In today’s Series Spotlight, I spoke with ERS Game Studios about how they came up with the Haunted Legends game series. After checking out the interview, we recommend you celebrate “Novemberfest” with the newest addition to the series – Haunted Legends: The Undertaker!
How did you come up with the Haunted Legends game series?
The inspiration for the Haunted Legends series came from the works of the famous Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin. He’s widely considered the father of modern Russian Literature, and wrote a number of poems, stories, and operas. Many of his works had elements of horror and fantasy, which fit well into a casual game. Each Haunted Legends title draws elements from these stories, though the games as a whole are largely original.
What are the biggest technical challenges when you develop a game?
One of our ongoing challenges is always making sure our games will run well on players’ machines. Beyond that, creating innovative gameplay that feels natural and fun to players is both a risk and a technical challenge. Whenever we introduce something new to one of our games, we have to make sure that the gameplay isn’t awkward or clunky. Behind the scenes, there’s a lot that goes into making that happen.
How many ideas have you had to abandon or drastically change because someone beat you to the punch?
Sometimes, there are ideas that must be abandoned because they are too similar, but when you look at all of the different stories, games, movies, and other media out there, you quickly realize that it’s impossible to be 100% original all of the time. Our strength is in telling a story that players want to hear, and telling it well.
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 gameplay first?
With a series like Haunted Legends, with the strongly developed character of SG, we have to start each new game with this character in mind. He’s really the connecting thread throughout the games. From there, we need a unique story for each new game, often with a grain of inspiration from Pushkin’s work. There are recurring elements in each game that players tend to like: the mischievous character of SG, collection of mysterious items throughout the game, and the unique style of the worlds that the player explores. Our challenge and the focus of our innovation for Haunted Legends, is to tell a new and exciting story with each game.
Do developers ever realize that the game they’re making needs a major overhaul? If so, is there a process to improving a game in the latter stages of development?
Fortunately, our design process allows us to spot a lot of potential problems early on. As an established studio, we’ve made many successful games, and we have a strong understanding of what needs to go into a game in order for it to really be a hit with our players. However, with a project as large and complicated as a casual game, there are always unique challenges that arise.
For example, in the very first scene of Haunted Legends: The Undertaker, players started out inside of the funeral home, talking to Mrs. Fisher. We realized that players weren’t getting a strong sense of the game world, or what was going on, so we went back and added in a scene where the detective reviews the letter before entering the house. Even though it sounds like a small change, it impacts our schedule. However, the result is much more satisfying: Players don’t feel like they’re just ‘dropped into’ the story. Instead, they get a much more immersive experience.