Mystery Is Important: Dreamfall Chapters Snippets

By John Walker on February 27th, 2009 at 1:11 pm.

Storytime.

Dreamfall Chapters news comes rarely, and often without detail, but Funcom’s Ragnar Tørnquist has sneaked out a couple more bits and pieces. Bits and pieces he’s quick to stress are unofficial, from him, and not representative of Funcom. First and foremost, that it definitely still exists. In the sense that it hasn’t been given up on. While Funcom is in a bit of turmoil, making a sizeable loss and losing their CFO, it’s good to know that Tørnquist and his The Secret World team (who have a lot in common with his Dreamfall team) are still continuing at full speed. And it’s good to know that the thinking is long-term, and that Chapters is still to come. Now a few more details about how Chapters will work have appeared.

Perhaps the most frustrating, and the most exciting bit of news in there is that Dreamfall Chapters will not tie up the story. Despite being episodic, and despite having a definitive ending itself, it won’t be the big finale. That is, says Tørnquist, for The Longest Journey 2.

“It will have a proper-and-final end to it (sort of) though you may have to wait for The Longest Journey 2 (Dreamfall, at least in my head, wasn’t TLJ 2) for the conclusion to every single storyline. I hope Chapters can keep running for a good while, since there are tons and tons of stories we’d like to explore before wrapping up that part of the TLJ universe. Big stories and small stories from every corner of Stark and Arcadia…and beyond.”

So what will Chapters consist of? Ragnar writes on his blog,

“There’s already a story – or multiple stories, to be more precise – in place. It’s going to pick up right where the last one ended. (It will even rewind a bit and take a look at the events in Dreamfall from a different perspective.) It will follow several different characters, both old and new, and there will be more overlapping paths and storylines.”

Of course, Dreamfall made some… awkward choices. The action, and more specifically the combat, didn’t work. (Tørnquist slightly disagrees, of course.) So what about combat in Chapters? Please say none, please say none, please say none…

“Chapters will mix puzzles and exploration and conversations and mini-games and action, though the combat will be completely revamped and won’t feel like typical action-adventure combat (or be completely broken).”

Oh piss.

I dunno. I’ve seen every single adventure game that promises atypical combat fall on its arse in that area, whether it’s Fahrenheit’s moronic Simon Says-athon, or Penumbra’s flailing around with a pick axe like a frightened old lady trying to swat away a moth with a barge pole. (Both remain decent games, of course.) He’d better have something pretty darned impressive in mind, because otherwise there’s trouble. Or, and this might just seem crazy, actually be a third-person action game, that uses the themes of an adventure? Beyond Good & Evil, everyone. Beyond Good & Evil. That said, he does seem to be going in a third-person direction, but the following doesn’t clear much up.

“I have some cool ideas that I think you’ll all approve of (even those of you who abhor fighting; mixing puzzles, problem solving and good, old fashioned violence – and avoiding QTEs). It will look and play and feel like an adventure game, but a modern one: it won’t be point-and-click but it won’t use the focus field either, at least not in the same way. It will be third person. In terms of controls, it will be like Dreamfall, but with tons of tweaks.”

That made me dizzy. Tørnquist is looking to go cross-platform, but keeping it all digital. There’s a mention of the P-word below, let’s just skip over it – we’re talking about a game that’s not even in the early stages of development, and it’s too Friday a day for that fight.

“Yes, it’s going to be episodic and you’ll need to be online to get it and possibly to play it (sorry; piracy is an enormous problem for us and Dreamfall suffered massively because of it). As well as being available for Windows (and I would hope, at least in the long term, Mac) I’d love to see it distributed through Xbox Live, PSN – the Wii Store, if at all feasible. It’ll be the kind of game that can and should appeal to a diverse audience and thus would benefit from broad distribution in all channels.”

My only concern about “appeal” is the amount of back story someone’s going to need. Dreamfall technically could be played as a standalone game, but you would have spent a really rather large amount of the time going, “Who’s April? Why is there a blue man? Who is this crow? Why is that lady a dragon?” If Chapters is going to try to appeal to a big, broad audience across platforms neither previous game has appeared on, then it’s either going to have to do a remarkable amount of exposition, or not be the direct continuation fans might be hoping for.

Anyway, this is all wild speculation based on an unofficial blog post about a game that’s not even in the design stages. So let’s not get too carried away. And you know what? I trust Tørnquist. The Longest Journey remains my all-time favourite gaming experience, and for all the problems Dreamfall had, I cannot think of any story in any game that came close to being that emotive and enticing. Assuming that TSW is going to take at least another year (it’s hard to be sure, since the official site has rather cunningly put its countdown clock in a made up language), the Chapters is still something that won’t happen until a way into the next decade. Which puts The Longest Journey 2 at around 2031. Pre-order your copy now.

, , , .

57 Comments »

  1. Smee says:

    Short stories in The Longest Journey universe is a very appealing concept to me. It sounds like it’s the form of an epic-length comic book, no? Like The Sandman, as an example. A central plot with central characters that take the limelight every now and then for major story arcs, and then lots of little stories about background characters to give the events flair and depth.

  2. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I am in complete agreement with you when you say “for all the problems Dreamfall had, I cannot think of any story in any game that came close to being that emotive and enticing.”

    But still the story as seen in Dreamfall seems quite fragmented: bits happen in Stark, and bits happen in Arcadia; but as far as you can see from Dreamfall they are unrelated. Nothing that I did in Arcadia seemed to impact the story arc of Zoë, Faith, WATI Corp, and Eingana; and nothing I did in Stark seemed to impact the story of April, Kian, and the Tyren occupation.

    Maybe Chapters should have each chapter focus on one character’s story rather than the mix-and-match that Dreamfall suffered.

  3. Phillipa Kettle says:

    You know, as much as I loved Dreamfall (I haven’t finished Longest Journey yet- stuck in the city still) it sounds like this thing is going to take the next 20 years of my life to finish off. Duke Nukem Forever might actually have arrived by that time. I did once wait ten years to get the last issue of a comic series (and squealed lots when it finally appeared) but this is asking for some kind of insane dedication…I just don’t know if the game is worth that.

  4. Markoff Chaney says:

    Such conflicting emotions in my skull right now. I’m glad a long-time excellent franchise I enjoy is continuing and that the current economic woes of the father company aren’t killing it yet. I’m excited in the prospect of episodic content, while concerned at the same time for how long their development cycles seem to take and how that can impact the story. I see HL2 Episodes, and it’s not so bad, but they have a loving parent company that knows that Half Life is the franchise from whence came all the butter and so proper time and care can be taken.

    Ever since that first Indiana Jones adventure with fighting in it I just wished it would go away from that genre. At least that game let me skip it or set combat difficulty to make it endurable. I love fighting games, but it’s hard to mix them up and sometimes my brain doesn’t like the lurches it has to make from ponder to pound.

    More Lore would be great. Accessible Lore is another thing altogether. Keep it true for us long standing fans while introducing new stuff to let newcomers not feel left out worked… oddly… in Dreamfall. Let’s hope it’s polished up a bit better, all things considered. At least the adventure genre keeps on.

  5. Hümmelgümpf says:

    “It will look and play and feel like an adventure game, but a modern one”
    Translation: it will have mini-games and combat instead of actual puzzles. After the trainwreck that Dreamfall was, gameplay-wise, I have little hope for Chapters. Maybe Ragnar should consider moving to a non-interactive medium. Otherwise, we’ll get another Kojima.

  6. Xercies says:

    I’d love the kind of short story each episode that they are going for but I would still love a continuation of the Dreamfall story which was really good. Come on I’ve been waiting for this game for years.

  7. JohnArr says:

    Did anyone here play Dreamfall first? Were you able to enjoy it without the back story?

    Maybe if the first episodes focus on new characters without established backstory, it should provide an easy entry point to the uninitiated.

  8. Marianna says:

    Ah well. At least the project is still alive.
    But I just hate the idea of having to wait God only knows how long to see the end of TLJ’s (and Dreamfall’s) story. Especially after the way Dreamfall “ended”…

  9. Dreamhacker says:

    Anyone wanna bet Funcom folds before release? Considering how well AoC has been doing (hah) they better be making alot of money off 8-year-old Anarchy, or I don’t see how they are going to be able stay afloat much longer…

  10. Janto says:

    JohnArr: I played both games only after Walker’s chat-a-thon with Ragnar, in sequence unfortunately, and I wonder if I might have liked Dreamfall better if I’d played it first. Ultimately, I think having the preconceptions about the story, and Faith and all that being some masterpiece of interactive storytelling killed any engagement for me, because I kept going – is that it? (mind you, sometimes I look at my girlfriend sniffling at a film and wonder if I’m unspeakably jaded)

  11. Rook says:

    I think people tend to really underestimate people’s ability to pick things up as they go along, a strong setting and characters will stand out on there own without the need for a backstory, and really, the jump from TLJ to the Dreamfall was never really explained. I am always really saddened to hear that Tørnquist thought the combat was anything other than unmitigated shit.

    Also, I like it when MMOs fail because it’s hard to blame that on piracy, rather than the game.

  12. sbs says:

    JohnArr: Not me, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed Dreamfall without having played The Longest Journey first. A lot of my excitement and motivation came simply due to being able to revisit Arcadia and Stark;
    This fantasy-meets-cyberpunk thing they have going on was developed very well in TLJ, I imagine I might have been completely bewildered being thrown into that universe and not knowing any of the characters or the world(s).
    I suppose it’s possible though, as the recurring characters are not really the focus of the main arc that Dreamfall deals with, which is after all the Zoe/Faith arc.
    spoiler ahead, major crucial line turned upside down:
    I wonder however if anyone who has not played TLJ but played Dreamfall
    „ƃuıʎp„ ʃıɹdɐ ʇnoqɐ ʇıɥs ɐ ǝʌɐƃ uǝʌǝ
    what with her constant moaning about being disillusioned and generally being pissed off at everything, when they weren’t familiar with her former skeptical but curious self.
    /spoiler end

    Regarding combat: wasn’t there just three occasions where you had to fight? I only remember one for each character, taking place in-between cutsenes.

  13. Bobsy says:

    Agreed. The best thing about Dreamfall for me was revisiting places from the original. Seeing Venice again, reduced to slums, was utterly heartbreaking.

  14. Gnarl says:

    I have the individual hope (that expect few here will share) that Funcom crashes and burns and Telltale pick up the story and crucial devs. And then hit them with sticks when needed to make a game in the next ten years, and also to take combat out of it. Not that likely, but I can dream.

  15. Lukasz says:

    Regarding the clock.

    Something will happen in 13920900 seconds from now (when posting this message)
    or 161 days from now.

  16. phil says:

    Sam and Max Vol 1 and 2 seem the most likely model – regular collection of revenue via the format, reusing assets to cut development time (notice he mentioned covering old ground from a fresh perspective), self contained tales that build towards something greater, maybe also the fact it is a reasonably beloved cult IP in case the developers need to justify themselves to investors. Providing Tørnquist is the one providing the words and plots, I’m sure it’ll be excellent.

    Combat was a problem in Dreamfall but the driving in Sam and Max was actually quite fun as it didn’t out stay its welcome. Perhaps if they concentrate on making it simple, immediate and, most importantly, short, the fighting in Eps. could be equally good.

  17. symuun says:

    I played Dreamfall first (ended up getting TLJ as well, but could never get it to run properly), and it holds a very special place in my heart. The gameplay was all kinds of broken at times- when there was any gameplay- but no other game’s story has gripped me in the same way before or since. And that’s even as I struggled with the backstory.

  18. Ian says:

    I’ve beaten TLJ and have Dreamfall but still haven’t played it. I don’t know why because I loved TLJ.

    This must be rectified.

  19. James O'Hare says:

    Oh, just hurry up and work on it Ragnar :( Enough of this Secret World MMO, I want more TLJ/Dreamfall! I’ll even accept the episodic nature without questioning it (because really I want a 20 hour game I can devote my life to for several days) it’s that good.

    It’s a shame to see they’re keeping combat in it, no matter how tweaked.

    I could go on about what I’m looking forward to seeing, but it’d be spoiler material for those who have had the misfortune to have missed out on this series so far.

  20. Taillefer says:

    I played Dreamfall first, and haven’t finished The Longest Journey yet. I enjoyed it immensely, and never found it too confusing to not know the complete history and backstory of the characters, in fact the mystery may have added something to it. I didn’t care it wasn’t much of a game, I couldn’t stop playing it. Dreamfall remains one of the very few games I had to tell my non-gaming friends about, I wanted everybody to experience it too.

    @sbs, yes.

  21. Theoban says:

    I just want Zoe to wake up! Wake up Zoe! Wake up!

    I didn’t mind the combat in Dreamfall, because you just pressed STRONG ATTACK until whatever you were hitting fell over. That’s perfect, adds to the ‘interactive story’ feel to the whole thing.

    I’m going to go back and replay it now. Well not right now, I’m still at work.

  22. Buemba says:

    Good to see Dreamfall Chapters is still a go. It’s definitely my most anticipated game until a miracle happens and Monolith announces NOLF 3.
    I’m not sure what to think of the announcement of TLJ2, though. I think I’d rather have the story wrap up in Chapters instead of having to play them and then be forced to wait another decade for the conclusion. There’s also the question of whether or not they can release the chapters in a timely manner too…
    Oh well, as long as I get more of Zoe, Kian and April’s stories I’ll be happy, even if that means braving through clunky fighting and stealth mechanics.

  23. Hokkou says:

    I played Dreamfall first, and I enjoyed it a lot. The great story of DF can’t be ruined just because you don’t know the TLJ background, and as for the revisiting, it’s the same thing playing TLJ after DF. “Man, this is what it looked like just a decade ago?” and “This is how April was/met Crow/is related to the Kin/the Guardian” etc etc. So yeah, there’s definitly nothing wrong with playing DF first.

    As for the combat, you only HAD to fight with April once, and with Zoë ‘a half’ fight (that required time, your opponent completely sucks so as long as you’re fast enough it’ll be a piece of cake) and I generally don’t even count the fights with Kian cause he’s made so strong/his opponents so weak that it’s over in seconds.

    Thanks for the post John, wrapped up things nicely.

  24. l1ddl3monkey says:

    Amazing game, story etc but the control interface was giant balls.

  25. Dain says:

    I am cautiously pessimistic :(

  26. Diziet Sma says:

    I for one cannot wait. Loved both of the games before this.

  27. lanster says:

    Love the story. Love the characters. If Tørnquist wants to tell the story with puzzles and combats and, I’ll be happy to go through them just so I can enjoy more of TLJ’s universe. He shouldn’t get so bogged down on all the mechanics that’s NOT normally in an adventure game.

  28. AndrewC says:

    The thing that is wrong with all fantasy is fantasy bloat. Page counts go up, trilogies become trilogies of trilogies and 3rd Dwarf From The Left suddenly gets his own origin story.

    So now I have to wait for a game that will come after a game that hasn’t even been made? I say ‘boo’, and ‘less of this sort of thing’, and ‘where’s that article with the Zoe cosplay girl?’.

    Boooooooo!

  29. AndrewC says:

    How do you do the ‘O’ with the line through it?

    [Alt+248 - Ed]

  30. Tei says:

    No idea. Maybe you can use ∅ or ALT+8709.

    I love TLJ. Is a great point and click game, not as awesome and crazy as The Day of Tentacle, but is good.

  31. cong06 says:

    @Lukasz
    That’s not actually how it works, since the 9th digit only goes from 5-0…
    Confirming with the forum (http://www.darkdemonscrygaia.com/showthread.php?t=2578)
    The clock is in the format:
    dddd hh mm ss (milliseconds)

    and currently says:
    1392 05 49 44

    which seems to be counting down to no date in particular. Unless they decide to release the game according to the Mayan new year, which would be interesting.

  32. Pace says:

    Why exactly is that nubile lass there in nothing but her underwear? Or is that just a silly question?

  33. John Walker says:

    Pace, you must go and immediately play TLJ and Dreamfall, until you jolly well know the answer to that. They cost about -7p on Steam.

  34. Alex says:

    Speaking of BG&E, I caught your retroview on it recently. I really enjoyed it up until the final boss who was completely impossible to beat. I’ll often leave a game unfinished, even if I’ve enjoyed myself for the most part while playing it.

    Beyond Good & Evil was one of the few where it hurt to do that, but that boss endfight was so frustrating that I could never will myself to beat it.

    Oh, and any news about TLJ/Dreamfall is good news.

  35. Pace says:

    John; I may very well take you up on that, cheers.

    (besides, it’s not like that whole nubile/underwear issue hurts it’s chances..)

  36. John Walker says:

    Alex – I hate boss fights with a passion bordering on the illegal, and yet for some reason didn’t have a problem with BG&E’s, either five years ago on the PS2, or now on the PC. Of course, that it does the reverse-controls thing is completely unforgivable, but it really is just a case of switching into that gear and it’s fairly academic.

  37. Angel Dust says:

    I am a huge adventure game buff but could not stand TLJ. The writing was often needlessly verbose, the puzzles patheticly linear and when those two came together, like that area where to proceed you had to find people to tell you certain stories, it was crushingly dull. I know I’m in the minority here, and I can see the appeal in the setting and some of the characters particularly the protagonist, but it didn’t feel like a game and the story didn’t engage me enough, like say Pathologic, for me to look over that.

    Now onto the whole combat and other elements being in adventure games. While I agree that it hasn’t really been done very well yet it is still something I would very much like to see in gaming in general. There should always be games that have a pure gameplay focus but I want more games where you have more options that are as solidly implemented as they are in the respective genres. Melee combat like Riddick, chase sequences like Mirror’s Edge etc. These options should also be organically put into the game not cordoned off into seperate mini-games. I understand this would of course be quite difficult and time consuming to pull off but I can dream can’t I?

  38. malkav11 says:

    He’s right – Dreamfall was a story sequel to TLJ, but it wasn’t any kind of sequel in the gameplay sense. I hope he abandons this “modern adventure game” nonsense before TLJ 2 at the very least.

  39. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Never have I met a more likable game character than Zoë Castillo in Dreamfall. And it has so many scenes I will remember forever, such as the snowy scenes with the lonely house. So, yes, wake up Zoë!

  40. mister slim says:

    The reserved controls bit in BG&E isn’t bad, if you remember the 360-degree leaping charge attack.

  41. Jonathan Strange says:

    The Longest Journey is by far one of my most favorite games. Just something about the story and the witty way in which it was told really appeals to me and has seen me through around four play-through now where I continue to enjoy the game. And in Dreamfall, the main appeal for me at least was revisiting the locations from the original game and meeting some of the characters once again. Mediocre gameplay aside, Dreamfall really did a fantastic job conveying its story and the environments and interactions were fantastic. And for me, a fan of the original game who really just wanted ‘more’, to see those locations from the first game again… hell, it wasn’t just enough, it was all I asked for. Dreamfall was fantastic! (Although in the name of not sounding like a complete fanboy, the ending really was abysmal. I hate cliffhanger endings with a vengeance, especially when there’s no continuation or closure within the foreseeable future. Gah!)

    And so honestly whatever gameplay mechanics are thrown behind it or whatever means by which its told, frankly I’m just happy if I can know Ragnar is behind the project. And with him behind the project I have faith it’ll be a good continuation of the story, and again, that’s really all I ask.

    I do have to say that it’s really nice to hear that he wants to make another full TLJ game and that the chapters are a sort on in-between. A collection of short-stories if you will! The thought of another full TLJ game sends a chill down my spine.

    Totally pre-ordered. Can’t wait till 2031!

  42. Lukasz says:

    @cong06
    uuuu
    interesting. my bad :)

  43. Tonamel says:

    The countdown is counting to Dec 21, 2012, aka the supposed end of the world.

    So, not much to do with the release date.

  44. Igor Hardy says:

    Eh, why bother with sequels to a story that pretty well can go on forever. If someone is looking for a new, great fantasy adventure game in the old style, then I recommend Tale of a Hero.

  45. Janto says:

    I don’t get the Zoe love. She was alright, I suppose, BUT NOTHING COMPARED TO APRIL RYAN. Or, in my opinion at least, Manuel ‘Bonedaddy’ Calavera.

    It’s probably some sort of class-resentment thing, but I disliked her enough to run her repeatedly into the wall, muttering ‘why are you hitting yourself, Zoe?’

  46. jalf says:

    I liked April better than Zoé (Zoë? How did they spell it again?) too. Still though, wake up Zoé! The ending was just cruel. :(

    And TLJ is probably one of the only franchises I can see really work well in an episodic format. Let’s face it, TLJ and DF got a bit long-winded, and the mediocre gameplay did subtract. Chop it up into smaller episodes, to make it a easier digestible, and their sales would probably go way up.

    Plus, of course, a stable source of income for Funcom probably isn’t to be sneezed at either, especially not considering their MMO’s tend to be complete failures for the first 18 months after launch.

  47. SirNuke says:

    As a side note, I consider the camera in games to be a tool, and its a cardinal sin when developers utilize it as anything else (such as a gameplay element or a toy). Same goes for interface, they exist entirely to help the player as best as possible. Adminittedly though, I would consider camera and interface to be a weak point on a number of my favorite games of all time (Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and the aforementioned BG&E all come to mind).

    I have found TLJ and Dreamfall to be interesting that they hold for me two of the greatest stories ever penned in video games, while also being two of the worst endings.

    What really drew me into TLJ wasn’t so much the plot, but the setting and the characters. Even the bit players were wonderfully fleshed out, despite the sheer number of them. The game events, however, I fairly indifferent to. Save the balance? Fuck the balance! Despite how wonderfully developed the various characters, we rarely learn much about what happens to them. What happens to Emma and Charlie beyond the first couple chapters?

    As such, the ending TLJ sucked for what it didn’t touch on, rather than what it did. Well, the whole 11th hour “hey guys, this is getting too predictable, we need to shake it up” aspect of it did bother me a little (twist endings work better when they make the viewer think “damn, how’d I not spot that”, rather than “that’s bullshit”. And don’t try argue that TLJ wasn’t written sequentially, just look how much longer and more fleshed out the beginning chapters are versus the later chapters, Grim Fandango is the same way).

    Dreamfall’s ending was different, but worse. Actually it wasn’t so much an ending, but an arbitrary cut off point. It’s almost irresponsible by Tørnquist. It’s so hard to predicate whether you’ll even get to make a sequel in the games market, and Dreamfall is about as far away from surefire sales as you can get.

    I honestly don’t care for MMOs, but here’s for Age of Conan and the Secret World not sinking Funcom.

    tl;dr: Don’t mess with the camera or controls (unless you’re Tim Shafer), and Tørnquist needs to work on the “resolution” section of the plots of his stories.

  48. qrter says:

    I thought the stories and themes in both games were interesting but quite a lot of the actual writing very clunky, coming close to hamfisted.

    The characters have a kind of genericness about them – they’re generic pretty, make generic jokes, say generic romantic things, etc. All the characters never remind me of anyone I actually know in the real world, just of other characters from fantasy fiction.

    Which might’ve been Tørnquists idea in the first place ofcourse, it always felt like a bit of a missed oppurtunity to me.

  49. Apulia says:

    Glad to have found this website. I too am looking forward to the continuation of the TLJ Universe. I’m happy the project has not been abandoned.

    I liked both April and Zoe and all the characters surrounding them, especially the barista. (It was the first time I saw that word.) I don’t care that much for puzzles and and combat, but I do like the story line.

  50. Tired of waiting says:

    Why don’t the rights of The Longest Journey/Dreamfall be sold to another adventure game company so they can start working on it, like now and then we can play the darn thing before Im 80.