Ragnar Tørnquist On… The Longest Journey

By John Walker on August 19th, 2008 at 8:41 pm.

Life size! Zoe too.

In part two of our interview with The Longest Journey creator, and project lead on The Secret World, Ragnar Tørnquist, we get down to discussing The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. TLJ is a game that’s very special to me, and one I credit as having affected my life.

What follows is the most involved discussion of the game, and its sequel Dreamfall, I’ve seen from Ragnar, talking about the philosophy behind the game, the messages it contained, what it’s like to have aged ten years and reflect, and not least the news that The Longest Journey started life as a platform game. We’re joined by Dag Scheve midway through, which derails the conversation impressively. And if you look carefully, there’s also some more exclusive snippets about The Secret World hidden in there.

RPS: How old were you where you when you started developing The Longest Journey?

Ragnar: I was 25.

RPS: So pretty young.

Ragnar: Yeah. We’d wrapped up Casper, and shipped late – the story of my entire career. I was between projects, and at that time Funcom was deciding that working for hire… we were never going to keep our heads above water. So we decided to make our own games. One of them was going to be an online game, which became Anarchy Online. And the other was Project X. We had a Dublin office back then, but the game they were making died. But we liked the ideas there – two realities, one science fictiony, one fantasy. So I said, let’s do something with that: two worlds. And here’s the funny part: that game started off as a platform game. Do you remember Heart of Darkness? It was all the rage at that time. I was not a fan. I did not want to make a platform game. I wanted something else – I wanted to create this really interesting universe, and have characters you could interact with. And I loved adventure games. At the time, one of my favourites would have been Gabriel Knights. Oh, and the LucasArts games – Day of the Tentacle would be my favourite game of all time. So if I get to make anything I want, I want to make an adventure game. The genre was definitely beginning its decline. But I thought, screw that! I wasn’t as commercially orientated back then as I am now. Nobody was standing in my way, so I just did it.

RPS: This is why you have succeeded in life. You recognise DOTT as the best game ever.

Ragnar: I started building the idea of the game about a single character. A character that was known from very early on – long before the game had a title – as April Ryan, in a world that was dystopian and dark and depressing. She then travelled into this beautiful fantasy world. It’s interesting to look at the original design documents and see what changed. April was living in the Borderhouse, in this wasteland of a city, always dark – a very Dark City vibe. We watched that when making TLJ. April was having dreams of these dark angels. That’s how it started.

Arcadia, a far nicer place than Stark.

RPS: Why did it lighten from this dark beginning?

Ragnar: I realised that the game wasn’t really about a terrible world and a beautiful world – I realised it was more about the balance between these different elements of the universe. You wouldn’t make one of those sides a terrible place. You’d just make it different. And if you’re going to get into April’s life and enjoy her existence, which is crucial for understanding when her life is turned upside down, she has to have a life which is appealing. It’s a traditional story: you have a safe environment, you have characters who’ve never really experienced anything who are suddenly thrown into these situations. When I first realised that was the direction to go, I was thinking of putting it in the modern day rather than the future. But at the same time, to show the contrast between magic and technology, that might have worked better by setting it in the future. I was always torn between the two. Sometimes I wish we’d done it modern day, but other times I’m happy with what we did. So that was it. It wasn’t ever about finding out that there’s a heaven compared to this hell, but finding out that there’s a balance. Once you’ve realised that, then everything changes.

RPS: So you’re pleased with that change in direction?

Ragnar: I think it was the right decision. People are so sick of these dark, dystopian futures. Bladerunner’s still a fantastic piece of work, but that’s Bladerunner. Everyone else is doing exactly the same thing.

RPS: I recently played TLJ all the way through for the first time in years, and weirdly I’d forgotten that it was set in the future.

Ragnar: Yeah – that reflects the conflict I had within myself, and also the art director who really wanted to do it in the future. I always tried to pull it into the present day, and visually, he tried to pull it in the other direction, which has worked out really well. I’m not a big fan of things that aren’t recognisable on some level. I really wanted to say, “This is a place that I can understand,” and then bring on the fantasy. We did this especially in Dreamfall – bring everything down to the simple life, make it something you can empathise with. Especially with Venice in TLJ. It was modelled after East Village, where I’d lived in New York City. I wanted that atmosphere – a sort of funky, cool place that’s homey and villagey. And then bring on the skyscrapers and the spaceships.

RPS: This is a constant rant of mine. Games forget to ground you before spinning off into fantasy. Why do so many games forget this? The opening of Half-Life was so brilliant, and I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t do that.

Ragnar: I don’t understand! I love games that make me feel like I’m living a normal life, and then BAM, things change. Movies do that so well. Even big action movies understand this. Why don’t people do that any more? I agree.

TLJ may have dated, but it still often looks lovely.

RPS: Regarding Stark and Arcadia [the two worlds in TLJ], I think it’s impossible not to see it as commentary on the world we’re living in. Stark appears to be a satire of Capitalism. Was there a commentary you wanted to make?

Ragnar: Yeah, I always do. But I don’t try to push it into people’s faces. I’m a different person now than I was back then, that was a long time ago.

RPS: I found that too, playing it again. I’m a different person than the guy who first experienced the game.

Ragnar: That’s something I was able to emphasise with Dreamfall. With TLJ it was something that emerged as we made the game. I’m not sure the statement in TLJ was very clear or direct, and I’m not sure I want to say, “This is what we tried to say with it.” I try to put a lot into it, in terms of what my own beliefs and personal conflicts are, and leave it open for people to interpret.

RPS: Like what?

Ragnar: Like referring to religion in TLJ. Games don’t often refer to religion. I was trying to make the whole idea of that universe co-exist with religion, having that story in the context of faith. Because obviously TLJ is a game about faith, and Dreamfall is even more about faith. To the effect of having a character called Faith. The Longest Journey is a game about finding yourself, and having belief in yourself, and conquering your personal demons, on a very simple level. It is also a game about having faith, and you have all these characters, like the Catholic priest, having him refer to the whole aspect of faith in relation to the unbelievable nature of split universes, and how you reconcile that with your own personal faith. April is discovering that as she goes along – that to me is the core of the story.

And you’re right – it’s a heavy satire of corporate society, and the media. I think in TLJ it was more in pieces, whereas in Dreamfall it was more reconciled with the whole game. It was a more mature game. With TLJ, up until well into development, I had no idea what the ending was going to be. It emerged as I played the game myself. While with Dreamfall, we made diagrams that described the themes, and how each person related to the themes – it was a whole different process.

I think for some strange and crazy reason, TLJ has become such a treasured memory for a lot of people – the game has really affected people. And I think it is what it is, and for me to step on that would be wrong of me. With Dreamfall it’s sort of the opposite. I had a very clear statement that I wanted to make, and I followed that through. I think TLJ reflects the mind of a 25 year old, and Dreamfall is that of a 30-something. When you’re in your 20s, you don’t know where you’re heading, much like April. While in your 30s, maybe it is more about the loss of faith in yourself, faith in religion and faith in the world.

We'll be discussing Faith next time.

RPS: For years I’ve been trying to write this book for teenagers. I’ve got three chapters into it so many times, but never got any further. Replaying TLJ, I was so embarrassed by how much I’d stolen – totally unconsciously – and I was freaked out by it. These ideas had seeped into me. One thing I’d stolen was the notion of Balance, which is ridiculous and I can’t take. But another thing, and you can’t stop me stealing this, is the extraordinary idea of the central character not being very important. That’s almost unheard of.

Ragnar: That’s something that happened later. In the beginning it was, yes, she’s the chosen one. But then that changed, that was an extremely important part of it. And that’s why it carries over into Dreamfall. April has to be disillusioned. If not then what the hell? She went through all that, and what are you in the end? I think it’s about realising that you’re – well – a part of the [he adopts a sarcastic voice] “great wheel of time”. You’re only a cog, but… you can make a big difference.

RPS: It sounds silly when you put it like that, but that’s a really honest statement about reality.

Ragnar: Yeah. And people hated it. Both in-house and players. They felt cheated. People do expect, after playing the game for 30 hours, of course they’re going to end up being the most important piece in the whole puzzle. But you’re right, that’s also something we’re doing with The Secret World too. In an MMO, every player cannot be the chosen one. I hate that in WoW, when I’m referred to as “the chosen one”, and I’m thinking, “Fuck you! I’m not the chosen one! There’s 200,000 people before me who are also the chosen one! I don’t want to be chosen, I just want to be a person who plays a part. Why not go that route too? For me it can be just as enjoyable to be that person in the crowd, with an interesting story to tell, rather than being the King.

I have to admit, that’s not an idea that comes from The Longest Journey. It comes from many stories before. I stole from a lot of people. Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon with Buffy the Vampire Slayer – I was watching that when I was making the game.

Dreamfall screens do illustrate things more appealingly.

RPS: That shows. In a good way. People can copy Whedon really badly, and it misses on every level.

Ragnar: If you can’t do it, don’t even try.

RPS: But you succeeded.

Ragnar: I think I have a good ear for dialogue, and he had my style without me evening knowing it. When I saw Buffy I had a revelation: “Holy crap! This is exactly what I want to do.” So it’s a Neil Gaiman type story mixed with Joss Whedon style dialogue. But I have no shame about that. I think every writer should steal liberally, so long as you add your own stuff, and do it honestly. I think Dreamfall had a different identity – it was more me.

At this point we’re joined by Dag Scheve, Ragnar’s writing partner.

RPS: Having played TLJ a couple of months ago it’s interesting to see how I’ve changed. Some things that were normal gaming conventions of the time seem a bit daft now. And I’ve obviously changed a lot since I first played it. I still connected with the story very much, but I didn’t feel that same attachment. I’m 30 now, and I didn’t feel the same connection with an 18 year-old.

Ragnar: I don’t think I could ever make that game again. I haven’t played it in a very long time. I think I’d have trouble playing it as a lot is very naïve. Dreamfall is a much more mature game.

Dag: I found it a little naïve too. Although it is a good game, it’s a good story.

Ragnar: Yeah, you’re brilliant too!

Dag: But I don’t think it’s as good as the story that we made for Dreamfall. It’s not as profound.

Ragnar: No, it’s not as profound, but it has a simple joy that’s lacking in Dreamfall. It has a sense of exploration and adventure that’s lacking in Dreamfall, because Dreamfall is a lot more serious, and everybody’s questioning themselves, and everybody’s having a crisis of faith.

RPS: It’s more Buffy season 7 than Buffy season 1.

Ragnar: Yes. That’s a perfect comparison. And I loved season 7 of Buffy.

Dag: I don’t like Buffy.

Ragnar: You know, you’re not brilliant. You suck.

RPS: Have you heard about Joss Whedon’s new project?

Ragnar: Yes. Actually, I was so happy that day. It was my happiest day.

Dag: What are they doing now?

RPS: It’s called Dollhouse.

Dag: Is he doing a new adolescent show?

Ragnar: No, he’s starting in the 30s this time.

Dag: Because I like Angel more than I like Buffy.

We then get a long way off track, before finally clawing our way back to the subject, and back to character development

Some of Stark's not so bad.

Ragnar: Character development is narrative. That’s a thing I learned in TLJ, and carried over to Dreamfall. I used to have a completely different opinion. I thought that story could be a good story regardless of characters. That the mechanics of a story were independent of characters. I think it’s possible – it’s doable – but I’ve changed completely. My philosophy now is that the character builds the narrative. It’s something we’re transforming fully into The Secret World, because there character development is the gameplay. But it’s also the story. It’s how you transform yourself within the game. It’s character development as narrative. Which is how you tell stories through RPGs and MMOs. That’s what you’re talking about with life being a narrative. See, so I did it before you!

RPS: I think narrative is almost a better word than story, because narrative implies progression, and games require that.

Ragnar: Yeah, exactly. What is narrative, what is story, and what is plot? I really don’t know the answer. Every story has a narrative, or does it? I’m not sure.

RPS: A character I loved in TLJ was Burns Flipper, the acerbic guy in the hovering wheelchair thing.

Ragnar: When he dies, that’s my least favourite moment in TLJ. When April comes to find him dead and she says, “You never got to walk again, did you?” [There is much laughter from everyone] Horrible! Horrible!

RPS: Despite that, he’s a great character.

Ragnar: That’s another interesting thing. A great thing with Dreamfall, and much more in TLJ, is the freedom the actors have. Being able to go off script. Andrew Donnelly who voiced him is a stand up comedian. I told him, go wild with this. The way I did the casting was to write sample dialogue for all the characters, and then I cast it. I only had the sample dialogue. Most of the dialogue for TLJ was written in a frenzy during the night. I stayed for two or three weeks in New York, and I did the writing at night until 3 or 4 in the morning. Then I went to bed, then printed it out on the crappy printer I bought, and then I’d hand them the new script pages. So the game was there, but it lacked all the dialogue. Therefore it was also very open to being able to go off script. I also knew what their voices were like. So for example with Crow, my favourite character, I think only five lines of dialogue had been written when I cast the guy. He [Roger Raines] was brilliant, just what I wanted, and the way he read it shaped how Crow’s dialogue was written. So it was written for him. And the same with Burns Flipper. It was written for that guy. Some of the outtakes are the best ones there – things I had to cut unfortunately.

RPS: I don’t want to talk about the swearing in the game, because it’s an incredibly tedious subject. But he was a good example of why it was a good idea to have swearing.

Ragnar: He was a good example of why it was a good thing I didn’t have someone standing over my shoulder while we made the game. You know, we had penises on display. I’m all for full-frontal male nudity.

RPS: That’s the opening quote right there.

Dag: That’s what I have to live with.

Ragnar: TLJ began with the penis, and we tried to do the same in Dreamfall but the publishers said, “No, you can’t do it. It won’t get released in the US.” I was thinking about sneaking it in, but I’m a more responsible person now.

RPS: I remember the original review in PC Gamer, and all it went on about was the penis and the swearing. I was so cross. So I began my campaign to mention it every month.

Ragnar: And you did. I was reading PC Gamer back then, and I think you mentioned it every single month for a year and a half. I was always searching… oh, John Walker, alright, ah yeah, there’s The Longest Journey. I thought, woo!

RPS: It became really funny to get in a mention, no matter how irrelevant. But I really take some credit for that game getting attention.

Ragnar: And you should, definitely. I think we’ve had some champions. You’re one of them, and we had some champions in the US as well. And the game sold quite well, even though we haven’t made that much money from it. It sells better than Dreamfall at this point. But both games are still selling continuously.

Can't have a TLJ piece without this screenshot showing up.

RPS: For me, the games have been primarily about imagination. And the importance of imagination. I think TLJ hit me at the right moment. It made a real impact. It seemed to be a celebration of imagination. One of the big messages that I got from it was, if you let your imagination die, you are essentially spiritually dead.

Ragnar: Yes, exactly. And that’s represented in the games. A friend of mine interviewed me last year and made a similar point. He said that TLJ was a game about storytelling, and Dreamfall is a game about storytelling too. You have the Storytime realm. So they are stories about stories – meta-stories. Stories about other people telling stories. And stories about the power of the imagination. Arcadia is a place of imagination, where those things are made real. It’s the kind of thing you have to think about. I’m not sure whether it was intentional or not. But I think that’s the legacy of reading a lot of Neil Gaiman, because his stories area always about imagination, and the power of storytelling.

That’s definitely the case with Dreamfall, because the structure was a story within a story within a story. It has so many starts, and they’re all inside each other. That was all intentional, especially how it wraps up in the Storytime, and how Zoe is asked to tell a story. Is that story the game? Is that her view of the story? That’s going to be evident towards the end of the whole TLJ saga – the importance of stories. TLJ starts with an old woman…

RPS: An old mysterious woman…

Ragnar: An old mysterious woman being asked to tell a story, and it ends with the same woman telling that story. That is the framework. Imagination, yes. But more importantly storytelling as a tool for imagination.

In part three we discuss why it’s so important to Ragnar to write female characters, then go headfirst into Dreamfall’s story, including a fascinating explanation of the role of faith in both games. And finally, if it will all fit in one place, the potential for Dreamfall Chapters.

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46 Comments »

  1. Newblade says:

    I don’t remember the penis.

  2. Naseer says:

    I am such a Tørnquist fanboy that it is hard for me to critisize his games. Luckely he seems able to do that all by himself.

    A great interview arch. Hoping Tørnquist will explain how he, seemingly easy, is able to write great female characters. And fingers crossed for those Chapters…

  3. John Walker says:

    Yeah, there’s loads on writing women.

    Part 3 is probably the best bit of interviewing I’ve been lucky enough to do. It’ll be a few days, as it needs some preparation.

  4. Rasmus Widengård says:

    I hold The Longest Journey as one of the ten best games I’ve played in my life, and I guess that’s partly because I’ve discovered it at the “appropriate age”.

    And you gotta love full-frontal male nudity.
    Ragnar supplied us with fine blue digital dong long before Zack Snyder decided to crap his pseudo-stylized wet fantasies over Watchmen.

  5. Alex says:

    I certainly appreciate the idea of the “hero” not being the hero at all, that you’re just another cog, but that shouldn’t account for Dreamfall having a more than weak ending (at least, that’s what I thought), even if you see it as the 2nd part of a trilogy.

    That said, maybe this’ll pop up in the third part of the interview. Nice work, mr. Walker.

  6. John Walker says:

    You’re correct, Alex. Ragnar has a good moan about that.

  7. elias says:

    Excellent interviews. I’m looking forward to the next.

  8. Ignotus says:

    It puzzles me that TLJ was so brilliant, and Dreamfall so lackluster, and Tornquist sounds like he doesn’t know the difference…

  9. John Walker says:

    Ignotus – What do you find lacklustre about Dreamfall? In the next part we have it out over what was wrong with the game, but in terms of story I think it’s one of the best in a game, ever.

  10. Servitor says:

    I tried to play Dreamfall but couldn’t get past the excruciating little fighting controls. I put it down and didn’t finish, which made me sad. If they needed to have fighting in the game so much, it could have been done better.

  11. Alex says:

    You’re correct, Alex. Ragnar has a good moan about that.

    Ooh! Interesting.

    If they needed to have fighting in the game so much, it could have been done better.

    That’s the thing – the fighting felt completely unnecessary, it’s not what the TLJ games are about, ofcourse. I always got the feeling they were pushed into including those terrible fighting sequences from higher up, just because I couldn’t imagine anyone voluntarily adding it in such a shoddy state.

  12. James G says:

    @Servitor

    There’s a Dreamfall trainer about which can help bypass some of the more tedious combat/stealth sections. Until I found that I ended up puting the game down for about a year.

    There’s one here: http://gamestrainer.net/Dreamfall-The-Longest-Journey-Games-Trainer-3.html

    Not sure if its the same one I used

    ETA: Seem it is, the author’s site is here: http://sunbeam.bubble.ro/2008/01/29/dreamfall-global-trainer/

  13. uppi17 says:

    Is there really more than one Neil Gaiman?

  14. Keith says:

    Drunk though I may have been, Dreamfall made me cry. And I was genuinely sad when it was finished.

    I recently bought TLJ from Steam. Visually it’s a bit past it but I’m hoping I get over that.

  15. Will Tomas says:

    I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan, and I’ve never played either TLJ or Dreamfall – I’m beginning to think I should now. Although (and I hate to be pedantic, but…) it’s Neil GaimAn not Neil GaimEn.

  16. Bhlaab says:

    “What do you find lacklustre about Dreamfall? In the next part we have it out over what was wrong with the game, but in terms of story I think it’s one of the best in a game, ever.”

    I’m not that guy, but I have a useless opinion

    Aside from the fact that it almost literally has no gameplay, I was fairly disappointed with the story. I came to the realization after finishing it was that aside from future plot threads (aka second-in-the-trilogy-syndrome), the world of Arcadia was completely pointless to the story and could have been cut entirely along with April Ryan who, disillusionment or not, had done a 180 on her personality and became completely unlikable. So if Arcadia and April Ryan are superfluous, why bother to make it a TLJ game and get my hopes up?

    Other than that, I thought the sci-fi half was weakly portrayed, keeping its first two acts fairly barren and then loading up the final act with “oh btw HERE’S what’s been going on” and still managing to leave 70% of it unexplained and confusing. Most disappointingly is that the massive scope of TLJ’s story had been completely neutered in lieu of something smaller and darker (which is fine I guess, but not at all what I wanted as a sequel)

    On the other hand, it was fun to see old TLJ locales in full realtime 3D.

  17. Bhlaab says:

    PS: also i cant stand john whedon

  18. Vollgassen says:

    I also don’t remember a penis.

    I have this urge to reinstall the game to look… but some part of me tells me I shouldn’t.

  19. mkreku says:

    I loved the ending of Dreamfall! What is wrong with me?? :(

    Of course, it made me feel sad for an entire day, but it also made me long for the continuation of the story. That can’t be all that bad.

  20. CrashT says:

    The first scene of TLJ is a shot of a naked guy, he was blue I think. Anyway he’s entirely naked.

  21. Ozzie says:

    Yeah, you can see the penis of the guardian in the opening. Exciting!! ;)

  22. Noc says:

    Goddamnit, Burns Flipper dies? Shit, I was about halfway through the game when I sort of petered off and went to do other things. I need to go back and finish.

    But man. “Fuck! You fucking know what the fuck you’re fucking fucking with, don’t you?” It’s probably one of my favorite video game lines to date.

    It almost beats “You can’t trick the Mo Jhal. He’s untrickable.” But not quite. It’s interesting to know that most of the bits were ad-libbed, to. I’d sort of suspected that; the whole thing seemed much more off-the cuff than the traditional sort of woodenly delivered exposition of other games. I think TLJ’s one of the few games I actually really LIKED the voice acting of. It enhances the dialog, instead of being an obnoxious droning you click through to get to the next bit of text.

    And Vollgassen: it’s aged pretty well, I think. I that half-play I did of it happened a few months ago, and it’s very bearable. Animations tend to be a little stiff, but the environments are still the beautiful pre-rendered stuff of the time. And that was a first time half-play, so I don’t even have the aid of sepia-tinted nostalgia glasses.

    It’s not all love, but I don’t think I want to form a further opinion until I’ve finished the damn thing. Which I should get around to doing.

  23. NoNamePls says:

    Servitor, I feel your pain. The fighting sections…gah. Take it from someone who plays fighting games on keyboard, Dreamfalls fighting engine is in a word…..horrid. I guess al those years of playing Rise of the Robots 2, Virtua Fighter 2, Super Street Fighter 2/Turbo, Omikron, Oni, X-Men Children of the Atom, Mortal Kombat 3/Trilogy etc. was just enough to prepare for combat school in Dreamfall.

    By the way, is anyone here familiar with Empire Interactive’s previous game DreamWeb? Released way back in 1994, developed by Creative Reality and written by Stephen Marley(British Author), it had a hero who’s last name is Ryan , able to travel between dream world and reality world and also featured a penis. Look it up sometime.

  24. Noman says:

    I think Dreamfall was a great game, and in may ways better than Longest Journey. Its plot was one of the best I have ever seen in a PC game, and the parallels between Arcadia and Stark were depicted in great manner. The fighting sections were too few to be worth mentioning.

    The basic problem with the game was that too many of the plot threads were left dangling. While the parallels between Arcadia and Stark were obvious, they were not resolved even one bit. I mean, I saw what was there but not why.

    If you are making a sure-fire hit such as Half-Life, I can understand leaving loose ends, because the sequel for that game will get made. With Dreamfall, Ragnar did a lot of disservice to his audience by leaving so much of the game for the next chapter, when it’s not certain those will ever get made. Had I known about this, I’d have waited for all the Dreamfall Chapters to come out before buying them and the original game together.

    There is a way to properly finish a story while leaving room for further growth (Beyond Good and Evil did that) and Dreamfall completely failed at that.

    My 2¢

  25. john t says:

    I never played Longest Journey, but downloaded Dreamfall through XBLA. I just found it ponderous and gave up about an hour or so into it. There didn’t seem to be much ‘game’ involved. Just click here, listen to talky-talk, walk here, listen to more talky-talk. Yawn.

    Does it get better? I got as far as the part where you talk to your trainer and you practice some really badly implemented combat.

  26. Alex says:

    Well, the worlds and the story are the stars of the game. It’s more about exploration and nudging the story forward, really. Your choices (in dialogue, or where you go) don’t have any effect, for example (then again, most games that claim your choices do matter are lying through their digital teeth..).

    I’d say the game does get better after the awful “combat tutorial” bits, because the world ‘opens up’, but it’ll still be heavy on the “talky-talk, walk here, listen to more talky-talk”.

    There are some crappy stealth bits to accompany those poor combat sequences, though! ;)

    Basically, it’s an adventure game. If you like that genre, you’ll be fine. If not, I’d let it pass.

    And although I think you’d be able to play the game without playing the first, I would encourage anyone to play the first game.. well, first. But that one’s even “worse” in the talky-talk department.

  27. Angel Dust says:

    I absolutely love adventure games but couldn’t get into TLJ. I got bored at about Chapter 8 I think, if the game improves significantly after that let me know, and never finished it. I found the writing ponderous, the story uninteresting and the gameplay practically non-existant.
    The ‘puzzles’ were mostly so linear as to not really be puzzles at all. For example the part where you have to get a musical instrument: A character explicitly tells you that this is the item you need to proceed and suddenly the previously uninteractable music vendor is open for business and you get the musical instrument just like that. Or that awful section where you had to get 4 people to tell you seperate stories to proceed, and lo and behold there are only 4 characters available to talk too! Then you have to sit there and listen to some ponderously written , though well voice acted, stories.
    Where were the layered puzzles that required real lateral thinking ala those LucasArt classics? Believe me I don’t want Discworld level nonsense puzzles but I want to be challenged a bit dammit! I really did the island ‘phone’ puzzle though and that section was pretty good.
    I know I seem to be in the minority with this game but I really don’t think it comes close to any of those LucasArt classics it terms of puzzles or writing.

  28. Yann Best says:

    I don’t know that I’ll ever complete Dreamfall, sadly. I loved TLJ (though the latter half disappointed me… I think we argued about that a little, once, on rllmuk, but you probably don’t remember. I certainly typed too much then), but was unable to play Dreamfall at release because of the shiny graphics and their sys-reqs. I finally got a machine that could run it in May, and immediately installed it (I had bought the game a couple of years back in preparation of the day) and… just couldn’t bring myself to play it – again, because of the graphics, but this time not because of technical woes.

    It’s incredibly shallow, but I couldn’t play it because of the acting, or lack thereof: after being spoiled with Bloodlines and Mass Effect, going back to a game that had such exquisitely modelled characters but then barely had them animate, just destroyed my sense of disbelief. If the game had been uglier, or if I’d played it earlier, I could have dealt with it, but the combination was just too much.

    Also, it probably didn’t help that the main character irritated me (character- and voice-wise), though I imagine she may have grown on me with time.

    In summation: I’m dead shallow, me!

  29. malkav11 says:

    It’s not really much of an adventure game either, though it’s definitely better at that than it is at fighting or stealth.

    Probably the thing that disappointed me most was the lack of things to look at for a snarky comment. That was my favorite thing about old school adventure gaming, and TLJ was the last game to do it right for a very long time (at least, that I’ve played). Syberia is often mentioned in the same breath, but didn’t do much of the snarky commentary and thus didn’t work nearly as well for me. (And the less said about Syberia II, the better.) It’s taken until the Sam and Max games for a resurgence.

  30. Bhlaab says:

    In further regards to Dreamfall I’d have to say the part where I was swayed from casual disinterest to full on dislike is when the main character and her love interest kiss and horrible late-90s-esque pop music begins to play. Christ!

    Also when April Ryan was killed. The reason I bought the game was I wanted to see the continuation of her story and that just seemed like the ultimate “fuck you”

    Oh, wait, I thought of another one. When the reporter friend who apparently died near the beginning shows up again at the very end and the main character says in voice over “Watch out, he’s not the real one!” without explaining WTF that’s even supposed to mean.

  31. phil says:

    @Bhlaab
    Ryan is NOT dead; the old fall-into-the-water-looking-very-dead- then-swim-away has been used by everyone from Abel Magwitch too Billy Zane.

    The journalist’s reapparance was misguided, but I think the real problem was the lack of other elements in the resolution. Much as I like the Ringu dollhouse sequences, they didn’t seem properly contextualised into the plot, whereas the excellent prologue, with the imagination eating Rift thing, was left undeveloped. I was waiting for everything to be brought together for the ending, a sort of pull back and reveal the real big bad Buffy-style, but instead we got next to nothing. Halo 2 did pacing better and I hate Halo 2.

    That said, none of this would matter if TLJ and Dreamfall weren’t such wonderfully written, absorbing and unique games, so kudos to Tornquist and all that. The blobby blind mutant’s terror of death in Dreamfall was a perfectly realised character motivation.

  32. BrokenSymmetry says:

    I liked the fighting in Dreamfall. It was just a very short and easy change of pace, which I enjoyed in the game.

  33. Janto says:

    Hmm, well, after realizing that TLJ is actually about the cost of two pints, I have finally bought it, although I’ll admit that the idea of a walk-and-talker isn’t making me tingle with anticipation, I’ve drifted over to the dark side of ‘the stories you tell are more interesting than the stories people tell you’. I wish Bladerunner hadn’t been an aberration, whatever about flaws in execution, the design ideas were great.

  34. Bobsy says:

    I found a lot of Dreamfall utterly heartbreaking, and mostly in a good way. I’d just finished TLJ and moved straight onto Dreamfall, and seeing what had become of Venice, of the Border House and April’s old friends was just horrible. I’d not realised how much I’d connected with the characters before then.

    On the changes to April, mm. It wasn’t quite as easy to swallow, because disillusioned, bitter April was so unlikeable. Having spent the first hour or so in charge of ultra-mopey Zoe I was ready for a change, but got a mopey and angry April.

    EDIT: Oh, and I LOVE the idea of improv dialogue in games. Too many voice actors seem to just go with whatever unreadable mistranslated crap they’re given and read it line for line. Actors ought to be given enough free reign to make their own mark on the script.

    EDIT EDIT: Oh! Oh! And he referenced Heart of Darkness! Man, I wish I’d played that past the demo when I had the chance.

  35. Yann Best says:

    “I wish Bladerunner hadn’t been an aberration”

    You will burn in a special part of Hell for describing the fantastic Blade Runner as an aberration. One of the greatest point & click adventures ever made.

  36. Alec Meer says:

    Um. You might have confused aberration with ‘abomination’ there.

  37. Archaeon says:

    I bought both TLJ and Dreamfall a few months ago on Steam because I was on a “NEED ADVENTUREZ!” kick and they were highly recommended. So I scooped them up (along with Beyond Good & Evil and Curse of Monkey Island) and a good time was had by all. Obviously TLJ looks a good bit dated by now, the storyline was fantastic. And the storyline narrative was so great that I felt like I always had a good idea of what to do/click next, instead of just randomly clicking away at the screen hoping to God that I figure out the puzzle.

    Obviously Dreamfall left me wanting more, since for the entire game I’d been wondering what the hell that Storytime realm was, and then you get one little snippet at the end of the game before the cliffhanger. I was a little dissatisfied with the interface/control scheme of Dreamfall, and very dissatisfied with the completely unnecessary and unnatural fight sequences, but I was still drawn to the story. A good story like Dreamfall’s will suck me totally in and cause me to forgive all slights. I sincerely hope that we will see a true conclusion to the story, and I’m definitely looking forward to TSW.

  38. JonFitt says:

    On another note: Ragnar Tørnquist, he is an Armoured Bear right?

  39. Yann Best says:

    “Um. You might have confused aberration with ‘abomination’ there.”

    You’re entirely right. And my vocabulary improves a jot, thanks for that.

    I still refuse to accept the ‘flaws in execution’ comment, though (unless ‘not making the game work on later OS’s’ counts).

  40. Ozzie says:

    It’s interesting that Ragnar admits that they didn’t plan much of TLJs story beforehand and developed it just as they went along.
    Maybe, unintentionally, this gave the game a much more natural flow. Of course, they could have cut down on some overlong parts, but overall, the story felt natural.

    Otherwise, I always thought that the storytelling of Dreamfall was kinda awkward, everything felt so forced, stilted, unnatural, at least in the second part.
    I would love to explain why, but I forgot the details. :/

  41. Dogun says:

    <3 TLJ. And Ragnar’s vision, and the writing.

    I wish someone had thrown them some more time and some more budget for Dreamfall, is all, and that they had concentrated a bit less on the engine and a bit more on tying the different pieces of story together. I really loved the story until it kind of felt flat. I hope Chapters does a bit to restore that feeling of effortless wonder I had with TLJ.

  42. Reverend Speed says:

    Fuckdamnit. Jesus. I’ve just played through TLJ and Dreamfall. Gameplay aside, how on EARTH can somebody say these games have good stories? I mean, there’s some nice dialogue, but they’re meandering, heavily clichéd badly structured RAMBLES. If somebody started to tell you these stories in a pub, you’d feel compelled to set fire to the teller and NO ONE WOULD BLAME YOU IF YOU DID. TLJ gets some points for the interesting take on a main character and the affair with the compass (which I don’t think anybody’s mentioned above), Dreamfall has some lovely little moments of conversation, it has the father-daughter relationship and some lovely reveals of older locations, but… christ on a spike.

    Good stories? Seriously?

  43. Metronome says:

    Reverend, I think in the term of gaming world, TLJ series has one of the best stories. You just can’t compare the story in the game to some stories that you get from 20 academy awards winning movie, best novel in the world, and/or stories that’s popular in the pub.

  44. Guaranteed Website Traffic says:

    I can humbly say that “The Longest Journey” is one of the ten best games I’ve played in my life. The features and effects are awesome and tremendous. I repeat it almost 3 times. I can’t help myself. I really enjoying it.

  45. LightworkerNaven says:

    Dreamfall is one of my favorite games and the way its developed was so amazingly artistic and everything came together perfectly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game as well built as this one. Everything from the coordination of sound effects with the storyline, the overall feel of it, and everything. Amazing! =)

    Na’ven

  46. Sunwalker says:

    TLJ began with the penis, and we tried to do the same in Dreamfall but the publishers said, “No, you can’t do it. It won’t get released in the US.” I was thinking about sneaking it in, but I’m a more responsible person now.

    I thought he did manage to sneak it in, when the soup lady in Marcuria said “We feed the homeless and penniless“. Then I found out that “penniless” is an actual word, but maybe the innuendo was not accidental :P

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