Interview: The Raven Executive Producer Marco Rosenberg

by on July 19, 2013

We like a good adventure game here at GodisaGeek.com, and the games coming out of German developer King Art Games have been some of our favourites (the last Book of Unwritten Tales game, The Critter Chronicles, getting an impressive 8/10 back in December of last year). Recently we had the pleasure of chatting to Marco Rosenberg, King Art Games’ executive producer, about their upcoming point & click adventure, The Raven.

To start off, just tell us a little bit about The Raven for those who aren’t familiar with the game

It’s a crime adventure that takes place in the 60’s, a mixture of a whodunit story, like Agatha Christie novels for example, and mystery like The Sting, Dog Day Afternoon and The Ocean series. You play as a Swiss policeman, Anton Jakob Zellner, who wants to help in an investigation to capture a famous burglar called The Raven. I don’t know if you’ve played our little back-story game but in that prologue you are introduced to a French policeman, called Legrand,  who is trying to catch the Raven several years before the story in the main game takes place. While he actually apprehended him and shot him, now there’s some new burglaries and the trademark of The Raven, a black raven feather, has been left at the site of the burglaries and makes people think it might either be a copycat or that they got the wrong guy back then. So now they’re trying to catch him, this person that stole one of the two Eyes of the Sphinx, two very precious jewels, and you play as this Swiss policeman who wants to help in this investigation. He’s kind of like the working man, has a desk job but he is hoping to have an adventure, finally.

You say it’s set in 1960s London and across Europe, what made you choose this setting and time period?

It’s kind of an homage to the old Agatha Christie novels like Murder on the Orient Express. It kind of has a romantic feel to it, incorporating some Poirot as well which is also a big influence. You actually have a voyage across Europe. You start in Switzerland, in the Alps, on the Orient Express and then, in Venice, you change to a ship to cross to Cairo. The final chapter of the game takes place in a museum there, where there are two jewels to be exhibited for the first time in decades. But right now they only have one left and they are taking care that burglar doesn’t steal the second one. The locations we chose were very important, such as the Alps, because they give the game opportunity to look as good as it does.

Aside from the influences you’ve mentioned, did you draw inspiration from any other places, perhaps some that may be less obvious?

Well in The Book of Unwritten Tales (King Arts’ previous game) there are some nods to movies and books and other stuff, [Laughs] but I can’t just name a list, there are too many influences and inside jokes and stuff that pop in there.

When you set out to make The Raven, what kind of goals did you have in mind? What did you really want to achieve with it?

Well the goal was to make a game that both we ourselves, and the players, love to play. That’s basically the main goal, to entertain people and to make a compelling story. And of course to make something new, that’s even better than The Book of Unwritten Tales, in technology and in the different approach we took to storytelling.

What would you say makes The Raven different from other point and click games?

We focused on the story and didn’t want to put in any elements that slowed it down because many point and click adventure games just stop and go. You get stuck for a long time and some of the puzzles really don’t fit in there and sometimes you feel that they are in there to stretch the playing time. For example you have combination locks or very strange logic puzzles everywhere, but we tried to integrate all the puzzles into the story so that they are logical and nobody says, ‘Oh they just put that puzzle in there, just to have a puzzle’

We also tried to have a realistic inventory. For example, in comic adventure games, like Monkey Island or The Book of Unwritten Tales, you can put huge objects, like a ladder, into your pocket and this time we wanted it to be different so that if you pick up an axe or a big object, your character carries it around in their hands. And if you want to do something else, like an action that you need both hands, the character will have to put it down and pick it up later.

Why did you choose to release the game as episodic content rather than as a whole?

This actually has some advantages for us. First of all, it gives us more time to polish chapters 2 & 3 while chapter 1 is released, and we also get more attention from the media because we get coverage three times instead of one! [Laughs] And this will of course, well we hope, will lead to better sales which allows us to put more energy into our future projects. We get better and better with each game.

And it’s suited to the content. It’s like a big TV epic, where you have several parts, and the players can speculate after each chapter who done it and what might happen next. I think the episodic side of things helps achieve this kind of cliffhanger feel, that you get really drawn into but you have to wait that little bit longer. People will be salivating for the next episode.

Now about the genre in general; it hasn’t really changed much since it began, aside from small refinements, so what kind of challenges does it face going forward in order to keep in fresh?

Well that’s a tough question! [Laughs] If we knew the exact answer we would be selling millions of copies! I think the main focus has to stay on the stories because other genres are catching up and integrating strong narratives that are both delicate and intricate, like many RPGs and action games recently. The story has always been the big selling point of the adventure game because you have a lot of dialogue and it’s very big adventure you take part in. I think that what we are trying with The Raven is to make it more cinematic. We have more camera positions, camera movement and more animations than all our previous games combined. While the story is important so is the staging and the presentation of the game. That might continue in the future and we will see adventure games becoming more movie like.

I noticed the character of Jakob Zellner is a man trying to prove himself, trying to stay relevant in his old age. Is that perhaps a metaphor for the genre as a whole?

[Laughs] I haven’t looked at it that way, that’s a nice question! It wasn’t intended to be but, yeah, the adventure genre is one of the oldies. The first big games on the PC were adventure games, and in the beginning they were the ones who excelled in graphics and audio. I’m not sure that the genre really needs to prove itself though. The problem is that there is not much attention on adventure games. Many times we hear from people, ‘Oh I didn’t know they still make those’ so I think it’s more that adventure games need a shout out from the media to be noticed. There are still enough adventure games being made on the market but not many people notice them. I think it’s one of those things that people must give it a try, maybe they’re not one of the first games they go to, but when they do they get very involved because you get so drawn in to games like this.

With more and more AAA games focusing on strong narratives, do you think that will reinvigorate the adventure genre as people search for much more engaging stories?

[Laughs] I hope so! I think people might rediscover adventure games when looking for good stories in games because adventure games never stopped having big, important narratives. People turned towards more to action orientated games but people who want better storylines might come back and maybe that’s a chance for the adventure genre.

And finally, what does the future hold for yourself and KingsArt?

Well we of course have several projects, some that we have announced and others that we can’t talk about yet. But in the future I certainly see us making more and more quality games that hopefully sell well so that we can continue doing what we love for as long as possible.

We’d like to thank Marco for talking to us. The first episode of The Raven is due to be released on the 23rd July. You can pre-order the game here and be sure to check back to GodisaGeek.com on the 22nd July to read the full review of the game.