With new trailers and screenshots appearing for both Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments and Magrunner Dark Pulse, we caught up with Olga Ryzhko from developer; Frogwares Studio, and discussed E3, Unreal Engine 3 and Next-Gen consoles. Check out the full interview below and be sure to leave any comments or follow up questions in the comments box below.
ThisisXbox: Since 2002 you have created a plethora of Sherlock Holmes game (thanks to your ownership of the certain trademark categories). Do you guys have a favourite title to date?
Olga Ryzhko: Plenty! Each and all of them! My personal notes indicate around 25 titles released by Frogwares so far and you cannot simply pick one to be your favorite. It’s a brainchild of yours that you cherish and watch grow. Every game you make is also an experience, one that makes you strive further and make another great game.
Some of the games work better for the players than others. Releasing The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, our biggest and most incredible game, brought back the discussion among the players of which game is better. Some remain the very faithful fans of Sherlock Holmes The Awakened, a game from 2006, one where you battle the supernatural with the rational. It is now available on iOS, so it brings back very kind memories to the players.
The very first Sherlock Holmes game, Mystery of the Mummy, was the first game production for everyone on the team. We had to learn to make games at the same time we were doing it. The game was an immediate success to the surprise of everyone in the industry; to date, the game has sold around a million units worldwide on PC. It was released on DS in 2009 and will eventually be released on tablets. Everything we do leaves a trace in our hearts; however, it is true that the game you are currently working on takes most of your concentration at the moment. So, most important and significant, the priority is always set on future games rather than the previous ones.
TiX: Crimes & Punishments sees a new milestone marked in your history as a developer whilst you move away from your previous in-house engine and instead use the famous Unreal Engine 3 from Epic. What brought about this change?
OR: Indeed, the new game is a huge step for us. Our home-made engine worked extremely well for The Testament of Sherlock Holmes and for the previous games. It did its job and delivered almost all of our requirements. Sure there were some things that brought some difficulties to us, but they were minor things.
With Crimes and Punishments we are changing the main focus of the game; hence the previous engine won’t be able to simply meet our expectations – this is where UE comes in. It will do what the previous engine is not able to.
TiX: You have a staff of 60+ artists and programmers, are they all adjusting to using a new game engine? Have you encountered many problems during the transition?
OR: Apart from Frogwares there are also 3 so-called sister-studios here:
- World of Battles, an online MMORG
- Waterlily Games, in charge of casual and mobile games
- 3 AM Games working on Magrunner: Dark Pulse, a first person puzzler built on UE, as well
- And finally Frogwares itself, the Sherlock Holmes games studio.
On the whole, it is now 80+ people here, and of course not all of them are involved in the Crimes and Punishments game. It was actually 3 AM games who started using Unreal Engine first, and when it came to the decision of what to do with the new Sherlock game it was obvious that we change to UE.
This transition to the new engine was not easy. We had to adapt a lot: UE is more designed for shooters rather than investigation games; we had to learn other ways to deal with game textures, we had to change a lot of the details we are used to. There is a lot of work ahead for us, however at this point I can say we are happy with UE.
TiX: Can you tell us a little bit more about the new game mechanics and features we can expect from Crimes & Punishment?
OR: Crimes and Punishments is an important milestone for us, not only due to the engine change. It is completely another kind of game: first of all, this is an investigation game that delivers a whole new experience to the player. Now that we are not limited by the engine and its capabilities, we are adding a lot of new features that will immerse you into the life of the greatest detective. You will be able to exploit his genius talents and skills: dynamic portraits, Holmes’s senses, traits, and talents, imagination or rather his ability to reconstruct the event from the past, to name a few. We continue our experiments on making you feel like Sherlock Holmes.
TiX: You’ll be presenting C&P at E3 this year this. What can we expect to see, new trailers and screenshots? Will there be a playable demo on offer?
OR: Depends on what you prefer J I guess we will have some images released before E3, also there are regular updates at the DevBlog, usually illustrated with screenshots. You just saw the tech demo video and most probably we will have a beautiful trailer for E3 as well. And most important, I will have the demo of the game itself revealing all the secret features that were not communicated so far. I warmly welcome anyone to pop in to the Focus Home Interactive booth to have their hands on the game.
TiX: If Frogwares Studio was itself the centre of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, what would it be? A murder mystery? A story of theft and betrayal or how about a psychological thriller?
OR: Oh God! Nothing even close to that! I won’t say that it feels like home here – 80 people are too many to make it feel like a family. However, there is a cheerful tone here most of the time…well, except for the nest of vipers known as texture artists (lovely team xD). And we do have several newly born families here; it is very beautiful to see the new relations appear.
There is a story of theft and betrayal that starts every morning here; it is called The Adventure of The Missing Mug.
TiX: Magrunner Dark Pulse successfully completed a crowd sourcing fundraising project and reached its 100K target. How is development coming along? Can we expect new screenshots and a trailer in time for E3?
OR: The game trailer is being finalized as we speak. You can expect it to arrive very soon. At E3, Magrunner will be playable, again at the Focus Home booth. It is going to be available for everyone there. We will soon have the demo for our backers.
(KrisWB’s Note: This last question had to be asked!)
TiX: What’s the general consensus in the office… are you Xbox360 fans or PS3 diehards?
OR: Asks the Xbox dedicated portal!!
We are based in Kiev, Ukraine; there were no consoles in this part of Europe in the past, so we are more PC gamers in terms of our own preferences. If you’re speaking of the development process, “Of course Xbox,” says the technician sitting next to me.
A big thank you to our friends at Focus Home Interactive and Frogwares for taking the time to talk to us last week, we as I am sure you do, appreciate their time.
Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments has yet to be given a release date but as soon as it is, we will let you know and then of course provide you with another one of our quality reviews.