Monday, July 4, 2016

An interview with Stuck In Attic, the creators of Gibbous!

                A few months back I wrote an article about my impressions after playing Gibbous Demo, an adventure game developed by a Romanian studio that kicked off their Kickstarter campaign just a few days earlier. Now I return with an interview with one of the three developers from Stuck In Attic to find out more about them and their work on creating Gibbous.

Your studio is new in the industry and despite your recent crowdfunding success, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who don’t know much about you. So let’s kick this interview off with a generic question. Who are Stuck In Attic?

Stuck In Attic are two animators (Cami and Liviu) and a programmer (Nicu) who suddenly realized they could actually make something cool if they somehow combined their skills, and that something happened to be a point and click adventure game. So they set out on the nerve-wracking quest of dreaming up a Lovecraft-inspired comical world, building a demo and financing it via Kickstarter, and it seems to have actually worked! 

Gibbous was crowdfunded through Kickstarter, raising over 50,000$ in 30 days from close to 2,000 people. Considering how controversial Kickstarter has been in the past years and the little to no promotion Gibbous or your studio had, how difficult was it to go through with this campaign? And were there any other means to finance Gibbous in case the Kickstarter wasn’t a success?

“It was the most beautiful, intense and scary month of our professional lives thus far.  We actually started making Gibbous with crowdfunding in mind, because, being a small unknown studio with no prior released games, and adventure games not necessarily setting the world on fire as a genre right now, there'd probably be no other way to fund it.  Sure, it was difficult, but more in the way of "a lot of hard work" than anything else. All our Kickstarting days were 14 hour-long marathons of communicating with our backers, contacting  the press and generally living and breathing crowdfunding. It was worth it, though, and it kind of set the pace for us so far - we've moved from working super hard on the campaign to working super hard on the game, and haven't stopped since. 

I think part of your success with Gibbous’ Kickstarter campaign (besides the obvious charm and appeal of the game J)  comes from the fact that you came with a Demo up front, a concept lost in the last decade of this shifting industry. Do you agree with this premise?

Yeah, the demo was very important, especially since we're a virtually unknown developer, it pretty much compensated for the lack of previously released games. It's also a great way to set the tone and give the players a taste of what's to come, and hopefully leave them wanting more.  Even if not all our backers downloaded and played it, its mere existence probably meant people trusted us a lot more than if the demo hadn't existed. 

You offered the consumers what is called a vertical slice demo and I know for a fact that it had as much content as possible from all the game’s features, including some excessive 4th wall breakings. How different will the final product be in terms of pacing, comedy, puzzles, etc.?

It's hard to pace a demo for a narrative-based game, so we probably crammed a little too much 4th-wall breaking humor, for example, in it. As the game's scope is much, much bigger, it'll allow for better pacing, for sure.  Other than that, the general feel of the game will stay pretty much the same, including the fact that we're trying hard to make every puzzle make sense within the story, and not feel like an arbitrary roadstop.

Gibbous is an old school style adventure game inspired by the great classics. Can you talk a little about your inspiration and what do you want to achieve with the game in terms of story and gameplay?

“Sure! Gibbous is an unabashed love letter to some of my favorite Lucas classics. Probably the biggest influences on the game are The Curse of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle. We've made a very conscious decision no to stray too far from the tried and true path these classics have established decades ago. Point and click adventures are one of the very few genres that have not really changed a lot throughout the years, and, this being our first game, we knew there was little chance of us turning the genre on its head or significantly improving on the formula. That's why Gibbous will probably feel like a blast from the past gameplay-wise, with cool modern additions like hotspot highlighting, autosave, smoother animations, HD graphics, etc.

The lovely animations and the hilarious script are in-house work. What can you tell us about the voice acting and the music?

We (Liviu and Cami) are also creating the music ourselves, too, just like in the demo. We're thrilled to have reached the "real instruments" stretchgoal, and can't wait to hear our themes played by, well, real instruments.  Voice acting and translations into languages other than English are the only things we won't be making in-house. We're thrilled to have Don Thacker of Starr Mazer fame voicing our Don R. Ketype - 'cause Don had to be Don, right? ...And the rest of the cast will be just as good as in the demo. Actually, no - better.

As a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and the Lovecraftian Mythos I feel obligated to ask: Is it true Cthulhu will make an appearance in the game? What about Dagon? And if that’s the case, how comically scary will he/they be?

I can't really disclose that, but they probably should, one way or another, right? As to how we plan to combine comedy and cosmic horror, here's a small animated video in which I explain exactly that:" 

The future of Gibbous is secured through the love and dedication of the fans of a half-living genre. Are there any plans for Stuck In Attic after the release of the game? Will you continue making adventure games or try other genres as well?

I'd love to make plenty of other games in plenty of genres, but we have to wait and see how successful Gibbous is,  since our fate as a studio will pretty much depend on that. It would be awesome if we could expand the team and maybe work on several projects. But, even as work has barely started on Gibbous, if you asked me now, hell yeah I'd make another adventure game after this one! I think there's no better genre to tell a story in, and it's a particularly good medium to be Lovecraftian in. It's been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid to make adventure games, and it's still hard to believe that, thanks to so many generous enthusiasts of the genre from all across the globe, it's come true.

This question has nothing to do with Gibbous, but I’ve seen your TEDx presentation from Targu Mures and I thought it was inspiring. I learned a lot of things from your speech, including that you are a (big?) fan of Star Wars. What are your thoughts on the new movie or the latest Star Wars video games (don’t be afraid to be critical J)?

I haven't really played the latest Star Wars video games, but I can tell you I liked The Force Awakens. Sure, it's not the classics, but it was way better than the prequels, and I think making it feel a little oldschool again was a good call. I'm just sad that Lucas Arts no longer exists. They're probably my favorite ex-studio. RIP!

I’m going to end this interview the way I started it, with a generic question. Any estimate release date for Gibbous?

We've said "summer 2017" from the start, and we're working like crazy to be able to deliver on that, but just like any other form of software development, it's really hard to pinpoint. This is not going to be a game you beat in 3 or 4 hours, and that will reflect in the time we spend on it. Basically we're trying to make a 50 person game in 3 persons, but thankfully it's the kind of project we don't mind spending our almost every waking hour on. I hope the love and passion we have for Gibbous will shine through in the game!

                I want to thank Liviu for taking time off his busy schedule to answer my questions. If you are curious about the game, you can download the Demo from the studio’s official website and keep up with the game’s news on the Kickstarter page. You can also read my first impressions about it here.
I’m wishing Stuck In Attic best of luck with their development of Gibbous and I hope to hear back from them soon!


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