Last year, I played and reviewed the debut game of Spanish developers Fictiorama Studio, Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today.
Since then, I’ve been hoping to hear more news about its sequel and I have to admit that I’ve been curious about the development of the main game, particularly what inspired the plot and gameplay elements. So unable to contain my curiousity, I decided to talk to Fictiorama and interview them.
Enjoy!First of all, welcome to The Mental Attic.
Thanks a lot!
For those that still haven’t played the game, can you tell us a bit about the world of Dead Synchronicity?
“Dead Synchronicity” tells the story of Michael, a man who wakes up to a merciless world suffering from amnesia after being in a coma. “The Great Wave,” a chain of natural disasters, has plunged the world into chaos. There’s also the “dissolved” pandemic that gives the afflicted strange cognitive powers before finally dissolving them into a pool of blood.
So, Michael will have to recover his identity and try to find the origin of the “Great Wave” and the solution for the “dissolved” pandemic, as both things seem to be connected. Because, if he doesn’t hurry, he won’t be able to avoid the impending moment of “dead synchronicity,” when Time itself dissolves…
“Tomorrow Comes Today” was released for PC & Mac & Linux last April (a few months later for iPad, and lately for Android tablets) and it’s a point and click adventure game that tells the first part of the plot. “The Longest Night” is a short text-based graphic adventure game, a prequel to “Tomorrow Comes Today”, that can be downloaded from our site for free.
Are there any games or developers that have influenced you?
Sure! If we had to choose just one developer it would probably be LucasArts. We know the answer is far from original… but to be honest we had (and still have) such a great time playing their point and click adventure games that the answer is obvious.
Before we started playing point and click games we played lots of text-based graphic adventure games, mostly in Spanish (our English was not good enough back then… and well, probably not even today!). We loved the games made by AD/Aventuras AD, a Spanish developer: we three brothers that started Fictiorama loved to gather around our old-good Amstrad CPC 464 to try to unravel the mysteries of those adventures. In fact, we’re sure those playing sessions were the origin of Fictiorama.
As a small team, how did you divide the tasks among you?
We’ve been a team of just four people who made most of “Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today”, with the help of some collaborators. We had the roles clearly defined: a programmer, an artist, a writer/composer and a producer/PR manager. On the other hand, it’s true that one of the advantages of being such a small team is that it’s very easy for everyone to give their opinions, and share ideas and thoughts. In the end we’ve been four people in a small room for thousands of hours!
Can you tell us a bit about what inspired Dead Synchronicity’s story?
We love sci-fi books, games and movies, and we’re very keen on the soft-gore terror movies from the 70’s and 80’s, such as the works of John Carpenter and the Italian giallo. We also love twisted, dark, intense creations, like the works of Terry Gilliam, Joseph Conrad, Cormac McCarthy or Andréi Tarkovski. If you merge all those influences… you will probably get something like “Dead Synchronicity”.
One of the things that was clear to backers of the Kickstarter project but not to most buyers was that Dead Synchronicity is an episodic game. How many parts do you envision for the full story?
Almost from the very beginning, we thought of the “Dead Synchronicity” story as a two instalments plot; in fact, if you browse our development blog, you’ll find an old article in which we explain we had to split the plot in two, mainly because the story was too big for a single game.
In addition to this planned two instalments, a few months ago we released “Dead Synchronicity: The Longest Night”, a free prequel to “Tomorrow Comes Today” that can be downloaded from our site.
During Dead Synchronicity’s last act, Michael can interact with the world he sees in his visions, changing outcomes in the present. Was this a one-off occurrence or will it be a central mechanic going forward?
We can’t talk about that! 🙂 That’s a very special puzzle in “Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today”: we wanted to turn a dramatic, odd experience Michael suffers from time to time, into a relevant mechanic of the game (by the way, in case some players didn’t notice… every vision, except the last one, is skippable pressing ESC, as happens with every other cutscene).
In fact, we spent a lot time balancing and testing that puzzle, not only on the technical-bug side (it’s probably one of the most complex parts of the game), but also on the “playability” side of it: it’s some kind of a final challenge so we thought it was OK to make it quite hard, but there are lots of factors about it that had to “learnt” by the player in an intuitive way.
Considering the feedback of most players, we think the puzzle works exactly as we expected, which is really awesome!
One thing I always like asking adventure game developers: how do you come up with your puzzles? What is the ‘design process’ you follow and where do you go to for inspiration?
First, Alberto, the writer, wrote the story of “Dead Synchronicity” as in a short linear novel format, from the beginning to the end, stating every plot and subplot in a conventional way. And that’s when the “puzzler” process started.
We wanted the puzzles to be perfectly fit in the story, as it happens in good adventure games: in them, puzzles are not just “obstacles” and practical “doors” (no chance to go on without solving them), but they make the story move forward in a very natural, organic way. I mean, the player must feel there would be no story without those puzzles, and there would be no challenge without that plot.
So firstly Alberto had to look for the way to “branch” the plot, keeping in mind one of our main goals, which was to make the player feel like they have a world to explore that grew progressively bigger and alive. Once the “key” dramatic elements of the main and secondary plots were identified (sorry, no spoilers here!), it was the time to turn those elements into puzzles, always reinforcing the characters psychology, plots, situations and the whole “post Great Wave” world. Furthermore, defining the puzzles led us to modify aspects of some already defined plots, in order to make the story and the puzzles more deeply intertwined. In fact, except the very first puzzles (which are tutorials) every puzzle gives information about the “Dead Synchronicity” realm… including, of course, about Michael himself!
Something that struck me was the powerful soundtrack (and the amazing voice cast). Can you tell us how you approached the sound design for Dead Synchronicity?
Glad you liked it! About the music, we’re lucky to have two musicians in the team, Alberto and Mario, who belong to the indie rock band Kovalski. So you can imagine music was, along with the art and the plot, one of the most important elements for us.
Alberto composed the music, inspired by tunes and moods we felt suited the game perfectly, in a dramatic way: the instrumental rock of the 70’s, the striking soundtracks of the giallo films and by authors like John Carpenter, synthesizer music… And then the whole Kovalski crew played and recorded specific parts, and Alberto mixed and arranged them all.
In terms of sequels, how far along would you say you are with the follow up to Tomorrow Comes Today?
It’s in a very early stage of preproduction yet. Since we released the PC version, we have updated the main game, made two ports (iPad and Android tablets), defined some side projects…
As a tiny company (but still a company!) we have to deal with short/mid/long term planning.
I have to mention it: That ending. It’s quite abrupt. Was that the intention from the start, or did you have other endings at some point before deciding on that one?
Since the very moment we decided to split the plot of “Dead Synchronicity” in two, we considered it was a good moment to end the first instalment. We put a big effort to deal with every plot and “answer” every question raised in “Tomorrow Comes Today”, by the time players finish the game (again, no spoilers!).
But, of course, we wanted to leave the player wanting to know more, and when “Tomorrow Comes Today” ends some huge, new, exciting questions arise, in a cliffhanger. We are really happy to read, in some reviews, that even considering most of the players are left asking for more, the experience is fulfilling and the plot could end there like that.
One question for the whole team: Favourite secondary character—so, not Michael!
Tough one… After having spent so much time with all of them it’s really difficult to choose only one! Let’s agree on choosing Rose: she is one of the first characters the player meets, and her situation symbolizes the merciless world Michael has to deal with. Besides, she is a mysterious character that quickly empathizes with Michael, and she has a great importance in the plot, both in the dramatic and in the symbolic side.
Again, thanks for taking the time to talk to me about Dead Synchronicity!
Thank YOU and your readers for your support!
I agree with them, Rose woul’ve been my pick as well. Can’t wait until they release the second half of this game to finally figure out what the hell is going on!