Dreamfall Chapters: "We are preparing to go to consoles"

All three including Wii U, although PS4 ahead of the rest.

The chances of attractive Kickstarted 3D adventure game Dreamfall Chapters landing on PS4 and Xbox One (one or both) are "extremely good", lead developer Ragnar Tornquist has said - even Wii U is on the table.

"We are preparing to go to consoles," he told me at Rezzed 2013, "without officially announcing anything. We are keen on getting this game to as many people as possible.

"The game works extremely well in a TV/couch scenario - it's a perfect game for that.

"We're building a game that has cross-platform technology anyway, so I think the chances are extremely good that we'll land on one or both of the next-gen consoles."

He confirmed ongoing discussions with all three major platform holders, but it's with Sony that negotiations seem furthest along.

"We have started dialogue with Microsoft, yeah," he said. "The Xbox One and Microsoft, they get a lot of flack, but it's still an extremely interesting platform for us, obviously, and it's going to be huge.

"I've officially also said that Sony is a lot more inviting and welcoming to indie developers, so it's a lot easier for us to start that dialogue and get support. It is a bit harder with Microsoft but it's not like we're excluding anything.

"The PlayStation 4 is definitely an interesting platform for us right now," he stressed.

And what about the prospect of Dreamfall Chapters on Wii U?

"We are also in dialogue with Nintendo. We're going to be looking at it," he answered. "We can't make any promises because the the Wii U, it's underpowered compared to the next-gen consoles and PC obviously - I don't think that's a secret or Nintendo would get upset at me.

"We're going to look at getting the game running on Wii U and then we'll make decisions depending on how that goes and what we see the market possibilities are doing. Like I said, we don't want to exclude anything, so we'll try anything."

"It's beautiful, and I think it's one of the best-looking Unity games out there"

Ragnar Tornquist

Tablet versions are a possibility too, but they'll have to wait.

"We are going to go to tablets, yeah," he confirmed.

"It does exist in some form for iOS but it hasn't been released. But with Chapters we are taking the game to mobile platforms after the desktop and console versions because it is an interesting game for tablet format but we don't want to just do a straight port - that would be very hard also. We want it to work well with a touch-screen interface not the virtual joystick kind of thing."

Dreamfall Chapters on phones is probably not going to happen because although it's technically possible in Unity, a poor frame-rate, relatively tiny screen and cramped controls will make the experience one Ragnar Tornquist doesn't want fans to have.

Dreamfall Chapters is still a long way off, due November 2014. Tornquist and his team demoed the latest build, only three moths old, at Rezzed 2013, and it already had a strong, eye-catching look. There was a filmic quality to the sci-fi cityscape we saw, with colour flares from neon signs and blotches as if from a film reel. That style will be juxtaposed by the game's other world, a land of magical fantasy, which will be softer as if viewed through a "Vaseline filter".

"It's beautiful, and I think it's one of the best-looking Unity games out there," said Tornquist.

Dreamfall Chapters was Kickstarted to the tune of just over $1.5 million back in March, but will rely on a bigger budget to carry it through. Around $500,000 has been secured in grants from the local Norwegian government for the game - and the new studio - and Tornquist is looking at securing more.

"And we're also looking at other investment sources, because $1.5m, that was great, it gives us a lot of freedom and a lot of leverage and lot of time, but it's not enough to get the game finished. But we know that we can get that money."

The obvious next question is 'what about a publisher?', an almost tabooed concept for Kickstarted games.

"We'd rather not," answered Tornquist.

"What we said to the players was we didn't want to go and make the compromises; we wanted to tell our story without having anybody over saying 'well we need this, this, this and this' - that was the promise. So we'd rather not have a publisher. But if we ever did, it would be something that would be beneficial to the game and not something that would take the control away from the players.

"I really hope we can get the game out of the door on our own - that's the plan."

"We want to do Longest Journey Home, and we want to do that with beautiful, super high-resolution painted backdrops"

journey

In the future, however, Tornquist isn't averse to signing a publisher deal - a stance he explained during a Rezzed panel session and expanded on when talking to me.

"Number one, it's stupid to close all doors; and number two, like Chris Avellone said [in the same panel], it's not like publishers are fundamentally evil - there's a model there that's worked really well for many years. The question is often finding the right fit, and we are absolutely fine to get a publisher on anything we do as long as we remain in control creatively, or at least there's a partnership that is mutually beneficial," he said.

"I actually like working with publishers sometimes because they can bring new ideas to the table, they can obviously bring very strong funding to the table. Kickstarter is great for the smaller titles, I mean, we're pushing the boundaries a little bit on Dreamfall Chapters because it is a pretty big game squeezed into a very small budget."

That future for Red Thread Games is already somewhat planned for, and includes returning to 2D point-and-click and a direct sequel to the adventure game that started it all for Tornquist, The Longest Journey.

"We're actually planning pretty far ahead," he said. "Our plan is also to get back to The Longest Journey Home.

"TLJH is something we talked about during the Kickstarter - a 2D point-and-click sequel to The Longest Journey. Because Dreamfall was always a parallel - another story in the universe, so Longest Journey never got a direct sequel, so we want to do Longest Journey Home. And we want to do that with beautiful, super high-resolution painted backdrops, but more point-and-click and a very different game to Dreamfall Chapters. That's still the plan. We will definitely be looking at that once we get closer to the end of Dreamfall Chapters.

"We also," he added, "want to continue doing maybe some smaller things in the Dreamfall Universe, and we have started talking about our plans for what we're going to be doing in 2015 and beyond, and we have some great ideas there."

New IP? "New IP, yeah." And probably a game that incorporates zeitgeist virtual reality tech Oculus Rift, something technically possible in Dreamfall Chapters but at odds with its third-person perspective. "We'll definitely want to use Oculus Rift in the future," said Tornquist, "but I'm not sure this [Dreamfall Chapters] is the project for it."

Kickstarter also remains an option for Red Thread and Tornquist is keen to use it again, having told me that, "We definitely want to go back on Kickstarter, yeah."

But the need to crowdsource or find a publisher will of course by offset by however much money Red Thread can make from Dreamfall Chapters. It's already made its money in one sense, having been funded on Kickstarter, "but", said Tornquist, "we really are hoping and expecting some sales so that we can fund our next project so we don't have to constantly go back to the wellspring with Kickstarter or sign our souls to a publisher".

"I think it's going to do quite well, and the great thing with self publishing - and that's our plan - is that we're left with quite a big chunk of money.

"We don't have to sell a million, no - we're quite happy with much, much, much less."

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