The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Anna

Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Dreampainters talks ancient Italian legend, modern murder and the beauty of point-and-click adventure games with its new PC release, Anna.

The Joystiq Indie Pitch Anna

What's your game called and what's it about?

The game is called Anna and is a point-and-click graphic adventure about a "sort of haunted" sawmill.

What inspired you to make Anna?

The main inspiration came from a real-life old sawmill in Valle D'Aosta, an all-mountain region in Italy (to be very precise, in Val D'Ayas). It is an ancient and beautiful place, with some legends about ghosts and hauting around it. We mixed all this with a set of local legends and personal stuff. This game is actually a true homage to Val D'Ayas and its heritage.%Gallery-167122%

Tell us more about the legends that Anna is based on.

The background is a bit complex, but I will try to explain it. During the spreading of Christianity, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Alps weren't converted immediately. The new religion was hardly able to take roots between local settlements, which were far from the great cities. For years, despite being nominal Christians, those settlements kept alive the ancient worships. They worshipped forest and mountain spirits in the hope that they would help them if properly celebrated. In the most recent popular tales, the spirits have been replaced by Christian saints, but something has survived and can be found in the modern folklore.

The sawmill, the main location of Anna, in the past was theatre of a murder. It is said that a jealous lumberjack slaughtered his own family, wife and sons. It's the perfect background for a horror video game.

The Joystiq Indie Pitch Anna

Why was it important for players to be able to pick up practically everything in the environment, even things not related to puzzles?

I'm sure you've seen Dragonball Z; everyone has. In that cartoon, when a rock will move, you'll know for sure, because that rock will be very different from the background. The background is all shaded and nice, while that rock is almost a single color, with a strong outline.

This is how adventure games are, usually: you have very few objects you can take and they are all for the puzzles. I get really annoyed when I want to grab a knife and the character says "I don't need it," and then later he does and then he can pick it up. Come on, it's a knife! Pick that up, no one will blame you!

In Anna you can pick up everything that feels it should be able to be picked. This will give you a better feeling of being there and will also give you some alternatives to solve puzzles. Do you need water to turn off a fire? You can use water, and you can bring water in whatever can carry water.

Is Anna an open-world exploration title, or is it a puzzle game? Is there a direct plot or goal?

Anna is more like a classic-style point-and-click adventure. You can visit all the environments you have unlocked, with puzzles between them and such.

It's hardly an open-world game, because it's clearly too small to be "open," but it's not a game with a puzzle after the other. You're free to solve the mysteries and to find the plot in the order you prefer, exploring the various environments.

There's a plot, a very interesting one. You'll find out about it, but it's not "in your face." I mean, it's not like you find diaries and stuff like that. In adventure games it seems like all the people write diaries.

What's the coolest aspect of Anna?

It's for sure the fact that the game analyzes everything the player does, to understand his state of mind: It's not about the character in the game, it's all about the actual player. In this game it's the player to get scared, not the character. We could say that the main enemy of the player, in Anna, is the player itself.

I mean, it's not like you find diaries and stuff like that. In adventure games it seems like all the people write diaries.

Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?

Because, as today, graphic adventures are not well-seen by publishers, which are interested in high-grossing IPs and well-estabilished genres.

We think that graphic adventures are still alive and can take a company in a good financial state, if these adventures are done exactly for the target who appreciates them the most: adult players (25-plus) mainly playing with their PCs (and expecting a game that exacerbates its potentials) and buying games online. We think that pleasing this audience will give us the best results in both game quality and revenue. Everyone is happy.

What's next?

We have a full five-year plan: Depending on Anna's revenue, we've planned some projects after it that are very interesting, still adventure games, still PC exclusives and horror/fantasy. We're also planning to get some interesting licenses to work with. Stay tuned!

Anna is available now on Steam, 10 percent off ($9) through October 5. We'd like to take this opportunity to point out how easy it is to accidentally write "Abba" instead of "Anna." The keys are literally right next to each other.

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.