Ragnar Tørnquist On… Dreamfall & Faith

He's basically her ventrilloquism puppet.

In this final part of our interview with Ragnar Tørnquist, we begin by discussing why he writes female characters for the leads in his games. Then we move on to get to grips with the story behind Dreamfall, the problems with the game, and eventually the roll of faith in Ragnar’s games. We finish by discussing the potential for Dreamfall Chapters. It’s been a while, but just in case the below contains complete spoilers for both The Longest Journey and Dreamfall.

Before we begin, I want to get sappy for a moment. It was a dream come true for me to discuss TLJ and Dreamfall like this. Both games had their flaws, but I will argue until death that barely any other game parallels their storytelling. As the faith model below should show, Ragnar and his team care about story in a way that should embarrass the crap out of most developers. Story matters to me, and I tip my hat to Ragnar and Funcom for letting it matter so much to them.

    Female Characters

RPS: I want to ask about writing women. Why do you write female protagonists?

Ragnar: I’m extremely fascinated by women. I’m surrounded by them. My wife, my baby girl. My cat is female. I find women fascinating – I love women! On every level! I dunno – there are just more options when it comes to female characters. On an emotional, spiritual level. Which is very unfair to men.

RPS: I was just about to say. You have those thoughts! So men are clearly capable of them.

Ragnar: And people make fun of me all the time. Because my best characters are female. I always make female characters when I play MMOs, but I’m not a cross-dresser…

RPS: No, no. I’m the same. I have a theory about that.

Ragnar: Ok.

Still the best female character in gaming history

RPS: People’s constant complaint about videogames is that there are no good female characters – obviously there are tons – but people say women are all big busted and scantily clad. But then I think, hang on – what do men have? Huge big buff scantily clad men!

Ragnar: That’s very much so.

RPS: I don’t want to play that kind of character. This is embarrassing, but the closest I can get to me in a game is to be a girl.

Ragnar: I agree, and that’s a good point. I feel there are more options for the female character. And because there are so few female characters, for me it’s become a mission. But you’re absolutely right – nobody’s done a layered, interesting male character that reflects the people playing the games. Because the people playing aren’t these macho, gun-wielding guys, they’re guys with… female aspects to them! Like us!

RPS: And proud of it!

Ragnar: I find you can get away from the clichés. That down-to-earth, not macho male – I think that’s more difficult to get into. I think people would have a harder time accepting that than playing a girl. And there’s also something to be said for the fact that it’s role-playing – it’s being somebody you’re not. Even though there’s a lot of me in April, she’s also somebody I’m not. She has different concerns in her life, and I enjoy the exercise of writing somebody I’m not. But I actually do it quite well, which is something my wife makes fun of me for. April talks and feels like a woman. So I don’t know, maybe it’s all those strong females in my life, or just the fact that I find women fascinating. I listen to how they talk, and I love to talk and listen to women, because to me their way of thinking is really interesting.

RPS: Do you think it’s because it’s ‘other’?

Ragnar: Well, men and women are quite different in how they think. But for us men, it’s in our DNA to try and get into the heads of women, and for them to like us. It’s just something we do. No matter how happy a relationship we have, if we talk to an attractive woman, we still want to feel like that person likes us. So seeing it from the other side, trying to work out how they’re thinking, is an interesting exercise. I’m pretty good at listening to people, and drawing dialogue from that, and then channelling that into a character. It’s just more fun. Writing a guy is a little bit like writing myself. Writing a woman is a little a bit like writing myself, but with breasts.

RPS: You could argue that there’s an idealisation of women in the TLJ games.

Ragnar: Yeah, there definitely is. But that probably reflects me as well. I think in TLJ and Dreamfall there was a concerted effort to say, okay, let’s make the really strong and cool characters be women.

There was a guy in the game?

RPS: With Kian in Dreamfall, as the only male lead in the games, he was very mysterious and under-explained. Did you find a male character more difficult to write?

Ragnar: No, absolutely not. He was actually one of my favourite characters, and it was such a great relief to write a male protagonist! We had to cut some stuff with him, simply because we didn’t have time. I wish we’d had the opportunity to have his sacrifices and changes last longer. If we ever did a director’s cut, I would definitely put back in the things I had written and we had planned to do with him. From the very first scene with Kian there’s sacrifice, with his trainer. Then he sees how his people treat the magicals in Marcuria, and then he meets April and sees somebody who is on the other side, and there are some blank spots where we don’t see what happens to him, but obviously he has some more experiences that shape his opinion. I loved writing that character, and I love the character, and he’s a major and important character in Dreamfall Chapters, and he’s a huge, huge element in the whole saga. Up there with April. I wish we’d had more room for him. He’ll be in Dreamfall Chapters.

A faith encounter

    Dreamfall and Faith

Ragnar: I was reading on Rock, Paper, Shotgun that you’d said in your review of Dreamfall that you were overmarking it because you loved the game, but you advised people not to buy the game!

RPS: No! It was a caveat… Well, I’m not going to be polite. As an interactive experience, it just didn’t work. I felt uninvolved for so long, just listening to conversations. That every single one of those conversations is beautiful, and joy to listen to, is why it survives. But it didn’t form together in a coherent game for me.

Ragnar: I respect that opinion. I don’t have a problem with critical reviews so long as they’re well argued, with at least a certain element of understanding what we were trying to do. I don’t agree with you, but what I do agree with is that the game did not succeed with all the things we tried to do. Obviously with combat, because we struggled with it, and the way it ended up was something last-minute, and not how we wanted to do it. Looking back I would have done it very differently. I would have done it in a more adventure-type way. In a way that didn’t require reflexes. How you respond is the most important thing. But I do think the game is better than some people give it credit for. Obviously the story is the key there, and that’s the thing: the story has to work, the dialogue has to work, and the characters have to work. And everything else is gravy.

RPS: And that did work. It’s a story that moved me so much.

Ragnar: And that’s why I think it deserved a higher mark. So, the game isn’t the most interactive game out there, the game doesn’t meet all the requirements that people have of certain genres. Well screw that. This is a game that is about the story. And that’s interesting in itself.

RPS: But the puzzles – they felt so flagged, and so over-easy.

Ragnar: That’s true. On the difficulty level, our goal was to make the game very simple. Because, in our analysis, half the people who played TLJ stopped at a certain point during the game because it was quite difficult, and it was quite long. So we said, let’s make it short, let’s make it easy. Let’s make the focus of this to tell the story, so people should get through it in ten hours and have fun with it and never have to struggle with anything. Obviously that’s going to piss gamers off, especially if you really are looking for that adventure of trying to figure things out. There aren’t any big stumbling blocks in Dreamfall, other than being frustrating in terms of trying to sneak around. But that was intentional. And I’m willing to stand by that decision. There could have been more interactivity, but then I feel like one of the faults of TLJ was the puzzles were sometimes just puzzles. I wanted to get away from that. So we tried to make every single puzzle integrated into the storyline, so you keep moving forward at all times. And doing that is harder than you’d think, especially when you’re grappling with completely new technology, a completely new platform, making a PC and Xbox game at the same time with a completely new engine, and a fresh team. Very tough.

Crow!

RPS: I would love to have not had to put a score at the end of the review. Let the text speak for itself. But then that’s a constant lament.

Ragnar: Yes. And that was a review I was happy with. I was happy with the Edge review, 7/10. I heard the same from them – they really loved the experience, but they couldn’t mark it higher than 7. But 7 from Edge? That’s pretty good. I was very disappointed by Eurogamer’s score – 5/10.

RPS: So how do you feel looking back on it?

Ragnar: In retrospect there’s lots of things that we would have done differently, tons of things. There were some really great parts cut. We cut a lot of gameplay that was supposed to be there because we couldn’t pull it off, or didn’t have time. It could have been better, and Dreamfall Chapters is going to be better – much, much better. But I totally respect that people don’t think it was such a great game, but realise that it’s about the story, and enjoying an interactive experience.

RPS: A lot of people were upset with the April storyline, that she starts off upset, becomes more miserable, and then essentially dies. No one was expecting her storyline to start low, and then go down further. I found it really interesting – it went against expectations, it wasn’t about being heroic, and I really enjoyed that. I became angry with her for being so depressed, wanting to shout at her to snap out of it. It was such an honest response. At the end of TLJ she learns she’s not the most important, she’s not taking over control of the Balance, but I still wanted to yell at her, “You did amazing stuff! You changed the world! You did your part! That’s good enough.” Was there a greater commentary to this?

Ragnar: Yeah, absolutely. The greater commentary in Dreamfall was about one thing: it’s about faith. Obviously it has commentary on the real world, in terms of occupation of one nation by another and justifying that, and other undertones… well, overtones! But faith was the whole package. April sacrificed so much in TLJ, and at the end realised she’s not who she thought she would be. Actually, in her situation she should have been happy. You don’t have to sit in a tower for a thousand years. Go and live your life – you did a great thing! But after she did that, nobody knew, nobody remembered. Not being recognised, that can be a real blow to people. April was a strong person, but she was also immature. She was 18 years old, and to have something like that happen to you, and then be thrown back into normal life, and a normal life that has pretty much gone to hell… There’s so much I wish I could tell you, because there’s so much I know, that I don’t want to say until I know for sure that nothing’s going to happen, or if I get to tell the whole story – which is probably what’s going to happen. What happened to April right after TLJ is very important. Obviously she didn’t return to her home, and that has something to do with fear as well, which is another aspect of Dreamfall: having too much fear of something, and not being able to move on in life. She has lost faith in herself, in her world, in her friends, and she stayed in Arcadia.

Smokey eye-liner - win.

RPS: Faith seems to keep coming up.

Ragnar: Every single character in Dreamfall goes through a journey of faith. April started having a lack of faith, and descended into complete hopelessness. We wanted people to yell at April, want her to realise that she has people who care about her, she has a great life, and she did a wonderful thing. But she didn’t. And then because of that she had to die. Or “die”. Or die.

This final part was accompanied by lots of airquotes, with Ragnar teasing me about April’s apparent death at the end of Dreamfall

Ragnar: We had all these characters who were on a journey of faith, and we said how can we ensure that this theme is carried through, and have a clear view of how their journeys happen. So we said, every single major character had to fit into this model. Everybody starts out at the top. Faith can be anything – it can be religion, it can be a belief in yourself, in your abilities, in the work you do. As we face challenge, there’s a process where we have loss of faith. It can be a minor thing: thinking one day, “God, I suck at what I do. I can’t do this.” And a lot of people after that point turn themselves around, face those problems, challenge them and they conquer them, and they say, “Screw that, I am good at what I do.” I think most happy people live in this loop.

At this point Ragnar hooked up his office PC to the big screen in the room we were in, and found the file in which this chart was drawn out. Below is my wobbly rendition.

Not every interview requires diagrams.

Ragnar: If loss of faith continues, you descend into disillusionment. “My job sucks, it’s never going to get better. Another girl left me. Why bother trying anything?.” At that point, you still have the opportunity to turn yourself around. “Yeah, I’m a great catch! Let’s go out tonight! Woo!” You’re back in the game. Obviously for the characters in Dreamfall it was much deeper than that. Then the next step is hopelessness. If you don’t pull yourself out of hopelessness, then you are going to end up in what we call spiritual death. This can lead to actual death. Which is what happened to April – she entered spiritual death, and that was reflected in her actual death. Or “actual death”. Or actual death.

Or there’s a transformation that can happen, making yourself into a completely new person. There are two ways to change. You can either remake yourself as a positive person and go back to faith, or you can refuse to accept the situation and let your spiritual death turn into an obsession. I’m not saying this is a psychological model that can be easily transferred.

RPS: Do you think it could be?

Ragnar: When we came up with it we thought, cool, this could actually work, we can get rich on this! We have moments when we think, “We’re brilliant!” The most important thing with it is we could say, Zoe is here, April is here, Kian is here. And they all travelled. Zoe never went to hopelessness, but she reached disillusionment. But through the act of destroying Faith, she regained faith. Kian also went to disillusionment, to a sort of spiritual death, and then transformation – he skipped hopelessness. While April just fell down.

RPS: On a bigger scale, what do you consider faith to be?

Ragnar: It is whatever you want it to be. It’s a game where you have to think, how does this apply to you? It could be faith in yourself, faith in love, faith in God – we didn’t want to restrict that. It’s optimism in a way. Or at least acceptance. Accepting how things are and being able to live with that. Obviously what we’re advocating is: have faith.

Dag Sheve: I think we’re also advocating that it’s healthy to go through some of these steps, and keep transforming yourself back to faith. You continuously want to improve yourself. There should be a small transformation box for each step.

Ragnar: You should have something to say. With Dreamfall we had a lot to say. And it was extremely important. You have to be quite blatant about it. We were discussing what to call Faith one day, and then suddenly we thought, “Wait a second – she is the whole core of the story. She is Faith.”

Weep.

RPS: The death of Faith is such a beautiful theme, and a beautiful scene. Did Faith create The Winter? [The Winter was a third world introduced in Dreamfall, distinct from Stark and Arcadia]

Ragnar: I don’t know how much to say… Yeah, yeah she did. In a way. She created what you see of The Winter. The Winter itself – no. But she created this place.

RPS: The dollhouse.

Ragnar: Yeah, and it links to this place, The Storytime. [A fourth, and entirely unexplained world]

RPS: One of my favourite scenes was the Russian laboratory. You can see her drawings. That’s such a powerful scene, and such an excellent use of adventure gaming. The first time you go into that room you explore, and you look at everything, and you get these very dry, very analytical responses. Then you see the recorded footage of the girl’s death, and then if you go back into that room – I don’t know why I’m telling you, because you made it…

Ragnar: Actually, these things I don’t remember, I’m very happy to hear about it!

RPS: When you look at them after, the responses are heart-breaking. She’s on the verge of tears as she explains each of the pictures. It made me cry.

Dag [Turning to Ragnar]: We are brilliant.

Ragnar [Looking back at Dag]: We are brilliant!

RPS: That’s an exceptional scene in terms of moving the player.

Ragnar: That’s why I love adventure games. Or at least that aspect of it.

Dag: That’s also my favourite part of the actress that played Zoe. Just in really small nuances of her voice she just made the character.

Ragnar: She was Zoe, you know. She was perfect. She got the whole idea. We recorded it quite sequentially, so she got the whole idea. She was the perfect actress – she was an empty vessel…

[laughter from all]

Ragnar: Not like that! She wasn’t like Zoe at all in real life. She was able to get into that character.

Presumably Chapters will see Kian in his pants.

RPS: It’s Zoe that talks Faith into dying. Can you explain a bit about that. Why does the one protagonist who seems to be clinging onto hope in the game choose to kill Faith?

Ragnar: Well, there are two reasons for it. First it’s to save herself. Faith has gone into a place where she’s stuck – she’s waiting for transformation. She’s clinging onto life, and refusing to transform. Obviously an eight year-old girl is going to have trouble accepting the reality of things. But her refusal to transform is actually screwing up the whole world. It’s actually the one thing in Dreamfall that I’m really disappointed with – we didn’t manage to really explain what’s going on in the world, and how Faith clinging on affects the whole world. It comes through in dialogue, but it should have been much bigger than that.

Faith is clinging on to faith, because she’s clinging on to herself, and the concept of having faith that she’s still existing, while she’s obviously not existing. She’s dead, and she’s trapped inside the machines. That is destroying the world, but it’s also destroying this little girl. In order to save faith, you have to kill Faith. You have to destroy the past. Faith vanishes, and where she goes we never said. If that’s her spirit, then she goes to a better place. If that’s it, if you believe that’s the end, then it’s really kind of bleak. But it’s bleak in a way that has to be. You have to accept that transformation, and if that transformation is the end of everything, then that’s what you have to accept.

RPS: I think that’s my favourite part of the story. That Zoe has to kill somebody who’s not only a little girl, not only her sister, but also the representation of faith in the entire game. It’s three whammies there.

Ragnar: For me, I think Dreamfall has a better story than TLJ.

No penises this time. Just manbutt.

RPS: Another scene in Dreamfall I want to discuss is April re-visiting the Guardian. That seems like it’s going to be the scene that offers hope. You go here, and finally you’re going to get some answers, and you’re going to get some direction for your life. And you don’t get any. In fact, it gets worse for April. What were the motivations for that?

Ragnar: It’s a marrying of the scene in TLJ where everything is laid out, and you get all the answers to everything. And that’s what April seeks. She seeks the easy answers. She accepts that that’s what she’s going to do, and she’s not going to do anything else. She’s not going to commit herself to anything. So she goes there, and she gets no answers.

Dag: She does get answers. That’s the point. She gets the answer that you can’t take the easy way out.

Ragnar: Yeah, this is you, and this is what you’ve got to do. It is probably a scene that frustrates people. It’s a cool scene. Especially as the person playing the Guardian is a fantastic actor.

Dag: Brian Bloom.

Ragnar: Yeah, Brian Bloom. He was in the TV series Drive. He played the bad guy who gets chained in the bathroom. But yes, it was a scene that said there are no easy answers. It’s a lot more complicated than that. And that it’s about you, April. This time you have to dig inside yourself.

Arcadia got more colourful this time out.

RPS: Do you think you’re demanding more of your audience than the average game?

Ragnar: Yeah. Absolutely. But I think most games don’t demand enough of the audience. They always underestimate the players’ intelligence. At the same time that you have to be very concise and clear, and repeat things. You have an audience that is much more intelligent that people give them credit for, but at the same time you have to be aware of how the game is played, and so you have to make certain things very obvious, like the themes, and repeating the things that people have to do.

Zoe has this really good conversation with Damien [her new boyfriend] while she’s in his apartment, where she realises why she’s on this journey, and what she’s doing. And she repeats it three times. You have to get it in there. Especially in a story that’s much more complex than I think people are used to. But people get it, and you can be obtuse – people are required to think.

RPS: I’ve always used the “mystery is important” quote when writing about TLJ. It sums up the games for me.

Ragnar: Oh yes. Those are the words we started with on Dreamfall. We know the answers, we have all the answers – well, most of them, but even for the writers there should be some mystery – but the mystery has to be there. You don’t explain everything. Leave some things to be obscure, that’s fine. The stories that do that well, like Battlestar Galactica, are fantastic. They’re also saying mystery is important. I hope they don’t explain everything by the end, because I think that would ruin it.

RPS: There’s an interesting movement in Christianity at the moment, that’s not about naivity, nor about blind acceptance, but accepting that there is mystery, and enjoying not understanding.

Ragnar: That’s sort of my approach to everything. Who would want to know everything. I believe there’s a lot more to life and to the world than what is evident. But it doesn’t have to be in your face. It doesn’t have to be explained. All the greatest stories ever, when it comes to genre fiction, are about not having all the answers.

Dead? Or

    Dreamfall Chapters

RPS: Is Dreamfall Chapters a certainty?

Ragnar: Well, knock on… plastic, it is.

RPS: So what part does April play?

Ragnar: Well, I’m not going to say whether April is alive. But her influence isn’t fully played out. It is her story, all the way through. But Kian has a part and Zoe has a part. Their parts are very important.

RPS: Do you have it all planned out?

Ragnar: I’m not sure what to say. Yeah, I have a story. I think there’s only one other person in the world who knows it. I have it written down. I know what the ending is, for the first time in my life. The final, final ending to the whole saga. Whether that happens in Dreamfall Chapters, or we stretch it out like Robert Jordan…

RPS: You’ll be on your deathbed, coding the last game.

Ragnar: The whole thing is a circle. It ends where it begins.

RPS: Of course, because at the beginning of TLJ you see elderly April reading a story…

Ragnar: Or an elderly woman.

RPS: It’s obviously April! It has to be!

Dag: Obviously?!

Ragnar: Obviously?!

Dag: She’s DEAD!

RPS: Oh, of course, I forgot…

Ragnar: It’s not “obviously” April!

RPS: Of course it is!

Ragnar: Actually, in the German version, without any kind of consent on our part, they had somebody calling her April, which they were not supposed to.

RPS: Crow’s in the room with her!

Dag: Actually, it’s a lot more complex than you think. Let me leave it at that.

How could we have never gotten around to discussing Wonkers? A terrible oversight. Best. Voice. Ever.

Ragnar: So yeah, there is a circle. And not just there. In other parts of TLJ as well. That whole story wasn’t worked out when I wrote TLJ – it came up in the interval between that and Dreamfall, and then more clearly during the development of Dreamfall, and then by the end of that I knew exactly where we were going to continue.

RPS: So why chapters? In a genre that’s not selling huge numbers, by doing chapters are you not increasing your risk of never getting to finish the story?

Ragnar: Oh yes… Heh, no. I’ve said that if we don’t get to finish the story in games, then we’ll do it in books or a comic book. I’d love to do a comic book actually. I’ve been talking to a friend of mine about a comic taking place in the ten years between the first two games. But yes, there is that danger. But as a company that focuses on online distribution, and online payment models, for us we have to create something from which we can get online revenue, so we don’t have to go to publishers and get screwed all over again, by people who don’t understand what we’re doing. The best way of doing that, and hedging our bets, is to do it in a way that uses pay-for content on a regular basis. But in addition to those practical concerns, there’s the more intriguing nature of doing it that way. I love TV, and think storytelling in TV is such a fascinating thing, especially how you’re able to respond to what people are saying. TV shows today are written as they’re broadcast, and they take feedback into consideration – write out characters that aren’t working, or change their plans based on what happens. So while the storyline for Dreamfall Chapters – we know where it’s going to go – but all the stuff in between? That can change. Being in that kind of organic format is very interesting for a writer. To be on a team where you did episodes would be an amazing experience. Taking feedback, it’s sort of like running an MMO.

RPS: So is it real? Does it exist?

Ragnar: Right now where we’re at is evolving the technology. The Dreamfall team is very busy with The Secret World right now, so we don’t know how we’re going to pull this off. But if and when it does come out, we’ll be committed to at least doing a story arc, and completing that, and answering the unanswered questions in Dreamfall. Because there are a few!

RPS: People were annoyed by that ending.

Ragnar: Dreamfall is a full story. It’s the story of Faith.

RPS: I argue this! I argue that it had a definitive and set ending, and the idea that it’s only open ended is complete crap. But a lot of people are really angry, saying it didn’t finish. So how do you respond to that?

Ragnar: We say, “Let’s make Dreamfall Chapters!” I said this on my website, and I said this in interviews, “Sorry, you’re wrong. It has a definite ending.” Not you of course. You’re right! It’s the story of not just Faith the character, but faith – the whole theme. Probably, again one thing I felt disappointed with was the impact Faith had on the world was underplayed in the game. I think that was a mistake. We knew it, but we didn’t visualise it well enough. But I think if you get that, then you also get that the story ends, Faith dies, the character completes her journey. April goes into actual death, and Kian, he makes sacrifices and goes into transformation. And Zoe, she also makes sacrifices. So everybody has completed their journey. But it’s not over, obviously. We were a little bit cruel at the end of Dreamfall I think by putting some things in there which were like, “What the fuck?!” Especially the story with Reza [Zoe’s ex-boyfriend], and Zoe knowing there was something off there, and not saying what that was. And obviously the whole Storytime thing. The vagabond character. We threw in some extra stuff at the end… We could have cut that stuff out and said, “Let’s complete this,” but we wanted to leave some threads hanging. But there aren’t as many as some people say.

RPS: You leave room for imagination.

Ragnar: I love stories that are open. And if you read the official boards for Dreamfall, people are still speculating, which means they may hate it, but at least they’re talking about it, they have theories. And I read a lot of these theories, and actually of a lot of them have come very close, and there are also things that have made me go, “Yeah, let me make a note of that, I didn’t think of that.”

RPS: And what if Chapters never happens?

Ragnar: Even if it never continues, I think it would be satisfactory. Except a couple of things that you wish would be explained, like Brian Westhouse, the white dragon…

75 Comments

  1. Noc says:

    “The point I’m trying to make isn’t that there are things that the character shouldn’t be allowed to do because it’s out-of-character. The point I’m making is that the specific things the character does can be very important. And that the more choice you allow the player to make on the character’s behalf, the more indistinct the character becomes.”

    Okay, but practically there’s not much of a difference.

    There is a huge difference. We’ve just learned to gloss over it because we’re gamers. We’re given Story Sections with Cutscenes, where there are Characters, and Plot, and Gameplay Sections where you have a Sandbox and Can Do Whatever You Want. Actions in one tend to have little affect on the other. We’ve taken this for granted.

    Yes, there are more organic versions of this model. Interactive Cutscenes, where you retain some control over your character. Cutscenes with Player Choice, where you get to make a Pivotal Decision, or Choose Which Ending You Get. You have NPC Subplots where a side character will talk to you and tell you something about their past.

    We’re used to being in full control of the Gameplay Sections, then having control taken away from us when Plot needs to happen properly. What you do in the Gameplay Sections is your own business, and you can fool around and do what you like without impacting the Plot or the Story adversely.

    Given this model, yes. The only difference between a rigidly defined character and one thats left more to your control is how much talking they do during Story Sections as opposed to how much they leave to you. This does not make a big difference.

    From the perspective of looking at the whole thing, everything the character says and does, as one big narrative: there is a huge difference. We just don’t notice the difference because we don’t associate the character’s action during all of the Gameplay Sections with the character.

    (Example: How does it serve the story to know that April was able to retrieve a key by inflating a rubber toy to keep a pair of pliers open while she lowered them down on a string to pull a key out of the subway tracks? What does it say about April that she is the kind of person to do this instead of getting a stick? It doesn’t advance the story in any way beyond giving April a Plot Object, and her predilection for solving problems in the most absurd and nonintuitive way possible using only objects found in her pockets is not (as far as I know) a character trait that sheds any light on any part of the story. If this story was being told in any other medium, there would not be any reason to include this sequence.)

    (Example 2: “All the trivial stuff you can do in Deus Ex shouldn’t affect the ending either.” If the entire Deus Ex game was one story, one chronicle of JC Denton’s travels, all of that trivial stuff he does would be very relevant to what kind of person he is. Which would be very relevant to the story. But it’s not because . . . ? Oh, right, I just talked about that.)

    I think that this is stupid. I’ll explain why in a second, but first a tangent:

    I don’t like adventure games. I came to this realization recently, to my chagrin. I’d thought, up till recently, that Adventure Games with their Puzzles and their Solutions and their Lateral Thinking were something I really enjoyed but just hadn’t really played a lot of. Then I started playing some seriously, because I felt that I was missing out, and realized that I really disliked them. The methods of interacting with the world were incomplete and arbitrary and nonintuitive. I couldn’t reason with people; I couldn’t ask them for duct tape or a pair of pliers.

    The reason I stopped playing TLJ the first time was because of the puzzles. Checking a walkthrough became a habit, because I’d become stuck because I wouldn’t realize that something had arbitrarily changed after something unrelated three rooms away had happened. TLJ isn’t as bad as it could be; once I knew what was supposed to happen, I could usually reverse-engineer the logic of how I was supposed to think.

    They were filler. They were filler stuck between bits of story so that there’d be a “game” there. They’re the same filler you get in JRPGs where a random group of enemies jumps out at you from nowhere every three to six feet. They’re the same filler you get when in a CRPG the guard says “In Order to see the King about Saving the Realm, you need to go to this cave and kill some orcs for us first.” And they’re the same filler you get in a story where the door to your destination locks and sends you sideways on a key-hunting puzzle. They’re the meat of the game; they’re the fun, if you’re into that sort of thing. And they’re definitely bearable if its the kind of game you like.

    But they don’t serve the story. They get in the way of telling the story.

    This problem stems from what I was talking about at the beginning of this post: the segregation of “Gameplay” and “Story.” Or so I believe. You feed players sections of Gameplay to keep them occupied, and happy, then reward them every so often with a bit of Story. If you take the Gameplay out, you’re left with one long cutscene. Players get bored of this pretty quickly, so you feed them some Gameplay to distract them.

    Let me repeat that. You’re giving them Gameplay to distract them from the Story. This seems a silly thing to do when you’re trying to, you know, tell the Story in the first place.

    This is a model that directly impedes the use of video games as a storytelling medium.

    What Ragnar tried to do, from what we’re told above, is solve this problem by de-emphasizing the Gameplay Section. I know this because he said:

    On the difficulty level, our goal was to make the game very simple. Because, in our analysis, half the people who played TLJ stopped at a certain point during the game because it was quite difficult, and it was quite long. So we said, let’s make it short, let’s make it easy. Let’s make the focus of this to tell the story, so people should get through it in ten hours and have fun with it and never have to struggle with anything.

    Dreamfall clearly struggled because it failed to engage the player. Why? I don’t know. I will after I play it.

    But it didn’t do it because it didn’t offer you enough fiddly convoluted puzzles to dig through between Plot Points. Having a bunch of other stuff to do was one of TLJ’s failings; I quit because of exactly the sort of Puzzle Fatigue Ragnar talked about in the article. I don’t think anyone’s claiming that no mistakes were made in the making of Dreamfall, but what you’re suggesting is a step backwards.

  2. Lan says:

    You guys don’t need to quote off me. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve said anything, this is just my own personal opinions on how a good story should go. We all have our unique perspective on a story, and we should respect each other for it, not arguing which one is ‘better’ or what the ‘majority’ thinks.

    Ozzie said he really wants to know what happened to Reza, but I personally won’t care simply because I see him as a catalyst for Zoe’s story to unfold. I care more about Emma and Charlie when they found out April might still be alive (since they where two of my favourite characters in TLJ). Though, of course, I still respect your opinion that you want to know what happened to Reza. So in a way we’re on the same boat, speculating what will happen to our favourite characters in the next game. And if anyone on posting here doesn’t give a damn about the Dreamfall or Chapters and doesn’t like any of the characters, they won’t be bothered presenting their perspectives here.

  3. Lan says:

    And Noc raised a good point about using walkthroughs for games such as TLJ etc. I actually like to use walkthroughs for a game that can branch off into mini-stories and if you miss a line, you’ll never going to see a part of the story until you start a new game. This is especially true for Planescape Torment. I used a walkthrough when I was playing Torment, but I didn’t see it as a bad thing.

    I know it is impossible to see all the story, all the mini quests during the first play through without a guide, though I do not have the patience or time to go back and play it again and again. (I can do it for a 2-hour movie, but for a game that took me 3 weeks to finish?) And I didn’t dislike Torment because it was so complicated to play-for-the-story, but the fact that there is hidden dialogues and characters lets me love it more. It can only mean that the developer and I do not think alike (puzzle, dialogue, conversation-reaction wise), but it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what they’ve done. My rant.

  4. Naseer says:

    What’s wrong with liking games as they are? As envisioned by the creator?

    Have anyone considered the scenario that if Dreamfall would have been more of a “game” – then we might have had less of a story?

    There are tons of “games” out there. Critisising Dreamfall for not being one of them seems just so… small minded.

  5. Ozzie says:

    You may delete the post above, again. I promise to proof-read it next time before posting it! :)

    @Naseer: Explain how more gameplay would affect the story. I know many other games that have a great story yet also involving gameplay. Dreamfalls first half is pretty involving, too. It just goes downhill in the second one.

    @Noc:

    (Example: How does it serve the story to know that April was able to retrieve a key by inflating a rubber toy to keep a pair of pliers open while she lowered them down on a string to pull a key out of the subway tracks? What does it say about April that she is the kind of person to do this instead of getting a stick? It doesn’t advance the story in any way beyond giving April a Plot Object, and her predilection for solving problems in the most absurd and nonintuitive way possible using only objects found in her pockets is not (as far as I know) a character trait that sheds any light on any part of the story. If this story was being told in any other medium, there would not be any reason to include this sequence.)

    One of the most infamous puzzles of TLJ. It’s a bit weird to take a bad puzzle as an example of how you can’t merge character development with gameplay. If this is such an impossible thing to do then why make a story-based game at all?
    Also, like you said, the designer could have added an alternative solution, like retrieving the key with a stick. This would have risen the gameplay depth. Actually, in saying that an alternative solution would have helped the game you contradict yourself a bit.


    The methods of interacting with the world were incomplete and arbitrary and nonintuitive. I couldn’t reason with people; I couldn’t ask them for duct tape or a pair of pliers.

    Well, you shouldn’t give the player too much interactivity since then the character might become indinstinct. Maybe April is too shy to ask for such stuff so, of course, you can’t do it………..doesn’t make much sense, does it? But that’s actually the point of view you argued.


    But it didn’t do it because it didn’t offer you enough fiddly convoluted puzzles to dig through between Plot Points. Having a bunch of other stuff to do was one of TLJ’s failings; I quit because of exactly the sort of Puzzle Fatigue Ragnar talked about in the article. I don’t think anyone’s claiming that no mistakes were made in the making of Dreamfall, but what you’re suggesting is a step backwards.

    TLJs failings were the convoluted puzzles, not that you have something to do.
    I definitely disagree with you here.

    Let’s take as an example Indiana Jones 4, a very involving game with 3 different paths and alternative solutions which managed to melt gameplay and story together in the year of 1992.
    How did the developers do it?
    First, if you had a choice in the game it represented one of the traits of Indiana Jones.
    He is an intelligent, smart character yet he isn’t shy to fight his way through if necessary.

    And that’s how it worked. The middle of the game consists of three paths: the wit path which accentuates Indy’s smart side, the action path where you let your fists speak and the team path where Sophia Hapgood joins you. Like most men, he can’t live with or without women, so this decision makes sense to his character.
    In the other parts of the game there are different solutions that accentuate his traits as well. At the beginning of the game you need to get into a theater after the show started. You can’t get in through the main entrance, so you need to find another way. There are three solutions, also foreshadowing the different paths.
    The first one involves pushing crates so you can get to a fire ladder and with it in the theater (wit path).
    In the second solution you try your luck with a backdoor. The doorman Biff will notice you and if you insult him you can beat the shit out of him and get in (action path).
    The third solution involves Biff again. If you talk your way out and tell him how you think how great Sophia is then he will let you in (team path).

    You may of course argue that Indy’s character is an archetype and that there is no character development. These are all true points, but this doesn’t excuse the elimination of involving gameplay.
    Then the question is “when does a certain action fit to a character at a certain point of his development or in a certain situation?”.

    It’s impossible to describe in short why the gameplay of IJ4 doesn’t put artificial roadblocks in your way. But I can tell you that all the puzzles are logical and since many problems have alternative solutions you don’t feel like the game restricts your progress artificially.
    If you haven’t played it you should certainly do so, it’s still one of the genres best moments.

    But if you insist that I still don’t get your point than I have to say that, honestly, deep or complex gameplay doesn’t matter much. Shadow of Memories hadn’t much either, but when you could do something it mattered. When it was your round for action you could actually affect the storyline. The player character didn’t become indistinct through this.
    It depended on saying what would be a better film idea or making a decision on knowledge that you don’t have on the first playthrough (which is really interesting, because when you know this certain something the player character will struggle to make that decision, but it’s not a problem for the player, of course) or choosing to visit a certain point in time.

    Are these choices important to the character? Definitely not by much. Important to the story, yes. But not much to the character.
    I think you can allow more gameplay while still having a defined character than you might think.

    Actually, I argued with my area of choice again, but I did this because I remain convinced that it is the same.

    Really, Dreamfall would have been a better game if the developers did cut out the empty interactivity which neither did involve you in the story nor offered you any choice (there is a difference, of course. You had no choice in the russian lab scene, yet it was a moving scene that only a game could have). The pointless clicking through dialogues where you could do nothing more than arranging the sequence of discussed topics or the pointless running from point A to B resulted in very boring gameplay.

  6. Naseer says:

    @Ozzie: Well, Tørnquist mentions at least a couple of times that things were cut out becuase of time limits. That the fighting sequences (who didn’t find those annyoing?) were broken becuase there was simply no time to work on them.

    And since time was an issue – we could have reached a point where more gameplay would have lead to less story.

    And as many posters have said above. There are games that combine both. Deus Ex, Planescape: Torment, Theif.

    Dreamfall doesn’t. But I can still appreciate it for what it is.

    • shadowrunner says:

      Sigh.. so I just completed Dreamfall.

      I’m not going to rehash what many people have said before me so I’ll just some it up with this. To me, Dreamfall wasn’t a game, it was more an interactive story. A story were a hell of a lot didn’t make any sense to me. It was definitely a journey.

      It’s okay for Ragnor to say “We didn’t want to do this or that” (in regards to the puzzles etc) but at the end of the day, are you creating a videogame or not? I’m sure the same story could have been told wrapped around a more solid gameplay experience. As for the people talking about extra or more puzzling gameplay not adding to the character. Well, I disagree. Just think of for example, Chrono Trigger. We don’t even hear from Crono yet everyone I know who has played this game feels a connection because you take your journey with this character. There is always a little bit of the player in the character, no matter how much dialogue there is.
      Or to compare it with a similar game, George Stobbart in the Broken Sword games. The character can be fleshed out in other ways too – the comments they make as you figure out puzzles etc. I always enjoy my private time with the playable character, where they aren’t locked in dialogue with other characters. How the designer handles these situations is very telling.

      In addition to this, trying to fit playing as three characters in a 10 hour game? Kian and April were bit parts, the game just wasn’t big enough to hold them.

      I don’t know about other people but I like to feel some satisfaction when I complete a game. I am not feeling any right now, not about the gameplay experience nor the story. The Edge score of 7/10 was very generous.

      I really wanted to like it :(

  7. Noc says:

    You’re still missing things, Ozzie.

    I’m not arguing for gameplay depth. My point with the puzzle wasn’t that it was silly, or nonintuitive. Which it is, but the reason I take issue with it is that going about the puzzle does not shed any more light on the character. Whether it has an alternate, intuitive solution or not, as an action the character performs during the narrative it serves no purpose and distracts from the story at large. If you are trying to tell a story, that sequence has no place there. There is no, absolutely no, reason to include that sequence except to give you something to do, to puzzle over between “Story” bits.

    The reason I talked about why I don’t like the puzzles of adventure games was leading into the point that those puzzles amount to nothing more than filler. One of my other examples was the “Go and kill some orcs and come back” quest in CRPGs; I LIKE CRPGs. I don’t mind killing orcs. But if the point of the game is to tell a story, that sort of circuitous quest model is exactly as unnecessary and counterproductive as the Key puzzle. It just becomes more obvious, and the negative impact more prominent, when the filler activity is something you don’t enjoy. You can have a beautiful game with tremendously interesting and involved gameplay between story sections, but that will still not help you tell the story better.

    This is because of the Gameplay/Story segregation. You’ve said it yourself; the silly things characters do during the Gameplay sections don’t have to and shouldn’t affect the Story. Consequentially, not being allowed to do something in a Gameplay section does not read as information about the character, it reads as a rule implemented to support the Gameplay Mechanic. If I can’t kill an NPC it’s not because the character wouldn’t, it’s because he’s a quest giver and if I kill him I wouldn’t be able to turn in the quest which would prevent further progress in the game.

    All of your arguments seem to build from accepting that premise. In Indy 4, the things you can do are the sort of things you’d expect Indy to do. That’s alright. But, you know, you’re initiating them; you’re already familiar with Indy as a character, you already know how he likes to solve problems, so you can go ahead and do Indy things and make it through. This does not inform the character. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that actions initiated by, and chosen by, the player do not inform the character. Asking you to make a choice does not provide any additional information.

    The reason, I believe, that you object to Dreamfall is simply because the Gameplay bits weren’t very fun. “What makes a fun game” is an entire other argument. “Fun” has to do with presenting you things that provide enough difficulty to make you think you’re being challenged, and rewarding you for overcoming that challenge. Shadow of Memories, I suspect, was Fun because it gave you choices and rewarded you for making those decisions. But I am not talking about how to make a Fun game. I am not talking about how Gameplay sections can engage the player, and provide him with challenge and reward. It’s pretty clear that you like certain games because they were fun, and don’t like Dreamfall because it really wasn’t. I’m not arguing this.

    What I am talking about is how Gameplay interacts with Story. The PS:T model, and I suspect the Shadow of Memories model, deals with this interaction by subsuming Story within Gameplay. That’s what “Interactive stories” are; instead of having a plot defined by the intention of the designer to tell a story, you’re given a string of choices and rewarded for making a decision. Making Character Choices IS the game; there’s something you want to happen, and you’re making choices with the intent of bringing that about.

    This is not “Telling a Story.” This is “Making a game out of Narrative.” You’re guiding the player through telling HIS story, in the way he wants it. This is Fun, because it makes the player feel empowered, because his choices are having an actual affect on the world. These are good games, too; I’m not saying they aren’t.

    What I’m saying is that this format is not conducive to the designer telling the story he wants to tell through the game.

    The reason has to do with what I’ve talked about before. In a good, focused story, everything the character does is meaningful. When character actions become less meaningful and more filler, you start to lose that focus.

    And when you get down to it, a Story is made of its Characters. That’s it. We’ve become accustomed to Story in video games meaning “Things happening.” Most “Stories” in games tend to be mostly strings of events to drive the story along. Most stories in games aren’t very good. Most video game stories would be laughed out of any other medium. We put up with them, and like them, because we’ve got that “Fun” to distract us, to make us like the game and, by extension, the story.

    But a real Story, a real, good, meaty Story with a Point to it, is about the characters. It’s about the characters growing and changing through the story. A lack of focus on the characters, and their personal changes, means a shallower story. We’ve developed that blind spot I’ve talked about before in relation to stories in games; we’ve divorced the character’s actions outside of particular, special “Story Sections” from the story thats being told. So we don’t mind when characters spend the majority of their time engaging in questionable, narratively irrelevant activities. We don’t mind, and we don’t think it affects the story adversely.

    But it does. It does if you step back from the game and think about it, which is something any good story should make you do anyways. Even if the gameplay elements aren’t coming directly in the WAY of the story – which they tend not to, because the segregation between Gameplay and Story in our minds manages to keep them from mixing – you end up with big, irrelevant swatches that any author or director would edit out at the drop of a hat. You have big swatches of things that don’t need to be there to tell the story. At best they’re a fun distraction to keep the player’s interest up and make him feel involved; at worst they’re an obnoxious barrier to continued play. At the very least they are unnecessary to storytelling. They are arguably detrimental to it, and possibly crippling.

    So if you are approaching the game with the goal, first and foremost, of using the medium to tell your story, giving the character more extraneous and unnecessary stuff to do is silly. Is it important that the stuff thats there is engaging, and gives the player a feeling of accomplishment when he gets through it? Yeah, otherwise it’s not fun. And yeah, Dreamfall failed to do this.

    But “more stuff to do” is emphatically not not NOT not not the answer to this problem. Whether its “Fun” stuff or tedious stuff is irrelevant; the more irrelevant things are going on, the less focused the characters are and the more sidelined the story gets.

  8. Janto says:

    Woo. Some mighty meaty reading going on here, I think we could all do with a nice Piracy food fight after all this high minded narrative stuff.

    Since I’m only starting to play The Longest Journey, I’m not going to comment too much on Ragnar’s own work. (From my experiences thus far, there are good bits, ie the general quality of writing, and bad bits, ie signposting your next objective)

    However, there is something interesting going on in the debate about game-time versus story-time. The idea (and if I got the wrong end of the stick Noc, apologies) that the puzzle gameplay is not part of the story is only true to certain games. There’s a couple of good examples, one of which is Broken Sword 1, which did, in my opinion, a great (possibly the best I’ve seen) job of incorporating the puzzling antics of George Stobbart into his character, and using the mechanics of an adventure game to develop and expand on his personality, both due to how puzzles were designed and how the story flowed. The other example is Grim Fandango, which, while it required serious lateral thinking and had its own puzzle flaws had some fantastic, brilliant puzzles which often helped develop aspects of Manny’s character. One of its best features was the implementation of the scythe. It had a lot of uses, most of which were highly sensible and appropriate, and that, having a multi-purpose reusable tool, certainly strengthened how those puzzles developed Manny’s character.

  9. Con Carne says:

    @Noc:

    I’m sorry, but it’s simply not true that a story is *only* about characters or character development, nor is it the *only* way to build depth. Plot and theme count too.

  10. Skalpadda says:

    Wow, almost afraid to comment after all the impressive posts above, but I just wanted to say thanks for a brilliant interview and a great read.

    I also discovered that RPS is roughly 23% more fantabulous if you read it while eating pancakes :)

  11. Zone says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this interview, particularly the points on faith. Having personally experienced a lot of the stages on the faith diagram, I think you nicely summed up a lot on personal growth.

    Thanks a ton for posting such a brilliant interview!

    Also, here’s hoping for Dreamfall Chapters!

  12. RLacey says:

    Nice interview. Makes me want to play Dreamfall again, and I would if not for that horrible sneaking section.

    But yeah. A pleasantly open interview, which is always good.

  13. it's still says:

    You know, that faith diagram is wrong. There should be a line from every point on the cycle to “actual death.”

    I’m in stage 3 and I like it, but I prefer to call myself “a realist” rather than “disillusioned.”

  14. Shadout says:

    Bought both games on Steam after reading this interview (not the first time Ive considered it).

    First of all, I don’t really like adventure games, insane puzzles you pretty much had to be inside the head of the developer to figure out takes away the fun for me :)
    However I appreciate games trying to tell a story, work with a theme etc.
    Thus I didnt really know what to expect from these games.

    As expected I did get annoyed by some of the puzzles and running around collecting weird stuff in TLJ, and on many occasions I just went directly to a walkthrough, to move forward in the story.
    Thats a failure of a game ofc, if people to wish to skip parts of it, but at the same time I cant blame the game only, its not really the designers fault that I hate puzzles.

    Thus unto Dreamfall, it had removed pretty much all the puzzles, maybe even going a bit too far. It made it more enjoyable to go through in some ways ( didnt have to abuse a walkthorugh :D … not much anyway), but as others have stated, it also made it less of a game. And sadly, the running around from A to B often felt like useless timesinks between the storytelling. Combined with that terrible combatsystem, which at least wasn’t used a whole lot.

    Anyway, despite both games shortcomings as actual games, I really enjoyed them. Sure, they are very different from typical other games out there today (with the adventure genre being a bit dead), but isn’t the diversity one of the things that makes games so interesting?
    Its a diversity which is much more difficult to find on movies and books.

    If/when they get Chapters out, I kinda hope they find a middle way, have most of the focus on the gameplay, keep a few puzzles, but mainly for the main story (a very simple example is the ring from Aprils father in TLJ, it was hardly a puzzle, easy to figure out, but it worked fine for showing something between April and her father at the and of the story, beside introducing him as character through the ring early on).
    Keep the fluffy A from B, hiding etc. stuff down to a minimum. I liked how they did that in a game like Beyond Good & Evil. They mixed lots of different game elements, sneaking, racing, fighting, small puzzles etc, but tried to make sure you never grew too tired of any of it by changing it all the time. Thus you had lots of gameplay, but it consisted of very small game mechanics.
    Each game mechanism should pretty much be designed for its storytelling purpose. If X mechanism works great for one part of the story, it doesn’t mean it had to be reused 10 other times throughout the story, where it doesn’t belong.

    Its of course more work to develop lots of different small game mechanisms instead of, lets say one combat system or one stealth system reused over and over, but on the other hand, small mechanisms only used a few times, dont have to be as awesome either, since you hardly get the time to grow tired of them.

  15. Shadout says:

    Great, major mistake in that post.
    “If/when they get Chapters out, I kinda hope they find a middle way, have most of the focus on the _storytelling_”

  16. Janto says:

    So, I’ve also played through the Longest Journey, and am about halfway through Dreamfall, so you can at least chalk up converting a few skeptics to try the games, John.

    TLJ was great – bar some puzzles that didn’t make much sense, but they were mostly clustered towards the start, and some interface issues. It’s format worked well for me because I could work and play at the same time, or at least alternate. It’s quite a nice way of playing the game actually, because you can just listen to the quality writing and acting without having to look at the screen and the dated graphics. Anyone else who’s wondering if it’s worth picking up, do.

    But transitioning straight from that to Dreamfall is incredibly abrupt, and Dreamfall has far more ‘game’ flaws than TLJ, mostly centered around the action adventure elements, such as the usual dodgy camera and awkward movements. I don’t want to say ‘dumbed down for consoles’ but the interface is certainly built to work with a control pad, and doesn’t do anything for PC users. You can only hope that when Ragnar says Chapters will be better, he means ‘will have a better control interface’ in that.

    I’m amazed that the game includes the ‘mulled wine puzzle’, it’s a parody of a fetch quest, and completely futile from a story POV. Okay, it introduces the magical ghetto idea, but really, that’s something that I’d have been happy to have had resolved with a single cut-scene. So far, my main issues are with things like that – if the mobile phone is also your credit card/multittol, you shouldn’t need to manually select it to interact with objects that only it works with. Strangely, I feel there is a redundant amount of control in certain instances where MORE automation would have done the game favours.

    It’s too early to compare stories, but so far, Dreamfall’s got a lot of ground to cover to catch up with TLJ. Maybe I’m jaded, but certainly some of Zoe’s early ‘I’m so apathetic’ conversations? I skipped them as soon as I read the subtitle. So the quality of the script isn’t as affecting for me as it was for John. But he is a woman.

    From what I’ve seen so far, The Longest Journey is far superior to Dreamfall, and I hope Chapters, which I’ll be quite interested in now, shares more in spirit with the first game rather than the second.

  17. Tallin says:

    Loved this interview. Very informative.

    Have to say, when I read your insistence that the old woman has to be April, I was a little surprised. At the end of the first game I thought it was. At the end of the second game I wondered if it might be Zoë. After all, Crow does join up with her. All we really know is that she is referred to as Lady Alvane (and I can’t be the only person who correlated this to Kian’s name). In other words, someone who may have married Kian or else somehow inherited the name.

    *shrug* Lots of mystery here. Can’t wait to find out what happens.

  18. Janto says:

    Complete ending me arse.

  19. Pookie says:

    I think that Lady Alvane is April because of the obvious attraction that started the first time that Kian and April talked. Their conversation had a sense of one of those cliched arguments where they start off hating each other because of their different characteristics (and where if you asked one of them whether or not they thought that the other one was attractive they would have said, “huhh? Noooooo. no, no, no. him? nooo!” ) but after listening to what they say they start to grow on each other.

    Also I don’t know if anyone else wondered what was in the package that Zoe was supposed to deliver to Helena Chang at the Chicadri (sp?) building.
    So I played TLJ a second time after beating Dreamfall and I discovered that the guy that April went to get the fake ID from(his name is eluding me)had cameras in the garage from chicadri industries. I don’t think that it is important for the storyline. I just think that it foreshadows. But if I was to guess I would say that the package that Zoe was to pick up was the recording of April’s movements in the garage.
    but those are just my views.

  20. Tania says:

    Hey all,
    I just finished dreamfall, and of course have to add my tuppence to the discussion of the ending! Having read a couple of reviews before buying it (I also bought TLJ for the first time last month) I was aware that the ending would be rather vague.
    I think though the reason that it was rather annoying is the slightly cheeky duex ex machina moments towards the end. From your interview Ragnar himself seems to admit these problems, my own peeves being: the ‘i am your mother’ moment from Helena (nothing worse that giving a very minor and uninteresting character a major role at the end, plus does this mean that Zoe’s dad was a bad guy all along?), the Reza appearance (its not the real Reza? seemed like a cheap x-files type ploy), and of course the lack of any resolution to events in Stark.
    I simply am not convinced by Ragnar stating that the game centers around the ending of the Faith storyline. For a start, up until you find out what happens to her you have absolutely no empathy with her due to the fact that she is absolutely terrifying! How can we have a ‘transformation’ from disillusionment to faith by the end of the game if the absolute lack of any coherent ending shows that we were wrong to have any faith whatsoever in the narrative?
    The ending to TLJ has also been described as a bit of a cop-out but it worked because at the end of the day you never wanted April to be a guardian and stuck (naked) in a tower for 1000 years. Whereas in Dreamfall we really do want April to survive and find some answers.
    Having said all this, I did love the game, could have done with a little more puzzles and I’m hoping that the Dreamfall Chapters will come somewhere in between the interaction of TLJ and the beauty of Dreamfall.

  21. April says:

    ok let me tell u something about male stereotypes characters,do u see any muscles or hormon driven thinking in George Stobbart in Broken Sword or in Guybrush in Monkey Island? ppl forgot these 2 great adventure games

  22. Janto says:

    Well, both George and Guybrush are doing at least some of their thinking with their other brain.

  23. Sven says:

    I’d just like to add my two cents, richly late but anyway. I loved Dreamfall the story. I don’t like Dreamfall the game much at all. For one thing you can die; as a devout fan of Myst I think the possibility for death in an adventure game is wrong, although at least Dreamfall doesn’t kill you off for simple exploration like Sierra games used to do.

    I don’t expect Dreamfall to be as complicated as e.g. Riven. Sure I appreciate the mental challenge of a game like that but about 90% of the people I know who played Riven never finished it because it’s so incredibly difficult. That’s not a good situation if you have a story to tell.

    The problem is that not only were the puzzles simple, you were outright told what to do most of the time. Breaking into Eingana is the worst example here: there is no puzzle element here, it’s just following to the letter what Damien told you to do. Without Damien’s instructions this sequence would’ve been a fine puzzle, now it’s just tedious going through the motions. Of course it’s more realistic from a story point of view that Damien had a detailed plan since he had been planning for a while, but the way to deal with that is to have something go wrong, to have something change so Zoe has to deviate from the plan and she (the player) has to find some other way to accomplish the goal. Having the player just follow instructions is not fun. That’s another thing I love about Myst, particularly Riven: Atrus tells you to go to Riven, find and free Catherine, then find a way to signal him. How to do that is left completely up to the player and you never get told what to do. What you should do, and even what goals to accomplish in some cases, is discovered through exploration and interaction with the environment. That’s good adventure game mechanics in my view (of course a game like Dreamfall should add character interaction to that list, something which the Myst games don’t really use; and again I stress that Dreamfall didn’t need to be as difficult as Riven, and is in fact better off not being so, but it can still learn some lessons from it).

    The other major issue is the stealth bits. Once more I bring up Myst. I love those games because you can endlessly explore. Riven particularly you can reach almost every location without solving any puzzles. Making you have to sneak around enemies doesn’t work for me because of that because it obstructs exploration. The worst example of this is the underground city. The symbol puzzle to open the gate is very simple, and the only reason it takes any time to figure it out is because you can’t just walk around and try things because you have to avoid the guards. That doesn’t encourage me to want to solve the puzzle at all. I actually got so frustrated with the stupid sneaking that I abandoned the game for a few months at this point. Afterwards I just looked the solution to the puzzle up online just so I could get past it with the minimum amount of sneaking involved. It also just feels like the whole stealth element was thrown in there because the designers acknowledged the puzzle was too simple on its own.

    This is not to say I don’t like Dreamfall. I love it to death. I love the characters and I love the story, and don’t mind the ending at all (like Ragnar I prefer stories that leave unanswered questions at the end). But as an adventure game it’s a letdown.

    Dreamfall Chapters doesn’t need to have more complicated puzzles per se. It just needs them to be a little less linear, it needs to let the players figure them out instead of telling them what to do, and it needs to avoid the annoying stealth sequences. If it can do that, and have the story be even half as good as Dreamfall, it’ll be a fantastic game.

    Oh, and I recommend they copy the controls from something other than Tomb Raider next time. :P Try sticking to FPS conventions, they work better, even in third person perspective. :)

  24. I love adventure games says:

    A 15-hour cutscene, does not a game make.

    This is Larry 5 all over again. People will not pay 40 bucks to watch characters just talk to each other.

    Moving your character from point A to B when there’s only point B to go, is not “gameplay”.

    “Use Key on Door” is not a puzzle. Actually it is a genre joke for the last 15 years. Even more so, when there is only a key in your Inventory. There are no puzzles in this “game”.

    The story is a mess. Like in TLJ, they try to create a “mythology” by cramming too much elements that are just plain confusing.

    Also, Dreamfall is just as wordy as TLJ. At some point, i was yelling “shut up” at the screen. Characters are chating, then talking, then bubbling, then rumbling.

    I agree that this is a story about faith. I lost my faith in adventure games after “playing” this messy interactive movie. I hope the developers “tranform” into another medium, for their epic stories and leave us play games that can actually be played.