Interview: Marco Rosenberg (The Raven)

Who-dunnits are bloody good fun, aren’t they? Finding clues at crime-scenes, speaking to people who may or may not be concealing information, learning more about the back-story and trying to get into the psychological framework of a master-thief.

King Art are hoping to accomplish that ‘thrill-of-the-chase’ with their latest three-part adventure, The Raven.

I had a conversation with executive producer, co-producer and co-author of The Raven, Marco Rosenberg, to find out more about this exciting sleuth-em-up…

It’s great to meet you. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

You too.                                                                                                    

In The Raven, players will get to play the Thief as well as the investigator. This is a unique way of driving narrative forward and you’re obviously comfortable in doing that. How does that change the narrative dynamic from a gameplay perspective? For instance, will you make use of your previously designed exchange system?

Well, you don’t play the characters simultaneously so the exchange system won’t work here. The Thief takes up the bulk of the third episode and is playable halfway through the second and the inspector is playable most of the first episode and half of the second. Playing this way really gives a three dimensional feel to the characters, revealing motivation and creating empathy, as well as opening up the story in new ways. The resulting dynamic of the narrative is, we hope, quite exciting.

With a name like The Raven, can you reveal whether there are ties to the famous Edgar Allen Poe story? Do you feel the Thief is somewhat influenced by the writer and his imagination? What are your influences?

The name ‘The Raven’ is a nickname given to the thief by the press as he leaves a Raven’s feather as a calling card whenever he commits a crime. It’s not derived from Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry or necessarily from The Master Thief by the Brother’s Grimm, nor is the thief necessarily influenced by those works of art.

The real influences for the game were Agatha Christie sleuth stories. We wanted to create a thriller that has players finding clues and solving mysteries. We hope we’ve managed to accomplish that.

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In regards to the optional puzzles, do they come about as optional objectives in story-led conversations, or will players have to travel off the beaten path to find out what’s expected of them? What incentives do you offer for doing this?

Players will overhear snippets from conversations and can choose to follow those leads if it pleases them. Performing certain actions or solving certain puzzles will change the way a character reacts to you and can improve or tarnish a relationship. By working on these optional objectives, players will hear new lines of dialogues and can engage in fresh interactions, potentially learning more about the story in the process.

As we’ve seen in Telltale’s The Walking Dead, an action in one episode can influence something that happens in another. Will that happen here? For instance, if a player completes an optional objective in episode one, will they be presented with an unexpected surprise in episode three?

Well, there aren’t multiple endings to the game. The Raven will have one set ending. However, characters will respond to you differently and that can open up potential new dialogue options and add new spins on standard conversations.

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How have you adjusted to developing for consoles? Are you pleased with the results? Do you feel the adventure game will play a bigger role on next-gen systems thanks to new interfaces and improved support?

Well this is our first game on consoles and the first time most of us have developed for consoles. It’s been a challenge but its progressing. We have adapted the interface and made it more user-friendly for gamepads, so The Raven won’t be point & click on consoles. Instead, the left stick will be used to move, and players will be able to turn in different directions and interact with the environment with a button press.

We certainly want our games to be available to broader audiences but in terms of future development, well, we will have to see what happens from our perspective.

With the touchscreen interface of Wii U, as well as Vita & 3DS, there’s a lot of potential on those platforms for a point and click adventure. Are you considering future platforms for any of your titles?

Touchscreen interaction has definitely been shown to work well on our other adventure games and has been met with great success. We are open minded and would consider it, but right now our focus is exclusively PC, Mac, Linux, XBLA and PSN. Beyond that, who knows..

You had great success with Book of the Unwritten Tales, a standalone, self-contained adventure, but do you feel its harder to promote a boxed, 20 hour adventure game to mass-market? In 2013, do you think people will only consider episodic adventure games?

It really depends on the game. I mean, the bite-sized, episodic formula is popular because people are used to that with TV shows. It just so happens this format works well with this genre. However, it wouldn’t really be appropriate in some of our other games.

How does that suit you as a writer?

When developing, we actually approached The Raven as a full-sized adventure and hadn’t intended to split it into parts. We just wrote it naturally then decided on this format over time. Because of that, we’ve been forced to find logical points in the story where we can insert a break. In Telltale Games’ adventures, many of the episodes are self-contained stories in-of themselves with linked narrative. The Raven is one large, over-arching story and is the equivalent of a three-part dramatisation, as opposed to a season-long TV show.

Thanks for your time. The game looks fantastic and I can’t wait to play.

Thank you.

The first episode of The Raven, Eye of the Sphinx, launches July 23rd on PC, Mac and Linux. The XBLA and PSN versions of the game will follow soon after…

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is one of the original founders of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,
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