O Mundo é uma ervilha. Mal sabia eu ao receber uma cópia de análise de The Darkside Detective que o devoraria de uma assentada, que estaria a rivalizar ombro-a-ombro com Thimbleweed Park como melhor aventura-gráfica do ano, e muito menos que grande parte deste genial jogo retro foi desenvolvido em Portugal.

Estivemos à conversa com Dave McCabe que nos revelou este facto, e com quem pudemos abertamente falar sobre o desenvolvimento de The Darkside Detective e sobre o mercado indie em geral, passando pelos novos criadores de conteúdos e o impacto que eles têm nos videojogos.

Queremos agradecer a disponibilidade e a simpatia do Dave, que até decidiu ilustrar esta entrevista com algumas fotos suas do período em que viveu no nosso País.

Dave McCabe Hi. Dave here, the writer and lead designer for The Darkside Detective. Lead dev Tracey (also, my wife) and I lived in Portugal for 6 weeks back in 2016 so when the interview with you guys came in, we were wheeled out of bug crushing hell to chat. Actually, a good portion of the game’s development and design was done in Portugal, in particular most of the final case was designed in a tavern in Tomar. Also during our time in Portugal, we were lucky enough to get to showcased the game at a dev meetup in Lisbon where we got to meet some of your devs and play some of the cool projects being worked on there. Lovely country, great people and exciting projects.

Ricardo Correia – You can’t, and don’t want to hide your main influences on The Darkside Detective. Still, do you want to tell us which are the pivotal games you guys played to create your game?

DMI think it differs for each of us – the LucasArts games are in there, as are some of Sierra’s fare and a scattering of others. But really, 90s television has had a greater impact – Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Eerie Indiana, The Twilight Zone, The Simpsons, Buffy and so on. To us, the goal was always to build a Springfield-esque town, full of oddball characters, then drop them into Lynchian Americana and see how they got on. We had started work on the game before the 90s resurgence came about, but when we heard many of the shows that inspired the game were coming back, we felt like we were onto something good.

RC – Something I had the opportunity to ask a personal idol of mine, Charles Cecil, was that the point ‘n click adventures games feel, for me, as something stuck closely on some generations. Do you believe it is harder to get younger audience to play the genre?

DMFor sure. It’s a slow-bake head-scratcher genre. As kids, we’d get maybe one or two games a year, so it was good that they took time to complete. Now, if people get stuck, they jump onto a walkthrough or, worse, one of the hundreds of other games they picked up in a Steam sale. It’s hard to get that balance right between being so easy it’s unrewarding and so tough that people jump ship. And this is the era of Let’s Plays, which kills mostly linear games like this. There is a loyal fanbase out there, but I’m not sure how many younger gamers it’s attracting. We’ve been lucky, in that we’ve gotten younger audiences interested in the game via sites like Kongregate and Game Jolt, as well as through showcasing the game at various events, but you have to work on it – they won’t be as proactive in finding a game like this as some of our more nostalgia-driven fans would be. You have to find and sell to them differently.

RC – I had the argument with several major companies (like Sony and Nintendo) about how the actual Youtubers or New Opinion Makers actually steal sales instead of boosting them. On linear games is that an acquired fact? Do you prefer to rely on traditional media/critics?

DM – I can’t give sources as my opinion is based on conversations I’ve had and I can’t hand out others’ data, but the data I have seen* shows that some studios do see a small spike after Let’s Plays. Most, however, see little to nothing (either sales or wishlistings) from it. On average, steam sale give far greater conversion. What none of us know, is would the people who watch the game on Youtube or whatever have bought it anyway? It’s the same with pirates – hard to know if those are really lost sales or sales you would never have gotten anyway.

So, I guess I’d say Let’s Plays don’t really help sales, but we can’t say how much it hurts a game either. I suspect it balances out.
I should add that the data I’ve seen has been for both linear and non-linear games, but has been a pretty small sample size. Hopefully post-release we’ll be rolling around in millions, laughing at how wrong I was.

RC – I don’t know how old are you guys, but for all the cultural influences I’d say between early 30s to early 40s. Do you guys believe our generation is currently developing the games we’d like to play ourselves, resurrecting influences,  aesthetics and genres that the videogames market thought were long dead?

DMI think many developers makes the games they want to play themselves. The difference for us is how much time we have to play. I find it hard to squirrel away 12 hour for an adventure game, nevermind 70+ for an RPG. We wanted to take the genre and carve it up into more manageable pieces in the hope that that widens the appeal.

RC – I can’t evaluate if I thought The Darkside Detective was easy, or the hundreds of adventure games I’ve played helped me “see” the solutions instantly. Did you want to create a more accessible game, or older point n’ click players can feel your “train of thought”?

DMWe’ve tested the game with people of all ages, from 5 to 75 and they can all largely follow the logic. We discovered early on that the catchy visuals, funky tunes and compartmentalised design appealed to a broad range of people, gamers and non-gamers alike, so we made sure to deliver on that promise. Hopefully there is enough substance there for the longer-term fans of the genre, but not so much that is turns the more casual audience away.

RC – The game felt short, specially because you always feel time flies when you’re having fun. Can we expect a sequel or an expansion?

DMThere’s certainly room for it – the city, the people and their darkside counterparts, give us plenty of room to play with. The largest limitation has been our time. We’ve had to work day-jobs through all of this, so that capped the scope of what we could deliver. But we have more cases in mind, certainly, if the game does well and people want them. We often talk off spin-off games too, so you might see more of the world that way.

RC – What’s next? Will you guys go on developing quality point ‘n click games such as The Darkside Detective, or will you venture on to other genres?

DMHonestly, we don’t know. We’ve talked about a variety of other projects, across a variety of genres. Some spooky, some fun, some fast-paced, some slow. I think it’s hard to make that decision when you’re working on one game because part of you wants to make something similar and fix all the mistakes you know you’ve made this time, and another part of you wants to make something entirely different to stretch the creative muscles. For now, we just write the ideas down and move on with Darkside. Once it is out and we’ve had time to rest we can start to properly discuss what’s next.

Nota: o artigo de análise a The Darkside Detective será publicado na próxima semana.