Trilobyte's Charlie McHenry on 7th Guest and FMV's mobile future

Justin McElroy
J. McElroy|11.12.10

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Trilobyte's Charlie McHenry on 7th Guest and FMV's mobile future
As I've admitted more times than I can count, I'm part of the narrow subset of gamers who loves FMV games. It is, in fact, such a narrow subset that I'm the only game critic I know who's a member of it. It was with an understandable amount of incredulity then that I reported the news that one of my favorite FMV devs, the long-dead Trilobyte, was returning to relevance with an iOS port of its classic The 7th Guest.

I reached out to new COO Charlie McHenry to try to find out if this new Trilobyte was just interested in a one night stand, just playing with my heart or in it for something more serious.

The story goes like this: Original Trilobyte co-founder Rob Landeros has tried a few times to get a new 7th Guest off the ground with little success, due to economic shifts and changing tastes of the market. This is where McHenry enters the story and the two of them hit upon the idea of bringing the old favorites to mobile devices, where the barrier for entry is lower for little-guy devs. By the summer of 2008, Trilobyte Inc. had been restructured as Trilobyte Games in Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley.

"We all feel that this comeback is authentic." - Charlie McHenry, Trilobyte

"The iOS platforms are a perfect fit for this type of game, and The 7th Guest plays really well on both the iPhone and iPad. Gamers will be pleased," McHenry said. "Not just FMV but the point and click translates to the touch screen intuitively. And given that Apple has created the hardware with video playback in mind, there are no troubles playing the FMV in the game."

No matter how well the game works and no how many iOS optimizations the company adds, McHenry is well aware there's been well over a decade for the Trilobyte name to slip from player's minds. He said said he believes the love for the former company's products will be enough to see them through a comeback.

The company's prior issues have not impacted our fans' positive memories and appreciation of what Trilobyte did for gaming; or, the enduring quality of The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour," he said. "We still receive regular fan mail, forums discussing our games are still active, and as noted [...] there was a very enthusiastic response to our announcement that the company is back. It looks like our fans are ultimately rooting for Trilobyte to succeed."

Though the company's current focus is understandably on 7th Guest, it's at least confident enough in the title's performance to start thinking about the future, including the return of its sequel. "The 11th Hour is the next project in the queue." McHenry said. "As resources become available, we have plans to develop a game show–style word and trivia game. We are also looking at porting [other FMV Trilobyte projects] Tender Loving Care and Point of View, as we think the iOS platform is perfect for interactive movies."

McHenry added there's also been talk of a third 7th Guest, or possibly even a prequel, but "the most important thing right now is to reconnect with our existing fan base, release great games and run a solid business operation going forward."

That business plan is based on the hope that there are other FMV fans out there like me that long to return to the genre's mid-90s heyday. It may be a tough search, but the new Trilobyte founders take faith in their belief in the achievements of the original Trilobyte. They found each other, after all, and there's sure to be others that share their same passion.

"We all feel that this comeback is authentic," McHenry said. "We're resurrecting Trilobyte with a connection to and sense of the history of the game. My house is just a stone's throw away from the Noonan Estate (the house used as a model for Stauf's mansion in The 7th Guest). We helped create the original Trilobyte narrative and have picked up where the old Trilobyte left off in 1999."
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