KING Art's The Raven: Legacy Of A Master Thief comes out today. It's a really lovely adventure, well worth getting hold of. We grabbed hold of the German developers to learn more about why they wanted to make such a gentle game, their inspirations, and why they picked an elderly man to be the star of their game.
RPS: The Raven is a very different style of adventure than we've seen from King Art before. How did the themes and style come about?
KING Art: We wanted to do something that’s different from our previous games and since we are big fans of whodunit stories, we decided to create a crime mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. To give the gameplay a nice twist, we let the player slip into the role of both the investigators and the thieves. This enables us to tell a compelling story from two different angles, each time revealing different aspects. For the art style and music we looked back at the classic movies from that genre and adopted the mood and style of that era.
RPS: Why have you chosen to break the game down into three monthly chapters, rather than releasing it all in one? Especially as you're selling it in one purchase.
KING Art: It made sense when we worked on the project. When the storyboard evolved, it felt more and more like a TV miniseries with multiple changes of pacing and perspectives. In the first episode you play the investigators, whereas in chapter two you play half as the investigators and the other half as the thieves. The last chapter you play only as the thieves, until the grand finale. We also felt that by releasing it episodically it allowed us to create a “cliffhanger” situation between episodes. The community would then have the opportunity to discuss what had happened in the previous episode and speculate on what may be coming next. This format will also give everyone the chance to reach the same point in the story before moving on to the next chapter.
RPS: Obviously there are a lot of similarities in style to an Agatha Christie Poirot novel (and indeed references to them within the game) - was this project ever intended to be a Poirot game? A change of hair colour and Zellner could be the very same!
KING Art: We did a lot of research on classic murder mystery novels and movies, as well as gangster movies. Poirot is definitely one of the stronger influences for Zellner, but we never meant for our game to be a Poirot game. It’s more of an homage to all those brilliant detective novels. Maybe Zellner creates this impression of Poirot mainly because of his age. When looking closer, though, he is pretty much the opposite: Poirot is this ingenious master detective, whereas Zellner isn’t even close to having this sort of reputation and nobody really believes that he is capable of achieving great things (i.e. he’s underestimated in a way). In that sense one could argue that he is a little more Inspector Columbo than Poirot.
RPS: The date of the game is interesting too. 1963. Why did you decide on the '60s, when the style of fiction you're reflecting tended to be set in the late 19th and early 20th century?
KING Art: The '60s are an interesting period for crime stories. There are no high-tech devices like computers, tablets or smartphones, but at the same time there are upcoming technological advances like video surveillance and forensics. These elements allow for a more interesting experience because an investigator has more methods for analysis and a thief faces more challenges during a burglary.
RPS: The main character, Zellner, is very unusual for videogames. He's elderly, sick, and seemingly determined to achieve some ambitions before he dies. Murder mystery adventure games of late tend to feature young, sassy women, or chisel-jawed 30-something men. Why did you decide to go for someone so different?
KING Art: We wanted to break fresh ground with our main character, since cliché heroes are already overrepresented in most of the genres. Zellner’s age allows us to give him a lot more depth and experience, therefore making him a more interesting character. The obvious choice would have been to let players play the smart and young “super investigator” Nicolas Legrand. However, we really loved the idea of having the player take on the perspective of the underdog that no one really has on their radar and who is trying to work his way up in the detective world.
RPS: Which audience are you hoping to pick up with The Raven? It's a gently-paced, modest and calm game, which appealed to me a great deal. But that obviously goes against the norms for modern games.
KING Art: Besides the people who already play adventure games regularly and gamers in general, we also wanted to reach out to people that are not gamers yet and love the murder mystery genre in book form. With our game they can take part in the investigation and delve deeper into the story than ever before. The gentle pace of the adventure genre doesn’t necessarily mean that people who normally play action-oriented, fast-paced games will disregard them. We think that many gamers like to play a variety of different genres, as long as they can enjoy an immersive experience.
RPS: Thanks for your time.