Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today, video game, box art, title, Michael, barbed wire, blood, scream

Interview: Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today

Last week we received an email about a new Kickstarter campaign for Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow comes Today, and were so impressed that we couldn’t resist becoming backers ourselves.

Title overview
Name: Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today
Developer: Fictiorama Studios
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release date: To be announced
PEGI rating: Not listed
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: iOS, Mac, PC
More information: Official website

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Kim says…

Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is described as an ‘old-school 2D graphic adventure featuring space-time distortions, a dystopian atmosphere… and a dark, bloodstained plot’. A terrible pandemic is turning all of humanity into the Dissolved: the sick whose deliria provide them with supernatural cognitive powers, but also steers them towards a gruesome death. Players must help Michael, a man with no past, recover his identity and decode the events that brought the world to the edge of collapse; because if he doesn’t hurry, he won’t be able to prevent time from dissolving itself.

Fictiorama Studios was formed by people united by their devotion to graphic adventures: Mario, Alberto and Luis Oliván. They spent most of their teenage years playing point-and-clicks and haven’t stopped doing so since; and when artist Martín Martínez joined their crew, they were ready to go full steam ahead. A big thank you to Luis for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions on Dead Synchronicity.

How did the Fictiorama Studios team meet and what made you decide to start making Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow comes Today?

Luis: “Actually, the three founders of Fictiorama… are brothers! Mario and Alberto Oliván and myself grew up playing adventure games every day. There is no doubt it was our favourite genre when we were teenagers… and it is today!

“So the three of us knew that, sooner or later, we would end up developing our own adventure games. When Alberto, the writer, told us about the Dead Synchronicity story… we felt we couldn’t leave such an intense plot go.

“Some months later Martin Martínez, our artist, joined the crew… and here we go!”

Are you a gamer yourself? If so, do you have any favourite titles?

Luis: “Sure! I used to love sports games, of the Sensible Soccer kind: quick, simple, and fun.

“But, as stated, my favourite genre is point-and-click adventure games. I love classic, fun LucasArts'</a (Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Monkey Island) and Revolution Games’ (Broken Sword) titles. But I’m also keen on more mature adventures like I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream or, recently, The Cat Lady.

Nowadays, I enjoy the Pendulo Studios’ adventures (Spanish, like us!), Daedalic’s, Wadjet Eye Games’…”

Players take on the role of Michael, who has woken up in the New World and is slowly coming to terms with a new way of life. Can you tell us more about this disparate future?

Luis: “The ‘New World’ Michael wakes up to has little to do with the one he knew. Basic needs are not fulfilled for a big part of the society… so everyone can turn merciless. There are new rules, and as The Hunter, one of the most complex characters of the game, usually says: ‘One does what one must do.’

Sickness, death, violence and some kind of inner cruelty spreads all over this New World. In fact, our vision of this new society is quite influenced by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: the Great Wave was not only a physical cataclysm… but a moral one.”

We’ve encountered many different types of zombie in video games recent years with various abilities and traits. Who are the ‘Dissolved’ and how they compare to our favourite brain-munchers?

Luis: “Surprisingly… there are no zombies in Dead Synchronicity! No brain-munchers! 😀

“The ‘Dissolved’ are people who get sick and, out of the blue, suffer from strange attacks of… let’s say ‘clairvoyance’ (I don’t want to reveal any spoilers!). If you play the demo you will meet Colin, a kid who suffers from this illness… and who, according to his father… can talk to the dead!

“The horrible thing about this illness is that, allegedly, there is no cure, and sick people die in a horrible way: literally dissolved into a pool of blood.

“So… let’s help Michael try to solve this mess!”

Adventure games are traditionally linear by nature, but the Kickstarter page advises that Dead Synchronicity is a ‘progressively open experience’. What challenges have you encountered when building such a game?

Luis: “As we say on Kickstarter, we want to recover the experience of ‘free roaming’ that adventures of the 90’s had. Nowadays, there are a lot of adventure games that consist of a lot of smaller adventures in a row: you enter a location, meet a character, solve a couple of puzzles… and then move to the next location, never going back.

”If you play The Secret of Monkey Island now, you’ll get astonished with the amount of locations and characters to interact with simultaneously. It was like playing in a quite ‘living’ environment: characters changed and said different things depending on how the story has evolved, new items appeared where there wasn’t any because certain things happened, there were quite a lot of places to explore… You even had the chance to face different puzzles simultaneously!

“To some extent (remember, we are just four people) we want to get back that feeling, in a progressive way. So, the world the player will have the chance to interact with will grow little by little, to create a more immersive experience, in the line of those games of the 90s.

“Of course, this kind of approach is a challenge: when you ‘open’ a location and you ‘close’ it immediately, for instance, the interactions between objects are very limited. In our game, the player may pick up an object in the beginning, and use it properly when the game finishes; but meanwhile, that object may be used with every other object, hotspot and character!

“Besides, in adventures it is quite important the way the player gets the information of the plot, and how they know about the puzzles to solve. In a linear adventure, that’s quite easy: in location number one, the player gets this information; after solving the puzzles, they go to location number two, and then the player knows about that other thing; after that, in location number three…

“With an open approach… it’s quite more difficult, as you have to foresee the possible paths the player can take!”

The Kickstarter page explains that this is the first title in the Dead Synchronicity series. Will later instalments feature more of Michael’s story or on other characters, and how many can players expect?

Luis: “Later instalments will go deeper into Michael’s story. In fact, if you play the demo, you will see Michael faces a lot of challenges: who is he? What about the female voice that talks to him from nowhere, and that seems to be the only person who knows his name? What’s the origin of the Great Wave? Is there a cure for the Dissolved? What do those sudden distortions of reality that Michael experiences mean?

“Regarding the number of instalments, we have the whole story written, including most of the puzzles. We were quite sure we were going to release two of them, but lately we’ve realized that there’s a set of locations so breath-taking and intriguing – both from an aesthetic and narrative point of view – that making the most of it would require a whole game.

“So, depending on how the Kickstarter goes, and how the first instalment does… we could expand the Dead Synchronicity realm to three instalments… or go with the two initially planned.”

Whilst playing the demo the visual style reminded us of classic adventures such as Beneath a Steel Sky and The Dig, but with a modern expressionist twist. How did you decide to go in this direction and were you influenced by any other titles?

Luis: “From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to get a distinctive style, as art is crucial to create an immersive experience. As the plot is so dark and mature, we had to get a look that fitted the story perfectly. So, we decided to look into two of the most stunning art styles we knew: expressionism and tribal art.

“That way, we have got a style which is angular, hard, geometric… and rusty.

“Regarding other influences, besides those two games you stated, we love the style of artists like Robert Valley or the art in games like Kentucky Route Zero or The Cave.”

The soundtrack is being composed in-house as the game development progresses. What benefits has this had to building Dead Synchronicity’s atmosphere?

Luis: “Music is very important for us. In the video games industry, is quite common to go on developing the game without thinking too much about the music or sound effects; and then, in final stages of the development, hire the whole soundtrack.

“We are lucky to have two musicians in our team. So, the music and sound effects are being created along with the art, the cutscenes and the programming.

“For example, when Martin creates a new location, Alberto, the main composer, has access to the process and immediately thinks of the music and wildtrack that could fit. He may interfere in the process, suggesting things: for instance, if in a specific location he considers it is important to hear the wind blowing, some branches may be added in the foreground, so that they move.

“If we decide to add an ‘inner reflection’ close-up of Michael in a dialogue, Mario, the programmer, implements it and Alberto immediately starts composing a jingle for it.

“It’s the same for cutscenes: when I’m editing one of them, Alberto is composing the music for it at the next table! So we have the chance to adjust the two things, so that it is more effective, emotionally speaking.”

What challenges have you faced going down the Kickstarter route? Were you prepared for these when starting out?

Luis: “Everyone says about it… so we already knew running a Kickstarter campaign is a full-time job. But to be honest, we didn’t think it would be such a fulfilling experience as well. The same day we hit Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight we released a public demo, so it was the first time players had access to the game itself. And the feedback is being awesome!

“The most difficult thing about both campaigns is to get to the players that could be interested in our game. There are thousands of great indie games in development out there, and a lot of them are on Kickstarter and Greenlight as well, so to be seen is quite a challenge.

“Luckily, sites like 1001Up are lending us a hand in spreading the word about it.”

Can you tell us which component of Dead Synchronicity you’re currently working on?

Luis: “Right now we are working on three characters: Rose, a young woman whose memory has been affected by ‘the Great Wave’ as well; and two evil men who are mistreating her. And that’s all I can say without being assassinated by the writer…

“It’s quite a tough story, one more in the Dead Synchronicity universe.”

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who’s thinking of making an indie game?

Luis: “I would tell them that, if they really feel like making games… if they would love to amuse, thrill, move players with their games… then they should fight as hard as they can to fulfil their dream!

“But it’s also important to keep the feet on the ground. Making video games is fun, but also really hard, and takes a huge amount of painstaking work.

“However, when you see players having a good time with your game… then you feel it was worth all the sleepless nights!”

What does the future hold for Fictiorama?

Luis: “Well, in the short term… the future of Fictiorama is in the hands of all of you! If Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow comes Today gets funded, we will be able to release the game, and a huge step will be given!

“If this happens, then we will keep on working on the Dead Synchronicity saga. For small indie teams like us, the most important thing is to release games that move players; that’s our number one goal.

“If they well sell enough to keep on making them… then our dream will be fulfilled.

“So, with your help we can make it!”

Luis also kindly provided the following comment: “We would like to thank Kim and the whole 1001Up team for giving us the chance to share our project with you. If you think Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow comes Today could be your kind of game… browse our Kickstarter campaign, and maybe you will find a reward you fancy… Help us to make it come true!”

The Kickstarter project is due to end on 12 April 2014 and, with $8,241 of the $45,000 goal having been received at the time of writing, things for looking bright for Fictiorama Studios. Why not give the demo a try and see what you think?

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