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GDC: A meeting with Ragnar Tørnquist and Dreamfall

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting with Ragnar Tørnquist, the creative director of Funcom, the lead designer of adventure gaming classic The Longest Journey and, it turns out, a loyal Joystiq reader ("every morning"). We met at the Hotel Montgomery a couple blocks from the convention center to take a look at his latest game, Dreamfall, a sequel (of sorts) to The Longest Journey.

Unlike TLJ, whose point and click interface has been increasingly obviated by newer gameplay systems, Dreamfall is a fully 3-dimensional "modern adventure," as Mr. Tørnquist calls it. While still cemented in the traditions of adventure games--character development, story, puzzles, exploration--the addition of a combat system (modeled after Jade Empire, a game he really enjoyed), stealth gameplay, minigames, and the look of the entire game would make you second guess its lineage.

By "modern adventure" Tørnquist means games like Indigo Prophecy (which he hasn't played yet), Silent Hill (which is similarly an evolution of the adventure game genre), or even (to some degree) Psychonauts. While many of the changes could be attributable to the fact that the "adventure game" genre remains thoroughly unpalatable to publishers, Tørnquist asserts that, as much as he still enjoys the point-and-click classics, as a gamer he enjoys full 3-dimensional control.

To duplicate the now missing "click" aspect of classic adventure games, they've implemented what they call a "focus feature," allowing your character the ability to examine various objects, people, places. By "focusing" on a conversation happening far away, you'll be able to eavesdrop, though if you get too close, they'll notice you.

While the graphics system was decent enough, the real emphasis was on plot, character development, voice work, and design. Before production on the game started, they spent six months on concept work and the visual design of the game continued throughout production, resulting in a world that feels realistic, though steeped in science fiction. With 55 voice actors playing over 150 roles, there was an emphasis on quality dialogue since so much of the game depends on the story.

Dreamfall is complete and due in April for both PC and Xbox.

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