With its primary focus centered around the PC platform, Daedalic Entertainment has been carving out quite a big name for itself over the last few years. Known primarily as the publisher of high quality 2D graphic adventure games, Daedalic’s commitment to the niche genre has seen it ride the success of games such as Goodbye Deponia and Gemini Rue. And at Gamescom this year, there were certainly no signs of its content publishing strategy changing, as Daedalic saw to it that it brought to gamers’ attention titles such as The Devil´s Men, Fire, and the eagerly anticipated Silence. But among all these offerings was a little known graphic adventure game by Nexus Game Studios. And so as to find out more, I managed to speak to Nexus Game Studios’ Ben Martinez (Head of PR) and got to ask ask him about Randal’s Monday as well as get some more information about the title’s developer. Enjoy!
Randal’s Monday was made using Unity, which is traditionally geared more towards 3D games, but from what I gather Randal’s Monday is a 2D game. Why did you choose Unity as the engine to use for development of Randal’s Monday?
Because it’s a very useful engine for developing games, and also because it’s really easy to then export conversions for the different platforms like for tablets, phones, or PC. So maybe just because it was really easy to do a lot with. That’s the main reason we chose Unity.
Even though it happens to have it’s roots in 3D development despite the cross platform advantages that it does provide?
How long has the game been in development for?
The general process has been in development since 2010. We’ve been working on the game for four years. The early stages were just drawing the characters and backgrounds, and writing the script. Then a year and a half ago is when we really started programming the game. We got financed, and that’s when we really started working seriously on the project. Then along came Daedalic who trusted us and wanted to publish it all around Europe, so that’s when the real hard work began.
How long has Nexus Game Studios been around?
The company was born when we first started working on Randal’s Monday. This is our first game.
So, five years roughly?
Yeah. When we started working on the game we weren’t with Nexus yet. We started with Nexus about 2 years ago and the company was created for Randal’s Monday.
How many people comprise Nexus Studios?
Working on Randal’s Monday we have seven people, so it’s kind of a small studio.
How many people started up Nexus Studios originally? Was it just two people?
Yeah, the project was born with just two people. Then we got more partners to join in.
Could you tell me a little bit about the game?
It’s a classic point and click adventure, it’s old school. We really like the classics, so we wanted to somehow pay tribute to those games. It’s a comedy, it’s full of humor everywhere. Also another important feature about it is that it includes a lot of different references from other comic books, movies, and video games. For example, you can see symbols in the game that are references to other video games. It’s a fun thing actually. You’re going to get a lot of different references on each of the backgrounds and also in conversations. It’s full of jokes about other things.
Where is Nexus Studios located?
Now, you’ve said that it’s a very humorous game. What challenges have you encountered in making sure that your humor translates to other cultures?
Yes. As I told you we really like the “geek” culture, all the movies from the 80s and 90s, the shows, the cartoons and stuff. We wanted to pay tribute to them. Whenever we started with a script we showed it to some friends and family, and whenever they saw something they laughed at it, that’s how we began to understand that maybe it works and people find it funny. All the feedback has been really good, all the people find it to be really fun. So, that’s really good for us.
But that’s the thing… you showed your family and friends. Now, obviously all of these people are based in Spain I presume, but what about audiences from the US or the UK? Because a lot of British humor does not translate well to America and vice versa, you know? How have you ensured that your humor and it’s delivery is able to translate across to other cultures that may not necessarily get Spanish humor?
Well, as I told you at first the people from Spain found it really funny. Then we released a trailer and started to get a lot of feedback from international companies, they loved it. Last year we were here at Gamescom again and people from all around Europe came to see it and they loved it. That’s when we said, “OK, it works not just in Spain. Everybody finds it amusing”, so that’s kind of how it happened.
Why did you go for a more cel-shaded sort of cartoon-y comic book look, as opposed to something that’s a little bit more [gritty and] hyper-realistic such as say The Walking Dead or something that has a little bit more detail like the early LucasArts games? Because your graphics are nice and colorful, but they’re also kind of plain. Obviously there’s a lot of detail but you don’t use pixel art, you use cell-shaded graphics. Why did you take a cel-shaded approach to your game?
Yes. We wanted to make a game with a classic feel, but we also wanted the youngest people to actually be interested in it as well. So we thought pixel is a very ancient thing and we wanted it to have a lot of old school style, but with an up-to-date graphics style. Also because the story is so crazy, we felt that the best way it would work would be to do it in this cartoon style.
What advantages from a development perspective has cel-shaded techniques allowed you to have, as opposed to maybe going for a more traditional 2D pixel art development process?
It really doesn’t have any advantages. If anything it’s way harder to do it in cel-shading than in pixel art. We have to be really careful with the animations and stuff because it’s so noticeable if there are mistakes. We chose this style because it’s very eye catching. All the colorful scenarios and the graphics style is like eye candy, you know? We thought it would work better.
Obviously it’s a very funny game. The early LucasArts games were also renowned for being very, very funny. How did you ensure that the puzzles were easy enough to solve for people to be able to get to the next step of the story which will enable them to experience more humor? [In other words] what steps did you take to ensure that the puzzles were simple and logical enough, that people wouldn’t get stuck on the puzzles, and that these puzzles wouldn’t hamper their enjoyment of the game?
At the beginning the puzzles are kind of simple, but we didn’t want it to be a really easy game so the difficulty increases in every puzzle. For example, at the beginning some of the puzzles were really difficult and people didn’t have a clue what to do. So what we did was we showed it to a lot of different people that don’t know what the game is about and said, “try to solve this situation”, and they gave us some tips like, “I wouldn’t know how you expect me to do this”, so then we would decide to make it a little more simple because people don’t seem to understand it. By taking a look at people’s impressions, that’s how we set the difficulty level.