I don’t know about you, but I get excited when I see a new developer coming onto the scene that is actually going to put out an Adventure game. It feels good to know that there are developers and publishers out there who know that the AG Community is fully alive and yearning for them to make more games.
So, it is with great pleasure that I got a chance to interview Galip Kartoglu at Zoetrope Interactive ( a small indie developer located in Istanbul, Turkey) about their brand new adventure game, Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder.
Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder is dark thriller intended to play with your subconscious as you track down a missing detective whose last case was shrouded in mystery and murder. With quite a few new innovative features, Zoetrope’s intent is to give you a gaming experience that you’ve never had before. Darkness Within is being published by Lighthouse Interactive and due for release next week (hopefully by Halloween).
[Adventure Lantern]: First of all, we’d like to get to know a bit about Zoetrope Interactive. Can you tell us a little bit about each of the team members? How did Zoetrope get started?
[Galip Kartoglu - Zoetrope Interactive]: Zoetrope Interactive was founded by 3 people: Onur Samli, Oral Samli and Galip Kartoglu. I (Galip) am responsible for programming and game engine development. Onur and Oral are focused on 3D modeling and sfx/music composing. We also work on the game design together. Zoetrope started 2 years ago when 3 of us gathered to make a game called Loath Nolder: Labores Solis (now titled Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder). We worked on a Game Boy Advance game called Dual Blades, which released in 2002 in North America and Japan.
[AL]: What made you choose the Adventure Game genre instead of Action, RPG, FPS etc?
[Galip]: We all love Adventure games, therefore producing an Adventure game sounded like a good start for us. There are many independent developers who
have been successful since there isn’t a single “big” development company ruling the market. The Adventure community is also very dedicated.
[AL]: In your spare time, assuming you have any, we’d like to know what type of games each of you likes to play? Any stand-out favorites?
[Galip]: I like to play RTS and fighting games, as well as Adventure games. My favorite games are Guilty Gear XX series, Silent Hill 2-3, Warcraft 3, Diablo 2 and the Monkey Island series.
[Onur and Oral]: We have been playing simple, but entertaining games on different platforms for some time. We particularly enjoy Action games like Bomberman. Unfortunately, we haven’t had much time to play since we began developing Darkness Within. A few of our favorite games are the GTA series, Carmageddon 2,
Morpheus, The Dark Eye and Sanitarium.
[AL]: Exploration of the Zoetrope website reveals that you have created a new game engine, “CPAGE”. What prompted you to create a new one as opposed to utilizing existing game engines? What makes “CPAGE” different?
[Galip]: We had noticed that there wasn’t a mentionable panoramic Adventure game engine around, and there are many enthusiastic people who wish to create Adventure games of their own. So we thought, why not develop an engine to help them create beautiful and graphically advanced Adventure games? We wanted CPAGE to be the answer this question. So we’re open to share our engine.
[AL]: You also say you are willing to help other independent game developers and enthusiasts by providing tools that will ease the game development process. This seems to be a trend with independent developers…..willingness to help out other developers. What do you think is the reason for this unlikely camaraderie in the ultra competitive gaming industry?
[Galip]: As a game developer, I think the current games on the market that are developed by the big companies are becoming dull in terms of game design and ideas. Independent developers give a fresh new perspective. They can come up with cool new ideas, but to implement these ideas and sell them, they need adequate tools and development environments to narrow the technology gap between them and those who dominate the market dominant. This is one of the reasons why we should support each other.
[AL]: You managed to garner the attention of Lighthouse Interactive. Congratulations! For those who may have no clue how to get started, what was your strategy in locating a publisher?
[Galip]: First, come up with a strategy. Define and design your game well. Know what you want and learn what qualifications you must have in order to reach your goal. Our basic strategy was to develop a playable demo and show it to the publishers who are in interested in the same kind of game we’re making.
[AL]: What types of obstacles have you encountered during the development phase? What was the most challenging? And, alternatively, what were your favorite moments?
[Galip]: Being inexperienced was our most fearful obstacle. We’re still learning and know that we have to learn to adapt ourselves to anything we’re asked by our publisher. For now, the most challenging thing for us was working with large files and sending them to Lighthouse without any problems. Our location and internet connection is a big obstacle here. Sending the gold master version of the game was an unforgettable experience for us :)
[AL]: How long have you been working on Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder?
[Galip]: 2 years. Before I joined Zoetrope Interactive, Onur and Oral were working on the project. If you search the internet you can find very old screen shots of the game on some gaming sites. At first we intended to create a classic 2D Adventure game without panoramic views. After CPAGE was implemented, the overall look of the game changed drastically. We also decided on a new name: “Darkness Within.”
[AL]: Can you provide us with some information about the storyline?
[Galip]: The story is about a police detective named Howard E. Loreid who is after murder suspect Loath Nolder, who happens to be an ex private investigator. But this seemingly routine case will turn into a nightmare for Howard. He’ll face terrifying happenings and reveal something about himself. The player will take on the role of Howard and experience the game through his eyes. In other words, players will share his story, which leads to madness.
[AL]: What made you choose H.P. Lovecraft’s works as your inspiration?
[Galip]: We are big fans of H.P. Lovecraft. Onur and Oral adore his works. They think he’s the only person who defines “fear” perfectly.
[AL]: The storyline seems to revolve around 2 main characters; Howard E. Loreid (playable character) and Loath Nolder (the object of our pursuit). Can you tell us more about their personalities? What makes them tick?
[Galip]: If I tell about Loath Nolder, I’ll probably ruin the game since his character is the heart of the mystery. So I’ll talk about Howard. He’s a young police detective (in his thirties) and an admirer of Loath Nolder’s P.I. work. After discovering the strange things Loath Nolder has done (i.e. selling everything, traveling to exotic countries, and becoming a the primary suspect in the murder of a wealthy man), Howard’s passion to find Loath Nolder becomes a personal matter for him. He must find him and learn the truth about Loath Nolder and
more importantly, himself!
[AL]: Do we ever get to actually interact with Loath Nolder? Or with any other characters?
[Galip]: Yes, and other characters.
[AL]: How do we progress through the story? Is the game linear in nature?
[Galip]: Actually it’s not. There are some points in which players will follow different paths. For instance, you may miss the chance to speak with Loath Nolder if you act cowardly! So the game does have some replayability. There is also a results screen at the end of the game telling you how far you progressed in discovering the hidden truths in the game and story. Someone who plays in Standard mode probably won’t be able to learn the full story since this is the easiest level of the game. There are 3 difficulty levels to choose from.
[AL]: What can you tell us about the overall game mechanics? How do the players interact in the 3D environment? Will it be a traditional 1st person exploration?
[Galip]: Darkness Within is first person. The game has a node-based panoramic exploration style used in many games like Myst IV, Dracula and Post Mortem. This is a point-and-click Adventure game, so left clicking is your best friend. :) There isn’t any walking around in a node and left clicking takes you to another node. Also, there are many interface-based screens like inventory, a 3D object examination screen, Howard’s Mind (“Thinking Screen”), and document underlining and reading screens. Darkness Within also offers a more realistic first person experience since the game some times takes control from the player. For example, in some horror scenes, if you don't run, Howard does automatically.
[AL]: What are the kinds of challenges players can expect to encounter in the game? Is there a predominant puzzle type such as inventory, logic or mechanical?
[Galip]: There are traditional puzzles which involve combining items or using an item on another object, but Darkness Within also has some new kinds of puzzles, which may be pleasantly challenging for Adventure gamers. So keep your mind open. :) The game has inventory, logic and mechanical puzzles, but logic puzzles are the dominant type.
[AL]: Your website mentions an “All new thinking system” and also “Feeling and hearing with your character”. Can you tell us more about these interesting features?
[Galip]: Darkness Within utilizes a “Thinking Screen” which represents Howard’s mind. Clues are a very important part of the game. This will be evident as soon as you begin the game. You will be warned when you’ve found a clue and you’ll get clues from different actions and situations. You can also think of “Howard’s Mind” screen as a “Quest Log,” which shows your progress in the game given the clues you have collected. You can also combine clues with one another (or with physical items!) to get new clues and advance in the game.
As far as feeling and hearing your character goes, we
wanted Howard to have a character of his own. He sometimes coughs in the game; you can hear his heartbeats getting faster and slower according to the situation he is in, and you can also see the in-game camera move up and down in accordance with his panting.
[AL]: What kind of locations will we get to explore on our quest?
[Galip]: The gamers will explore many creepy and different locations in the game like big old creepy houses, mystic underground galleries, cemeteries, caves, crypts… The game also has various “dream/nightmare” levels which adds more locations to the “different places to see” category.
[AL]: The game demo most certainly had a surprise at the end. Should we expect more of this throughout the game?
[Galip]: Yes certainly! This is the most striking feature of the game. You’ll never know what happens next… full of surprises… a twisted storyline…
[AL]: Where will the game be released? And, what languages will be offered?
[Galip]: Darkness Within will be distributed worldwide by Lighthouse Interactive. The game will offer many localized language versions beginning with English, German, Russian, French and Italian.
[AL]: What can we expect from Zoetrope Interactive in the future? Are there projects in the works already?
[Galip]: Expect more Adventure games. :) Our next project is already in the pre-design phase. We’re working on some new ideas…
[AL]: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
[Galip]: We’d just like to say thank you for this opportunity and the support of the Adventure game community. We’ll do our best to bring you enjoyable and creepy Adventure games and hope you’ll all enjoy playing Darkness Within.
With the impending release of the game next week, we know that free time is at a bare minimum. We would like to thank Galip Kartoglu and the Zoetrope team for granting this interview. We enjoyed reading the responses and look forward to playing Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder. We wish you great success!! Thank you also to Lorraine Lue at Lighthouse Interactive all her help. For more information about the game and to try out the demo, please visit the official website at www.zoetropeint.com or visit Lighthouse Interactive’s site at www.lighthouse-interactive.com