About: Nicolas Flamel

Like mentioned in our first entry about „History in Letters – The Eternal Alchemist“, the history (and legends) about Flamel turned out to be very interesting for us.
After taking a look at the catacombs of Paris, our initial starting point of our idea for an adventure game, and finding out more and more about Flamel we were intrigued to use him in our game.

Many people might know Flamel from Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, where Flamel is actually a wizard too and owner of The Philosopher’s Stone, from which an elixir of life can be extracted.
Truth is that in the fourteenth/fifteenth century Nicolas Flamel actually lived, but the true Flamel was most likely a lot less interesting ;)

Flamel was probably born 1330 in Pontoise and died 1418 in Paris (some sources say 1413).
He was a scrivener and manuscript-seller and was married to a woman named Perenelle, who had been already married twice and brought along the wealth of these two husbands into their relationship.
While Flamel was definitely well off, since he and his wife owned several properties and were able to give money to churches and commission art regularly, he was not as rich as many legends make him out to be.

So, how did Flamel turn into this “person” many of us know nowadays?
The person who reached immortality through the Philosopher’s Stone and was also able to turn base metals into gold?
Truth is that there are no real sources hinting at Flamel having an interest in alchemy, as in actual documents from himself like his (genuine) last will.
However, during the seventeenth century a book appeared which described Flamel’s journey to “find” the Philosopher’s Stone.
According to this book Flamel had obtained a mysterious book he tried to decipher for years, after he finally managed this he found a way to create the stone and to produce gold from base metal.
Before there were already cases of people using Flamel’s name in alchemical texts, but this one actually described his ways as an alchemist.
During the years more legends were added on top of this, even though back then several people already didn’t believe the stories to be true, and nowadays Flamel is for many the “father” of alchemy and some people still claim that he’s alive, together with his wife.

While a lot of the “information“ that is out there about Flamel is most likely not true he’s still a very fascinating topic for us and hopefully also for our players.
If you want to find out more about Flamel I highly advise you to take a look at the many websites out there who try to roll up the legends about him, it’s worth a read :)

Busy, busy

We are currently still very busy with our projects.
Autumn has just started and we are doing our best currently to polish History in Letters and get it released as soon as possible.
We are working hard to release our adventure in 2014; we have to stack on a few more weeks for polishing but we want to make sure to release the game all finished soonly.

Next to our adventure we also plan and work on other projects too, I’ll write more about that in near future, so stay tuned for future updates and releases on our side.

Using: Articy Draft

Organizing a big project, especially one with a bigger story, can sometimes be a bit chaotic.
While we still like to use the good ol’ “papers and post-its everywhere!” method for rough ideas, we also wanted to find a way to organize everything in a clean, digital way and useable for everyone here in our office.
This also made it possible to easily edit details or attach comments to something unclear, without messing up our neatly written post-its ;)
That’s why we decided to use Articy Draft for this project.

The challenge with “History in Letters – The Eternal Alchemist” was that we actually have more than one way how the story evolves throughout playing.
So next to organizing one big story we also had to find a neat way to organize all the decisions the user can make and the ways the story can change because of that.
On top of that it’s possible for others to leave a comment in the document in case something is unclear or should be discussed in detail later, and even if something changes we can easily tweak the document to be up to date again.
Also, unlike with traditional ways, now several people can work at the same file at the same time (of course with a few restrictions).

Next to organizing the in-game story itself it also helped us to store the characters’ biography, locations, items and especially the dialog.
Considering that for each scene, or part of a scene, we usually have several dialog options it’s very convenient to be able to store and organize the dialog that way.
I’m sure we will keep on using Articy Draft for future projects too.

Back from GamesCom

Phew.
We are finally back from GamesCom and while our ears are still ringing we are happy to be back “at home” and back in action.

We met a lot of nice people and old and new partners alike the last days and we got the opportunity to show some of our upcoming projects and the ones we are currently working at.
Prior GamesCom we also had contacted several Adventure game based forums and platforms and with some of them we also had a quick talk.
The lovely guys from “Adventure Treff” also spared some time for us and talked with us about our game, you can take a look at their video here (starting at 0:18) and listen to their Podcast here (starting at 06:15) in which they talk about our project (German only, sorry).
There is one mistake though: The Eternal Alchemist is placed in modern day Paris, not Venice ;)
But I can’t blame them, GamesCom was very busy for all of us.

Hope you guys had a nice week in Cologne too, thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next entry!

Puzzles, Puzzles, Puzzles

A good adventure game needs puzzles, but designing puzzles is not always an easy task.
You have to keep in mind the setting (does this puzzle make sense here?), the mechanics (does this even work?), the design (how should it look like and does it fit the overall game?) and so on.
I must admit, during making the puzzles I sometimes went home all dizzy and with a serious headache ;)
Making puzzles is equally, if not more difficult, than solving them.
We tried our best to include different types of puzzles and also made sure that some of them are easier and some more difficult to solve, depending on the situation and what the player “gets” from solving it (like information or access).

We also wanted to design the puzzles in a way that advanced and new players to the genre alike can solve them without feeling bored or overwhelmed by them.
That’s why we always included hints to the correct answer of the puzzle or how it has to be tackled by the player, without downright saying “This is how you have to do it” or “This is the solution”.
Base for many of the puzzles is the book Remy obtains at the beginning of the game. Some of the puzzles are in the book itself, sometimes the book is necessary to solve puzzles in the locations.

For now we showed you two examples for book based puzzles, in one of our next entries we’ll show a location based puzzle too.

Thanks for reading, and we hope you will like our puzzles in the game.

Solar Struggle hits top 100 on Steam Greenlight

Solar Struggle is in the top 100 on the Steam Greenlight. We need some more upvotes to get greenlit and to release on Steam. So don’t stop voting.

We are so euphorical at the moment that we decided to plan some improvements for the game. One of the big improvement would be to include Solar Struggle: Survival as a part of the Steam version. So keep on voting for the game and let us know which improvements you would like to see in the Steam version.

By the way, we also created a Steam group for Solar Struggle. Join it and discuss any improvements or simply chat with us about the game and Solar Struggle universum.

History in Letters – How we create backgrounds for the game

After our announcement of „History in Letters – The Eternal Alchemist“ and a bit of background in regards to the story and the main character, we now want to talk about how a level is designed and made.
Prior starting the game we asked ourselves how we want to approach a few tasks, one of it being the making of backgrounds for the game.
Since we are a pretty small studio we often have to approach things differently, in this case we wanted to find a way how to quickly generate backgrounds and at the same time use the talents of our colleagues the best way possible. That’s why we decided to go for a “mixed medium” route, to get the best from 2D and 3D and at the same time combine our available work forces and shorten our work time.

It all starts with this.
Or, well, actually it starts with the story. After we had drafted a rough storyline for the game we picked out the places that would be important for our main character to visit.
Backgrounds are also designed and made with the concept of an adventure in mind, i.e. we need places where items can be placed and spots that seem “clickable” to the player.
Our 2D artist will then scribble a first sketch of the room, including a rough placement of the light sources, till it resembles the picture we have in mind for the location.

Afterwards we use this sketch to make a 3D rendering of the room in 3Ds Max.
The sketch is used as a base for this.

Then we overpaint the rendered room; we add textures, light sources and “flaws” to let the location look more realistic and hand made.
The clickable objects and items are added later on top of this background.

Going that route made it possible for us to quickly generate rooms with a mix of 2D/3D graphics using completely self-made materials. This not only reduced the workload for some of our colleagues in regards to the backgrounds but also made it possible for them to work on other things instead.

Announcement “History in Letters – The Eternal Alchemist”

Today we want to announce a project that is very dear to us here at Z-Software.
For the longest we wished to make such a game, and with a few projects off the plate we are finally able to do so.

So, what are we doing right now?
We are currently working at an adventure game called “History in Letters – The Eternal Alchemist”, the game combines classical point and click aspects with hidden object and mini game puzzles.
The game is set in modern day France and includes locations across the whole country.
The main character, Dr. Remy Chaveau, is an upcoming philologist who obtains an old book from a client, an encrypted diary.
During his attempts to decipher it one word sticks out like none other: Flamel.
Remy tries to find out more about the things described in the book and with the information from it he starts to travel across the country in hope of finding out more about Flamel and his work.

“History in Letters – The Eternal Alchemist” will be available at first for PC, Mac and Tablets, in future we might release it on other platforms too.

You might ask yourself now why we decided to have France and Flamel as a major point of our story, truth is it all started out with a fascination for Paris’ hidden catacombs and our wish to make a game surrounding this place.
Afterwards we searched for other myths and legends surrounding this city and France itself and from there on our imagination went wild.

Remy is our main character and a philologist, i.e. he basically studies literary texts and written records of any kind. He is still young compared to his mentor and other well-known people in his field; he isn’t famous yet for his work and is still at the beginning of a bigger career.
Often people would approach him in hopes of identifying a book or something similar they acquired. We wanted a logical approach to the story and how it would start, so giving him a profession like that seemed the most logical one. Making him find the book on accident without a certain background would have been silly, and making him a descendant of one of the important characters didn’t seem very appealing either.
Both ways would also have meant that Remy would have been thrown completely unprepared and with a huge lack of knowledge into the story and that was something we wanted to avoid.

We will release more background information and WIPs in future, not only about the characters but also the way we work.

More information in our project section: http://z-software.net/site/history-in-letters-the-eternal-alchemist/