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Interview with Roman Navratil on Until I'm Gone
Developer:Faraway Studios
Publisher:Faraway Studios
Article Posted:December 2006

Imagine a small, quiet, and isolated town. Away from the rest of civilization, time itself seems to flow differently here. Perhaps it is stuck in the past, but it has a certain serene and charming appeal. It is the holiday season and the townsfolk are getting ready for a lengthy winter.

Nathan does not want to travel to the Pitfall Mountain. He is perfectly content spending Christmas with his family in the comfort of his house. But if he does not want his wife to find out about his affair, he is going to have to take the trip to the mountain. Unfortunately, the long drive to get to the town and the unpleasant conversation he has with his mistress are the least of Nathan's problems. Shortly after arriving at the town, a relentless snowstorm forces Nathan to stay. In the chilling cold, the town calls to Nathan to unlock its secrets. A quick trip to Pitfall Mountain is about to turn into something much greater...

Until I'm Gone is an independent third-person point-and-click adventure game currently under development by Faraway Studios. Already nearing completion, the game will be offered as freeware. As the Czech Republic based Faraway Studios team is working on getting the game ready for its release, we interviewed the team leader Roman Navratil to get some more information about the project. Besides leading the development team, Roman has also worked as a game designer and a graphics designer on Until I'm Gone. The young developer, pictured on the left, kindly provided us many details about the upcoming release. Here is the interview:

[Adventure Lantern]: What is the storyline behind Until I'm Gone? Can you give us some details about how the adventure will begin?

[Roman Navratil]: The story is set in a picturesque mountain village around Christmas Eve. The main actor, Nathan, is looking forward to spending Christmas with his family in the warmth of domesticity. The idyllic situation, however, is suddenly upset by his lady-friend. She requires that he will come to Pitfall Mountains at any circumstances, or she'll tell the truth about the two of them to Nathan's wife. Thus, Nathan is forced to set out to Pitfall Mountain. Next day he finally arrives there and after a short time he meets his lady-friend in the hotel room, where he spends about an hour. After this conversation, he is upset and wants to get back home. His car won't start, though, and a heavy blizzard is approaching. Then, he rents a hotel room for one night...

This is just the beginning. We haven't revealed much of the story itself, of course, because it's an essential part of the game and we consider it more important than anything else (including the graphics). We want the players to be surprised.

[AL]: What about the game's underlying atmosphere? Can you describe us the overall tone you are trying to create?

[RN]: The atmosphere prevailing in the game is depressive and melancholic. On the other hand there is romantic, magical and sort of beautiful and unrepeatable atmosphere of the winter months. And what's more, it's supported by the bitter cold and blizzard, this all happening in an outlying and remote village in the mountains in the Christmas time.

The majority of the team members as well as I (as the author of the story and designer) love this winter and fall melancholy. You come home, make a fire in the fireplace or just in the stove, sit on an armchair and do your own stuff in the warmth of your home, while it's snowing/raining and it's damp and cold outside. This feeling of ease is, although mixed with elements of horror and some threatening danger.

[AL]: The official Web site tells us players can expect some horror elements in the game. Can you tell us a little about the style of horror the game intends to deliver?

[RN]: The style includes mainly elements of superstition, dark and evil. The horror is based on small "hints", on playing with the player's mind and threatening danger you can't see. I'd call it an "intelligent" horror. No hectoliters of blood, no prolapsed intestines. That sort of horror is not about being scared but about being sick of what you see. I would compare the style of Until I'm Gone to that one of the movie The Shining (made by the brilliant director S. Kubrick). It's that kind of depressive horror.

Otherwise we use various short songs to mark the sentiment of what you currently see (fear, surprise, danger, etc.). You can also look forward to plenty of sounds and music, which will, of course, be in high-quality. It'll be dark, in the themes of winter and snow. The music is composed by Polish composer Rafal Kuczynski.

[AL]: What can you tell us about the locations players will get to explore? What kind of a place is Pitfall Mountains?

[RN]: Pitfall Mountains is quite small remote village or let's say town to get a better picture, situated in the mountains. The local people aren't much sociable and communicative and they aren't happy to see a stranger in their town. They spend much of their free time at home, the "streets" are empty most of the time and not a sole can be seen there. The player will explore a variety of locations (so you don't have to fear stereotype), e.g. the hotel, the town, some building's interiors, a wood and others, which we'll keep in secret ;-)...

[AL]: What can you tell us about the main character of the game? Can you describe Nathan's personality?

[RN]: Firstly, Nathan's not a superhero. He also isn't a fully optimistic character. On the contrary, Nathan's quite ironic, arrogant, and haughty. He works as a manager, earning enough money. He mainly respects himself, why shouldn't he be like that; there's quite a lot of what he has seen in his life. Nevertheless he's a positive character. He doesn't match too many of the grooves, though.

[AL]: How does he get caught up in the adventure in the first place? What drives him into discovering the secrets of the village?

[RN]: As mentioned above, it's his lady-friend who forces him to get there. In some time this reason will, however, become a minor one.

[AL]: How about the other characters featured in the game? Can you describe us some of the people Nathan will encounter?

[RN]: Nathan will meat about 15 characters. You could say that's not a lot for 70+ scenes, but there is a reason behind this. You're not in a busy city, but in an outlying place at the world's end, where it looks like it's from the past century. People don't go outside much to talk to you. The 15 characters, moreover, have strong and deep personalities, which means you're going to take an attitude to each of them, either positive or negative. You'll certainly remember them.

[AL]: Does character interaction play an important role in the game?

[RN]: Yes, it does. There are some long and branched conversations. There are also topics not necessary for progress, but you'll get some more information. Things will gain a deeper meaning and you'll understand some associations. The feeling you'll get out of the story and its general understanding will be deeper if you go through all the topics.

[AL]: What about the puzzles? What types of challenges can players expect to encounter?

[RN]: As for the puzzles, the most important thing is that they are logically and naturally incorporated into the game story. They fit the context, so you won't say: "Why is this puzzle here when it doesn't fit at all?" Besides typical 1st person puzzles there will also be some mini-games and a few other puzzles requiring logical thinking and imagination.

[AL]: Can you describe the overall interface? How will players interact with the environment? Will the game feature a traditional 3rd person point-and-click structure?

[RN]: Yes, the game features the well-known, time-tested and favorite point-and-click control structure. RMB (right mouse button) is used to examine an object; double RMB will do the same with the character running to the object. LMB function depends on what you're pointing at – it includes walking, running, conversation and various actions like opening the door, taking an object or activating a mechanism. The graphics of the pointer will also change according to the place or object it's pointing at. The inventory is going to be at the upper or lower edge of the screen. We're not sure yet :-).

[AL]: Can you give us any information about the game's soundtrack? Will the game feature voice acting?

[RN]: Yes, it will. Players will be able to enjoy complete dubbing by carefully chosen voice actors. All of them are experienced at either games, movies, serials or theatre and all of them are native speakers! Moreover, the script is really "played", not just reeled off, so the high quality of the dubbing is ensured.

And yes, we are planning to release the soundtrack, probably some time after the game itself. It was sparked off by Rafal, who was the first who understood that it would be good to make the soundtrack when he composes the music so carefully. There will be about 11 songs included in the soundtrack. The overall time will be about 45 minutes of melancholic, freezing, dark, but still fascinating and romantic winter music.

[AL]: What can you tell us about Faraway Studios? Who is the team behind Until I'm Gone?

[RN]: Faraway Studios was formed approximately in 2004. As time passed some members left us and others have signed up, eventually our current team has been formed. The majority of the team members are from the Czech Republic, which is located "in the heart of Europe". However, the team involves some foreign members from the USA, Poland, Australia, etc. as well. The team members' age varies greatly, it ranges from 17 to about 45. Some of us are still studying while others are already working ("unfortunately"), meaning they don't have as much time as necessary for the project, which has caused some delays of the date of release. We focus mainly on the story and the game atmosphere we're creating right now.

[AL]: Can you tell us a little about your experiences developing Until I'm Gone? What were some of the challenges?

[RN]: Well, I think that the biggest challange was (and still is) the "human factor", as it is in many cases. Leadswinging ? (the game is freeware, nobody from the team gets any money for their hard work!), the lack of time of many team members, kicking everybody to work ?, which is extremely boring and frustrating, and mainly it takes much of time; time which could been spent on the "real" development. We have of course also gained much experience during the development of UIG, not only with the "real" development but also with "team management", which we will apply in our future projects.

[AL]: What is the scheduled release date for Until I'm Gone? Will players be able to get to copies of the game from the official Web site?

[RN]: The release date is set to Winter 2006, which includes the date of December 2006 and January, February, March 2007. The players will, of course, be able to get the copy of the game from our site as well as from other different sources.

[AL]: Do you have any other projects in the works? What are your plans after completing Until I'm Gone?

[RN]: Currently, no other projects are developed, but we have a lot of ideas/projects (some of them only in heads, some of them even on paper) to work on when the UIG is finished.

[AL]: Are you considering any commercial adventure game projects in the future?

[RN]: We're not sure yet... But probably we will try something more "commercial".

[AL]: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

[RN]: Keep supporting us and enjoy the beautiful upcoming season. And don't forget to visit our website www.FarawayStudios.com ;-). That's all I have to share.

Adventure Lantern thanks Roman Navratil for providing us detailed information about Faraway Studios' upcoming release Until I'm Gone. We may not have too much information about the storyline, but the details revealed up to this point certainly sound intriguing. Exploring the town, meeting the different characters, and discovering the mystery behind the small settlement should be entertaining. The initial screenshots released for the game also look very promising.

Despite the fact that the game will be released as freeware, a considerable amount of effort has obviously gone into Until I'm Gone. Here's hoping the final phases of development will go smoothly for Faraway Studios. It should be interesting to experience the final version of the game.

While you are waiting for the release of Until I'm Gone, if you would like obtain additional information about the game, be sure to visit www.farawaystudios.com. You can also find some more details about the development team and get the latest news about their projects at the official Faraway Studios site.