Tuesday, 5 May 2009

CaptainD Interviews James Spanos (the man behind the H2G2 Remake)

I interviewed James Spanos, who is currently remaking one of the most famous Infocom test adventures – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. He is using the popular AGS (Adventure Game Studio) and work is well underway, with my thoughts on the demo blogged here.

When did you first get into gaming?
Well, that was around 1997, my brother had accidentally deleted a very useful windows file, that windows needed to boot, so we ended up using DOS, my cousin had some very old games in floppies and gave them all to me. So it wasn't long enough to notice a game of 4 floppies, that would literally change my life forever. It was the Secret of Monkey Island. Then always at the back of my head was the idea to create something similar.

What is your favourite game genre (as if I didn’t know)?
Adventure games is my favourite game genre. At least last time I checked.

What first inspired you to do a remake of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Did you ever think of making a pure text adventure, or were you always planning to update the game?
The inspiration was really spontaneous, at first I just got a pm from Kevin Haddley that he has an idea about remaking the game and he offered me a spot. I agreed to initially do the music, but then I was really getting excited that I wanted to do as much as possible. So I ended up drawing, composing, programming the whole game.

A pure text adventure out of a perfect pure text adventure can't really improve or change much. The quality of it would probably even end up worse, and at best probably the same. I always felt that the original game was really hard for those that wanted to be introduced to the world of the books.

How long have you been working on THHGTTG so far? How many other people are helping with the project?
I've been working on it for one year and a half. I initiated the game using AGS 2.72 and now we've reached 3.1.2. I'm happy however to say, we've had many people helping with the project so far. First, it's Kevin Haddley (yukonhorror) that did a tremendous job, writing a doc file containing alll possible actions, and responses to them, that one could perform whilst playing the original game. Leon who has been beta-testing, translating to Dutch, proofreading the game and offering advice on how to improve things, too. Bjorn Ludwig (Ghost), who has been beta-testing and being really supportive as well. Jon, who has been doing the same job too, Fallen Angel , who's doing some beta-testing and will translate the game in italian, ptp88, who's writing the music digital pack(he;s the most recent member of our team). And a couple of cool guys that have offered to give voice to the game: Babar(Eddie), Mr.Flibble(Ford) and DC(Dent), Trihan (Narrator), VertigoAddict(Trillian), Cryxo(Prosser), ShadeJackRabbit(Marvin).

When do you think it will be completed?
I hope this year, but well, that's what I hoped last year too. I'm planning on releasing a small game on towel day, but don't tell anyone about it, it's a secret.^_^

Have you released any other games previously?
Yes, indeed. They all failed to be enjoyable. Apart from my winning MAGS entry by default (Winners Don't Do Drugs) and the Lone Case Series. I also had the honour to work on another game called Rock Rock Rock, with IndieBoy doing the sprites and SSH doing the rest, where I composed the music tracks.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of making their own game?
Do it. Even if the goal (fame, fortune and really wild things) isn't achieved, the journey will be a really fun experience. And whatever you're making, focus on it being enjoyable rather than good looking.

Why did you choose AGS as your game development tool?
Well, I downloaded many engines one day, and suprisingly I deleted all of them but one. I started experimenting with AGS and I found it really flexible and user-friendly. And there I was creating games..

If you had your very own Babel Fish, would you really stick it in your ear or would that be just too disgusting?!?
I 'd stick it, no question.

Once THHGTTG is finished, do you have any more Infocom classics in mind for a facelift? Guild of Thieves or Zork, perhaps?
Once HHGTG is finished I'm going on vacations for sure. Then I might really work on Planetfall, which is one of my favorite Infocom games, but if one's played it, he'll know it's a big task. I'm mostly thinking of making a sequel for HHGTG instead. The Restaraunt at the End of the Universe.

How important do you think freeware / remakes are to the PC gaming industry?
Very. With the crisis and all, gaming industries are just going for sequels of their famous franchises, which makes people lose interest. My favorite game of 2008 was Audiosurf, and was only done by an indie game company. Freeware games depend on inspiration and original ideas that's what makes them so enjoyable. As for remakes, lately with AGDI really doing some miracles on the field, attention has been brought to the genre, and I'm sure we'll see many remakes popping in the future.

Any final words of wisdom?
Well, so long and thanks for all the fish.

[Should have seen that one coming...]

Keep checking http://h2g2remake.wordpress.com/ for more info, and in the meantime watch the teaser trailer below... Thanks James for the interview!

My blogging friend Gnome also posted some behind the scenes information about the game.

CaptainD - PC Gaming Blog

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gnome said...

An excellent and most enlightening interview! So, uhm, when's towel day?

CaptainD said...

To be honest I was wondering about "Towel Day" as well - will have to ask James what he's on about!

Shazbot said...

Awesome! An interview!

Dualnames said...

Towel day is on the 25th of may. I thought you all guys would wiki it..well. It was a really fun experience I must say.

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