Attack of the Fanboy was recently lucky enough to get to talk with Jan Theysen, Creative Director at KING Art; the company behind the Kickstarter success and recently released The Book of Unwritten Tales 2. Theysen was able to provide us with insight into how the design process was changed by turning to Kickstarter, how puzzles were designed and other decisions made throughout the development process of the title. So without further ado lets start the interview!
How far through development was the decision made to turn to Kickstarter?
We thought about it early on when it was time to decide which features we wanted to put in the game. We knew which core features make a great adventure game, but wanted to find a way to realize some nice-to-have features that improve the overall experience. And that’s why we turned to our fans and Kickstarter.
How did you find the Kickstarter experience and how did that feeling change once the funding goal was reached?
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 was our second Kickstarter campaign. The first one, for our turn-based strategy game “Battle Worlds: Kronos”, was a little more exciting because the Kickstarter decided the fate of the game. In the case of BoUT2 the game itself was already fully financed through our publisher Nordic Games. So there was a lot less pressure from the beginning. It was more about the icing on the cake, having features that in such a long classic adventure game, would otherwise not have been possible.
The Kickstarter was set up more as a way to fund additional features rather than the whole game, did this help you sell the concept to gamers?
I think so. We told the backers: “Listen, the game will come out in any case. But if you pay for it now, you’ll get a better game and more of it then if you wait until release. This is what we’re going to add with your help…” There was very little risk involved for the backers.
For players new to the franchise what has happened so far and what can players expect to happen this time around?
The Book of Unwritten Tales is a classic point-and-click adventure set in a typical RPG/fantasy world, but laced with a lot of humour. So you have your wizards, ogres, zombies and a band of heroes, trying to save the world from the forces of evil. But you also have your bonsai Ent, a Troll that talks like an internet troll and heaps of pop-cultural references from Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Discworld etc. And it’s a point-and-click adventure, so you can’t fight. You have to be smart to reach your goals.
What other games is The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 similar to?
Our goal with the first The Book of Unwritten Tales game was to make “Monkey Island in a fantasy world”. I things that describes the game pretty well. If you like classic Lucas Arts adventures, chances are you’re going to like The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 as well. Another often used reference are the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. It’s a similar loving spoof of all things fantasy.
Who is your favourite character and why?
When it comes to playable characters it’s the gnome Wilbur Weathervane. He’s a naïve little fellow who becomes a mage in BoUT1 and has to go through A LOT in BoUT2. It’s always hard to put obstacles and enemies in his way because he’s such a sweet character. When it comes to NPCs it’s probably the housekeeper troll in the wizard school, who acts and talks like your typical internet troll. Later in the game you meet a mummy with memory problems – possibly my favourite returning character from BoUT1, and a fan-favourite as well.
What is your favourite part of the game that wouldn’t have been possible without the Kickstarter funding?
I think the projection mapping. That’s a technology that allows us to make locations in the game look three-dimensional and very detailed; it’s great for performance, so the game looks and plays great even on weaker systems. We knew it would be a cool tech but it looks even better than we thought it would. The orchestra recordings were also great. We always loved the work of our composer Benny Oschmann and to enable him to record his music with a live orchestra was fantastic.
When creating a game with such interesting puzzles to solve how do you set about designing them, balancing both difficulty and enjoyment?
Having written four adventures, I think you can never completely balance difficulty for everyone. Some puzzles are too hard for one player, but too easy for another and just right for a third one. With The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 the game starts out rather easy and gets more difficult and complex over the course of the game. We generally aim for a level of puzzle-difficulty that doesn’t distract too much from the storytelling; also you can trigger all available hot spots to become visible, in case you get stuck. In the end, it’s like with the humour in the game, you try to create puzzles and jokes that appeal to the fans of the genre.
Was offering a DRM-free version of the game via GoG a conscious decision to please fans or to get the game available on more platforms other than Steam?
Our publisher Nordic Game was very open for the Kickstarter idea and not only allowed us to use 100 % of the Kickstarter money for the development but also agreed that Kickstarter and DRM doesn’t fit together well. Later it was actually their idea to release a DRM-free version, as they do with many of their games. The thinking was: “There is a DRM free version anyway and there will always be illegal pirated versions… so why annoy players who want to buy a DRM free version after the release of the game instead of just giving them what they want?” We hope people appreciate that and buy the game instead of just copying it.
Would you advise other companies in a similar position to turn to Kickstarter?
For us Kickstarter has been a great experience twice. So we’re going to do it again, I’m sure. But every developer should be aware that it isn’t easy to get funded on Kickstarter these days. You can’t just present some ideas and a rough plan and expect people to fund your game. You have to treat your backers with respect and you have to know what you’re doing.
Will we see The Book of Unwritten Tales 3 any time soon? And will it be funded via Kickstarter?
Hopefully! We would love to make a third part and we already have some ideas for it. But in the end it’s down to how well BoUT2 performs sales-wise. It’s not easy for a niche-genre game like ours to get a lot of coverage these days, but reviews have been fantastic so far and we have a lot of great user reviews, user ratings and all this helps spread the word. We’ve been really lucky with all the support we got from our fans throughout the Kickstarter campaign and the Steam Early Access, and we really appreciate the buzz that they’ve helped create around the game!
Attack of the Fanboy would like to thank Jan Theysen for taking time out to answer our questions and KING Art for creating such an entertaining title. For those still on the fence check out our The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 review.