (1), Age of Empires 2, Syberia, Mafia, C&C things, and Half Life 1. From recent games I've played, I liked The Suffering, from the old ones, I remember, for example, Lost Vikings. And what style of games? I really enjoy games with atmosphere, emotion, with some "feeling" (I really loved Syberia. The atmosphere there is simply indescribable! (though, "UIG" is really not inspired by Syberia, as many players think)). Apart from that I even enjoy playing 3rd person, "intelligent actions".

When and how was "Until I'm Gone" conceived? Have you been working on the story-line and puzzles for a long time now or was it crystal clear in your mind from the beginning?

No... The idea formed gradually. The first idea about the game came after I finished my last adventure project. The idea was quite interesting, so I started (gradually) building the story on it.... It was somewhere in the middle or end of year 2004. Simply, it was not a "silly" plot made in one day.

We were exited to see that this is a multi-language game; an excellent choice indeed. How come you have made such a decision?

Well, at the beginning, we were planning only two languages- English and Czech (the majority of the team comes from the Czech Republic) and we were praying to get a German translator. But then things went fast... Not only did we get an experinced German translator, but also two other translators contacted us independantly of each other. And that happened only out of their curiosity, without any "activity" from our side. They were curious if we were planning translation to their native languages, and if we were not planning anything yet, they might "help a little bit"... So almost from day to day, our language "portfolio" grew up from two to five languages (which up to this point nobody believed could happen). And then we thought, "Why not try to translate the game into as many languages as possible?" We have posted a news regarding this "idea" (not only) on our webiste, and the result of this is known to the fans of Faraway and UIG: Fourteen world languages! And still growing (right now we are in some serious discussion on translating the game to Chinese... But that's quite "exclusive" and "yet-not-finished" information, so don't get too excited about it; it might fail). Nevertheless, we are still open to new langauges, so we could still be "suprised" by the final number, and if anyone, for example, even someone who is reading this interview, wants to help with translating the game to his languages, he can! Simply contact us through our webpage at

What should we expect in terms of atmosphere (picture, sound effects, music and dialogues)? Is it a parameter which you treasure in your game?

Unambiguously! And it is a parameter which we treasure most of all! Story, graphics, puzzles... all of these things are important, and we are paying them a lot of interest. But none of them can be compared with the amount of interest we put into atmosphere!

Our "motto" is something like "atmosphere-story-graphic" (BTW, yeah, don't worry, the game will have "even" gameplay :-) ) because we believe that mainly the atmosphere and story is something that makes, builds adventure games. And what atmosphere are we talking about here? A brief outline: Melancholy, winter, horror, depressive, dark, cold, Christmas... As you can see Until I'm Gone won't definitely be a "happy game". A lot of team members, me including, like winter, autumn, that "depression" which you can feel in these seasons, and this is one of the things we are trying to translate into the game, and from what we have seen and been told by our family members, who have seen the game, our efforts have been quite successful. But these are not all the atmosphere elements in the game you will come in touch with. In contrast, for example, we have also included in the game something which I would call a "quite romantic feel", as if you have just come inside from a cold, wintery storm into to a warm room with a fireplace and sofas... You know that feeling; everything outside is so inhospitable, but you are quite comfortable and snug inside... We also have these "contrasts" - positive or maybe even romantic atmospheres in the game.

Will "Until I'm gone" feature voice acting? And what should we expect in terms of music? Any hints?

Yes, there will be professional English voice-acting, recorded by people with many years of experience in professional games, films, radio plays, and theatre. So you needn't worry about the quality, even that we have had quite big problems getting "stable" voice-actresses for the project. With voice-actors we have practically no problems, but with actresses we are almost losing our nerves sometimes. It is proving to be quite a difficult task to find some "stable" adult voice-actresses these days. Well, music... that's a wide range question. We have talked about it in some of our news on our website, and we have even released an 3-4 minute example of music you will hear in UIG. (We released examples of voice-acting for the game as well) so if you are curious about the music you will hear in the game, you can download that track from our website. To talk about it more - We have an experienced (10 years in the industry) music composer from Poland. You can look forward to some strong ambient-depressive, melancholy, winter, Christmas like music.

What about the puzzles? Could you describe to us what kind of puzzles we will encounter in the game? Also, are they of easy, medium or high difficulty?

I would say that they are medium. Some players will have problems with them, some players not. And what kind? Well...let's keep it a suprise. We have sufficient sources for inspiration in creating puzzles. For example, with some we have been inspired by IQ test (anyway don't worry about too much difficulty ;-) ).

A little bit tricky one. Right now (well ok, in a week or two) we gonna deal with the "bottles" in the lower edge of the screen. We will make them deform not just the background, which can be seen through the glass, but also the character and his movement.

Every adventure game has two basic aspects: its story and its puzzles. Unfortunately, however, the combination of the two isn't always a success. Would you say that the game's puzzles are connected to the storyline or there are some just for the sake of one more puzzle?

Well, I don't think that it must be always this way, that the adventure games must always be made of story and puzzles. You have many other expects that make a good adventure game. For example, the atmosphere I talked about. Then you have dialogues, etc. I really think that a good adventure doesn't have to have puzzles as one of the main "playing elements". For example, Safecracker was more of a puzzle game than an adventure, and on the other hand, you have adventure games that don't have many puzzles, and it doesn't lower their quality. And about your second question, UIG will feature puzzles "strongly" connected to the story. We tried to avoid puzzles that are not connected to the story as much as possible.

In the past you have mentioned the existence of mini-games in "Until I'm Gone". Could you give us some more information on this one, an example or two maybe?

Yep, UIG features minigames, but right now we are quite inactive in this. Maybe we will even get rid of some of them, because when we look backward, we see that it is not as fun and beneficial as we thought it would be. In some places it is almost redundant. Yeah, it is "fun" in its way of meaning, but we are making an adventure game, not some pack of minigames, so we are not sure about these minigames... Nevertheless, some of them will remain for sure. These are quite fun, small, easy to make (no time dramas), and they fit into the game. For example, when Nathan tries to jump from one "icy" balcony to another, it won't be done with just one single click and some "item-mixing" and applying. The balcony is icy, and if Nathan doesn't want to slip and fall, he will have to make coordinated and cautious moves, which will be presented through one special and original minigame. Simply - Minigames, yes, but they have to be good, and fit into the game/story/situation.

What kind of interface will you use (Point & Click, Keyboard, and so on)? Will the pixel hunting be our nightmare as in countless games of the past, or should we expect something more mouse-button-friendly?

We have talked about it in team and even tried a few different ways of controlling the characters, but we have decided to use a time-proofed and favourite way of controlling - point-and-click. So don't worry, you won't be exposed to some crazy control experiments. Besides, we have talked about this even on some adventure boards, and almost everyone said that he or she would appreciate(most of all) just the standard point-and-click.

NO PIXEL HUNTING. We are aware of this, and you won't find it in this game.

Finally, can you tell us a bit about the characters (main and supporting)?

Characters in our game are not just a coulisse but each and every one of them has its own feelings, history, and characters (yeah, no mistake, plural...).

For example, the main "hero", Nathan. Nathan was planned as quite a "dark" character, or let's say, simply not a character you are used to from other games. No hero, no optimistic person, not a guy that has all the "nice" qualities, but still, he is a character you will like... Nevertheless, I had not been successful in making him as "dark" as I wanted, because when I started writing the dialogues+story, and as I was going on and on, I realized that Nathan is not the person I would like him to be. It's quite hard to explain here. I just could not make him right the way I wanted, because I realized that this is not the right way at all. Nevertheless even though he is not so dark now, he still remained quite arrogant and egoistic, but he is also STILL a human being. He's a credible person that you will trust.

After "Until I'm Gone" is finished, should we expect to see you more in the adventure community of free projects or is this a one time experiment only?

No, no, this is certainly not a one time experiment, and Faraway Studios definitely won't end just with "Until I'm Gone"...

Is there anything else you would like to tell to the Greek adventurers?

I would like to thank the people for reading to this point, and I wish them a nice and sunny second half of Summer Holidays.

Thank you for this fine interview. We wish your game meets the success you hope it will.

Thank you, too. It was pleasure doing it.

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