Series Spotlight: Echoes of the Past
In our second “Series Spotlight” we take a deeper look at the newest addition to the Echoes of the Past series, Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the Witch. I recently sat down with Game Producer Sergey Bigas to talk about the creative inspiration behind this extremely imaginative series of games. Make sure to clear some room in your gaming schedule; Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the Witch Standard Edition comes out later this month. Or you can get the Collector’s Edition today!
How did you come up with the Echoes of the Past game series?
We started working with the first Echoes title about three years ago. We prepared several initial concepts and scenarios for Echoes, and Big Fish producers thought the best one was the idea of having an abandoned Medieval European castle where the player suddenly makes a trip through the time. Later on, we decided that the witch should be the main villain in the game. We decided that unique puzzles and mini-games would comprise the core of game play (and this turned out to be the right choice). Since there were no Collector’s Editions games on the Big Fish site at that time, first Echoes was released as a standard version (‘Standard Edition’ in the present terminology). In Echoes, we also tried using voiceovers in cut scenes for the first time, which proved to us that it adds value and improves players’ impressions of the game.
What else? I remember we spent literally days discussing the scenario, game flow, and main features. We tried to pay attention to every small detail, every image, and every puzzle to make this magical transformation from a set of sketches and documents into the great game it became.
After we enjoyed success with the first Echoes, we received a proposal to work on a sequel. Now it’s transformed into the strong brand we’re all proud of. Our team has released numerous games under the franchise titles Echoes of the Past, Agency of Anomalies, and Secrets of the Dark.
How long does it take for you to design a game from start to finish?
These days it usually takes us about 10 to 11 months.
What are your biggest technical challenges when you develop a game?
For now I’d say the biggest technical challenge is to be ready to release at the same time on both PC and Mac platforms. We are going to continue this strategy in the future.
What is your favorite game at the moment, and why?
It’s hard to say off the top of my head. All of us put so much of ourselves into all our games. And we love them all equally, like a mother loves all her children.
As a developer, after shipping a game, do you enjoy playing it just as much as you enjoyed making it? Or when it’s shipped, do you take a sigh of relief and forget about it, knowing you don’t need to worry about it anymore?
My personal criteria for a game to be ready to release is when after numerous replays, I still feel like I’m enjoying the game… and during the game I forget that we are the ones developing it. Of course, after releasing a game, it’s nice to play it through just for fun. It helps me get new ideas for future titles.
Have you ever had to sacrifice a feature you really didn’t want to give up to keep a game in budget or meet a deadline?
It’s sad, but true. The reality of game development is that we sometimes have to get rid of some of our cool features to hit deadlines. I think this is a common problem for most game-development studios.
What do you find is the best approach for starting a new project? Do you think about the story (or characters or style, etc.) you want to get across, or do you worry about mechanics and game play first?
We are trying to start with the story as the base when we begin a new project. Our early titles taught us that this is what most players care about. However, if we already have in mind some cool game feature, we consider it while designing the story.
What do you think about the people who get mad about a particular aspect of a game, whether it be story, customization, gameplay, etc.? Do you take it personally or ignore it?
We read all player feedback in the forums thoroughly and try to take it into account during the development of our titles. Of course, it’s impossible to implement all suggestions, but those that improve the game are taken into consideration for all sequels.
Do you ever realize that the game you’re making needs a major overhaul? If so, is there a process to improve a game in the latter stages of development?
Earlier in our history, we encountered situations like this that were a bad influence on the development process. To avoid unplanned overhauls now, we try to “filter” games through numerous play-testing sessions. We test at the alpha stage, we survey players when we’ve got a solid first hour of game play, and we conduct internal play-testing both in our own studio and with the help of Big Fish producers. Participating in the Big Fish Annual Workshop also helps us to get “live” feedback from players at early stages of development. I believe this approach allows us to avoid dramatic re-design at later stages of development and release games earlier.
Do you have any questions for our developers or game producers? Go ahead and ask them in our comments section down below!