As the physical edition of Daedalic's point-and-click adventure The Pillars of the Earth hits shelves today (September 8th), CEO Carsten Fichtelmann (pictured below) has told MCV he hopes the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game will be a hit with players despite the genre being a difficult sell on consoles.
"From the first day we started working on The Pillars of the Earth, one of the main goals was making it perfectly playable with the controller," he told MCV.
"The term 'point-and-click' is already a problem, because that’s not what you do on a console. People have an outdated picture of them when they think about the genre.
"However, if you have the consoles in mind right from the beginning, you can build an interface and controls that are made for it – then it’s a whole different story. I hope that people look at it on console and think, 'Okay, those guys understood our needs.'"
Despite this, Fichtelmann has warned that the point-and-click genre as a whole "needs to evolve" if it's to remain relevant in today's market.
"There are different directions you can take," he said. "With a game like Silence, we tried Unity as the engine, which gave us new opportunities in terms of animation, art style and environment.
"In The Pillars of the Earth, we were more focused on the storytelling. The game is an interactive novel with far fewer puzzles, for example. Aspects like music, voice acting, atmosphere were very important for us. We completely want to pull the player into the story, follow the characters and get emotionally involved."
Regardless, the UK should be a strong market for The Pillars of the Earth. "Germany is our home market and we always see very strong sales numbers here, but the UK is usually among the top three European countries [for us]," Fichtelmann said. "The US is very important just because of the sheer size of it, but interestingly, China is also developing really well for us."
Adapting Ken Follett's beloved, thousand-page novel of the same name into a game wasn't easy, however. In order to keep all the story elements in check, the studio settled on an episodic structure encompassing three 'books', each of which will have seven chapters upon release. Book One, 'From the Ashes,' is available now, with Books Two and Three becoming available at a later date.
"It's a great opportunity, a big challenge and it comes with huge responsibility – all at the same time," said Fichtelmann. "If you are creating a game based on such a well-written, widely popular and huge novel, you get the perfect blueprint.
"On the other hand, it‘s clear that not every single part of the story can end up in the game, so you have to have a clear concept and very talented authors. The responsibility comes from wanting to make sure you match the expectations of different people – gamers, fans of the book, a new audience and last but not least, Ken Follett.
"At first, you see the huge book with more than a thousand pages, but only when you really dive into the story you realise how complex and rich it is. Kevin Mentz and Matt Kempke, our two authors on the game, completely took the story apart and came up with a concept. It became clear very quickly that there is more content than you’d normally see in one game. That’s when we started thinking about splitting it up in several parts, and a trilogy turned out to be the best format."
Despite this, Daedalic still had to make quite a few changes to its overall studio structure in order to accommodate the title: "Our goal was to create an authentic atmosphere," Fichtelmann said.
The term 'point-and-click' is already a problem, because that’s not what you do on a console. People have an outdated picture of them when they think about the genre.
Carsten Fichtelmann, Daedalic
"If you are working on a game like The Pillars of the Earth, there are always things to optimise in terms of processing workflow and information internally. We had to build new structures inside the company to make things more efficient, so future productions will benefit from this a lot.
"Naturally, you have a peak time where you need to grow the team. Overall, more than 200 people are involved in this production, including localisation, musicians, artists, game designers etc. One very drastic impact was that Kevin Mentz, who was working on [our other adventure game] The Devil’s Men at that time, paused the project in order to join the Pillars of the Earth team because we needed more than one author. That was a tough decision for us to make, because Kevin’s game had already gained a lot of traction at that point – although he is now continuing with its development.
"The biggest thing we‘ve learned, I‘d say, is that it‘s a lot of fun adapting such a great blueprint – if, of course, you‘re allowed the freedom to do it your way as we have been. I’d personally like to thank Ken Follett for putting the trust in us, for not limiting our creativity and I hope the result will convince his fans and ours alike."