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Inside Shadowgate: An Interview with Dave Marsh

Dave Marsh

Over the past few months we’ve done our best to bring our readers everything we can dig up about the upcoming remake of the classic point-and-click adventure, Shadowgate. With less than a week left of the Shadowgate Remake Kickstarter campaign remaining, series creator Dave Marsh was kind enough to answer a few questions for us regarding the upcoming game and the future of his new studio, Zojoi.

HPP: Thanks for giving us this opportunity to talk to you about your company’s remake of the pioneering point-and-click adventure, Shadowgate. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how this 25th anniversary resurrection of the series came to be?

DM: Well, I have been in the game industry since the mid 80’s working on a host of games for what seems like every platform ever produced since that time! Karl Roelofs (my friend and co-creator) and I had been talking late last year about the possibility of re-releasing the games that we did at ICOM simulations in the 80’s and 90’s. After acquiring the rights (which were held by somebody else), we decided that instead of just a re-release of Shadowgate that we would re-make the game. This ‘re-imagining’ won’t be a total overhaul, but rather our intent is to take the iconic moments and puzzles from the game and update them for the fans of today.

HPP:  I have to say that the visual  overhaul that’s been given the game is a real treat. As a longtime fan of the series it’s surreal seeing the dank catacombs and musty halls of Castle Shadowgate brought to life with such vivid detail. How does it feel seeing the world you created so many years ago take shape on today’s hardware?

DM: It’s awesome! We really wanted to create dark and raw feel for the graphics- that is why we enlisted the talents of Chris Cold who has done an amazing job capturing the tone we were looking for. This is the version of Shadowgate that we always wanted to make – one that is not constrained by so many of the delivery devices of the past (e.g. floppies, cartridges, etc.)

 

HPP: You and Karl (Roelofs) have mentioned expanding upon the narrative of the original for this remake. Without giving too much away, can you give us any examples of what’s been done to enhance the storytelling experience?

DM: Because of the size limitations on the media from the 80’s, the original game was, by necessity, abbreviated. Most everything in that game had to be part of the win sequence or solution because we just didn’t have the room. We do not have the limitation anymore. This allows us to expand the castle, so that players can see additional rooms. And within these rooms we will tell more of the story behind the castle’s purpose, the wizard council of twelve, and its destruction by the turncoat Warlock Lord. Additionally, we get to expand upon the mythos of our world.

HPP: How many new rooms and puzzles do you hope to include in the final version of the game? Can we expect changes made to the original game’s puzzles to keep veteran dungeon explorers on their toes?

DM: Yes, we expect to shake things up a bit for those that remember the original game. We don’t have the final numbers for what is changing- we plan to have most of the rooms from the original game but have updated more than half the puzzles from the original and added a lot of new rooms (Plus more puzzles and game sequences have been added as well.) Karl and I really took a lot of time examining each puzzle and room to determine whether or not it holds up. To be honest, there are just some puzzles in the original game that still have us shaking our heads *laughs*.

 

 

HPP: It’s no secret that the adventure genre’s popularity has waned since the glory days of ICOM Simulations. While Telltale Games has had success in picking up the mantle that studios like LucasArts and Sierra left behind, point-and-click adventure titles are still a risky proposition these days. That said, did you feel any apprehension when founding a new company dedicated to these kinds of games?

DM: Not really. With the proliferation of the tablets and phones, we feel that the market is ripe for adventure games. There’s a couple of other things that we think are key as well. First, it is much easier for an indy company to publish titles into the market and that allows us to get the games WE like to make out there. Also, the fan base for this type of retro gaming is still there- yearning for titles that remind them of their formative years. Finally, we want the chance to impact today’s generation of young gamers with what we hope will be an iconic experience after playing this re-imagined Shadowgate.

HPP: So, you’ve acquired the licenses to all three franchises in the MacVenture series. Film Noir inspired games have been becoming more popular in the past few years, can we expect to see Ace Harding come out of retirement anytime soon?

 DM: We get a lot of emails from fans of the Déjà vu games and we definitely love these titles. Fingers-crossed that our kickstarter gets funded and we can get Shadowgate out there first and judge the appetite of the gaming community. Once we do that, we’ll re-visit the plans to update and/or re-release an Ace Harding mystery.

HPP: Over the past 25 years we’ve seen over ten ports of the original Shadowgate, and now we have an epic remake being made. All of this is awesome, but where’s the love for Beyond Shadowgate? What are the chances of seeing this hard-to-find gem being re-released in some way so that more fans can experience it?

DM: We actually have the completed design for a first-person version of Beyond Shadowgate (rather than the sidescroller TG-16 game that we don’t own the rights to). However, we would love to put the original sequel to Shadowgate out there as it is a very neat design and HUGE!

 

HPP:  Just how far along did Shadowgate Rising make it into development before the project was abandoned? Would you ever consider reviving the project at some point?

DM: Shadowgate Rising had a near complete design and was in the process of proto-typing and early gameplay tests for the N64. The code was being done by a studio in MN and being funded by Kemco (the same company that put out Shadowgate NES and Shadowgate 64.) Alas, the plug was pulled and we didn’t get to proceed further. As for it seeing the light of day – we hope to continue Shadowgate as a franchise for years to come so I think there may be a place in the future for this title or something very similar done in the adventure style we know and love.

HPP: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us about Shadowgate and Zojoi. Can you give us any hints at what may be in the works after Shadowgate?

DM: Honestly, we are devoted full-time to our Kickstarter campaign right now so we haven’t discussed what comes after for quite some time. However, we have a couple of routes to go: we might immediately re-visit Shadowgate with a sequel. Or we might just travel to a certain disturbingly haunted mansion. Whichever way we go, we want to thank the fans and internet community for supporting our campaign to get Shadowgate released for a whole new generation.

That concludes our interview with Dave Marsh. With less than a week left until the Kickstarter campaign is over Shadowgate still needs nearly $30,000 to meet its funding goal. Don’t let the evil Warlock Lord win, jump on over to make your pledge to make this game happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank has been the caffeine-fueled evil overlord of HeyPoorPlayer since 2008. He speaks loudly and carries a big stick to keep the staff of the HPP madhouse in check. A collector of all things that blip and beep, he has an extensive collection of retro consoles and arcade machines crammed into his house. Currently playing: Dodonpachi Dai-Ou-Jou (Arcade), Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Switch), Neo Turf Masters (Neo Geo)

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