So, what would happen if our Indiegogo campaign got more money than we asked for? Our life would generally be easier, since we asked for the bare minimum required to make Ithaka of the Clouds, but that’s not all: we’d also use the money to go back and remake/update The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge and The Book of Living Magic. But what exactly would that entail?
In the case of Desert Bridge, I would personally like to go back and completely recreate the game using the same tools as we used for the later games. There’s a variety of reasons for this: for one thing, the game doesn’t run on a lot of modern systems, though it does run on some. Remaking it would also be a chance to fix certain inelegancies and issues that the old version still has, bringing it more in line with the Lands of Dream as a whole. However, I wouldn’t really want to change the game’s style, which is intentionally much cruder than that of, say, The Sea Will Claim Everything. Gregory Weir captured the game’s intent very accurately when he wrote:
Remember when you were a kid and you’d just played Myst and Dare to Dream, and you found Hypercard on your school computers, and you decided to make an adventure game? And it was going to be the coolest game ever, with all sorts of secrets and jokes and you spent hours drawing the backgrounds in a wide-ruled spiral notebook?
No? Maybe that was just me. Anyway, this is that game.
Of course, Desert Bridge is also an entirely adult story about the relationship between the creator and the created, but these two layers aren’t contradictory. Quite the opposite – they require one another. The silly 3D buttons and the use of Comic Sans aren’t a flaw, they are a feature. Some people have gotten very angry about such things with the rise of indie games and their different aesthetics, but quite frankly it’s irrelevant to me; I predate the current indie games scene, and if you have a look at the games I made before Desert Bridge, you’ll notice this wasn’t exactly my regular shtick.
Am I nevertheless tempted to change the game’s style? Yes. I’d be curious to see Old Man Bill’s house in a new light. But how do you square that with a game where you have to help a character repair the interface? And how much of the magic would be lost? Because there really is something magical about these child-like drawings.
Which brings us to The Book of Living Magic. A game I’m very fond of, that contains some great moments, but which I sometimes feel is caught somewhere between looking like a child’s drawing and looking like a children’s book. This wasn’t an error on Verena’s part, but simply the way we were thinking at the time. It’s the influence of Desert Bridge, it’s us thinking that we want something that looks smoother but that doesn’t have a completely different style. So it’s somewhere in-between. It still has a magic of its own – there’s something about these rougher graphics that encourages the imagination – but it feels like it could be improved.
Certainly there were many aspects of the game that suffered due to the limitations of the medium – I was fighting to keep the filesize down, which forced me to make the game smaller than it had been intended. It was always meant to be shorter than Desert Bridge, but some of the cuts bothered me. Losing an entire screen of the Forest of Eyeballs deprived the world of dozens of unspeakably terrible puns, for instance. And generally speaking, there are various aspects of the game that could be improved, to create a smoother, richer experience. (If I get the chance to do this, the Flash version will also be updated. I am still very grateful to Jay is Games for their sponsorship of a game that most sponsors didn’t even want to touch. Trying to sell that game was a massively discouraging experience, and though Jay is Games couldn’t give me the kind of sponsorship the big gaming portals could afford, it still kept me going.)
An additional change I might be tempted to make would be getting Chris to compose an original piece of music for the ending of The Fabulous Screech. What’s there works really well, but the fact that it’s not original bothers me; and wouldn’t it be appropriate to have an in-game transition from Helen to Chris? (For clarification: since The Fabulous Screech came as something of a surprise for me, I didn’t really have the time to plan it properly. Most of the music in it was written for The Book of Living Magic, but since I didn’t have an appropriate piece for the ending, I used a very lovely piece of royalty-free music by Kevin MacLeod.)
I don’t think anyone has ever made anything quite like the Lands of Dream games. The way they interact with each other without being sequels/prequels, the way their themes and stories interconnect but are still separate entities, is (I think) fairly unique in the world of games, and probably my/our biggest contribution to the medium, at least in purely structural terms. It would be really exciting to be able to polish them all up so they can really appear as they were meant to, so you can point at them and say “this is the Lands of Dream cycle” without having to add anything about this one being old and that one being broken. They’re meant to coexist.