Kickstarting Dreamfall Chapters
As most of you are probably well aware, Dreamfall lives again.
After a seven year long hiatus, creator Ragnar Tørnquist has brought over the people behind The Longest Journey and Dreamfall to his new company - Red Thread Games. The objective is simple: To bring about a fitting end to The Longest Journey saga in 2014.
They were granted funds by the Norwegian Film Institute, enough to get pre-production off the ground, but they need more money in order to fully achieve what they strive for. And, as many others have, Red Thread Games turned to crowdfunding and Kickstarter to do so. A campaign started last Friday and as of Tuesday it had amassed more than three quarters of the asked for $850,000.
Just prior to kicking off the campaign Red Thread Games hosted a party at Bar Babylon in Oslo, where they delivered a presentation for the project, and Ragnar Tørnquist was on hand to talk to the press.
The atmosphere was very relaxed. No pre-Kickstarter jitters as far as the eye could see; developers were greeting guests and before you knew it the presentation had started. The noise quickly died down, and all attention was focused on Ragnar Tørnquist and the clip that was playing on the wall behind him.
Their Kickstarter pitch was simple: a group of people intent on finishing a story they started to tell almost fourteen years ago. The numbers game to fund it, not so much.
Red Thread Games has concluded that most backers will pledge between 40 and 60 dollars, and that they'll need somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 backers to achieve their goal.
Yet Tørnquist is confident the series still has that many dedicated fans. And judging by the media attention, and backers the project has garnered so far, it would appear as if he is correct. We've been waiting a long time, but all things come to those who wait...and Red Thread Games are confident they will deliver something worth the wait.
The money donated towards the project will go to paying staff, buying equipment, software and all the things needed to create the game and run the company. It will allow for more characters, larger areas to explore, and more gameplay to engage in. Fans will be continually updated with progress reports throughout development. The game is already playable; you can walk around the world and interact with your surroundings and characters. But a lot of work remains and they estimate 18 months of development time to get it to a finished state.
Kickstarter, recently concluded projects and changes at Funcom; all lead to the opportunity to finally begin work on Dreamfall Chapters. The old world of gaming is falling, and larger publishers are struggling. Kickstarter allows developers to cut out the middlemen, instead focusing on creating the games they want to make for the players who wants to play them.
Kickstarter also empowers players to help games get released that would otherwise struggle to find funding. Tørnquist and his colleagues at Red Thread Games are out of the MMO business and want to focus on character and story-driven games.
"MMOs like The Secret World have been a lot of fun to make," says Ragnar Tørnquist, "but it has also been extremely time consuming, frustrating and risky. All the work was well worth it, and I'm very proud of the finished product. MMOs are fun, but my heart lies in storytelling and singleplayer experiences.
"The Secret World was revolutionary in a way, and was misunderstood...now it's beginning to rebound, once people finally realise what it is about." he concludes.
In addition to Dreamfall Chapters, Red Thread Games has other projects they wish to work on. But for the moment all efforts are to go into completing Dreamfall Chapters. The game will initially be released on PC, but as the game is being developed using the Unity engine, ports to other platforms could be made with relative ease.
I ask Ragnar Tørnquist about the game proper. He responds by talking about what's closest to his heart - the story:
"Dreamfall Chapters picks things up where Dreamfall ended. Zoë is still in a coma, trapped in the dreamworld known as Storytime. The first part of the game revolves around helping Zoë find her way out of the dream, help bring her back to life, and help her become reborn.
"Rebirth is a central theme," he continues. "A thread that goes through the game in a similar fashion to how hope and faith was central to the previous game. Change is a theme, and through your life you will go through different chapters. The title of the game mirrors what happens in the game. All the characters you come across find themselves in an important chapter of their lives, and they struggle to make it through to the next chapter. Change, growing up, and learning to know oneself, becoming the person you were meant to be - that's what Dreamfall Chapters is all about.
"But just because rebirth is a central theme in this, it's not necessarily true that we'll see more of April Ryan. It's important not to overanalyse what we're saying." says Tørnquist.
When I point to the trailer where Dag Scheve says "April Ryan is apparently dead", Ragnar quickly replies that their approach taken is that the other characters believe April is dead. He refuses to say any more. "In order to know the truth you will have to support the campaign and play the game," he says, smirking.
This is the end of Zoë's story, and the end of the dream cycle, but there are other stories to tell in the universe, and things that have yet to be resolved - so there's still possibility for more games.
"There's a lot more of Kian's story to tell, but whether it will be Red Thread Games who will tell it, I cannot reveal at this point", says Tørnquist when the Azadi Apostle is brought up.
Many characters from the series will reappear in Dreamfall Chapters, and fans will no doubt be happy to know they will see Crow again. We will revisit storylines from characters found in The Longest Journey and Dreamfall, while also being introduced to new characters.
The development team is keen for players to be excited about the game, but they also want players to find out what happens on their own, without having the experience spoiled in any way. Ragnar's more open about the mechanics of the title.
"Dreamfall Chapters is different from Dreamfall as there is no combat or stealth sections in the game, the less-than-stellar combat system from the previous game has been removed," we're told.
"The combat system was a mistake, it should have been different, but we just didn't get it to work. Dreamfall Chapters will mix the best parts of The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. It will feature an interface based on point-and-click, while providing you with a 3D world you can walk around in, explore, talk to characters, and see it from various angles.
"In a way it's a hybrid, with focus on adventure gaming and exploration. And you can follow the story and explore the world at your own leisure. It is wider, bigger and more open than Dreamfall", says Tørnquist.
Red Thread Games has a lot of plans over the next month - they will release new screenshots, information on characters, locations, and they will reveal the user interface and details on the prototype version. There is a lot more information to look forward to.
Having talked to members of the team there is no doubting the passion for the project and their willingness to give it all they've got so as to create a deserving end for The Longest Journey saga.
- System:Mac, PC
- Developer:Red Thread Games
- Offline players:1
- Release date:November 2014
Xbox One: Questions Unanswered
Hands-on: Xbox One - Kinect & Controller
An Interview with Phil Harrison
Xbox One - Microsoft's Presentation