Sunday, November 30, 2008

Choo-choo

An interview Chris Remo conducted with myself and Mark Moran that took place this past July at San Diego's famed ComicCon has just been published on Gamasutra. Its called, "The Last Express: Revisiting an Unsung Classic," and has feature placement -- nice stuff.

I produced the game and the other Mark was Lead Programmer, and the interview occurred just after a speaking event by our mutual friend and former employer, Jordan Mechner, who designed The Last Express and founded the now-defunct Smoking Car Productions to create it. Jordan's earlier and far better-selling game, Prince of Persia, is now a graphic novel (as well as upcoming Disney/Bruckheimer/Newell feature film spectacular) which is why he was there, and as described in the interview, the very mention of The Last Express teased out some die-hard fans, including Remo himself.

The interview is pretty extensive and covers a lot of what we talked about back in the early 1990's when we were making the game, i.e. narrative vs. gameplay, using extensive research to give the game a unique period feel, how we used the 1914 Orient Express as a metaphor for eve-of-WWI Europe where the old aristocracies were about to fall to a wilder century.

There's as much about game design theory and how what we tried to do is being handled in games today as there is about the making of the game itself, which is all to the good. But one of my favorite things about the game production and development has to do with a skill I never expected to learn as producer:

MN: I learned how to juggle while I was working on The Last Express.

MM: He means literally juggle.

Like, juggle balls?

MN: Literally juggle. As a producer, the programmers didn't really want to talk to me. They all wore shorts and came in late, and they didn't get me or thought I was going to get them. But they were all juggling. They had ordered these special juggling balls from some woman who sews them, and one guy who was a really good juggler -- he could juggle six balls at a time.

So in order to be able to talk to the engineers and find out if we were on schedule and see what I could do to make a difference, I actually went in there and learned how to juggle. I learned how to pass. Mark and I can pass back and forth, and I can pass in groups of three. It's crazy.
Crazy crazy crazy.

You can find copies of the game on Amazon here or, probably easier is just playing it via online on GameTap here.

Maybe the next Jordan Mechner game to become a movie -- or mini-series?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love the interview!

Veronika said...

Interesting interview. I also hope for revisiting the project in some way. Btw. could you make it clear for me, please - is it possible to get to Mahmud Makhta´s compartment and see his sword (some people say so)?
Anyway, thx for great Easter Eggs ;-) Schmidt is piggy, no surprise there :)

Good luck with your projects.