Anyone who has played Ben There, Dan That! and Time Gentlemen, Please! will know why to be excited to hear there’s to be more from the mad-walking heroes of time travelling point and click adventures. From an outside glance they’re 2D scratchy indie games made in the AGS engine, but then you need to sit up and take notice when you realise the second game, TGP, has a Metascore of 89 (five reviews listed, but many other 9/10s should be added). We officially liked it a lot. Why this very day Zombie Cow got in touch with us to let us know that after meetings and alcohol, they’ve decided to continue the series, this time episodically.
We took the opportunity to find out the hows and whys from ZC’s Dan Marshall.
RPS: We’ve heard (well, read on Twitter) that you and Ben have been conducting pub-based meetings to discuss the future of Dan and Ben.
Dan Marshall: Ben and I have spent a couple of nights quaffing back some Lion’s Roar Real Ale, talking through the future of the Dan and Ben games, and scrawling ideas on beer mats. Time Gentlemen, Please! is selling nicely, but not really enough to justify working for another 9 months or so on a sequel, which is a shame, because the D&B games are generally a complete joy to work on.
RPS: But we want more. Give us more!
Dan: So the plan is: instead of writing a whole new adventure, I’m currently hard at work making a ‘Dan and Ben Episodes Engine’, which is being custom-built from the ground up (whatever that means, it sounds right) to make writing new adventures much much easier. We’re looking at doing shorter, cheaper, standalone jabs of entertainment – possibly just an hour or so’s gameplay to slot into that gap you’ve got on a weekday evening, the same sort of length as an episode of something on TV.
RPS: Hooray! Can we expect to see changes other than shortness?
Dan: I’ve paid attention to the VERY FEW criticisms of TGP, and there’ll be changes where appropriate. I’ve been re-jigging the user interface for example, and there are already some nice new twists in mechanics we can play with, already built into the engine using clever technology.
RPS: Episodic is always a bit of a worrying word. It tends to mean “one”.
Dan: At the moment, we’re going to do one, and see how it goes. If people like it, hopefully we’ll be able to do an entire season. We’ve finally come up with an amazing opener – something that’s a bit of a refreshing departure from the other games, but still slots in nicely with the idea of Dan and Ben being old-school adventurers, always getting themselves into scrapes. The really exciting thing for me about doing shorter games is that we can do much more interesting things in terms of puzzles, settings, complexity and mechanics.
RPS: What’s the chronology? Will it directly follow on from TGP’s ending?
Dan: The episodes will take place after TGP, but won’t be a direct sequel and won’t reference the other games, so newcomers can jump straight in with these ones – each episode should be Dan and Ben getting themselves into a bit of a pickle, and the player’s in charge of sorting everything out. For those who have played TGP, imagine the whole alien planet section was standalone – that’s the sort of thing we’re looking at. That level of quality and complexity to the puzzles (that’s by far my favourite bit in the game), that sort of length of gameplay.
RPS: Say more words.
Obviously, everything’s still subject to change. It might all cave in on itself and not work at all and we’ll scrap it. But for now, there’s more Dan and Ben coming, probably, which I know is very different to what I said in all those interviews about the future of the franchise. I didn’t really expect the game to wind up with such an improbably high Metacritic score.
RPS: Do you think anyone can tell that I added these questions in throughout the email you sent me to make it look like I asked all the right things?