13 Questions With... Fictiorama Studios
An interview with the creators of Dead Synchronicity.
Madrid-based Fictiorama Studios is made up of 3 brothers (Mario, Luis and lberto Oliván) and a graphic designer (Martín Martínez). Their new project, Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is currently on Kickstarter, aiming for the goal of $45,000. Dead Synchronicity is a dark dystopian take on the classic point and click adventures that we grew up with, and after trying the demo (and backing the Kickstarter) we got in touch with the team behind it to have a little chat.
GoPlayThat: On your website and Kickstarter page, you cite a lot of classic point and click games. If, as a team, you had to pick your top three, what would they be?
Fictiorama Studios: Oof, that's a very hard question. Of course, for 'emotional influence', we definitely have to choose Monkey Island 2; it's one of the first games that springs to mind when I think of the summers that the three Fictiorama brothers spent when we were teenagers.
In the campaign we also cite I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, mainly because it affected us greatly in its day, bringing up themes that we couldn't have expected in a graphic adventure game.
Also, although it isn't an adventure game I'm going to mention one of the games that led us to start making games; 'La abadía del crimen', a game that is considered to be a landmark in Spanish videogame history, and is a model for those in their thirties.
GPT: In the downloadable alpha, the first puzzles are reasonably logical. How are you avoiding the 'ridiculous item combination' system that is prevalent in many point and click adventures?
Fictiorama: We really believe that the method of solving puzzles in an adventure game has to be in line with the 'atmosphere' of the game. For example, the puzzles in 'Sam and Max Hit the Road' can have an extremely humorous tone that fits perfectly and doesn't shock the player. In fact, it's the opposite, probably the more 'alien' the puzzle, the better... As long as it preserves a certain internal coherence.
The tone of Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today on the other hand is very dark, even 'naturalist' (in the literary sense of the word). It wouldn't make sense to to go for surreal or absurd puzzles as it would break the atmosphere. Having said that, what we are aiming for is that the player, on resolving a puzzle they've been stuck on for ages, thinks "how did I not think of that before?!"
GPT: One of the things that stands out about Dead Synchronicity is the art style. Can you give us an insight into your influences while developing the look of the game?
Fictiorama: From the beginning we knew that the art style had to be powerful. Firstly, because it is the first thing that you see in a game, from the moment you see a screenshot in the media, the art style is already transmitting emotions, more so if it is striking.
On the other hand, we were looking to achieve an aesthetic that goes together with the story; hard, unfriendly and full of chiaroscuro. Martín Martínez, Fictiorama's artist, looked for references that fulfilled these requisites; basically, expressionist aesthetics and tribal art, or even the reinterpretation of tribal art by contemporary artists such as the work of Oswaldo Guayasamín.
With these elements, we believe that the game speaks even before playing it. In accord with the feedback that we have had from players and press, we are very happy to have achieved a look that doesn't leave you indifferent.
GPT: Fictiorama is a wholly Spanish studio. How are you coping with scripting an entire adventure in English?
Fictiorama: To tell the truth, we are writing all the text in Spanish and sending it to a professional team of translators, our English isn't bad but it's not good enough for so much... This is one of the reasons that graphic adventures usually need a big outlay in production: our adventure will have some 70,000 words, so translating to a different language is a sizeable cost.
GPT: How do you feel about your initial Kickstarter experience? Some developers complain that it's a difficult process, have you had any problems?
Fictiorama: It is a hard process, above all because you have to fight all day, every day, to get your project known. For example, in this moment there are hundreds of thousands of indie studios developing very interesting projects, meaning that blogs and news websites don't have room for them all. For that we thank media such as GoPlayThat for the opportunity to show our project to their readers.
In fact, we have to to give our thanks to the Spanish media because the response has been extraordinary. Also in foreign media we have had reviews with great influence... And we'll continue like this, knocking on all the doors!
Nevertheless, when people speak of crowdfunding they don't normally speak about the best part of the campaign: the opportunity to share our game with so many gamers! At the same time that we launched the campaign we launched our first public alpha, and the feedback has been amazing.
Furthermore, there are hundreds of people who have contributed to the Kickstarter campaign who feel as involved in the project as us, and that really want to see the project financed because they want to see the game finished. We are lucky to have some backers that are making every effort to spread the word about the campaign, and we want to take this opportunity to thank them!
GPT: How do you see game development culture in Spain? Is there a 'scene' like in the UK and US?
Fictiorama: Yes, there's a really important indie scene! According to the latest data, there are some 3000 videogame development companies! the majority are very, very small, but an extraordinary atmosphere of camaraderie and collaboration exists. There are a lot of colleagues that have helped us greatly, and we try to collaborate with the indie community as much as we can.
GPT: How did you meet Alfonso Azpiri? Are you really sure about auctioning the original poster to a backer?
Fictiorama: We were lucky to have a mutual friend, an comics expert, who put us in touch with him. Working with Azpiri has been a pleasure, we got on well from the beginning, he liked our game's aesthetic (especially the location that served as the basis for the cover), and was very sure of what would and wouldn't work in an illustration. In fact, we believe that the cover for Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today that he has drawn can stand together with his great '90s videogame covers.
With respect to offering the original, we have mixed feelings! After having seen the illustration by email, including the final high-quality scan that Azpiri sent us... When we saw the original our jaws dropped! Even with how good the digital version looks, the original has... "Life".
However, our priority is to get the campaign financed, even if to do so someone walks away with the original. We have to admit that we shed a tear...
GPT: Kovalski (of which Mario and Alberto are members) are doing the soundtrack to the game. Was it an obvious choice to get the band involved, or did they have to audition?
Fictiorama: Hahaha, from the start we knew that Kovalski's music was perfect for the Dead Synchronicity saga. Kovalski's sound, as you can hear on their Spotify profile, is dirty, guitar driven, dense... but still has a melodic and delicate air on some songs. While the majority of the music from the soundtrack that we've made public is very powerful, there will be some 'delicate' surprises.
GPT: The Kickstarter goal is a fairly high $45,000. What is the biggest cost involved in making a game like this?
Fictiorama: Basically, the most expensive factor is development time. Firstly, graphic adventure is a genre that uses many unique graphic elements e.g. a great number of characters, objects, etc.
Secondly, testing is equally intense: for our idea of the game (more open than usual, within our possibilities, along the lines of '90s adventure games) there are an enormous amount of interactions, dialogues, alternatives that have to be tested.
Finally, as we said before, the translation and localisation and above all, the dubbing, are the elements that are going to take up a big part of the budget.
GPT: Are there going to be different difficulty levels within the game, or a hint system for those who get stuck?
Fictiorama: At the moment we are not planning distinct difficulty levels, but we have designed elements that could help. For example, Michael's indications can give hints about the solution to some puzzles, especially when you have been stuck for a while and have examined an object a number of times.
Something else that helps, which isn't implemented in the demo but will be in the final version, is a journal: the book that Michael takes on the first screen will serve to note both completed and uncompleted objectives, and to collect the game cinematics. We want to get it so, even if you have to take a few days off from the game, you can get yourself up to speed quickly and keep playing as if nothing had happened.
GPT: Outside of graphic adventures, what other games do you like playing? What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
Fictiorama: Personally, I like narrative based games a lot, even if they aren't graphic adventures. I have to admit that in fact, I enjoy indie games more than AAA titles, although that's my personal preference, and there are some tremendous works of art in the big productions.
in another field, I really like sports games, especially ones that are simple and fun, in the style of Sensible Soccer (yes, I'm in love with retro gaming!).
With regards to 2014, there are some games in development that I'm waiting impatiently for, like Agustín Cordés' 'Asylum', the adventure games 'Neverending Nightmares', 'ARK-2',' Jack Houston' or Fran Bow, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the guys in Péndulo Studios and their scriptwriter Josué Monchán are up to!
GPT: There has been a bit of a resurgence in adventure games; which recent examples of the genre have you enjoyed the most?
Fictiorama: From the last few years, New York Crimes by Péndulo Studios stands out, with a script full of twists and an amazing artistic look. Also, we really enjoyed 'The Cat Lady'. a hard adventure with a truly dramatic script.
GPT: What would you say to any potential backers to encourage them to support you?
Fictiorama: Well I would say to them that there are not many graphic adventures that include concentration camps, time-space distortions, rock music gory pandemics and paranormal phenomena... But all of this is in Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today!
If they go to our Kickstarter page they can try the demo, and if they like it... Help our adventure become their adventure!
And we don't want to finish without thanking GoPlayThat for giving us the opportunity to share our project with their readers!