There are new beginnings all around these days for Daedalic Entertainment. A relative newcomer in its own right, the German publisher and developer had previously offered up the first details of its debut adventure under the working moniker of "Project Climate Change". But now the team is ready to unveil some all-new information about its interactive eco-thriller, due out next year on the PC, Nintendo DS, and Wii. First and foremost among the new details is the game's official title, Earth – A New Beginning. (Addendum: the title has since been shortened to simply A New Beginning.)
It's not often that games are associated with serious cultural issues, but that's exactly what Daedalic has in mind for its initial project. Confronting the problem of global climate change and the threat of impending disaster, A New Beginning will boldly explore the prospect of environmental cataclysm, though obviously in a manner that they hope will be as entertaining to play as it is disturbing to contemplate.
The story begins (and in danger of ending) in the year 2500. Humanity is on the verge of extinction, and the last glimmer of hope lies in sending a small team back through time in an effort to prevent the damage before it's too late. The first attempt to the year 2050 proves too late to help, as natural disasters are already rampant and civilization is in ruins by that time. Fortunately, two time-pilots manage a second trip, this time to 2008.
On present day Earth, a bio-engineer named Bent has retired after a lifetime of frustration spent trying to create a revolutionary biological fuel. His creation would have solved the world's energy problems and had a dramatic impact on the global economy, but he was never able to realize his dream, and the obsession has taken a heavy toll on his health and his family relationships. Now in his fifties, Bent is visited one day by a young woman named Fay, who claims to be from a future destroyed by global warming and in desperate need of his help. Apparently sincere about her incredible story, Fay explains that the immediate challenge is to overcome an unscrupulous energy tycoon, whose only concern is profit, even at the expense of ultimate worldwide destruction. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, so begins a game that Daedalic describes as being about a "conflict between egotism and altruism, between idealism and betrayal."
The events of A New Beginning will take players to a variety of locations around the world. The developers are keeping most of the specifics under wraps for now, but stops in San Francisco, circa 2050, and an oil-drilling rig off the coast of Norway are two of the places we'll see in the game. More importantly to many, the game will be a traditional point-and-click adventure featuring hand-painted 2D backgrounds and characters, giving the game a distinctly personal look that hearkens back to the classic adventures of old, as evidenced by the exclusive first screenshots displayed below.
But enough of the second hand information. No one knows A New Beginning as well as its creators, and we were fortunate enough to get not one, but two of Daedalic's founding members to answer our many questions. Carsten Fichtelmann is the Managing Director and Jan Müller-Michaelis the Creative Director, and both were willing to offer their insights into the fledgling company and its promising first endeavour.
For your first project, you've chosen to tackle no less an issue than global warming. That's a pretty significant and even somewhat controversial topic. Why that decision?
Jan Müller-Michaelis: From a dramatic angle, it is especially interesting to highlight significant and controversial topics. Climate change is a global concern -- it is an issue that is relevant to every single person on the planet. And if we're honest, every one of us feels a little at fault for not doing more for the environment. Even if we individually do everything we can, our contribution can only amount to a drop in the ocean. It's not like the polar ice caps will suddenly return to their old size, hurricanes will disappear and floods recede, just because we started buying energy-efficient light bulbs, turn off the TV instead of keeping it on standby and wipe with recycled toilet paper. We all know these conflicting feelings too well. But at least in our game, you'll be able to solve this conflict. The player has the chance to save the world. That's why it is so conducive that it is such a controversial topic: a plot needs conflict.
Carsten Fichtelmann: The looming climate catastrophe gives us the opportunity to tell a story with global scope, highlighting how global warming may change the world, how it will affect all of humanity. It makes the game more attractive for international publishing partners and gives us a 'hook' for the general interest press. It's imperative for an adventure game to reach audiences beyond the hardcore gamer market. In our experience, a lot of adventure gamers do not belong to traditional gamer demographics -- these are, for example, women between 20 and 40 or people over 50.
Are you taking a fairly neutral approach to the topic, or does the game present a firm stance on environmental issues?
CF: We're trying our best to take a neutral approach but we definitely wanted to convey that it's up to every single person to do their part in saving the world. We have looked into both sides of the climate debate extensively and talked to many experts, trying to divorce facts from political agendas.
We're currently setting up an extensive website that will deal with all aspects of the topic, collecting facts and opinions and making them available in seven languages. This will also help us to reach more people through media that don't conventionally deal with games.
JMM: It definitely is hard to form your own opinion and adamantly defend it amongst the myriad of voices that form the climate debate. Against popular opinion, many scientists still don't agree on the role of carbon dioxide for global warming. How can a layman then presume to know all the facts and come up with a solution? In fact, it is exactly this uncertainty that the game deals with: How can I do the right thing, when I have no way of knowing the effects of my actions? How can I assign higher priority to a danger looming 20 years ahead than to a present-day problem? Those are the questions we will explore, letting all sides of the issue be heard. Ultimately, the game revolves around the central conflict between egoism and altruism.
Do you see gaming as a potentially important (and largely untapped) medium for dealing with more meaningful topics?
CF: Definitely! The games medium has the ability to be just as relevant as films or books. Not a lot of games explore this potential and that is certainly one reason games are so often cast in a negative light. Especially narrative games have huge potential for storytelling and conveying meaning -- adventure games certainly lend themselves very well to this.
JMM: By casting the consumer into the role of the protagonist and allowing him to interact with the story, games can be much more engaging and confront the player much more directly with his choices and the conflicts he faces.
How do you balance the need for entertainment with a desire to convey an important message? Do they complement each other effectively, or is there a risk that one will overwhelm the other?
CF: First and foremost our games are entertainment products. But entertaining and telling an emotional, well though-out, meaningful story are not mutually exclusive. You would be hard-pressed to find a movie that does not have some kind of message at its heart, even down to the daftest blockbuster. It's just good writing: a great story needs to have an agenda, needs to -- literally -- tell us something.
That being said, we're not going to start preaching to the player and make him click his way through some kind of sermon -- our game is a classic adventure story.Continued on the next page...
|United Kingdom||June 3 2011||Lace Mamba Global|