Exclusive Interview!

Greetings Detectives,

 Catch another great interview with our Game Designer on Hidden Shadows: Angelo! Don’t forget to leave us your comments and share with your friends! Read on :)

Your background in game design.

I started out writing for one of India’s first gaming magazines, Game Force, which was based out of Delhi. I was eventually put in charge of the entire magazine. After 2 years, I moved to R.A.G.E., a gaming magazine based out of Bombay. I also worked as a consultant with Vivendi Universal’s Indian distributors.

I then joined Kreeda, where I was the lead designer for a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) called YaHero. We created this for a company
based in the US. I was also involved in Dance Mela!, which was one of India’s first social games.

After 4 years at Kreeda, I moved on to Games2Win, which is one of the leading casual Flash developers in the world. I was the Games Head, in charge of a team that released 8 flash games a month. Games2Win’s had 2 portals that drew over 5 million unique visitors a month.

We also moved into mobile gaming, where one of our leading games clocked 12 million downloads across the Android and iOS platforms. After 3 years at Games2Win, I moved to Zynga’s Bangalore Studio.

 

What was the last thing (book, film, music, game) that really inspired you?

The last game that truly inspired me was Far Cry 3. It’s an excellent open-world game that manages to hit all the right notes. Perfect controls, amazing atmosphere and one of the best video-game villains I’ve ever faced off against.

 

What would you say is the most challenging part of your role?

Execution. If you bring together any group of game designers and ask them to come up with ideas for games, you’ll quickly have a list with some truly ground-breaking concepts. However, the true challenge is in bringing any one of those to fruition. Take Farmville or Farmville 2. The core concept is an extremely simple one. However,
the sheer amount of planning, game balancing and tweaking that you have to do, to ensure that the game is challenging, rewarding yet fun – that is what makes a great game. It’s truly 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

 

How do you initiate a project that you’re working on?

Let me answer that based on the currently project I’m working on, Hidden Shadows. It’s essentially a detective story, made up of individual cases. As you solve one case after another, you realize that they are broken up into ‘groups’, with each group tied together with a common thread. You might have 4-5 cases that feature the same antagonist or 5-6 cases where the victims were murdered by the same deranged killer.

The basic flow of each case is normally drawn up the game’s writer, Michael Ely. The game design team then work alongside him to flesh out the case. We try to ensure that there are elements that are linked to earlier cases, as well as subtle reveals that hint at upcoming story arcs. It’s a lot like creating a blockbuster TV series that has to run for 10 seasons!

We have to always keep an eye on the larger picture. Since each case is part of the overarching story, we have to ensure that it fits into the long term plan. We can’t just think of the first ten cases, we have to think of the first 100 and beyond!

 

Where do you draw your inspirations from?

Games are the natural primary source of inspiration for game designers. Films, TV serials and books are also great sources of inspiration. For example, the Sherlock Holmes books would seem to be a perfect source of inspiration for a game like Hidden Shadows. However, the BBC TV series Sherlock, which updates the story and places it in modern London, is actually a better source of inspiration. It updates the story for a modern audience and has cinematic set design that translates well to games. The
Mentalist is another excellent TV show that quite closely parallels Hidden Shadows.

 

What are your proudest achievements?

Perhaps my greatest achievement was a game called Parking Frenzy, which managed to capture the #01 spot in the US iTunes store. It also hit the top 5 in the Android and Amazon app stores.

 

How much time do you spend gaming on an average?

I spend at least an hour or two per day gaming. Gaming sessions on weekends can go up to 3-4 hours. When my wife isn’t home, I’ve had days when I woke up on Saturday at 10, played all day and finally rolled into bed, eyes bleeding, at 6 AM on Sunday morning!

 

What kind of games are you interested in? Why?

I play all types of games. My absolute favourite genre would be Role Playing Games (RPG’s). While these games have diverse settings, most are set in fantasy/medieval worlds (Think Middle Earth from Lord of The Rings). You invariably start the game as a character unable to beat a half-dead chicken in a fair fight. As you continue
to play, your character gets more experienced, becomes more proficient with magic and weapons. By the end of the game, the Gods themselves tremble in fear
at your name. Complete, profound escapism!

That’s all for now folks! Stay tuned to this space for more!

 

Regards,

The Hidden Shadows Team.

 

Exclusive Interview!

Greetings Detectives,

Catch another great interview with our Senior Developer on Hidden Shadows: Abhas! Don’t forget to leave us your comments and share with your friends! Read on…

 

What would you say is the favorite part of your role?

My main responsibility is the software engineering aspect of game development. I love building things, I guess that is why computer programming is so fun, it lets you create things and with games, sky is the limit.

You can create amazing experiences for the players and push your own creative horizons.

 

After shipping a game/feature do you enjoy playing it more than you enjoyed making it?

If the feature has turned out good then it is always more fun to play it afterwards. In fact if you are not having fun with what you have made, it is a sure shot sign you should be back to the drawing board.

At the time you are making the game, as a programmer, if you are solving some challenging problem and you somehow come up with a whacky but nice idea, it is an exhilarating experience.

Since most development work is iterative, if you are making something fun and good you will definitely enjoy it as you build it. But when it is done and it has come out good, then nothing beats that!

 

Between fleshing out ideas for development and working on those ideas, which of these two areas do you find more challenging and why?

I think with a new game there is a thin line separating the planning and execution stage. Since it is something new and undefined, you find yourself switching between the two modes. So I would say there is not much difference.

But let’s say you define the fleshing out ideas stage as the absolute initial stage of the process, then that is definitely the hardest part. Initially you yourself do not know the direction you want to go and the magnitude of the task you are willing to take. Then there is always the part where you have to be mindful of the time constraints. Hence you have the twin task of defining things to do and then finally choosing a subset of it that is doable.

 

What is your favorite game? Favorite character?

My favorite game is Portal (which I admit I only very recently tried, but I love it). My favorite character is GLaDOS, mainly because she (it) can be brutal.

 

What do you like to do in your free time (apart from gaming)?

I like doing some more programming, learning new things, watching as many Football (Soccer) matches as I can (my favorite team is Liverpool), and when I have some energy left over the weekends, I like cycling.

 

That’s all for now folks! Stay tuned to this space for more!

 

Regards,

The Hidden Shadows Team.

 

Hidden Shadows Mystery

Greetings Detectives,

 

Who doesn’t want to solve a murder? And if the victim’s spirit will point you to clues, all the better…

After the success of Hidden Chronicles, we wanted our next hidden object game to give players something new and different, something (perhaps) a little unsettling.The result is a story-driven supernatural mystery called Hidden Shadows.

 

MURDERS AND SPIRITS

In Hidden Shadows, you are a detective in the fictional city of Gracetownone of the few good officers in a city overrun by corruption. Your father, also a detective and your inspiration, died seven years ago. Now you find yourself at odds with the flinty-eyed Chief Havers, the man who runs the force as he sees fit.

A near-death experience has given you the ability to see the spirits of the dead. You thought this was your secret, but after being approached by the mysterious
Michael Alder, you’re not so sure. Alder seems to know about your power and claims to have worked with your father. He begins to feed you murder cases that
only you can solve, and starts you on a journey to find the truth. The truth about Chief Havers, the truth about Gracetown, and beyond that, the truth about your powers that will go deeper than you can imagine.

 

SEASONS OF MYSTERY

We decided to arrange the game and the story into seasons – like television seasons – each one with a series of cases that unravels one part of a larger mystery. Each case takes you into hidden objects scenes both beautiful and disturbing, from strange secret clubs to lush gardens, abandoned crime scenes in the forest to luxurious spas perched high above the city.

As you explore these locations, you’ll be doing what every detective wants to do best…solve murders, especially the cases that Chief Havers wants to cover up. And in Hidden Shadows you have the most powerful allies imaginable…the spirits of the dead, who seek justice through you. Each case holds a piece of the mystery, and each brings peace to a restless soul. And each season will take you deeper into the overarching story that your father explored in secret.

Do you have what it takes to solve murders and communicate with the dead? Who is Michael Alder, really…and can he be trusted? Where did your powers come from, and how
far will they go? We can’t wait for you to find out. 

 Hope you all enjoyed reading about this supernatural mystery. Stay tuned to this space for more!

Make sure to share this with your friends and Family.

Regards,

The Hidden Shadows Team.

Exclusive Interview!

Greetings Detectives,

 

We are happy to introduce you to our Creative Director of Hidden Shadows: Cara. Here’s your chance you catch an exclusive interview with our talented team member and get great insights into the game.  Read on!

 

What do you think was one of the biggest challenges faced during the evolution of the game?

 One of the challenges was convincing people that our player base would be interested in a game with such mature content. There was some worry that women would not want to play a game about murder – but over and over, our players told us they were dying for that kind of content (no pun intended). These women (myself included) love crime novels, True Blood, horror movies, and of course the mature hidden object market overwhelmingly leans towards crime themes and darker supernatural stories.

Any favorite ideas you batted around?

Well the supernatural element is one of the things I’m most excited about, and really set the tone for a lot of the game. Some of my favorite ideas will not come to fruition until Season 3 or 4, so I can’t give too much away. The things that still give me goosebumps have to do with how thestory unfolds. There are things we put into very early scenes in the game that
won’t be explained until later cases – and when players go back and realize that “oh my gosh, it was there in that scene all along,” I think it’s going to be a really fun moment. I can’t wait for players to find out what’s REALLY going on in Gracetown.

What’s the most important aspect of game design?

I think first and foremost, you need to know whom you’re designing for. There are many core principles of game design, of course, but to me it all starts with knowing the audience. We keep images and descriptions of our potential fans up on the wall, to remind us that we’re making a game for them, not necessarily for ourselves. The player is in our mind whenever we make design decisions.

Who is your favorite author?

 Ooo,that’s a tough one. I love to read, it’s my favorite pastime aside from games. My favorite genres are crime, thrillers, or horror (surprise surprise). I think I’ve read everything Michael Connelly has written. I love John Sandford, Stephen King, Lee Child. Lately I’ve been on a Swedish crime kick, reading a lot of Jo Nesbo and Jussi Adler-Olsen. I prefer series of books that center around a strong character; that’s one reason that Hidden Shadows was created in Seasons, like a television show. Each Season uses a series of murders to reveal a larger storyline and give players another piece of the (sometimes twisted!) puzzle.

How are hidden object scenes designed and created?

 So much goes into this process – it takes a team of very talented designers and artists, which we are lucky to have! In Hidden Shadows, each case is a murder mystery – so the scenes have to visually tell that story. But back to the process – once we know the story and general idea for the locations, a description and reference images are provided to the artists. They go through several steps – sketches, color comps, lighting, details– to get the scene just right. Then objects are added; we create a list of objects that are specific to that scene, the murder case, and the overarching story. Some scenes also have to contain characters – suspects or informants that the player will interact with. Every step of the way, designers and artists are reviewing the scene and improving it. Then we put it into the game and play it, and make any adjustments from there. We want objects to be challenging but not unfair – it’s a balance.

How important is the story in Hidden Shadows?

Well I already mentioned that I’m a big reader – I’m a sucker for story. So Hidden Shadows definitely has a lot of story woven through every part of the game. Every case, every season solves some mysteries, but opens up others, and following the story will help players with certain parts of the game. All that said, we were very careful to design the game so that story doesn’t stand in the way of fun gameplay. We know our players want to play hidden object scenes, solve puzzles, and close cases – they can do all of that whether they want to pore over every journal entry or not.