might not be the first title to come to mind when you think about classic "point and click" adventure games, but it has its place in history.
The third and most popular in ICOM Simulations' "MacVentures" series, Shadowgate
was among the first crop of games to have a mouse-driven interface, taking advantage of the strengths of its native Macintosh platform when it was first released in 1987.
Most will probably remember the console version, released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (along with fellow MacVenture titles Deja Vu and Uninvited). It was never an enormous hit, but the game developed quite a cult following as it continued getting ported to different systems throughout the 90s.
Now, two of Shadowgate
's original creators are trying to bring the franchise back by following the leads of several other nostalgic game developers and posting a Kickstarter campaign
to get a new version published.
We caught up with directors David Marsh and Karl Roelofs to take a brief stroll down memory lane, reflect on the sudden demise of computer adventure games in the 1990s, and find out why now might be Shadowgate
's best chance at staging a comeback.
What was it about the MacVenture games that made them successful in their time?
Dave Marsh: The games really took advantage of the platform – in this case, the Macintosh 128k. Whenever a new machine comes out, the first games released on it are usually ports from previous platforms. The MacVentures didn’t do this.
The fact that the games themselves incorporated a windowed gaming UI inside a platform that basically featured the first commercial window-based UI is pretty impressive.
Karl Roelofs: Right. The games offered a wholly new adventure game play style - a graphical first person perspective beyond the previous text-based or top-down play experiences. The MacVentures also complimented the UI with intelligent, exciting storylines. We allowed the player the option to use objects in the game in any way they could imagine. I mean, you could actually take, move, examine and manipulate the objects in the environments. This offered wide-open play for our fans, where almost anything could be tried.
Including Deja Vu II, only four MacVenture games were ever published, yet at least that many more were planned. What happened?
DM: I’m sure there were certainly a lot of business reasons why ICOM management decided to move out of the adventure space but few ever filtered down the ranks. It certainly wasn’t for lack of market or publishers. We had ported the games to every gaming platform that featured a mouse and the adventure gaming market was still going strong – especially with the introduction of many excellent third-person perspective games.
I think when it came down to it, the company saw the emergence of CD-ROM and the consoles and decided to move in other directions - going the way of full-motion video and concentrating on side-scrolling games.
KR: It’s a shame really. The franchises were really just taking off and with the success of the NES versions, doubly so. We had more than a handful of games designed, illustrated and ready for development. In some cases, we had games that were either in production or completely done. For example, Beyond Shadowgate
, which was probably four times as large as the original, was well underway [note: a later TurboGrafx-16 side-scrolling game shared the name, but had little else in common with the original] and The Awakening
(a London werewolf adventure) was completely programmed.
But I have to look at it philosophically now. Those losses are now everyone’s gain since we have retained those designs and hope to bring those never before seen stories to market.
Why now? Obviously Kickstarter is a good reason to try and revive something you'd have a hard time getting traditional funding for, but is there more of a chance for Shadowgate to sell now than in the past?
KR: I think the number of quality adventure titles like Shadowgate
in the various app and PC game stores is a testament to the continued popularity of adventures, titles that are accessible and provide an immersive experience. And with the proliferation of tablets, we can reach a larger market than we could ever hope to otherwise.
Also, since we can forego the traditional publishing route, we can actually get our game out to the fans without the heartache of having to appease a third party publisher.
DM: Correct. As far as Kickstarter goes, we aren’t approaching it lightly. Compared to many of our contemporaries, we have already put a ton of money and work into it and aren’t asking pledgers for the moon.
Why Shadowgate and not Deja Vu or Uninvited?
DM: While both Deja Vu
had a good following, Shadowgate
was the most popular across all 10 or 11 platforms, especially NES and Game Boy Color. We also felt that this was a game that we could alter – introducing new puzzles and environments.
I also think Shadowgate
, being a fantasy title, is the most accessible of the three titles. The idea of fighting and defeating an over-arching evil, bent on destroying the world is just pretty darn fun.
KR: Plus, it’s the first title that Dave and I worked on and the one we love the most.
Your previous Kickstarter attempt, an HD version of your full-motion video adventure game Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, did not get funded. What did you learn, and what are you doing differently this time?
KR: Well frankly, we are approaching this campaign with more thought and care than the Sherlock
one. We are taking our time to get the details right. As we mentioned, we’re starting with the development already underway, making sure our vision for the re-imagined Shadowgate
is clearly communicated through the art, audio, and visuals. We also wanted to make sure the reward tiers are set properly. A campaign relies on momentum and we weren’t able to sustain and grow the Sherlock
campaign. Also we made sure that the rewards were something that we would want as much as the fans.
DM: We’re also spending a ton more time promoting the game before we launch and then getting the word out there during it. Many people emailed after the Sherlock
campaign ended saying they didn’t find out about it until it was too late. We also spent less time in the promo video trying to be clever and more time letting pledgers know exactly how much we have done to date and how we need their help to finish it and get it out there properly.
Lastly, I made sure that someone other than me and Karl was dedicated to running the campaign, allowing us to continue to work on the game. We’re hoping with these main things, the campaign will achieve success.