Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wadjet Eye Games Publishing Strangeland

We are delighted to announce that Wadjet Eye Games is publishing Strangeland. Many years in the making, Strangeland is a “cabinet of curiosities” comprising the striking memories and bizarre visions that Victor Pflug (artist) and I (Mark Yohalem, writer/designer) have gathered over our lives. That cabinet has been built with thousands of hours of care by Dimitrios Thanasias-Spanos (coder).

Put otherwise, and as our last update probably indicated, Strangeland is as personal a game as I can imagine making. I spent the last weeks annotating its more obscure references, and realized it really is a map from my childhood wonders and fears to adulthood’s responsibility, regret, and recognition. I know Vic drew deeply from the well of his own personal experiences. Further, Dimitrios has achieved things with the engine (Adventure Game Studio) that no one has ever done before, allowing Vic’s surreal imagery to come to life in smooth and seamless way, and he has done through by throwing all of himself into the game’s development.

Given all the toil and anguish that went into making it, there’s no one we’d be more comfortable entrusting the game’s publication to than WEG. Our collaboration on Primordia was not just a business relationship, but a friendship and creative partnership. Dave Gilbert is second to none in directing voice acting, and WEG has earned a well-deserved reputation for releasing thoughtful games that hearken back to the classics while presenting innovations in setting, design, and narrative. We are proud that Primordia is a part of that legacy, and we are excited that Strangeland will be part of it, too. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Bradbury, Goya, and Peake: Discussing Some of Strangeland's Inspirations

The seed of Strangeland’s narrative was sadness, and the soil in which it fell included the works of Mervyn Peake, Francisco Goya, and Ray Bradbury.

Read more in this development update on Steam.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Arnold Hendrick, Rest in Peace

On May 25, 2020, Arnold Hendrick, the creator of the revolutionary board game Barbarian Prince and the revolutionary computer game Darklands, was taken by cancer, just shy of the three-score-and-ten years the Psalmist allots us. “It is too soon cut off, and we fly away.”

I never met him; I know next to nothing of his life story. But all the same, Mr. Hendrick had a direct and significant impact upon me. Fallen Gods is inspired by both Barbarian Prince and Darklands. Both games are marvelously inventive and brilliantly realized. Sometimes works of fantasy are called “escapism.” To “escape” literally means to shed one’s cloak. (One can ponder the age of brigandage when slipping a robber’s clutches in that manner was frequent enough to coin this expression and put it in common currency.) Mr. Hendrick’s games were the opposite—the player does not shed his cloak so much as garb himself in another’s clothes. Contrary to the genre’s name, most RPGs do not achieve this effect. The player’s role is not that of a hero, but that of a hedge fund analyst, crunching numbers, maximizing upside and minimizing downside. But in Barbarian Prince and Darklands, the player is immersed in the characters and the setting. For a while, he sees a different world through different eyes. A person is greatly enriched by such an experience, while merely shedding a cloak—in contrast—leaves one a little poorer, even if we sometimes need to escape to survive.

When I began designing and developing Fallen Gods years ago, I tracked down Mr. Hendrick’s email address. When our game was ready, I wanted to show it to him as tangible evidence of the impact and inspiration of his work. But I kept delaying the email because I wanted to make sure Fallen Gods was worth his time. Now there is no time left.

So I must end where I started: I never met Arnold Hendrick; I know him only through his published games and articles about game design. To me, all of them bespoke an abiding curiosity, a creative vision, and an overflowing generosity toward his players. The man put 136 saints in Darklands. May they speed him to his Maker.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Primordia Fan Art

Fantastic piece of fan art from Ivette Navratilova (! I've always loved this little moment in Primordia, glad to see it glossed by such a fine artist.
Sorry for the radio silence on Strangeland and Fallen Gods.  Both continue to progress, but what energy I have these days (after homeschooling kids, doing my day job at night, and trying to plan ahead of this slow-moving catastrophe) is better spent on developing, rather than discussing, these games.