toh_foto

Pavel Černohous

Tale of a Hero is a heroic fantasy adventure game with lots of charm, storytelling depth and adventure gaming goodness, that was all finished and ready to fall into players’ hands nearly a year and a half ago. Unfortunately, while the Czech developer and publisher Future Games immediately prepared an English, fully voiced version (voiceover-less demo here), there are no set release dates for the biggest international markets yet. I live in one of the few lucky countries where the game is readily available and I must say that Tale of a Hero went on to become my favorite adventure title from recent years (look up my full review for details). Being so fond of the game, I’ve asked its lead designer Pavel Černohous to take part in an interview about it. He not only did agree, but also brought along Jan Kavan (the creator of Ghost in The Sheet). So here I’m proud to present to you our in-depth conversations about the problems of sons of true heroes, designing adventure games while working with unlimited imagination, but tight budget, and also about the fates of members of the Peregrius team and the game project Ron Loo.

_____________________________________________________________________

Igor Hardy: The story and themes of Tale of a Hero seem to reflect a deep fascination with fairy tales and myths. Could you tell us what do you find so special about them and maybe mention a couple of favorites that aren’t that widely known?

Pavel Černohous: Myths and fairy tales are just stories that proved to be universally appealing and truthful over centuries. That is what I find so special about them – they reflect who we are, for better or worse and also how we see or want to see the world around us.

I have many favorite classical tales and myths among antic, Scandinavian or Slavonic folklore, as they are all linked together anyway. Usually I like to explore the stories in these myths from more than one viewpoint. For example I do care about and am sympathetic for Grendel in Beowulf´s tale or Mordred in King Arthur myths. This had some influence on the story in Tale of a Hero too.

toh_fountain

IH: It was indeed very interesting to see most characters in the game having their share of flaws as well as redeeming features. What was your favorite one to create? As a player I must say I had a soft spot for Pripogala.

PC: Yeah, Pripogala is a rather tragic character for a fairy-tale.

I enjoyed the most writing dialogues of Fenintair, Apidulas and the Turtle in the underwater chapter. They allowed me to explore one story from different angles by which the story was forming itself and got more interesting.

But the most fun character to create was probably the seer Mykorus – both from writing and modeling /animation standpoint. He should have been totally different character according to the original draft. In fact it should have been several characters in small kingdom of beings like him but budget and time formed Mykorus to what he is now in the game and he is definitely better as he is.

IH: The game features a great amount of strange races of intelligent beings as well as magical creatures. Did you go through fantasy fiction bestiaries to find them, or did they come out naturally in course of writing the story?

PC: They come naturally in the course of writing the story but also in the course of developing the environments and puzzles.

Of course many of them were based one some creatures from classical fairy-tale/fantasy canons, like water dragons, ice giants or witches. Sometime these mythical creatures were inspiration just by name, sometimes we were inspired by aspects of their nature. That’s why a dolsimian Nog is close to being a troll by his appearance and some fundamental traits (or weaknesses). Or for another example, the name of the Deves folk came from real myths from ancient India and Persia, although I got to know them from fairy-tales of Azerbaijan I used to read as a kid.

nautisan

concept for the look of the Nautisan race

IH: Courage, honor, virtue, duty – Tale of a Hero explores in much detail the essential qualities of heroism. What inspired you to focus the game so much on that aspect? Did you consciously want to refer to such classic hero-centered adventure games like the Quest for Glory series?

PC: We did not want to overly emphasize Olaf´s heroism – he just acts and reacts accordingly to the situation at hand, being who he is. He is influenced by the example of his father, a true classical hero, a dragon-slayer and knight. Olaf therefore finds loyalty and family honor very important. But on the other hand, he differs from his father a lot – being a compassionate man he avoids violence whenever it is possible and he is not immune to very non-heroic traits as simple human greed.

Therefore when writing the story of our game we did not intentionally try to discover essential qualities of heroism. It just comes with the territory when you want to stay true to a character like Olaf. It was definitely fun finding ways how he can overcome obstacles without hurting anyone (at least not too much) and preferably to get something out of it for himself. Also, this influenced the puzzles a lot.

As for the Quest of Glory series – we love those games just like any other golden age classics. And our inspiration from them is simply just that we find certain qualities that appeal to us and we wanted to achieve similar qualities in our game. We had no direct inspiration in any particular title, although some reviewers and players tend to choose the sources of inspiration for us 🙂

IH: Speaking of Olaf’s father, I loved the various pieces of advice and anecdotes from him that Olaf recalled in various situations. Actually, the whole game is filled with various little stories the characters tell and information about the world they live in.

How difficult and time-consuming was creating this kind of interconnected background history (and sometimes even detailed zoology) for the game world?

PC: This was one of the most enjoyable parts of development – exploring characters and world around them is just pure fun.  As for time we have spent on them – it was spread throughout the whole process of dialogue writing.

toh_crab

IH: While there are serious themes in the game, there are also many humorous situations and comments. As a storyteller, how did you go about introducing humor into Tale of a Hero?

PC: I believe that when the player laughs or even only smiles he should be laughing at himself, like „Yeah! I know this very well! It happens to me all the time…“. Also, I like more subtle and kind humor – slapstick things like kicking in the butt, farting, falling on the slippery floor etc. is not my cup of tea. A little bit of irony, some light parody or comments, caricature – that is what we all wanted in our game.

It wasn’t meant to be comedy but it was meant to be fun for the whole family.  Therefore, there is some visual humor for younger players and kids like animations of Mykorus, or perils of the flashfish. Also, dialogue humor of clam Veliana falls into this category for the most part.

For older players there are some more or less subtle references to clichés of adventure games and heroic stories.

IH: What was the process of envisioning and designing the various lands in the game: Olaf’s home country, the underwater kingdom, and the icy wastelands? Did anything important about them change far into development?

PC: Well, first I wrote a basic story draft, which gave us some overview of locations and characters. Then we started to sketch some concept art, added some interesting elements which then led to other interesting elements both in background art and in a gameplay.

That was generally what our developing process was all about. Puzzle-design, story, dialogues and art were constantly interacting with each other. Sometimes we came up with some puzzle which led to a new creature, be it speechless, yet with some personality (eg. flashfish or spitlaughter) or a more important character who adds something to the story (sea turtle). In a similar manner, other puzzles came out of some more or less significant changes in background art concepts or from some characters traits and needs.

Also we did talk a lot in team about everything while each of us has totally different hobbies and therefore sources of knowledge which lead to different ideas.

And last, but not least, both time and monetary budget played big roles. When you have a team with only one member full-time on the project and the others are working on it only in their spare time after school or work, you have to carefully think ahead how to keep project manageable. That’s why we have so many backgrounds in relatively few areas- that way we could reuse many elements like corals in the underwater chapter or ice material in the ice wasteland.

Article continues on the next page…

in_the_thrench_concept

concept art of an underwater trench

in_the_thrench_render

and how it looks like in the game

Pages: 1 2