Preview: The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo (PC) ~ The Road To Development

4 (1)[15753]Today I have something quick unique to present to you. Not too long ago, I met somebody on a Facebook group about point-and-click adventure games who was developing a new title. The game is called ”The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo” and it looks extremely interesting to me. I suggested creating an article for the developers and they agreed. So, here we are. I’m writing a preview article for a game that only released some screenshots and a small trailer video. But there is more! I had the chance to talk to one of the developers of this game called Josip Makjanic and we are going to talk about the uncharted road that took him to this development. So, with that said, it’s time to dive into this article and invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

 The pitch

So, what is this game about? The developer provided me with a bit more information about the game. Basically, the game is a point-and-click adventure game like Broken Sword and Monkey Island. You can also compare it to Captain Disaster, Another Code R, Time Hollow, Ace Attorney, Professor Layton or the CSI games.

The game takes the player all over various landmarks in Croatia to solve puzzles and have a grand adventure. The story will be based on historic locations and figures. At this moment, the game is in its pre-alpha stage and has over 60 locations planned together with various characters to populate them. The puzzles will be in the style you would find in the Broken Sword or the Monkey Island series.

Pre-Alpha means that the game is in a sort “draft” phase. It means that everything is being prepared to go into the production of the game. Compare it to baking a cake, the moment you plan to bake a cake and make a list of which ingredients you will need and for whom you are making the cake… Those are things you would do in the pre-alpha stage of development. You can read more information about the development cycle on this Wikipedia article.

Personally, I love games that take place in unusual locations around the world. So, this game takes place in Croatia and is being developed by Svarog Interactive. This 4-man team is also based in Croatia. Now, the guys from there also send us a little teaser video that you can find right here:

I have to say, this teaser is extremely impressive. Right away, I noticed that the art style resembled the art style in the first Broken Sword games. Like the Broken Sword games, the locations are extremely detailed and colorful. Unlike the Broken Sword games, the animation like the leaves and the flies on screen… Well, the location feels more alive than ever. I find it rather enjoyable that everything looks quite realistic and those flies, man, they look so goofy I love it.

If you compare the Pre-Alpha video to the screenshots I shared on top of this article, you notice some big differences right away. First of all, the dialogue system looks a lot cleaner. You get dialogue boxes with character portraits on top. Also, you notice that on the bottom right corner, you have a bag. Most likely, this is where your items are going to be stored. So, you won’t have to go to the top of your screen for that. In addition to that, in the right upper corner, you notice that there is a gear icon. This will most likely be a way to go to the pause menu.

Early EnvironmentsSadly enough, since this game is still in extremely early development, there is nothing more I can show you or talk about. I can’t wait to see more and I’m going to follow the development of this game quite closely.

Yet, if you want more and you speak Croatian, you can read this article with one of the developers by 24Sata. Now, there is also this YouTube video where the developer talks about his road towards development. While the video is in Croatian, there are English subtitles provided. Sadly, the subtitles just stop around the 5:11 mark, so there are 2 minutes without subtitles ☹.

Now, before we continue with the interview with Josip Makjanic, one of the co-founders of Svarog Interactive, I want to share some links where you can follow the project as well. They have a Facebook page and Twitter page.

Oliver, Alice & Evil Seagul

Let’s talk

Jonez: Welcome Josip Makjanic, co-founder of Svarog Interactive. Can you give us a small introduction about yourself?

Josip: Hello Jonez. My name is Josip Makjanic, a co-founder and Game Designer in Svarog Interactive.

Jonez: In our conversation over mail you told me that this isn’t your first game. You worked on impressive games like Serious Sam 4 and Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope. Serious Sam is an amazing series from Croatia, your home country. Was it always your dream to develop games?

Josip: Yes. I was always fascinated by it. I started making video games not so long ago, but I sort of designed games in general since I was a kid, by designing them on paper, writing stories and creating concepts. When I lived in a high school dorm I used to make versions of Warcraft, Diablo and even Counter Strike on paper that we played with dice, and people from the dorm would come and play in our room.

I was always fascinated by it and loved creating, so today, with some experience behind and with some good friends by my side, I thought it’s time to start working on our own video games.

Jonez: On the road to the developping of “The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo”, you created two other games called “Day in Dementia” and “In Memory”. Both games have a similar concept and art style. As a side note, I have to say that I’m touched by “In Memory”. The story behind it, a game to honor the dead of your mother, I have one word for you: respect. Respect man. Now, I noticed that both games were created in Construct. Are you using the same engine for this game?

Josip: Thank you. 🙂 Both of these games were made in Construct 2, and were created as a personal project. I don’t even know if I could call them games, but rather some sort of experiences that meant a lot to me personally. Marco Polo is being developed in Unity since it gives us more freedom from the technical sides of things.

Jonez: In our conversation, you talk about an open-world RPG. So, this point-and-click game isn’t the only title you are working on? What is this open-world RPG game or is it more a testing ground for possible future titles?

Josip: We are huge fans of Point & Click games and huge fans of RPG’s. We grew up on those games and always wanted to make our own worlds that others can enjoy with us. So, we are working on an open-world RPG system and have stories and concepts, but, we don’t like to rush ourselves, as we know how ambitious and big these projects are, and we would, of course, need a much bigger team. So before it happens, and we hope it will, there are other, smaller projects in mind, but we are going in that direction.

It’s very important for us to first understand how everything works and make many tests so we don’t waste time or get lost in the projects we’re developing, which makes the development much more enjoyable and better organized. So yes, we are making tests and preparations for other projects, but Marco Polo is a priority and is written as a trilogy. We are also huge fans of traditional drawing and animations, so I don’t think we will ever want to part with it. 🙂

Jonez: Now, let’s get back to The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo since that’s the game that I’m previewing with this article. I’m rather curious. Why about Marco Polo? If the game is set in Croatia and Marco Polo is a merchant from Italy. Of course, there is this debate about his birthplace might be Croatian as well… So, why the decision for Marco Polo?

Josip: The game is talking about historic figures and real places, and players will learn so much about Croatia from it, and while the game has many real things people can learn about, it’s story is fictional and we won’t get involved into that debate, but will rather focus on some other, more interesting aspects based on his life, and how to make an enjoyable story and experience in general. 🙂

Jonez: Are you developing this game full-time or are you developing this game on the side like the Corpse Party developers GrisGris? Also, how do you make sure that there is enough budget to create this game?

Josip: We are currently working in our free time, so that means that we also have other jobs, doing freelancing and helping each other out, but we believe that soon we’ll be able to work full time on the game, and when that happens, we will inform everyone about it. If we don’t get a publisher then we will definitely go Kickstarter with playable Demo, Trailer and some other interesting things in mind. So the game’s development is currently going smoothly without too many investments, but we will definitely depend on a publisher or Kickstarter later if we want to finish the game in a reasonable time.

We also don’t want to go on Kickstarter without having some quality content that people can enjoy before considering supporting us. 🙂

Jonez: You told me that there are, including you, 4 people working on this game. Can you tell us a bit more about the team and the talent in it?

Josip: Yes, there are 4 of us and we all have some projects behind us. There is Alen, our technical guy who makes sure all the systems work in general. Devis is our character artist and animator, and Andrija is our manager. I make backgrounds, write a story and making a game design in general, but we are all highly involved in each part of the development so there is a bit of everyone in every aspect of the game. Andrija, for example, came up with the idea of Marco Polo, so we all worked together to make a story that will fit the game’s mechanics.

There will be behind the scenes when it comes out. 🙂

Jonez: And as a final question, I would like to ask what are your favorite parts of being a game developer and what do you dislike in being a game developer.

Josip: I like how rewarding it can be. It sure isn’t easy to make a game and that’s why I started with those small ones. To build strong foundations and to be able to better understand it and move on to bigger projects. 

And the better I understand it and the more I know about the technical side, the more I can enjoy the creative parts of it, so I guess after every day of work you get rewarded with new knowledge and skills, and I find it very enjoyable.

The bad part of the development would definitely be one issue in the industry in general, and that’s the crunch. I’m not talking about a month or two of crunching, but about the developers who crunch for 6 months or more.

It’s not healthy and I believe that the health of those developers should be in the first place and by organizing yourself better before getting into developing a certain project would save many from that.

It’s a huge problem and something we want to avoid and not be a part of, so that’s one of the reasons for our long preparations and organization before the project even starts. I maybe went a bit off-topic with it, but I believe it’s very important to talk about it

Jonez: And with that, thank you Josip for the interview and the answers! Thank you for answering my silly questions and talking about games and development. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Josip: Here’s a few words for the gamers out there. It is a huge compliment for us to be compared to a classic such as Broken Sword, as we saw many of you talk about it, and we are happy that you love what you see at this stage of development. It will maybe remind you of it, as we see it already do but I just want to say that we don’t want to be another Broken Sword in the end, as Broken Sword is a timeless classic and we don’t want to compete with it, nor I believe we can.

But what I believe is that we can make an enjoyable experience that will make your time worth playing it, a game on its own that we would like to play too, and that’s what we hope to achieve.

We want to make games like they used to be, or at least, make them feel like they used to be, and even though we are not the most experienced studio in the industry, we will give our best to make them worth your time, and try to be better with each one.

Thank you. 🙂

Jonez: And as a closing note, you can follow Josip’s personal projects over at his CrobbitArts Facebook page!

Ending of the article

And with that, I have to call this article a wrap. I want to thank Josip Makjanic for the interview and the material he provided for me to write this article. I’m quite hyped for this game and I can’t wait to play a demo or see more. Yes, I have quite the weak spot when it comes to well-crafted point-and-click adventure games. I love them more when there is a certain charm to it, like with this game.

This game looks to have quite some potential. Currently, we got only some screenshots and a teaser video and it’s already looking quite amazing. So, here is to Svarog Interactive, keep up the good work you guys! You can do it!

So, I’m curious. Do you think that this game is as interesting as I think? Have you noticed something I overlooked? Tell me in the comment section down below. And with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review #012: Aladdin (GB) ~ Terribleness on the go.

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GameFaq’s Link

I have a cousin who I went to each Saturday. One day he lend me DuckTales on the gameboy, which was a great blast. But I do remember one game that he lend too with it. A game so bad, I’m not even going to finish it before I write a review of it. This game on the SNES isn’t that bad, but the gameboy version is terrible. I got this game from a friend, when she didn’t want to keep her gameboy games anymore. I was so happy that I got new free games. But when I saw this cartrigde, I wish I could cry right there on the playground. Man, bad memories of this game. I’m even putting on a sad face while writing this review. Sadly enough, this game is playing next to me on my SuperGameboy and my SNES. It’s already clear that I’ll rip this game a new one, but how bad is it actually? Let’s dive right into Aladdin, without a magic carpet to save our ass. 

Flawed or bad?

disneys_aladdinSome games might have a few flaws. Or just have some things not polish. But this game is a joke. Let’s start analysing this insult of Virgin Interactive by looking at the options.

The difficulty levels are not what you expect from a normal game. Easy is practice and hard is difficult. Yes, I kid you not, the screen says literally “difficult”. Signs for a great game. Also they feel the need to be special and or grammatically correct. Somewhat. The options for the music and sound are displayed as follows:

“Music is: ON”

“Sound FX are: ON”

Why? These “is” and “are” aren’t doing the game any good. It’s silly and just lines of code lost for the actual game. And they could have used it. Oh yeah, a minor annoyance is that you can’t scroll back that the difficulty menu. But that’s nitpicky me.

So, let’s move on with this review by pressing the B button to get out of the options menu. Wait, it’s one of those games. You need to go to “exit” to go back to the main screen. Oh yeah, “exit” instead of “return”. Whoopsiedasy.

The gameplay, my god, the gameplay.

172924-disney-s-aladdin-game-boy-screenshot-shimmy-across-the-beamsIn the name of all the holy and good cartrigdes, be happy that I played this joke for you so that I can warn you about this game. First of all, this adventure and platform game suffers from one major flaw that is also quite visible from the menu. There isn’t a save or load option. This is the kind of game that could have benefited from this feature. Like the first Super Mario Land on the gameboy, this is one of the games you have to play in one sitting. And that isn’t good at all for a handheld game. No, since usually you play these kind of games on the bus or at the doctor’s office. So, you wish you could save.

The controls are weird at best. But at the start of the game, you don’t have any guide or nothing to explain you how this game works. Let me give you one hint. Press the select button at the start of the first level so you don’t waste any apples. Yup, they start you with an attack that is limited. And without giving you a slight hint that you can press select to switch weapons, the game gets annoying really soon.

While I do realize that I ranted about game tutorials more holding your hands these days, this game should have had at least an easier first part. The very first part of this game is filled with all sorts of things. You barely get time to get used to the game mechanics or the controls. You are expected to play this one with already knowing every sort of enemy or hazard.

I just noticed this too, while writing this review, I have to pause the game and then write a bit. And the pause screen actually kindly reminds you that the game is paused with displaying a “PAUSED!” message at the bottom left of your screen. How lovely that they think we are stupid people. Just like the enemy AI in this game. I could stand in visible range of an enemy and it kept just standing there. How lovely. Also, some enemies seem to have a very special attack pattern. The one the animators gave them. And your goal is to be faster then the animation.

All the apples of the nopes. 

For a Gameboy game, the flaws don’t stop there. The music is the next victim of my critic-ing. And it’s terrible. The menu music is true to the 172925-disney-s-aladdin-game-boy-screenshot-these-white-platformmovie. But the music in game is just a loop of a 1-2 minutes melody and it gets annoying and repetitive extremely quick. And there is no way to go in game to the option menu to put it off. They forgot to program that in I suppose.

The first camel you pass in the game, which can be used as a mini-trampoline, actually spits out knives from it’s mouth. This happens after you see an enemy cheat by walking over hot coals. Which is actually a black puddle on your screen. That brings us to the graphics. They are bland. Somethings even don’t represent that they are supposed to be. The apples look like bombs. And who dies of apples, except from chocking on them, anyways?

Also, the attacking of enemies is flawed. Their melee attack reaches further then yours. Which means that you need to use your valuable apples to take no damage. And believe me, you are going to need that health since it’s so rare to find a health pick up. In addition to that, you don’t get explained what the power ups do. One of the first power ups I came across is one that wipes out all enemies on screen. And guess what, there was only one enemy on screen. ONE, for NOPE’s sake, ONE!

Oh, and what’s up with the jumping? You can’t attack when you are in the air. In addition to that, when you fall from a platform, you are locked vertically. So, if you see a vase dropping down on you, it’s damage you can’t avoid. Oh yeah, cheap game. Very cheap. But lucky me, the damage doesn’t get taken since the animation was still playing of Aladdin getting up after the fall. And this ended after the vase actually hit me. Oh joy.

Also, what did I say from the AI before? Further in the first level, I was able to get an enemy in attack mode without even the ability to hit me. Wait, why isn’t it coming closer to me then? Oh yeah, movie game. That explains a lot. So I destroyed this enemy with my rock apples. Which brings me to another complaint. There is no clear indication which weapon you have selected. You just need to guess or to press the attack button to know that.

The decent animations of the characters are ruined by the white outline around them. Which makes those very clear, but not the places where you can and can’t jump on. Since this game isn’t so linear, this is another issue.

And then my copy decided to freeze. Which it often does. So, end of this review! On to the conclusion.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Follows the movie story quite well.

+ It’s exists for reviewers to rip apart when they need to review a bad game.

The bad:

– Terrible AI.

– Lacking save and load feature.

– Bland graphics.

– Annoying music.

– Major flaws in the controls.

– Too steep of a learning curve.

– Nothing of the game gets explained.

– Bland sound effects and some parts could use sound effects.

– Difficult even on easy.

– …

My advise

When you are a Gameboy collector, get this game. But let it gather dust. As a hobby gameboy gamer, don’t even spend money on this title. You’ll regret it for sure. There aren’t many games I don’t finish for a review but this is one of them. I had trouble finding good points to defend this game.

This was a promising game though, but the lack of so many things and screwed up basics make this game a shouting fest for adventure and platform gamers. I forgot to mention a few things in my review like the sound and the enemy always being able to hit you first, but it’s clear that this game has more flaw then Swish cheese has holes.

And if you would excuse me, I need to play better games now to finish up other reviews of actually good games. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave in the comments what your experience is with the game.

Score: 27 / 100