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Interview with Anne Gregory on Scavenger Hunter
Developer:Sagewood Software
Publisher:Sagewood Software
Release Date:December 2006
Article Posted:June 2007
System Requirements

Have you ever wished for a game with endless possibilities? Each time you play, things are not quite the same as before - different ways to get inside a building, different objects you find in different locations, and different worlds to explore. Have you ever wished that the voice actors just shut up? Have you ever wished that you were just allowed to explore at your leisure, totally non-linear, without the fear of being harmed or killed, without the pressure of having to solve a time-sensitive puzzle? Well, here it is; the Scavenger Hunter from an independent developer Sagewood Software may have answered your prayer.

After 7 years of work, the Scavenger Hunger was released on December 16, 2006. We at Adventure Lantern interviewed Anne Gregory, owner of Sagewood Software based in British Columbia, Canada, and the mastermind behind this replayable adventure game.

[Adventure Lantern]: Let's start from the basics. If I may be so blunt, who are you? And what do you do when you are not developing the game? (Or what were you doing before you decided to develop this game?) And what's in the name, "Sagewood Software"?

[Anne Gregory]: I am a happily married woman who lives in Burnaby, British Columbia (Canada). I work full time as a food lab technician for SoyaWorld, a major soya beverage manufacturer for Western Canada. During my free time I like working out in the garden, doing jigsaw puzzles and of course playing adventure games on the computer.

The Sagewood part of Sagewood Software had its beginnings when I started making home made soap to sell at the local crafts fairs. I was so taken with one particular fragrance that I used - sagewood - that I incorporated into my crafts business name (Sagewood Industries aka Sagewood Crafts which specializes in tatted lace). When I decided to develop a computer game, it seemed only logical to maintain the Sagewood name and I modified the existing Sagewood logo to have the little sagewood plant growing out of a computer disc.

[AL]: How long did it take you to develop this game? Who were in the development team? What is the development team's background?

[AG]: The game was in development for about 7 years, most of which was trying to locate programmers since I have only limited skill in computer languages. Once I found the Adventure Maker engine in 2003, we began working on the game with much more drive than in the previous years and had it ready for Beta testing in the spring of 2006. The entire team consists of myself and my husband who did all of the work on the game with the exception of the music score which was provided by my husband's brother Glen Soulis.

Glen is a professional musician who does 'gigs' in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario Canada. My husband and I had no experience with any sort of graphic/modeling programs prior to starting on the game so it was a case of learning as we went along. I have a rudimentary knowledge of computer programming, mostly self taught but I used the internet as a resource for some of the scripting that runs the AI for the game.

[AL]: Why did you decide to create a game like this? What motivated you? Any particular good or bad adventure game experience that triggered your imagination?

[AG]: Starting back in the days of the Infocom text adventures I was a bit disappointed with the play once aspect of adventure games. Back then $50.00 was a lot of money to pay for (as advertised) approximately 40 hours of play time. I always felt that I would like to try and make an adventure game that you could replay and have it present the player with different challenges. Over the years I did make attempts but a lack of sufficient computer programming skills always got in the way. I do have an early, early version of the game written in Assembler but it has a few bugs in it!

{Note: Infocom's text adventures look like this. Ah those were the days... Not that I know personally, but I do remember the text-only World Wide Web, my computer was running MS-DOS, and my computer screen was black and white.}

[AL]: Of all adventure games I have played since Myst, your game most strongly reminds me of Myst. Part of it is the similar interface, but graphic description of each world has similar charm, even without true-to-life realistic graphics. What do you think?

[AG]: I believe a lot of people have tried to copy the Myst style of game. It was the first to really take the adventure gaming world by storm and there are admittedly a lot of "Myst clones" out there. Although my intent was not to create a Myst clone there is certainly a lot to be said for the multiple worlds, point and click type of game. It allows the developer to create a variety of game environments and an avenue to join them together (be it linking books, time travel or portal travel).

[AL]: Whom do you see as a target audience (gamer)? Any group definable by age, ethnic background, education level, interest, etc? (I suppose the gamer should be intelligent enough to be able to do basic calculations...)

[AG]: I was looking to target the people who were not into the fast paced first person shooters and people who didn't have the time or energy to invest in RPG games where you need to create and build up your character. It is difficult to know what group of people is going to be interested by the game but both young and old who have played it seem to enjoy it and the varying challenges of the puzzles.

[AL]: These days adventure gamers are used to seeing the graphically stunning world (using TnL, for example) rendered real-time, having the total 360-degree freedom of vision and movement. How do you think your game will appeal to them?

[AG]: If people are looking for cutting edge graphics in an adventure game then they will probably be disappointed by the style of Scavenger Hunter. I have seen a lot of negative comments about the point and click type games by people who prefer the real-time 3D and 360-degree movement but there are still a lot how don't mind the slide show games.

[AL]: I have to ask you this: any plans for adding control options such as separate volume controls for ambient noise and music? To be real honest with you, after a while the non-stop background music featuring repetitive themes started to get me, distracting me greatly from concentrating. Of course it may be just me - I'm a music major.

[AG]: That would be a good feature and I can sympathise with you after all the beta testing I did myself. I'm not sure that that ability is easily worked into the game engine but I have made some allowances in the game for people who want to turn the volume way down. You may have noticed while you were playing that when you do something and your character has something to say that might be of help, there is a text pop-up at the bottom of the screen. Anytime there is something important that the player needs to know they will be made aware of it even if the sound is turned off. (Of course the clicking of locks etc is lost)

[AL]: Any plans for adding more worlds? When? I'd love to explore those worlds that I had a glimpse of in the handbook found in the Camp.

[AG]: This will all depend on the success of the current game. All of the worlds that are in the handbook are in various stages of development, just waiting to be built into another Scavenger Hunter game or as Add-On packs for the existing game. All we need is the support of the adventure community through sales and a follow-up will be assured.

[AL]: Any plans for foreign language versions? Any plans for releasing the game in countries other than Canada and the US?

[AG]: No plans for any foreign language versions. While the game was released in Canada, we do sell to anywhere in the world and have had a number of overseas orders.

[AL]: What is your favorite adventure game?

[AG]: Not that I have played all that many adventure games but my favorite would be Riven, although Beyond Atlantis (which I'm currently playing is a close second).

[AL]: Do you intend to remain independent, or will you be seeking an alliance with a software publisher?

[AG]: Prior to releasing the game as an independent, I contacted DreamCatcher (aka The Adventure Company) and offered to send them a review copy but we never heard back. I have also sent a letter of inquiry to GotGames as well as a press release when the game was released. Press releases have also got out to other publishers including Lighthouse Interactive but so far we've been left on our own.

[AL]: What are your plans after this game? New game in the pipeline?

[AG]: Developing and putting together a game, particularly an adventure game, takes a lot of time and effort. As I mentioned before, there are additional Scavenger worlds that are waiting to be finished. The current game Scavenger Hunter has been written so that it could accommodate a world library of up to 25 different worlds that the AI would choose from but we really need to see support from the adventure community or a nibble from a publisher before I would devote that kind of time to expanding the existing game or working on a new one.

Thank you, Anne, for taking the time to give us insight into this unique game and the development process. We are all for supporting independent game developers, aren't we? Read our review, play the game and spread the word. You may think it is not really your cup of tea, but you may be surprised. I thought so myself at first, as my recent favorites in games includes blood and gore Silent Hill series. But as I played the Scavenger Hunter, I found myself quite intrigued and entertained, despite its rather plain look and feel.

Sagewood Software has a demo of the game on their website. Be sure to check it out


PC System Requirements:
Windows 9x/ME/2000/XP
CPU 800 MHz or better
720 MB HDD free space
Video Card
Sound Card
CD-ROM Drive
Keyboard, mouse, speakers